A Travellerspoint blog

13 Hours in a dressing room

9am-10pm

So as the performance time draws nearer (now about two weeks away) our rehearsals have gotten much more intense. We are practicing both Saturdays and Sundays and missed school on both Monday and Tuesday to practice at the actual theater. The Bao Li theater is massive and is well-known in Beijing. This is a very legit performance. The stage has a huge screen in the back center with two large ones on both sides. The stage is enormous and there are a wide range of lighting options as well as a fog machine. I want a spot light for when I say my lines. Everyone who speaks gets cool microphones that rap around your head. The costumes are very intense as well as the props. For example the calligraphy dance has kids dressed as in full body skin tight white suits with ink splotches on them. In another dance kids dressed in all black body suits hold up large boxes with letters on them that look like keys on a keyboard. The elaborate costumes and effects really make this performance. Anyway, on Monday we were allowed to get to the theater at 5 and ended up staying until about 11. We were given heavy makeup and then were shown to the dining hall to eat dinner. Everyone had on make up and it felt very strange. The Jingshan school takes pride in their great volleyball team and as part of their 50th anniversary celebration they decided to include the team in one of the dances. With the team drawn into many of the rehearsals they too ended up spending the day at the theater and getting makeup (along with ridiculous clown-like yellow and purple volleyball uniforms). We ended up practicing at the very end past when most of the kids had left so it was a little annoying to be waiting for so long for no reason (but this seems to happen a lot in these rehearsals). On Tuesday we all felt like we were going crazy, sitting in a dressing room for 13 hours with nothing but artificial lights and mirrors everywhere. We played about five hours of cards, doodled and played charades. Somehow we all survived. I only saw the sun briefly and fresh air, even China fresh air (which is polluted with cigarette smoke and smog) was coveted. It was boring but also a little fun. For some reason it also was exhausting. CIMG1576.jpg

Posted by Maia L 04:20 Comments (0)

Things that happened

things that happened in the past few weeks

So my parents came and left Beijing and this along with the increasing intensity of my dance rehearsals have made it difficult for me to update.
First I will update on the dance....
1) we got tap shoes for our riverdancing segment oh joy
2) I think they cut out this really long and intense part where we walk on and under a slippery silk blue cloth and I had duet...this cuts the dance in about half
3) we all have to make a short speech which has been given to us..its more like a few sentences but its pretty hard to get the pronunciation right not to mention how mortifying it is going to be to say it in front of everyone...emily has been given basically a novel to read about stealing her host dad's bike and riding through tian an men square....its quite an awkward story to tell
4) no one in the show is allowed to wear glasses so I' m kinda a little screwed...I have been practicing pretty much blind for the past few rehearsals but I'm thinking of wearing some weak contacts I brought to the real shows
5) I'm kind of a big deal
6) Last friday was parent's night to check out the rehearsals and my (American) parents happened to in the neighborhood so they came and watched the performance...unfortunately I hadn't practiced the dance for two weeks since I kept missing rehearsals. So, I looked like a fool in front of the parents. On the bright side, my parents filmed the show and i will try and post it here asap or on youtube or something.
7) We are getting costumes for the dance and they BETTER be awesome. We have seen the costumes for the calligraphy dance and they have these sick skin tight full body suits. And this army dance is getting swat jackets. All I ask for from these people is a sick costume to be an airplane in.

That's all for the dance for now. Now I will tell everyone about my day. I beat Mi Wa in rock paper scissors. I watched a very strange talent show for the school (which i just spelled scole, go me) involving both a highschool musical dance and a greenday cover, I could not keep up with the Chinese kids during a listening exercise in English class, I broke three nails playing basketball, and I bought a Sprite and opened it on my bed only to witness one of the largest fizz explosions I have ever seen. It sprayed all over my bed uniform and floor for about a minute (I was too shocked at first to do anything). I cleaned this up with toilet paper and finally felt as though I could drink the much-longed for soda. The sprite smelled funny and then it also tasted funny. I supposed it was tweaked slightly for sale in China, but finally had to look at the bottle when the strange taste became overwhelming. It in fact said sprite and then in smaller letters +茶味 (tea flavor). I then wanted to scream and punch China in the face. I discarded the Sprite into my rejected snack bag, things that I would offer to my friends the next day. I also put a can of coffee in the bag. My host grandma decided it was appropriate to give to me the can. I never have had coffee around them for them to assume I like it and it was also 8pm when she gave it to me. Usually she gives me a juice box or coconut milk. Very strange.

And now I will talk briefly about the past few weeks more generally.
I went to Xi An the day after my parents arrived. I didn't really like Xi An but it was an interesting trip as a whole. We were swindled into getting a tour guide for the terra cotta warriors who rushed us through the tombs, reciting info in poor english that was all on nearby plaques, and leading us into countless giftshops, the final one containing a man of about 40 who was introduced as the farmer who discovered the warriors. He was all by himself and would sign a terra cotta warrior book if we bought one. We did not buy one, but we did leave. We went walking around Xi An trying to figure out how to walk up the wall to bike it. In the process, we found a merchant street which was pretty cool. We waited to bike the wall the next day which was awesome. Weird floats were on the wall deserted and disintegrating, mostly of animals and Chinese things but some different countries things like new england trees with orange and red leaves. We saw the Xi An bell tower and the drum tower and they looked the same.
The next week my sister came. I ate dinner with my family after school and rehearsal and sometimes slept at their very fancy hotel on WangFuJing pedestrian street (the wangfujingGRANDhotel). My sister tried to own the Chinese kids at basketball and I would say she was as successful as she could have been for having not played in so long. The next weekend my whole family went to Suzhou and Shanghai. Suzhou (despite being known as the Chinese Venice) had hardly any water. We did take a boat down a canal which was reminiscent of Venice, but that was pretty much the only water we saw. We climbed a pagoda and looked out from the top (where no canals were in sight) and went to a few gardens. The gardens were very cool. The first one was connected to the pagoda and a temple and had lots of turtles and strange colored duck-birds in a pond. The second, "the minsters humble garden" or something, was pretty big and was extremely crowded, being one of the main attractions of Suzhou, but was beautiful nonetheless. It had a bonsai collection which my family loved. The next garden, shizilin (or lion forest) was the coolest thing ever with all these rock caves to climb through and over. It was like a huge beautiful playground. After we returned we went to Shanghai and looked around the Bundt at night. My sister went back to Providence on Sun. morning and due to a holiday in China, grave-sweeping day, there was a three day weekend. I stayed in Shanghai with my parents for another day and went to the Bundt again as well as a huge commercial street. This year's world Expo (whatever that is) is in Shanghai and it's starting soon. Everywhere there was something about the expo, usually the mascot, basically gumbi, but blue and with a little hair curl on his head: http://www.i-chinastyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/haibao.jpg . On the commercial street my mom found a world expo store selling many gumbi( the mascot's name is haibao) items. There was stuffed tennis haibao, popular with my parents, traditional chinese clothed haibao, child haibao, and many more. It all depended on which version you like. I think this character is ridiculous for two reasons. One it is unnecessary to have a mascot for a world expo, but China just needs cute little figures for everything. It was basically something made up by the Chinese government for the sole purpose of getting suckers to buy it, which has been pretty successful. I think the government figured that if they but haibao in enough places maybe people would forget how unnecessary it is and would start to believe it was a truly significant symbol of something. My second reason is that if they were going to try and force an unnecessary mascot on people they could at least make it cool and original. Hai bao is a blue blob with two eyes and a mouth with what little form it has taken from Gumbi. Gumbi may not be the most complicated dude but at least he was original. Basically the Chinese government threw up a blue blob and declared it an important and adorable symbol for everyone to love. So everyone loves it. My mom bought even bought some haibao stuff. I didn't mean to go on such a long rant about hai bao, and I don't even feel very passionately about it's popularity and overwhelming presence in Shanghai. However, by my second night in Shanghai I was quite weary of the little guy (or sometimes big guy as he was known to appear in the form of large statues on streets and in buildings). The huge pedestrian had a few flaws, one relating to haibao. Firstly, as some of the few foreigners on the street, my parents and I were targeted by all the sketchy harrassing venders. There where the dudes with the lazer pointer things who chased you down and made weird light patterns in front of your path for a few minutes in an attempt to show how cool their item was, the guys with the pictures of watches and other goods they were trying to sell, the people with the remote control toy helicopters and the guys who tried to sell these wheels you could attach to your shoes. They were by far the worst because once you were targeted they could easily maneuver next to you and try to sell you wheels. No matter how many times I refused they kept on right by my side. It was easy for them to stay with me with their stupid wheel shoes and there were SO many of them like one every four steps. It took a few awkward minutes for one to leave you alone then the next would come. Did they really think I would want one two seconds after finally getting rid of the previous vendor? The helicopters were a little scary at times as they seemed to almost fly into. The watch sellers were also quite persistent and numerous as were the lazer dudes. It was the funniest though to see the guys on wheels swerve around all the asians to get to the ignorant foreigners.
After the stores closed these people remained and the real plague of vendors, those selling bootlegged haibao merchandise came out. They had haibao stuffed animals in all different shades of blue and with all different shaped eyes, piles and piles of haibao. For every block I would say there was at least five people walking with their hands full of haibao goods to sell. Quite annoying. We ended up leaving the pedestrian street at a late hour and went to a food street which all the guidebooks said were opened late. This street was quite western and was made in preparation for the Expo (where people from all over would have booths for their country in Shanghai). There were clubs and bars and western restaurants, an godiva chocolate, a coldstone. Most of the people were white. We ended up going to this chain restaurant that had been written about in the ny times and had restaurants in LA, Australia, and all over Asia. We returned to Beijing the next day, but I had a pretty good impression of Shanghai. It was extremely built up and had a lot of tall western buildings. Beijing has some nice buildings, some tall, but this is amongst many rubble piles. Even the tall buildings don't look as modern as Shanghai's skyscrapers. It reminded me much more of the West and it seemed very international. I think it would be a great place to study in college.
The next week I again struggled to balance time with my parent, my host family, my rehearsals and my school. Tuesday was my Mom's birthday and we went to a korean bbq place. We said we were vegetarians and the waitress had trouble believe this and then was convinced the the dish we ordered should be without egg because of our vegetarianism. We made it clear that we wanted egger, as she called it, but it did not arrive. She went on saying "Ohhh I thought no egger you are vegetarians!" Finally the egger was recieved. On friday Mi Wa and her parents went out to dinner with my parents and I. It was a great vegetarian meal in a siheyuan( a traditional Chinese house with a courtyard in it). The food was all very well done, flavorful, and sometimes a little too convincing, mock meat. There was even a vegetarian peking duck, the most famous dish in Beijing. On Saturday I went to Beihai park which was large and confusing, but somewhat pretty. At night Michelle, Celina, Emily, and I attempted to swim in the Grand hotel but were denied because we lacked swim caps. If i think of anything else to say I will add it but right now I am tired and shall head to bed.

Posted by Maia L 06:57 Comments (0)

Sandstorm Central

new dance moves and the last time I talk about robot debates for a while

Last Friday I was ordered by Mi Wa to close my window. Apparently there was to be a sandstorm Friday night. I imagined large violent gusts of sand, like those on the planet Tatooine in Star Wars. When I woke up the next day, I looked outside instead of the greyish smog or occasional blue sky, I saw orange. I saw that the presence of the "sand" somehow caused this strange orange hue even though the sand was not overpowering at all, hardly visible when looking out the window. My excitement of this new phenomenon quickly turned to annoyance. As I walked to my bus stop I saw a semi-large gust of sand ominously twisting about in the wind. Mi Wa told me to cover my eyes. Having never experienced a sandstorm of any sort I had no idea how to gauge how serious this was. As the somewhat thin yet widespread gust approached me, I went into something like a fetal position, gripping my hands tightly over my face. I dared not open my eyes or my mouth for fear they would become encased in sand. I remained this way, no doubt, long after the gust had passed, and after a long moment asked Mi Wa if I could open my eyes now. I had assumed she had been right next to me the whole time covering her face in the same manner, but in fact she had walked farther ahead, clearly undisturbed by the sand, and was now laughing at my stupidity. I weathered Saturday in the sandstorm. The sand did get into ones eyes quite easily especially when it was wind and it also found its way into ones mouth. Often, long after having been out, I would grit my teeth and experience an unwelcome hard grainy crunch. The sand was actually pretty disgusting. It was (and tasted like) sand consistency, but really was more of a dirty powder which filled the air and made breathing slightly unpleasant. This kind of sandstorm, we learned, is common in the spring when it is very windy and sands come down from Mongolia. On this sandstorm day we went to the silk market (xiu shui) after briefly getting lost. It was enormous and about five stories. The first had shoes and bags, the second "designer" clothes, the third more clothes, the fourth silk and toys, and the fifth silk and jewelry. With every step some vendor would yell something at you. If you were passing a store selling silken clothes a vendor might say "hey, you want the Chinese style clothes" or something. It doesn't seem so bad compared to aggressive vendors elsewhere, but going by so many so quickly is exhausting and once you find something you like you have little energy left to bargain. That's when they drive you insane, repeating "this silk is so nice, lady, I can't sell it for that price, blahblah etc etc. Even when you do whole the "I don't need it that badly, I'm leaving" charade they still take forever to lower their price and you have to turn around every five steps to wait for their new lowest price. After that tiring trip I slept at Emily's with Michelle and Celina. We all made spaghetti, which I have been missing dearly and it was great. Today they got their hair cut asian style. I wasn't about to go in there and get my hair cut since most places in America don't even know what to do with my hair. Here everyone has relatively similar thin, straight, black hair, whereas mine is extremely thick and curly. It is also worrisome that there is no word here for curly. I think that is a sign the stylests here might have a hard time with my hair. They were even fascinated with Emily's hair which is as close to Asian as western hair gets, aside from its blondness.
Subject Change!
The robot debate actually didn't happen and will be on a Sunday in April. I guess classes can make kids go in on Sundays.
Subject Change!
Our dance routine, though already extremely lengthy has added an additional tap-dancing/tai chi segment. It looks about as nuts as it sounds. I don't know how to do either of these things, but that has not seemed to stop the psycho dance teachers thus far. I'm not sure I can think of a more ridiculous event, oh wait doing ballet jumps up and down to "john Jacob jingle hymer shmidt".

Posted by Maia L 06:12 Comments (0)

What a Day

The great robot debate didn't happen. Or rather i did not attend. I was promised videogames in Tony and Ricky's class agreed immediately. The class had actual computers to play these games on. Oh such games.. they had game boy advanced games as well as old school computer games all on the computer. We played a game called mole quest which was odd, and I checked out Kirby, Naruto, and Pokemon from the gameboy game selection although kirby was the only one without lots of Chinese aka I could understand it. In art we made papercut outs. I made a cool face which i promptly lost. Then I went out to eat baozi, I schooled the other Americans in basketball, and finally, we had dreaded rehearsal. The warm up was torture. Point your feet into a V and jump up and down without stopping while the song John Jacob Jingle Hymer Schmidt played loudly and strangely. We could not help bursting into laughter at this sudden ridiculousness. Im in China jumping up and down with a roomful of people to this totally goofy and inappropriate song..what??! The teachers were angered by our laughter and trying to stifle it was a dreadful task. Also, I should mention the creepy thing this morning that happened. I went to McDs with Celina and Antoine before school. We were waiting in line when a short man with a hat and glasses and a tight squinty face came up to us. He asked if we were Jingshan students and we said yes. He then said something about how his little kid went there too. (Naturally Celina had taken the position of translator at this point). He then asked us if we would teach his kid English and talk to his kid in the morning everyday. We knew he mentioned a park but we were not sure if he said his kid was currently there, a strange thing if the student has school in twenty minutes, or if he wanted us to teach his kid in a park. I was by now thoroughly creeped out and we told the man we had school in the morning. He then offered the afternoon at which we said, honestly, we had dance practice. He then decided that his child was in McD's it seems. We asked where and when Celina pointed to a counter of young children he nodded at a boy with glasses and short hair. He asked for our number but after the failure to arrange a meeting he gave us his telling us to call him if we ever had time. Maybe I was being paranoid but he left in a rush without a kid. The kid he had indicated was his own was gone too but I did not see the man leave with anyone. The man's name, i guess, was Jin and we will not be calling him ever.

Posted by Maia L 06:01 Comments (0)

The Great (robot) Debate

For those of you who have not been avidly reading my blog entries (shame on you), I will explain that a few weeks, ago in my supposed "computer" class I was asked to give a talk on robots despite my lack of knowledge in that odd subject. I refused, having to do so a few times. Now I am hours away from an unavoidable robot debate which I am to participate in. Ok, so it's not that big of a deal...the discussion is in English after all, a language only I am fluent in, but I still am confused as to why this is happening. I am to argue whether robots are good or bad. I can think of many simple arguments to support their being bad, but I am afraid the students will be offended, living in a country crazy about modernization, with an education preparing children largely for lives as engineers and technicians. So we shall see how that goes....On another note I almost died the other day when my host dad decided to speed even more than usual. With every turn, the sudden deceleration gave me whip-lash, and to top this off the man accelerated into oncoming traffic. I saw the massive form of a bus approaching at alarming speeds and was sure a head on collision was about to occur. Just in time, my host father swerved into the proper lane. My heart was still pounding and my eyes still bulged moments later, but looking around no one else seem concerned. And now my thoughts will jump around as suddenly and erratically as my host father's driving. Enjoy. We saw the Forbidden City today. It was very large and open, though each area we went to looked rather similar to the previous. These spaces typically held courtyards, lots of stairs, some statues, usually lions or dragons, and a red wall with three arches to walk through into the next space. This outing caused us to miss dance rehearsals (thank the lord). I also have a test in our "English" class tomorrow. English is in quotes because we haven't really done English. History, yes, and it seems we are starting on philosophy soon. We took notes on packets of information about the dynasties in and out of class and a few of us who actually took notes, myself not included, wrote them on the board as a review for the test. Here is an example of a note for the test referring to the Tang Dynasty: " Tang-similar to han values but changed." Although amusing, I doubt this vague and seemingly contradictory if not utterly incoherent and nonsensical statement will be on my test. Oh well. Goodnight.

Posted by Maia L 05:30 Comments (0)

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