Day Thirty-Eight: Chao the Dream Maker – Tuesday 18 August 2015

There are a handful of people of such notoriety and influence they are known by a single name, a brand unto themselves; Madonna, Bono, Pelé, Alf from Home and Away. In the field of Gymbaroo there are but two; we have already met Valdis, and the other is known simply as ‘Chao’.

Details on Chao’s background and path to Gymbaroo greatness are, like his beard, sparse. What is known paints a portrait of a man of deep complexity; Chao’s family origins are traced to the Vietnamese diaspora of pre-colonial Hong Kong. Some say before his distant relatives were smuggled across the South China Sea, the family can be drawn all the way back to Gia Long, the first of the great Nguyen Dynasty. The last ruling family of Vietnam.

When you meet Chao, and observe his quiet nobility, it is easy to believe this lineage. However, he is a man as comfortable at the card tables of Macau as he is in the quiet Pagodas of Hue. He holds a world ranking in pinball and could be a great of competitive Buck Hunter if he were to ever take it seriously. He wears short-sleeved floral shirts in muted browns and greens, collar open and loosely held by his signature silk cravat. Atop his head can usually be found a narrow brimmed Panama Hat, and on his feet plimsoles in brown or blue. He is one of those men for whom facial hair is of no concern; it grows naturally in a discrete pattern that renders him a caricature of himself. The thin moustache that clings to Chao’s upper lip is never in need of cultivation and remains always perfect, and curious.

Whatever your opinion of Chao his influence in the world of Gymbaroo is unquestioned; many call him the ‘Dream Maker’ for his ability to identify young, talented aspirants, and build them into stars. And today Chao, the Dream Maker, paid us a visit.

Chao’s role is not to identify talent in the gym; if Chao is visiting the talent and potential are not questioned. Chao’s special skill lies in his ability to identify those young aspirants who have the demeanour and family support to go all the way.

Chao arrived at about 1100 and instructed Milo and I to go about our day as we ordinarily would. He noted from the outset he has monitored our progress closely and is somewhat concerned at our inability to complete some of the daily aspirational tasks we have set ourselves. Some of these would therefore be addressed in the afternoon, but our first order of business was lunch.

We took Chao to our local child friendly cafe on the park and allowed Milo to spend some quality free-range time. I went into the cafe to order lunch, leaving Chao to have some alone time with Milo. I briefed Chao on my park doctrine noting that Milo is allowed to eat leaves, twigs, dirt, most anything he finds, but I draw the line at cigarette butts and pointy sticks longer than two inches. Chao seemed to nod approvingly and as I departed to the cafe I saw him note something down in a small notepad he had tucked under his Panama Hat.

We enjoyed our lunch, chatting casually, as Milo engaged in some free-form work on an adjacent stone wall, and with a small football he managed to purloin from an older child on an adjacent rug. Chao’s approval of Milo’s effortless skill was clear to us both.

Upon arriving home Milo was soon ready for a nap so Chao and I set about satisfying some of the outstanding tasks he had identified; planking, push-ups, alphabetising the spice rack, up-cycling a pallet for Milo’s Urban Garden Project and learning one word of Spanish. We managed to satisfy all of these items and even learned two words of Spanish. The first, appropriately is ‘Desvelado’ which means ‘unable to sleep because you are kept awake by something or someone’, a useful word. The second was chosen by Milo as he stabbed at the computer screen with his little index finger; ‘Mantenido’ which means ‘a guy that cannot pay the rent so needs a rich woman by his side’; perhaps not so commonly used.

Once Milo had arisen Chao wished us farewell. Perhaps we will see him again, perhaps we won’t, but despite the pressure we both felt throughout the day Milo and I genuinely enjoyed his company. Chao is undoubtedly the Gymbaroo Dream Maker but perhaps at this point the real question is ‘what are Milo’s Gymbaroo dreams?’ Is he ready for Chao, the bright lights of Macau, Latvia and Lidcombe, the spandex endorsements, the inevitable Repetitive Wheelbarrow Stress (RWS) injuries? Tomorrow is our last day of Gymbaroo together, whatever the outcome, we are ready for these questions to be answered.

There are no photographs today as Chao forbids camera usage during assessment days. It is rumoured that not one clear photograph of him exists.

  • Seconds of planking – 57
  • Minutes of pallet up-cycling – 45
  • Minutes of spice rack alphabetising – 7
  • Number of push-ups – 10
  • Number of Spanish words learned – 2
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