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We are now in Chicago

Arrived safe. Mow dealing with customs, baggage, and inattentive children.

More later.

Day 4 – Xi’an, Xi’an, Xi’an!

Alright. By the end of the day, everyone has agreed that today was the best day & that Xi’an was better than Beijing. It didn’t start that way though…

6:45 pm CST – 7:45 am local
Arrival at Grand Noble Hotel

We arrived ahead of our checked bags and had breakfast at what most considered a superior buffet to our last hotel. I would say it edged it out a little by having syrup for the French toast and also having hashbrowns.

All told, everyone had a little over an hour to eat, take a shower, and get back down ready for the day. Apparently, this was not doable.

9 pm CST – 10 am local
Grand Noble Hotel

We had a couple of students who couldn’t be on time (20 minutes late) and many others who just didn’t bother to shower. This cut into our time at the Temple of Heaven. You know us: “On time is late.”

I guess this part should read 20 minutes later.

9:40 pm CST – 10:40 am local
Temple of Heaven

After a short drive, we arrived at the Temple of Heaven. This is a beautiful place & I wish whatever is keeping me from posting pics here would go away. After a very short lecture on the history of the place, we get chance to walk around and sight-see. As always, there are shops for us to spend more money. The kids can sure buy some stupid stuff. Some of you, though, are getting dome nice things.

Those kids probably just love their parents more. ;-)

We meet up at 11:30 am local time at a building here at the temple for a presentation on Chinese character writing (their language) and artwork. It is interesting and the kids in my group were attentive and respectful.

Where did these kids come from?

After this, came another opportunity to make room in their bags by removing some of that pesky money they keep carrying around. I can’t believe I was able to avoid doing so.

Side note: I have had to step in and remove a student from an annoying (not dangerous) situation where a vendor will follow them for blocks trying to get a sale. I find it quite amusing. I just look at them, say no, and walk.

They don’t follow.

11:15 pm 3/15/2011 CST – 12:15 pm 3/16/2011 local
(This is starting to hurt my head to figure out)
Noodle restaurant

This was a pretty cool place. If you so chose, you could stand in line for a cup of freshly made noodles with your choice of sauce. When I say freshly made, I mean you stood there as a guy kneaded, rolled, stretched, cut, & boiled them. Then a woman put them in a bowl with sauce and you got to shovel them into your face as fast as you could because they were so delicious. I, of course, did not eat them like that. I am much too dignified.

They also had a buffet. Some of the kids are starting to complain about eating so much Chinese food and keep asking why. My reply? “Because they just call it ‘food’.”

12:15 am CST – 1:15 pm local
Xi’an Conservatory of Music

Rehearsal time. It went about the same as Monday: a long time setting up and quick hits on the important parts. Then we left our instruments in their rehearsal room and went on our way.

2:30 am CST – 3:30 pm local
Xi’an City Wall

Xi’an was the original capital of China. It was for about six dynasties or so. Around the inner, older, original part of the city, there is a wall and a moat. You read that right, a moat.

We got to walk the wall a little bit, take some pictures, and basically just hang out. I was able to get some video of the crazy traffic here. I will post it when I am able to.

3:30 am CST – 4:30 pm local
Back to the hotel

Everyone had two hours to get changed for the concert, eat, and whatever else. What is amazing is they were able to handle it this time.

On time!

5:15 am CST – 6:15 pm local

Depart for concert.

6:30 am CST – 7:30 pm local
Concert at Xi’an Conservatory of Music

Oh what a concert.

At first, it started out as any other here, or at home. We showed up, played well, we were done. Except we apparently weren’t done. There seems to be a custom here that if they audience enjoys it, you play an encore.

They really enjoyed it. In fact, shortly after the concert started, it became standing room only. Not just late and too lazy to find a seat, but actual standing room.

Needless to say, we didn’t have any extra pieces ready. They ended up playing Hands Across the Sea again after Martz suggested Bravado (I really hope he was joking).

Even more applause that time around.

Mr. Butler and I got up thinking it was time to strike the stage since the audience was up and filing out as they were still clapping.

The applause got louder. Apparently, it was time for “Bieber” Butler and I to take our turn at an encore to again even more thunderous applause.

Finally the kids left to put away their instruments and the percussion was being struck. That left Butler, Martz, & I (in that order) to fend off the hordes of adoring fans desiring pictures and autographs with & from us.

Thankfully, the kids came down fairly soon and they were able to take most of the “papparazi” abuse.

*sigh* The life of a celebrity (in my own mind).

9 am CST – 10pm local
Hotel

We are back a little late simply due to our own awesomeness. (Pleas. No comments. That was TOTALLY tongue in cheek…sort of.) The kids had some down time at the hotel that was well deserved.

Me, too. I was also able to get the FaceTime to work between my phone & my son’s iPod Touch. No lag. That was pretty cool.

Day 3 – More Beijing and the Great Wall

5:30 pm CST – 6:30 am local
Hotel

Wake up time. With their schedules off, this wasn’t really a problem. For me, either. I was up at 3:30ish and took a walk. It is going to be a cool one today. We are checking our bags in for transport to the train station this morning. We won’t be back to this hotel before Friday.

Breakfast had some excellent spring rolls instead of chicken nights today.

10 pm CST – 11 am local
The freaking Great Wall!!!

Legs. Are. Jelly. Wait. I will start at the beginning.

We had to take equipment up stairs we weren’t planning due to a parking lot being closed. The kids were troopers and Mr. Bill has those percussionists working like a well-oiled machine. Setting up was…problematic. Wow, I’m really good at understatement.

The wind. If I could slap it, I would. I will have to just use the next student to complain about it. They seem to think we can control it. Right. That’s why Martz’s score flew away.

Anyway. After the first 126 complaints & us trying to decide whether to move the performance or cancel it, the kids decided they wanted to play and say they did on the Great Wall. We played 2 pieces with all adults (and I mean all of us) in amongst the band holding the easily blown wire stands and music.

A lot of laughing during that gig. At least it’s over.

10:20 pm CST – 11:30 local
The Really, Really tall Great Wall

Butler and I got a head start in the wall. We needed it. He’s next to wheezing & I am looking for a defibulator for him just in case. I ache and am slightly nauseous. We are at the first tower. I see our kids: Andy R., Addison, Gilberto, Malcolm lying on the edge waiting to fall off, Chevy taking them two at a time,….

I beat them there, but I wave goodbye to them as they move on and I sit here wondering how fast I will roll back down. After having climbed Diamond head on Oahu about 5 years ago, I know that going down is harder for balance and leg control.
………….

Back down to the shops. I have not been able to find soccer jerseys for the family like I wanted. In fact, everyone here laugh’s about their Men’s Team just like the rest of the world does. So…I have given up. I have gotten my son & wife gifts from here.

Time to herd the cats for lunch. No exaggeration about that.

12:am CST – 1 pm local
Restaurant & Jade factory

Forks! Yes! Diet is officially over.

The food here is much better. The kids enjoyed it more and many ordered seconds. On a side note, all of the lunches and dinners are served family-style with everything on a lazy Susan in the middle of the table.

After lunch, we went into the adjoining jade factory and shop. All about the selling us stuff. Still, very interesting and the kids were happy to have real toilets here. There’s a lot of waiting “to go” going on.

The things they do to carve are unreal. Carving balls within balls with balls. All without removing anything.

I hope all of you & my daughter like jade. Just sayin’.

2:30 am CST – 3:30 pm local
Buses

We have pictures of the Water Cube from the 2008 Olympics. We will get the Bird’s Nest on Friday.

After that 5 minute picture stop, we did something not on the itinerary: a silk shop demonstration and money relieving opportunity. We were shown how silk is harvested and made into various items. There was then a place to buy items made of silk. Many of the students had wished they had waited to buy gifts.

Me, too. I am having to avoid just buying for myself now. I think that nighty would look good on me. Wait, I meant that tie. Yes, that tie, definitely.

4:15 am CST – 5:15 pm local
Restaurant

Food here is excellent again. Some different dishes. Some are the same. I will mention that the drinking glasses here are small. Smaller than our juice glasses. At home I like to use 32oz glasses. I need to remember to bring my water in with me.

6:00 am CST – 7:00 pm local
Beijing Railway Station

Huddled masses?

Wow. Very crowded here. This is honestly what I always pictured Ellis Island to look like during its time of operation.

We get sleeper cars! Whew. It’s going to be almost 12 hours on this thing so that will be good.

Hey! That’s my bed!

Good ni….zzzzz.

Day 2 – First full day in Beijing

Woke up an hour earlier than my alarm. Got ready and found kids already up, not having slept at all. They better be ready for the gig tonight. It needs to be the most impressive.

The breakfast is great. My kids would love it. Chicken nuggets for breakfast!

6:45 pm CST – 7:45 am local
Superhouse International Hotel

I have taken to the hotel lobby as my base of operations. Many are just getting moving due to our late arrival and later start time for the day. I just want to make sure we don’t have any “world explorers” that I am not aware of.

I have exchanged some currency so I can now tell everyone what to do. We also have to have everything for our concert since well not he getting back to our hotel beforehand.

7:45 pm CST – 8:45 am local
Same

We have discovered cheap bottled water at a little shop next door. A liter for 5 RNBs (Yuan). with the exchange rate at 6.5 for 1 US Dollar, this is a good deal. I think we have now bought them out.

8:30 pm CST – 9:30 am local

We are now all here and are loading the bu…WAIT!!! We weren’t all here! I mentioned yesterday that we had a “problem” and that it had been “resolved”. Well, it hadn’t been resolved favorably. A student (that for privacy purposes we shall call “Andrea”) had lost “her” passport before going throughout customs. After much cajoling, begging, dealing, and more begging, “Andrea” was refused admittance to the country after American Airlines said they searched the plane for it to no avail. “Andrea’s” parents are on the trip with us and were also powerless to stop this. In fact, they were even refused the opportunity to stay with their child to go back with “her”.

After an evening spent contacting others, and after “Andrea” was already on a US-bound plane, AND after much more than my thumbs will willingly type here, “Andrea’s” passport was found. “Her” dad got his child through customs, and through our hotel doors just in time to load the bus at 10 am.

Problem resolved differently…better, if you will.

9:45 pm CST – 10:45 am local
Temple of Heaven

I am just going to describe this with one picture:

Not much more can be said without making this an entire treatise on its history. I will probably update this when I can use all of my fingers to type.

I will say it was awe-inspiring and everyone, kids and adults alike, were duly impressed.

11:30 pm 3/13/2011 CST – 12:30 pm 3/14/2011 local
(that took some thinking)
Beijing, China

We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. It was…interesting. It was not a fancy, gourmet restaurant. I would equate it to a Hometown Buffet in KC except with a different “hometown”. Most everything adequate, with some things better than others while, again, some were more interesting.

Most of the kids were adventurous with their choice of cuisine. I am not sure if anyone decided to try the intestines. I did not.

1 am 3/14 CST – 2 pm local
Hutong, Beijing, China

We took a rickshaw (bicycle with rear passenger cart) tour through an older location of Beijing. Again, more will be added once full hand faculties key be utilized. Suffice it to say, older, more set-in-their-ways people populate this area.

The students enjoyed the tour and the ride. Mr. Butler’s and my driver did not. He got a larger tip for carrying the two of us.

2:45 am CST – 3:45 pm local
Music School of Central Conservatory

We had a rehearsal in the concert hall we will be performing in. We were late getting there & then it took awhile to set up, so we went long, also.

There are definite rough spots. I know some of the kids haven’t slept since the plane (on which most of them slept most of the time).

4:45 am CST – 5:45 pm local.
Local restaurant

We had dinner with the school group we will be sharing our concert with. The took issue with their giggling an hesitancy with talking with them. They don’t understand that those are their defense mechanisms for their shyness. They really need to start listening to our guides more.

We mixed groups at each table. The directors ate together. I sat next to their flute teacher, who also seems to he their assistant director. He is an older gentleman. The director is a woman who I would guess to be in her mid 40′s. We had to have my bus’s guide interpret during the meal since the adults did not speak English.

Dinner was definitely better than lunch. No forks were available at all.

I guess I am on a diet now.

6:30 am CST – 7:30 pm local
Conservatory

Concert time.

Their group is clean, balanced, in tune, and technically proficient. Their musicality is above average. I think they tried to play some music they did not connect with and other pieces they did. Don’t get me wrong, all of it was very good. Some just didn’t have the all of the emotion the others did.

Our group was just over half of the size of theirs, but about twice the intensity. Some of this, of course, is music selection. Either way, your children overcame sleep deprivation and brought it. There are, of course, instances the children will complain about, but you know them. Never happy.

The concert hall was different than ours. It was very live with stone and wood being the primary building materials. It was like ours in one aspect: It hasn’t been fully maintained.

Back to the hotel to crash.

Good night.

Day 2 – First full day in Beijing

Woke up an hour earlier than my alarm. Got ready and found kids already up, not having slept at all. They better be ready for the gig tonight. It needs to be the most impressive.

The breakfast is great. My kids would love it. Chicken nuggets for breakfast!

6:45 pm CST – 7:45 am local
Superhouse International Hotel

I have taken to the hotel lobby as my base of operations. Many are just getting moving due to our late arrival and later start time for the day. I just want to make sure we don’t have any “world explorers” that I am not aware of.

I have exchanged some currency so I can now tell everyone what to do. We also have to have everything for our concert since well not he getting back to our hotel beforehand.

7:45 pm CST – 8:45 am local
Same

We have discovered cheap bottled water at a little shop next door. A liter for 5 RNBs (Yuan). with the exchange rate at 6.5 for 1 US Dollar, this is a good deal. I think we have now bought them out.

8:30 pm CST – 9:30 am local

We are now all here and are loading the bu…WAIT!!! We weren’t all here! I mentioned yesterday that we had a “problem” and that it had been “resolved”. Well, it hadn’t been resolved favorably. A student (that for privacy purposes we shall call “Andrea”) had lost “her” passport before going throughout customs. After much cajoling, begging, dealing, and more begging, “Andrea” was refused admittance to the country after American Airlines said they searched the plane for it to no avail. “Andrea’s” parents are on the trip with us and were also powerless to stop this. In fact, they were even refused the opportunity to stay with their child to go back with “her”.

After an evening spent contacting others, and after “Andrea” was already on a US-bound plane, AND after much more than my thumbs will willingly type here, “Andrea’s” passport was found. “Her” dad got his child through customs, and through our hotel doors just in time to load the bus at 10 am.

Problem resolved differently…better, if you will.

9:45 pm CST – 10:45 am local
Temple of Heaven

I am just going to describe this with one picture:

Not much more can be said without making this an entire treatise on its history. I will probably update this when I can use all of my fingers to type.

I will say it was awe-inspiring and everyone, kids and adults alike, were duly impressed.

11:30 pm 3/13/2011 CST – 12:30 pm 3/14/2011 local
(that took some thinking)
Beijing, China

We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. It was…interesting. It was not a fancy, gourmet restaurant. I would equate it to a Hometown Buffet in KC except with a different “hometown”. Most everything adequate, with some things better than others while, again, some were more interesting.

Most of the kids were adventurous with their choice of cuisine. I am not sure if anyone decided to try the intestines. I did not.

1 am 3/14 CST – 2 pm local
Hutong, Beijing, China

We took a rickshaw (bicycle with rear passenger cart) tour through an older location of Beijing. Again, more will be added once full hand faculties key be utilized. Suffice it to say, older, more set-in-their-ways people populate this area.

The students enjoyed the tour and the ride. Mr. Butler’s and my driver did not. He got a larger tip for carrying the two of us.

2:45 am CST – 3:45 pm local
Music School of Central Conservatory

We had a rehearsal in the concert hall we will be performing in. We were late getting there & then it took awhile to set up, so we went long, also.

There are definite rough spots. I know some of the kids haven’t slept since the plane (on which most of them slept most of the time).

4:45 am CST – 5:45 pm local.
Local restaurant

We had dinner with the school group we will be sharing our concert with. The took issue with their giggling an hesitancy with talking with them. They don’t understand that those are their defense mechanisms for their shyness. They really need to start listening to our guides more.

We mixed groups at each table. The directors ate together. I sat next to their flute teacher, who also seems to he their assistant director. He is an older gentleman. The director is a woman who I would guess to be in her mid 40′s. We had to have my bus’s guide interpret during the meal since the adults did not speak English.

Dinner was definitely better than lunch. No forks were available at all.

I guess I am on a diet now.

6:30 am CST – 7:30 pm local
Conservatory

Concert time.

Their group is clean, balanced, in tune, and technically proficient. Their musicality is above average. I think they tried to play some music they did not connect with and other pieces they did. Don’t get me wrong, all of it was very good. Some just didn’t have the all of the emotion the others did.

Our group was just over half of the size of theirs, but about twice the intensity. Some of this, of course, is music selection. Either way, your children overcame sleep deprivation and brought it. There are, of course, instances the children will complain about, but you know them. Never happy.

The concert hall was different than ours. It was very live with stone and wood being the primary building materials. It was like ours in one aspect: It hasn’t been fully maintained.

Back to the hotel to crash.

Good night.

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