I can’t remember the last time I sat down to do a real puzzle. Not a 10-piece puzzle with a toddler while babysitting, but a real puzzle. Tina doesn’t have too many activities on board, so I thought she might enjoy doing a puzzle or playing a board game. She went to the shelf of games and chose a nature puzzle, and then we started to work. Within the first few moments of sorting these tiny pieces, I could already tell, this was going to take a while. For those of you that actually do puzzles, I am sure a measly 500-piece puzzle is child’s play. However, Tina, Oscar, and I sat there for almost 4 hours putting together this nature puzzle. (It’s always me against nature!)

Tina had to leave to get ready for dinner, so O and I were the last 2 standing. Well, sitting, actually we were sitting and standing. We realized that every 10 minutes we would need to switch places and get a new perspective on the puzzle. We would need to switch color sections and look at a different section in order to solve it. Down to the final hour, we were achy, irritated, and out of time because we had to get ready for dinner. (Those of you that know O… being late for dinner and being hungry is a bad combo) We only had about 20 pieces left, and could not find the right pieces to fit! We were frustrated, nauseous, and ready to scream. We were in the library on board, so we felt that throwing the entire thing against the wall and shouting expletives would probably be a bad idea. For those of you who know anything about cruising, you might know it is often an older crowd. And, those of you how know anything about Holland America, know that the average age is about 60. Being on a 24+ day cruise where most of the guests have been here 40+ days…. Well, the average might be even higher.  On a side note: O and I LOVE Holland America and love being with a seasoned crowd. We have met so many interesting people that have traveled the world and really lived.

On with the puzzle. We took a deep breath and started to find a method. We sorted the remaining pieces and then figured it out little by little. Slowly but surely, we finally got to the final 3 pieces. And then, low and behold, the final piece of the puzzle was placed. We did shout out loud and got a few looks, but we didn’t care at that point. We were victors in a long battle. Looking at the finished puzzle was satisfying. Not so satisfying that we will ever do one again, but we left it there for all to revel in amazement at our puzzle. Ha-ha. So, I learned that after perseverance and constantly changing my perspective, we solved the puzzle. I can’t take the finished puzzle home, but perhaps I can at least take the lessons with me.

Honestly, the main lesson I learned? Puzzles suck.

Our lame nature puzzle

Tai Chi at Sea

In my previous post I talked about kung fu at sea. Tai Chi at sea is equally as challenging as kung fu, as I need extra balance on a moving ship. Most days are smooth sailing, but there are some windy and rocky sea days that make tai chi really difficult. I admit, when I am at home I rarely practice tai chi. If I do not get my kung fu training in as often as I would like, you can only imagine how frequently I fit in tai chi training. I find tai chi and meditation really challenging because it requires one to move slowly. I try to meditate in the morning to start my day, but my mind is usually racing to ‘get to work’. I’ve been working on reminding myself that in order to ‘get to work’, meditation helps me to reset and gets my brain ready to function properly.

The thing I like most about practicing tai chi at sea is the same things I like about kung fu at sea; the fresh air, the ocean, and the overall atmosphere. I also welcome the challenge of doing chen tai chi and really having to root yourself into the moving img_2350ground. Watching my mom do tai chi is inspiring because she really roots herself into the ground despite the moving ship. She is after all the tai chi master. (note: one of the great films of the 90’s: Tai Chi Master with Jet Li)

Our daily routine has been doing kung fu in the morning and tai chi in the afternoon. This might seem odd to those who know tai chi is usually done in the morning, but we meet the needs of our instructors’ schedule. As many of you who frequent the Temple early mornings know, my father is a morning person, so that is when we do kung fu.


Since I have been practicing chen tai chi (the older form of tai chi and the one most like kung fu), it feels good to practice in the afternoon, as I need to be warmed up to tackle it. For me, the biggest challenge with tai chi is the fluidity and pacing. I am so accustomed to kung fu, that learning to slow down and pace myself is not easy for me. However, I know that this is the yin and yang to life, and practicing both kung fu and tai chi will help keep me balanced in the long run.

Which do you prefer?

Kung Fu at Sea

Kung fu at sea is challenging. Even though we are on a relatively large ship, the movement of the ship can be felt while walking, sleeping, and most notably while training. I have always loved the sound of the ocean. It is calming to me. When we are on cruises, we usually get up in the morning to work out on deck. The sound of the ocean, the img_2351endless horizon, and the fresh air make a nice training environment. I’m a pretty private person, so I dislike the gawkers that pass by and watch or even try to take photos like we are an exhibit. I ‘politely’ let them know that it is impolite to do so, and then we resume our training.

One of the biggest physical challenges at sea is doing bai fut sow. img_2357
Holding your horse stance and rooting while the ship is moving is a special challenge, but it is fun. O and I mostly get laughed at by my father, who is often on the sidelines stretching or jumping into 360 img_2295
sweeps as his ‘warm up’. It may seem odd that I get some of my best kung fu training in when I am not at the Temple, but there are no distractions here…. No phone calls to take, no one to ask questions about the ‘karate’ we teach, or even those that still think we are a Chinese restaurant.

We used to bring our weapons on board, before all the strict security measures. Now we aren’t allowed to bring our swords with us, but we img_2341did smuggle in a fan and a retractable stick. Since the Sifu test is around the corner, we are using these few weeks to prep for the test while there are no distractions. The Sifu test is always a stressful time for all of the Sifus in the system. Every 3 years it is mandatory for all the instructors to re-certify. It is an extraordinary weekend of kung fu, fellowship, and fun. I enjoy getting together to brainstorm and share ideas, but mainly it is a family reunion. Since most of us live far away we don’t stay in touch as often as we like, and the test is the perfect opportunity to catch up. This year the test is the largest in history. I’ve been preparing the schedules, seminars, and test format while I’ve been away. It’s funny to be on ‘vacation’, but working as much as I do at home. I have to admit, I’ve gotten more kung fu training done in the last week than the last month! So I guess in order for me to get more training in, I will need to go on more 27 day trips 😉

Any suggestions where I should go next?