A couple of days have passed with a blur of activity. Two days ago we bused to Yangzhou for a concert Monday evening, we were provided with daytime accomodations to rest and change for the evening concert. As usual, the band's performance was stellar, the audience was enthusiastic and responded with roaring applause. It's important to remember many have not heard music like this before, but the rapt attention on the faces of the sold out crowd was proof the band touched something deep in the people. Wherever we go we get the attention of everyone on the street, some completely stop to stare at us. It's quite charming when you see a stoney faced Chinese lady staring at you, with what would seem to be disapproving concern, just to have her break out in the most open smile once you simply smile and wave at her! Again, the knee-jerk reaction is to think some of the people are not interested with interacting with us, but if you extend yourself with a cheerful "Ni Hao" the smile you get is heartwarming. With the millions of people out everyday on the streets of China, I made it a point to look into the eyes of every single person I came into contact with, people I feel connected to on a deeper level, deeper then language, skin color and cultural differences. For me, a silent "Namaste" and a smile are my small way of extending love to these beautiful people. The children here are precious, seeing the families out with their one and only "allowed" child riding a moped, playing in the parks or shopping, gives one pause. I can only imagine how revered that child must be to their family, and I haven't seen any parents use harsh discipline on their child since being here. They tend to speak softly to the children, a respectful and refreshing way to encounter parenting, I must say. After the concert in Yangzhou we headed on the bus to board the 10:40 p.m. train to Beijing. This, all along, was the most cause for concern for me. If you read the descriptions of overnight train travel in China, they range from "not too bad" to "uncomfortable" to "never again", so I didn't know what to expect. Well, getting ready to board the train is absolute chaos! Hold your carry-on bag tight, hold your ticket tight, hold your child's hand even tighter and go with the flow. People in the train station moved as one gigantic mass, keep walking, try to shield yourself from the constant sharp, high pitched whistles blown at every turn, (I think at one point my ear drum nearly blew out), and know this is only temporary. While I don't want to dwell on my personal experience on the over night train, let me just say I didn't sleep at all, and our four person compartment inadvertently (due to a reservation snafu) had another gentleman sleeping right in their with us, the movement of the train and the constant cigarette smoke wafting about served to make me nauseated for about 12 hours. The train did me in, but it was apparent the students had a great time (ahh...youth!) taking pictures, losing sleep and having an experience they can tell of for days to come! I got off the next morning using all my strength to get through the crowds, hold on to my child and follow in the direction my husband was leading. It was also very hot outside with Beijing experiencing 90 plus degrees the last few days. After we got to the hotel (where the water is directly from a natural hot spring, but you need to let the water run several minutes just to get it barely warm) I was grateful to get into the room and collapse. Unfortunately, the turnaround time to get back on the bus to tour The Great Wall was only an hour, so I sadly had to miss seeing The Wall so I could sleep, yes, it was that bad, I missed the The Great Wall of China in order to sleep! Writing that now sounds so lame, but I had literally hit my own "wall" and I don't think it would have been very appreciated, or pretty, to have had to hold me up and make me walk the steep steps, for I'm quite sure I would not have been able to navigate on my own. I'm going to have my intrepid daughter, India, provide the details of her impressions of The Wall in a post later today. She's a wonderful writer who can convey images better then anyone I know, so she will fill in the gap her mother made by needing to sleep! Later in the evening though I did manage to come back to life enough to attend the Chinese acrobat show, and so glad I did! This was like nothing I've ever seen in person. Now I've seen the Shanghai acrobats on a PBS special once, but to see them in person is beyond belief. You just sit there dumbfounded and say "Wow"! The vivid colors, costumes and acts overtake your senses, make you wish you were better at yoga, and for an insane second make you consider taking your bike out of the garage at home and trying to ride it with eight people balancing on your shoulders! "Do Not Try This At Home, These are Highly Trained Individuals" should be the sign posted for sleep deprived tourists like me! The most amazing thing I saw was the act where a masked person changes the color and design of their mask several times in a row, with merely a quick nod of their head, flash....and the face has changed to something totally different! Absolutely amazing, and I would love to know how they did it, it was truly beyond belief! Another interesting sight at the show was all the Buddhist monks that came for the performance! What a sight to see a bus load of monks with digital cameras! We took pictures of them and they didn't seem to mind. There isn't really a way to act cool and nonchalant when you are taking pictures of monks, you just tend to think, "I've got to get this" and away you shoot! What was even more interesting was the monks in the theatre taking pictures of the beautiful costumed girls walking up and down the aisles with DVD's of the performance for sale! And they took A LOT of pictures of these girls, it was rather cute to say the least! The evening made up for the lost day I had, and since my daughter took a lot of pictures of The Wall, I'll post a few here later today.
Today is going to be tours of The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Olympic venues. The final concert will be tonight, so stay tuned as we come to the end of our tour of The People's Republic of China. A long tour with many memories and many high points, but the thought of home sounds pretty good about now, so we will formally bid China adieu tonight and embark on a long journey home tomorrow......It's been grand!