Well, I wrote a really long post last night… my friends thought I was writing a novel. Unfortunately, at the last second (literally I was about to press post) I was logged off and I lost the whole thing. Dangit! Oh well, I’m starting over today and we’ll see how far I get. Hopefully I won’t get logged off this time.
So, basically this tour has been A-MAZING! We came in from Hong Kong yesterday and it’s been a blast. Hong Kong was way cool. We did a lot of touristing and a show and a fireside. I love the Chinese people, they are so way neat. I just love it here. I have lots that I want to write about so I can’t guarantee that this email will be cohesive or coherent to anyone but myself. I’m apologizing up front for that. I’m probably not even going to try.
Ok, one of the coolest parts of tour so far was actually way way way at the beginning of tour. Our itinerary took us through the LA airport which meant I was within 45 minutes from home with a 4 hour layover. My parents drove all the way down from TO just to spend a few hours walking around the airport with me. That meant so much to me. I know it’s not that big of a thing to most people but it was awesome. I knew that to come down and spend that time with me they had to drive at least an hour and a half, and leave the kids at home alone. Plus, let’s be honest (to use a YA-ism), the LA airport is far from the most exciting place on the planet. It was really fun to see them and just hang out with them. It made me feel way special that they would take that time just for me.
The food so far has been great… but I may just get tired of it. Oh, and I did have one particularly fun adventure with the food. While we were in Hong Kong we were given per diem (hallelujah) to go and buy our own lunch at Stanley market. I was walking around with Matt, Amy and Laurel shopping and we were trying to find somewhere to eat. Finally we looked inside one restaurant and saw a whole group of YAs including Chad Little… who served his mission in Hong Kong. Since their recommendation was good and we figured Chad probably knew what he was talking about we decided to go in. We ordered four “number fours” after Matt talking to the head waiter in Mandarin (they speak mostly Cantonese in Hong Kong) to determine what it was. We were pleasantly surprised with how quickly they were able to get our food out to us. We started eating and after a while I saw something that looked a little sketch in my food and decided to pick around it. I didn’t think too much of it because, well we are in China after all. I figured it was all part of the experience. However, a little while later Laurel’s like, “Uh, Britt, I think you have a cricket in your rice.” Apparently no one else had anything like that in their food and Matt called over to the head waiter. It really wasn’t a part of our regularly scheduled meal. The waiter apologized profusely and insisted on bringing me a new plate (even though at this point I was pretty much full and didn’t really need anymore food… whatev). I definitely took pictures of the restaurant, don’t you even worry. However, they took away my plate before I could get a picture of the cricket. Bummer.
Today was a way fun day too. In the morning we were given time after going to some Buddhist temples to just walk around the city. I went with some people to buy some DVDs here. They are sooo freaking inexpensive!!! I bought at least 10 DVDs and 2 CDs for less than $35US. Un-real. So far all I’ve bought are those DVDs and CDs, a Chinese-English Dictionary (definitely a worthwhile buy) and a deck of playing cards. *note to family: if you have specific DVDs or CDs you want me to look for email me and I’ll be on the lookout*
Oh yeah! Coolest experience yesterday. After we arrived at our hotel we had some free time to explore the city (which seems to be a common theme so far on this tour). I was walking around with a group of YAs and someone saw a garden behind a gate that they wanted to go check out. So we walked towards the gate and saw that there were guards standing around (like in fatigues… army people) and so we thought we’d just go up to the gate and sorta look in and see what was there. As we got closer we could tell it was a way neat place. Total Buddhist temple with beautiful grounds. We were getting ready to turn around and go back when one of the guards stopped us and beckoned for us to follow him inside the gates. None of us spoke any more chinese than “Ni hao ma” (hi, how are you) and “xie xie” (thank you) and he didn’t speak much more English. But he totally walked us in and showed us around. Beautiful place. Then he started to take us back down this alley (for lack of a better word… high walls on either side… but still beautiful, I mean we were on Buddhist temple grounds). As we got closer to where he was taking us we could hear chanting of some sort. They were having worship services in the temple there. SO cool to watch. There were these big Buddha statues in front and one half of the congregation would stand up and say this chant while the other half would bow before it. Then they would switch and the first half would bow while the other half chanted. Then he showed us a pond with turtles in it. We gave him one of our postcards on our way out and tried to communicate as much as we could but… I’m not sure how much of it got through the language barrier. Still, who would have thought that a random group of Young Ambassadors would find a Buddhist worship ceremony in the middle of Xiamen? Awesome.
Oh, today we had another way cool experience. We got to go to a school for the blind and deaf. What a neat group of kids! They showed us around their classrooms and told us a little bit about the things they were teaching them and so forth. I found myself really frustrated because, since I know sign language I felt like I should have been able to communicate with the kids. Unfortunately American Sign Language and Chinese Sign Language are very different. But it was really neat. Then they did a performance exchange where the kids did a show for us and then the performers did a mini-show for them. So way cool. The blind children did singing and instruments and the deaf children did dancing. The singers and instrumentalists were awesome. I was way fascinated with the dancers. Since they can’t hear they had one of the instructors in the front… conducting, for lack of a better word… the dancers. Both sets of children did a great job. I think one of the most memorable moments was when one of the children came up and sang “Right Here Waiting for You” in English to us. We started cheering and clapping and singing along. It was really touching all the effort he must have put in to memorize that song and sing it for us.
Speaking of singing in different languages, we’ve been learning a song called “Long di Chwanren” (sorry if my romanizations suck, I’ve been converting everything into IPA and so that’s the spelling that I know) which translated means “Descendants of the Dragon” to sing at the end of every fireside and every show. It’s been way difficult to memorize because, let’s face it, I don’t speak Chinese and it’s not even sound combinations that are familiar like Spanish, Portuguese or French. I’ve been super frustrated because I want to learn it but I still only have about two lines memorized. We don’t have a line-by-line translation of the song but I’m told that the words essentially are saying that all of us are Chinese… it’d be the equivalent of someone singing something like “Proud to be an American” or something like that to us. I was starting to think we should just give up on it… until our first show. After the whole show was over Raymond (one of our technicians, who is originally from Hong Kong) walked up to the front of the stage to start singing the first few lines of the song. The crowd went wild like you wouldn’t believe. It was such an amazing feeling. From backstage where I was wrapping up Lion King ribbons I just got the chills in a major way and felt almost ready to cry. So cool. Definitely worth all of the effort we’ve put in to learn that song.
OH YEAH!! I almost forgot about another interesting experience I had. While we were in Hong Kong we had the chance to go to the grounds of the Hong Kong temple. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it since it’s supposed to be part of just a building in the middle of the city. It just didn’t seem like you could have the same spirit in a building that looked so much like an office building. Oh boy, was I ever mistaken. The temple grounds, though small, were incredibly beautiful. It was raining and wonderful outside and the building had all of this marble and there were flowers and trees… *sigh* – gorgeous. Then we went inside and up to where they were holding an institute class. Right there we sang with them (or to them, I can’t remember which) “The Spirit of God”… man alive, did we ever have the Spirit of God in that room. Instant, strong connection to these people. What better place to sing powerful hymns than in the temple, yaknow? From there we went upstairs to the mission office. They told us a lot of things about the Hong Kong mission, but the one thing that caught my attention was a picture of one of the mission presidents who had the last name of Bradshaw. I could be mistaken but I’m fairly sure that my Aunt Becky Bradshaw Anderson’s dad served a mission in an Asian country, and quite likely it was Hong Kong. Anyways, I took a picture of the picture so when I come home I’ll find out. At the end of our trip we organized a time for the YAs to come back to the temple to do work there. I was soo excited. Unfortunately, the next morning, when we intended to go, neither my alarm nor my roommate’s wake up call went off and we both missed the trip. I was super disappointed because I really wanted to go. But, instead I went with the tech crew to the theater to set up for our show that day. I almost wonder if that’s where I was supposed to be that day. Not that the temple wouldn’t have been amazing, and a once in a lifetime experience… but I think there were some things that happened that day that will help me to be in the position I want to be on tech crew that I wouldn’t have been there for otherwise. I would have much rather have been at the temple, but since our theme for this tour is gratitude I’m just going to be grateful to have been at set up that day and bonding with the tech crew.
Alrighty well, Clotile’s about ready to leave so I’m going to finish up here. I hope all is well back home! I may not get a chance to call home until Mother’s Day (it’s really hard with the time difference, and I don’t have a calling card anyways), but I still love you all! I’ll update again as soon as I get the chance.
Love, Smiles & Sunshine,