A Travellerspoint blog

Dancing in front of the president of China on national tv

no prior dance experience+china=Hujintastic time

I’d like to think I’m a pretty well-rounded person. I am decent at a lot of things…dancing absolutely not being one of them. In fact out of all the skills I possess I would say that dancing is last on my list of things I would want to do in front of the president of China, or in front of anyone at all for that matter. Ok maybe second to last next to making a speech in Chinese, which I may end up having to do. How did this happen…going from never having taken a legit dance class to having to perform a routine on national Chinese television in front of Hu Jin Tao? Well unusual circumstances played a role such as me being a senior from America enrolled in a school in China. That in itself is peculiar but the school I am attending happens to be one of the best in China, and also happens to be celebrating its 50th anniversary of its exchange program with America, the longest one in history, with Newton North (and South I guess). The combination of its high standings and old exchange program mean that some big cheeses will be attending the celebration…such as the president of China and the principle of Newton North High School. The recording of the ceremony on national television is an added bonus. And of course all of these factors combine together to create the worst atmosphere ever for me to make my dancing debut. But dance I shall, rehearsals for the ceremony have been going on for a while and we started attending last week. The ceremony is in two months. We practice four times a week for at least two hours. I certainly did not expect this but it’s a very interesting twist on my experience here. Each rehearsal has a dreadful but hilarious when looked back on warm up. This lasts about 45 minutes and consists of death. Our first warm up was in the dance studio where everyone seemed to be quite experienced dancers. We lined up and had to do these ballet poses with our feet and jump in the air. It kind of screwed up my ankles and knees as they wanted us to go completely into the pose without any prior experience. We then had to try to touch the floor with our hands while keeping our legs straight. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t come close to doing this (my legs are unproportionally long ok!). Then a lady would come along and push us down further than our limits. I watched in horror as she did this to the kids in front of me and listened to their cries of agony. Then I experienced the fun for myself. I don’t think I am any more flexible now. We had a weird warm up yesterday which I can’t really describe but can demonstrate in the future. As for the routine…it started off hilarious. I thought we would play a small role as Americans, but the choreographer, who I later found out was the best choreographer in the nation, had other plans. We started of as planes running around with our arms out as wings and weaving through other planes who were Chinese students meant to represent the Chinese students coming to America. Then we did a ridiculous dance with a Chinese partner. My partner happens to be a five year old girl about two inches tall. Ok I exaggerate but I bet she’s like ten and like five feet tall. She’s a better dancer than me, goes without saying, and she has a much better memory for the moves we have to do. At one point I spin into her arms. Why they chose me the much larger Americans to spin into the tiny Chinese kids arms, I will never know. There is also phony hugging, laughing, smiling, picture taking, frolicking, and much more. I am a little resentful of having to be in something so overdramatic and tacky. It is really like any creepily happy Chinese production. The whole thing is just very bizarre and worthy of a big laugh. Despite all the disadvantages and unasked for and unagreed upon work involved, it’s a truly unique opportunity.
On a completely different note I would like to say that my English is getting worse and worse. My Chinese comprehension may be improving slightly, but not at the pace in which my native language is being lost.
Finally, I’ll mention how last Wednesday our group started classes just for Americans. We had Wushu (martial arts), which is a lot like dancing in that I am terrible at it. We also had knot making class which I am also terrible at. The thing about crafts like that though is that a lot of the skill involved is learned through experience and not from natural ability. We also had Chinese class which is pretty boring, English, and geography, which I can safely say is one of the most boring classes I have ever had. We had calligraphy today which I am just awful at but I knew that already. Our group discovered that the for treasures of calligraphy are mao bi (brush) mo(ink) zhe(paper) and ya zi(sock) ....sock isnt one of them I am JK. I will have fine arts tomorrow woooot. We got our bikes today. Mine is cool and it happens to look like half of the other bikes. I am leaving at the school today and may never use it but it was free to I took it. I am writing this at a sad time because I ate all of my ritz crackers today and my oreos and was relying on Emily to buy me more today but have just received word that she has failed to do so! Now I must rely on my copious stocks of chocolates, cake like pastries, donuts, skittles, cereal, bread and cheese, and assorted beverages. It won't be the same but maybe I can get by for a day or two.

Posted by Maia L 02:16 Comments (2)

Looks like things are looking up for old Maia Levoy!

Not really actually. Except for me recovering from my sickness everything is pretty much the same, which is pretty good. Here are some things that may or may not have happened today: I passed a driving range called "classy golf club", A teacher who taught the literature class I have been sitting in on for a week became the groups Chinese teacher and I didn't recognize her in our first class, and I was asked to give a presentation on robots in computer class. Hint: They all happened!!! :) I will elaborate on the computer class because it was very very strange. So, one might expect a computer class to be filled with computers. Alas, in China this is not so. The room was virtually empty aside from the projector and an area for the teacher to talk. No desks, no chairs and certainly no computers. Each student had two small bins, one to sit on and one to use as a desk. I was extremely confused. The teacher then came over and asked me my name and if I spoke Chinese. Finding that I spoke virtually no Chinese, he asked if I new about robots. I said that I knew what they were. He proceeded to ask if I might make a presentation on robots. I said I did not know anything about robots. He asked me if I had seen robot movies and I said I had seen a few, but once again asserted the fact that I knew nothing about robots. The teacher nonetheless left to get me a pen and paper so I might "write notes down for my presentation". For some reason when asked about robot movies I could only think of the movie I Robot and was preparing to talk about Will Smith for a few minutes when the teacher said something strange. "Wheely, have you seen that"? I was not sure what he meant but then it hit me he was talking about the Pixar hit Wall-E. I struggled to hold in laughter and repress the urge to ask the teacher whether, aside from the main characters being robots, the movie had any relevance to robotics or whatever the hell "computer" class actually was. Wall-E is about the harm man is doing to the environment and the obesity problem. Also I had no idea what kind of information he wanted me to present. Maybe I should talk about how robots will one day take over the world! MWUAHAH. Anyway, I told the teacher I had seen the Wall-E, but that this did not change the fact that I still knew nothing about robots and could, therefore, not educate the class on such matters. I did not make a presentation about robots although the opportunity may arise again in the future. Whether the teacher was just trying to be nice and welcoming or whether he had some strange preconceived notion that Americans are all experts in robotics I will never know. I on the other hand felt a little tricked and betrayed. I was all ready to sit in the back of a room full of computers and play computer games for a period. O well. I'm in China.

Posted by Maia L 02:30 Comments (0)

China Thus Far

I don't intend to go into much detail about the country in this post..in fact no insight into China will be given in this post. I'm more just explaining how I have been passing my time. The day of our departure seems pretty far away. Exactly how far? Two seasons of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia ago, two Vonnegut books ago, 300 Orion cakes ago, 8943283 fireworks ago, I was in Newton. What is an orion cake? It is a delightful little chocolate glazed cake with marshmallow in the middle. I am not a marshmallow person at all and was actually repulsed by these when I first tried one on my ten day trip. Of course me disliking these cakes so intensely could only mean that a box would be waiting for me when I got home compliments of the host family. I had enough snacks but I was curious to try these pastries one more time. The second time was a charm..in order for me to function I usually need at least five of these a day. This brings me to my first hobby in China eating. China has little to offer in refreshments. Virtually no drinks are cold here usually hot water and milk are at the table if you are lucky enough to have anything. This leaves a hole in the meal which can only be made up for by eating extra food. Today for example I stuffed my face at a late lunch at 2pm and returned home to once again stuff my face at a 5:30 dinner. :) Eating and shopping are really the only things we exchange students have indulged in in the past few weeks. I'd say in money blown 80% is on foods. Nothing is more exciting then running around in a Chinese supermarket grabbing as many snacks as you can hold. Of course with the start of school there is also a more studious feeling to the trip. I've read 3 books..none of which one of the 5 required readings we have. All we can do in class is read as I can't understand a word coming out of anyone's mouth.

Posted by Maia L 02:17 Comments (1)

Sick Day=New Blog Entry

So its been a while. Saturday I hung out with the group exploring the area near the school (aka shopping at the malls). Sunday Emily, Shengnan, and I went to an amazing vegetarian buffet by the Lama Temple. It was the restaurant of my dreams. Monday was the first day of school but not really. It was short and noone did work but I got an applause from my class which was weird. We ate bao zi for lunch and then I also had it for dinner which was fine with me. Yesterday was the first full day. I have been feeling sick since the weekend and yesterday had a terrible cold and cough. Nontheless we introduced ourselves in front of entire school. The high school and middle school students appeared to be all sitting on the floor in front of the stage and then behind the stage was like a whole other group maybe the elementary school? sitting in auditorium like seats. It was weird and they only saw our backs. Our teachers presented the school with a gift causing much confusion. It was a nice box filled with white glitter. There was a plaque on it saying something about how it represented the schools first snowday which happened a few months ago. A cute but very odd gift that was not quite understood by anyone including myself. I finished my book halfway through the day and was quite bored for the remainder. The teachers lounge has pretty nasty food...not as bad as North but also pretty heavy in meat. We are not allowed to go off campus unfortunately. We got our uniforms yesterday too. (score)
Today I decided to take off for recovery purposes. that is all

Posted by Maia L 21:02 Comments (0)

So Much to Say

Ten Day Trip to Chengdu and Guilin Completed Chinese New Years Celebration Commences (and It's Valentines Day I Guess)

Well Obviously I have a lot to say and I wish I could have gotten to this blog earlier because there is also a lot that is not as fresh in my mind anymore. I guess Ill start with last night and today then go to the ten day trip. Last night we got to Mi Wa's and everything was crazy. Fireworks everywhere. I went to the window and there were colorful explosions in every direction as far as the eye could see. Even though this was not my holiday something was building up inside me...the excitement was contagious. Her father took us outside the apartment to where a bunch of fireworks were being lit. They were a little too close (like RIGHT above my head) but it was really cool still. We then watched this strange "new years gala" ? on cctv which was supposed to have English translations of these comedy sketches but had like brief summaries at the beginning instead. It also had weird British voiceovers of for the host's speeches. In general China seems to like weird British voiceovers. So the I tried to go to sleep with the constant crackle of fireworks outside my window. Being out there felt like being in the front lines of battle. Right now is the second night and the explosions continue. I can see the lights of the fireworks flashing under my window curtain. Anyway, I did eventually fall asleep and the next day prepared to go to an amusement park. It was freezing at the park. We arrived at 10 am but the show Mi Wa wanted me to see was at 3:30. I thought I was going to freeze. We went on a few rides and watched these weird teletubby like foxes dance. The show at 3:30 was a parade with more teletubby like foxes, floats with Christmas trees and other ornate yet equally unconnected and nonsensical designs. After that we went home had dinner and here I am.
Ok that was tiring Ill do my best to summarize the ten day journey now
Day one: extremely long train ride where every emotion was felt from elation to extreme depression to the fear that we will be stuck on a train forever to straight up hysteria
Day two and three: arrive in Chengdu head to the panda reserve for a large panda photoshoot. Those pandas sure are cute. The vicious red panda was also present and still adorable. We watched a panda movie with a surprise appearance of the song "wild child" by enya. We then went to a Daoist temple a Buddhist temple and did some shopping. At night we saw a Sichuan Opera with mask changing, fire breathing. paer duo, shadow puppets and more hen you yisi de dongxi.
Day four: Saw the leshan buddha, danced with some people at night and lit a lantern.
Day five: climbed mt emei, tony got bitten by a monkey and celina got scratched. Most everyone else was violated in some way by said monkeys.
Day 6: go to this touristy town to have tea and shop, say goodbye to our awesome tour guide, Cindy, and go to guilin
Day 7: Li river cruise which also turned into a photoshoot. Pretty mountains became a bit redundant on the 4 hour boat ride. The temperature was also insanely hot and there was no way to cool down. Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. In Yangshuo explored West Street which is VERY touristy shopping. Purchase a mao ze dong bag among other things.
Day 8: visited the giant banyan tree, climbed moon mountain. SUPER hot and no appropriate clothes :(
Day 9: Visit elephant trunk hill and reed flute cave. Elephant trunk hill was aight...didn't look THAT much like an elephant trunk. The cave was a disappointment. Its only distinguishing features from other caves were the neon lights installed to make it look colorful in the dark. This, I thought was sad because the cave was probably cool in a more natural way before this addition. Overall i definitely liked Chengdu better. We had a lot less free time which was better and our tour guide was much more engaged. We also did a variety of things as opposed to going to a bunch of scenic spots which get a little repetitive and dont always look like what people say the look like.
Day 10: not as bad train ride.. slept and read through most of it.

Posted by Maia L 04:25 Comments (2)

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