Today was another super long, exhausting day. We got up at 7am and we had to be downstairs, and ready for the day by 8:40. We went downstairs to our meeting place, packed up the bus, and drove to the performance center.
We had a chorus rehearsal with the Mongolian students for the third time this trip. It was very interesting to notice the different ways that chorus classes can be taught. In the classes we’ve had so far, were handed our music and expected to follow the program. I noticed struggles from some of the group because not many are knowledgeable when it comes to reading music. I was however very impressed by the amount of effort everyone put in. They were respectful and tried very hard to figure out the music.
After we got done singing, we got to go up onstage and dance with the students studying dance at the arts college. We started off by dancing the An Dai dance that we learned earlier in the week. Again, seeing the focus of the students and seeing them be engaged in whatever they were being told by their dance partners. I have gained a good relationship with a lot of the girls who were helping me out. They are all very kind and trying very hard to make sure everyone is getting the same amount of help, or the help that they need to succeed in the moment. We also learned a modern dance which we ended up learning the entire thing and having a fun time in doing so. Then we went to lunch, and had break time afterwards to rest, or just relax. I read my book in the windowsill until the break was over.
After break time, we left the hotel again and went to a middle school to have a campus tour and to do some activities with the students. The campus was beautiful with a lot of windows and cool architecture. The activities consisted of either hand crafts or painting. I chose to do the painting class because I really enjoy painting, it calms me down, and gives me something to think about for a while. Since it is spring time, we got to paint flowers and spring like objects. When the class was over, a little girl approached me and gave me the painting she made and started jumping up and down. She asked for a hug and we talked for a little while.
Then we had to leave the school to head back to the arts college to have dinner. We got back relatively early, so we hung out in the common area outside by the track and field place. We then ate dinner, which was yummy as usual.
From dinner, we went to our rehearsal for the drums from 6:30-7:00. Then we had a chorus rehearsal from 7:00-8:00. It was very interesting because the teacher told Karlie that we were going to learn two Mongolian songs and that she wouldn’t be able to teach an English song. We were surprised when the teacher said that but the songs we ended up learning were both very beautiful. I just wish we were able to know the lyrics to the songs better because we can only sing the songs on a certain syllable.
After our rehearsal, the group went out and consumed our body weights in pizza!!!! It was strange to be having pizza in China but it was completely worth it and very yummy.
Today started out with the very obnoxious wakeup call at 6:30 in the morning and was followed by breakfast at the hotel buffet. After eating two fried dough sticks and noodles, a very healthy breakfast, we headed out on a bus for a two-hour ride to the desert. It was amazing to start in the heart of the crazy city, Hohhot, and venture out into the vast and mountains landscape that surrounds it. I fell asleep and was woken up to one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. I got this overwhelming surreal and unbelieving feeling when I saw the open and beautiful desert.
Wide awake now, I was extremely excited to go out and explore. We took a lift that was very much like a ski lift, up to the top of a sand dune. On this ride I got Birdseye view of the many sand dunes, camels laying in the sun, and the modernized features such as ice- cream shops and zip- lines. I was not expecting there to be as many buildings and activities.
After getting off the lift we walked for a little until we came upon the camel rides. We had options for what we wanted to do to fulfill our two and a half hours. I quickly decided I wanted to ride a camel. It was one of the best decisions of my life. These animals were so big, strong and adorable. I created a special bond with my camel Pete. I miss Pete a lot right now. It felt very much like riding a horse, camels have similar shape except for the two humps. After saying a sad goodbye to my new friend Pete, Madison and I decided we wanted to climb up a sand dune. I noticed while climbing that when my bare feet hit the top sand, it was very hot but was quickly relieved when my foot sank into the cold sand underneath. It was an amazing feeling.
After reaching the top, Maddie and I decided to take some photos. Me, being a gymnast, did handstands, cartwheels and backflips. It’s so cool because now I can say that I’ve done a standing backflip in the Gobi Desert. After getting some amazing photo’s, we decided that the only other thing we could do is jump off some sand dunes. We would run and leap off the top and land about half way down getting sand everywhere. After two jumps, my hair and face were covered with sand, but it was definitely worth it. Sadly, we then had to leave that wonderful place. Of course, though, before leaving for lunch we had to stop for ice cream.
About an hour later, we had a very tasty lunch that included a lot of meat like pork, duck, and even lamb. After our bellies were full, we drove yet another hour and a half until we stopped for dinner. We had dinner at this very interesting place called Bamnudi. I, along with my friends, had no clue why we stopped here for dinner. There were animals there, including deer, ducks and two peacocks. This place just had a very unusual feeling to it. We had dinner, which included even more meat, and finally arrived back at the hotel.
As soon as we got back, everyone took a very needed shower to try to wash away all the sand. Today was one of my favorite days we have had here in China. I can now say I’ve done a backflip and rode a camel in the Gobi Desert. Two things I can now check off my bucket list!
More to come from Maddie…Stay tuned…
Today we had a calligraphy class, which was a really nice break from all the hustle and bustle of the museums that we just visited. We first learned the history of calligraphy. We also learned what the different tools they use, which is a piece of paper with a cloth under it they also use ink a bowl and a brush. After that, we learned that there are 5 different types of calligraphy. Then we learned how to write some of the pictograms it was kind of like drawing the object except way harder. We learned how to write sun, moon, water, rain, dragon and tiger. It was hard because of all the detail in the characters. I could do only about half of the characters, and the rest were just too difficult for me. Then we learned the same words in cursive, which was even harder. After that we painted traditional artwork that was fun but also challenging. He taught it by drawing it and then we followed his example. I thought his artwork was good and he made it look easier than it was. We then ate a very delicious lunch and had a small break.
Then we went and saw Confucius’s birthplace. We saw the cave that he was born in. Confucius was born in a cave because his father thought the mountain spirits would help keep him safe. The cave was at the bottom of a hilly spot that was surrounded by trees. We could not go into it because it was blocked off, but it was still interesting to see.
After we left Confucius’s birthplace, we drove through some of the towns. We stopped to get off the bus and walked around one of the small towns. As we walked, all the people in the stores came out, it seemed like they had not seen many Americans. There were clothing shops, but after clothing shops it was very vacant. It was very uncomfortable because people were always looking at us.
We then got back on the bus and we drove back to the hotel. We had to get dressed up for a final banquet dinner and we only got back to the hotel with 5 minutes to get ready. It was a lot of panic and stress, but we were able to all get in our fancy clothes in a 5-minute span. The banquet dinner was nice because it was a change from the normal meals we had been eating. There was good food; There was everything from fish to fruit and I particularly liked the pickles.
After breakfast, we had our first lesson of the day which was a mixture of chorus class and the traditional dance. We have been learning with the attached middle school students. We started with the chorus class and the song they picked for us to collaborate with them with was quite difficult. The way that they read music is much different from the way we read music, so we had to get slightly different copies of the music. Karlie really helped us figure out the new style of teaching with the Chinese teacher. The style of teaching is also extremely different from what we are used to back home. It is slightly more grueling, but not understanding is not an option here. They do a thing until they get the result they want and in some ways, I enjoy it more than the American way of accepting something that may not be your best.
I especially liked the dance class that we had after chorus, we had already worked on the dance the day before and thanks to my extremely helpful and forgiving dance partner I had got the dance mostly down. I was kind of forced to figure out the dance and not give it half try because I was placed dead center and front stage. If you know me or my dance ability at all this selection was not based on skill but much more random.
We had lunch at the school’s cafeteria after our morning classes which was welcomed happily.
Our afternoon was a little bit lower key, which is funny because we had a performance at a local high school. When we got to the high school we were welcomed and then split up and visited some classes. My group visited an English class and got to talk with the students and teacher about everything about our lives. This was, so far, my favorite activity we have done on this trip, it was short and sweet, but I felt like I got along with the students in the class really well and shared some common interest. Also, the English teacher was extremely friendly laid back and funny, which made me feel like I was back home at Leland and Gray. It was fantastic to see students who clearly had a strong relationship with their teacher like I feel I have at Leland and Gray.
We then found the auditorium and started our performance. At this point in the trip our show runs quite smoothly. The only funky part of this performance was it was done during their school day so many of the students had to leave half way through our show.
We had dinner, which was pretty uneventful and then went to another hour-long chorus class from 7-8. At this point we were all pretty burnt, but we pushed through it. After this we got to go back to our hotel and comfy beds.
Today, Tuesday April 10, 2018 (besides being my birthday), was our first day at the Inner Mongolian Arts college. For people who don’t know what the Arts College is, it’s a school for people looking to become professional dancers, musicians and performers of all kinds. This morning when the group arrived at the venue we had about an hour and a half to rehearse our show. We did our usual warmup and ran through the show one time. After we were finished it came time to reorganize the bags because after our last show we had to pack up in a hurry so the bags were a complete wreck. After our rehearsal it was time for lunch and then we had a nice long siesta to recover and rest before it was time for our dance class.
When the time finally came to head back to the college for the dance class I decided it would be a good idea to eat an ice cream because it was my birthday. When we got back to the performance hall we all sat in wait for the dancers to come, they finally did and they entered and all did a crazy dance move. I was surprised by how good they were. They invited all the JE kids onto the stage and we got to work almost immediately. For me, personally, I caught on to the dance quickly and found it quite enjoyable to perform. When I had any questions about where to put my feet or if I wanted to do something again, my dance partner was nice and helpful. I was afraid that my constant questioning and lack of elegance frustrated her, but it really seemed like it didn’t. In fact, all the Mongolian dancers seemed calm and patient with us Americans. We ran through the dance several times, paused, learned a new section of choreography, practiced the new stuff and added it into the dance. Then we practiced the whole thing up to the point where we needed new choreography and did that on repeat until we made it through the whole thing. It got a little annoying when we had to do the first piece of choreography repeatedly but in the end, it was really fun and we did learn the dance.
After a short break, we went through the dance again and then we watched the Mongolians do a short dance. After that it was time for dinner. During dinner, all the lights suddenly went out and a cake rolled in and people started singing happy birthday. Whenever people start singing happy birthday to me in public, I always get a little embarrassed. Despite being slightly embarrassed, we had some good cake with cherries in it. After we were done, I convinced Paul Paytas to go outside and throw his frisbee around for a while. Then a magical moment, some of the Chinese people that were standing around suddenly joined us and Ultimate Frisbee became a symbol for peace across the city. After frisbee, we went back to the hotel and winded down from the day.