2013/11/08 in Journal
45 minutes from the heart of the city, Chongqing University’s fourth campus is set amid the sprawling mix of rural farmland and booming industry that characterizes Daxuecheng. In the short time I’ve lived here I’ve seen two malls, a metro line, 10 grocery stores and hundreds of restaurants emerge from rice patties and scattered patches of bushes and bamboo. Boom town. Daxuecheng’s first gym opened within months of my arrival. This was vital for my sanity. One of the few international teachers on campus, I looked on from my apartment balcony with little hope for the comforts of home. Milk was scarce. Meat was scarcer. I had no internet and little in the way of company. But, I had a gym.
Within weeks the gym was
my second home, and for the next year I spent almost every day in the dimly lit fitness factory. It wasn’t uncommon for other gym members, many of them CQU students, to approach me during one of my workouts to ask me about a lift, fitness program, or dietary plan, and it quickly became clear to me that I should consider creating a free health and fitness course for the university. It was a passing thought I had more than once, but for 18 months it was nothing more than that—a thought.
It wasn’t until I met Nick Joslin in the spring of 2013 that vague concepts began taking concrete form. A new hire at the university, Nick was a former university rugby player, badminton champ, and athlete of all stripes. It was destiny. One night over Indian food, Nick and I formulated Power Hour—a circuit training program for Chongqing University, its students, and Daxuecheng as a whole. After a month-long application process, eight students gathered in a barren indoor court to the sound of thumping bass from hissing desktop speakers.
In the 10 months since, the program has grown by leaps and bounds. An average Thursday session could see as many as 90 students hit wooden court floor. Seeing its success, the University is now in the process of funding Power Hour, and I couldn’t be happier with the potential partnership. But, beyond its success as fitness program, Power Hour has given me the opportunity to expand my investment in Chongqing University and its students outside the traditional limitations of lecture and test. For many months, I found my interactions with the students friendly but lacking the camaraderie and community that unified purpose gives. But, when we are pushing though set after set of squats, leg lifts, and push-ups together, the connection defies the standard student/teacher dichotomy. We become friends. And our mutual effort has created a community out of a once empty basketball court, and we’re all better people for it.