Hey everyone! I'm sorry for taking so long to update, it turns out that my blog is blocked in China. I don't think it's anything personal against me, just all blogging is blocked in China. Wow! Right? So, many thanks to Sarah T. for putting this blog up for me. Bassoonists are the best kinds of friends! It makes me feel a little bit like Paul, actually, you know? When he thanks whoever for notating his letters to the churches, etc. It's great!
Anyway. This trip. Wow. I don't even really know how to describe it. At this point we're over halfway through. It's New Year's Eve and I have to get ready to play a concert tonight. It has not been the most musically edifying trip, except that I'm playing principal and everyone generally seems to like my solos, at least my friends (new and old) and the conductor do. I haven't heard so much from the people who most likely hate me for other reasons. So that's been good. And it's definitely growing me in stability, consistency and strength as a player. I've been pushing the limit on my embouchure endurance, but I think I've passed the really difficult stages now and can make it through a whole concert relatively in shape. It's a great excuse to not practice during the day ... hehe.
The trip hasn't done much for my relationship with China. I still don't care for it much and I'd probably be fine if I never came back here. It's dirty. My hands turn black just from being outside. Either because of soot and smog or frostbite. Currently we're in northern China and it's at least 27 degrees below 0. Aack! I have never been this cold in my life, but actually, I seem to have prepared pretty well for it and between my coat, my long johns and my hat and gloves I'm doing pretty well. Then again, I wasn't on a bus for two to three hours without heat like some of my colleagues were.
Personally, this trip has been very ... I don't even know how to describe it. There have been some really difficult moments for me individually, dealing with loneliness (which is normally a result of exhaustion), but from that standpoint, the Lord has been very good to me in building endurance of body and spirit. There are four Americans on this trip and we are also the only four Christians on this trip. This is no coincidence, I think. And it's been so good that all four of us are on this trip. Julie, my roommate, is spectacular. She's one of the most good-hearted, gentle people I've ever met. Michael is great to have to lighten tension, to make you laugh and to just be a general encouragement. He's also good friends now with some of the most difficult people on the trip, so that's definitely valuable. Christian is now one of my oldest friend and so good. He's challenged me a lot in my character and faith, and we generally just work well together building each other up and sharpening each other. This trip has been in general, though, a real test of integrity and character. We've had some very difficult situations arise which have caused serious tension within the orchestra. Like I just referenced, some of them had to ride a bus for a few hours without heat in very sub zero temperatures. Nothing was done about it. This is absolutely unacceptable and our conductor graciously gave them the option of not playing the concert that night, which they chose. I completely stand by them from that respect, but the challenge came in whether or not we could still do a good concert without their presence AND that it would be almost blessing the neglect of the organization by playing a concert in spite of the conditions. Those of us who could play opted to play a shortened, chamber orchestra version of our normal program. It was not our worst concert, which was good. As an idealist, general pacifist, Christian and American, I believe that you play no matter what the circumstances. This entire trip has been full of situations like that and unfortunately the same people who were stuck in the cold bus are also the ones who have been very vocal about the terror that has been this trip.
Today we are in Daqing which is near Russia and Siberia. Tomorrow we go to Harbin and have our first full day off since the beginning of the trip. We're going to see the ice castle/ice festival. When I can, I'll have Sarah post some pictures from that. For now I have just a couple pictures from our morning on the Great Wall, if Sarah can figure out how to put them on. That was VERY cool. It seems that "small town" China (which is still bigger than Chicago) appeals to me more, but still, I am not what you would call "enamored" with the country.
No song lyrics today. I guess Ingrid Michaleson's "Are we There Yet?" is becoming even more poignant now, though. So enjoy the pictures.