Music to My Ears

This last week was a busy one. In fact, I find it hard to even believe this is my life sometimes because I am so much busier here than I ever was back home. Well, maybe busier isn’t the right word. I suppose the right word would be social.

Thursday night I once again found myself on the back of a bike taxi after spending the evening with a couple of friends. The streets were filled with buses, other bike taxis, bicycles, people, and cars…more so than the first time I braved riding one. The ride wasn’t bad at all. I could really get used to riding those things more frequently. And again, if you ever find yourself in China, make sure you hop on the back of one. This is more of a demand than a recommendation or suggestion.

On Friday at work (and I know I don’t usually share too many tales of work, but I feel like I must this time), the entire main campus (kids ranging from 9 years old to 13 years old) was put into “teams” for our upcoming Spirit Day. We’ll have a whole day of activities, trying to build a sense of community between the kids. For each team, there are two teachers. Now, sometimes I have to work on the energy level because in order for me to last an entire day without too much fatigue or exhaustion (thanks, Sjogrens) I try to conserve my energy. Well, the teacher I’ve been placed with for the day doesn’t seem to be a real…oh, how shall I say it? He doesn’t seem to be a real energetic person. So when we met for the last period of the day, the kids and teachers, to get to know our teams and come up with a team name and chant, I felt like I was carrying the energy for the two of us…plus the kids! I asked the kids, “Any suggestions for team names?” One of the older girls suggested “Ms. Clayton’s Team”. Now, I ask you, just as I asked her, “Where’s the fun in that? There are two teachers here, plus it is OUR team.” Finally, after some pulling teeth (which may have been easier at this point), we came up with the Crimson Dragons. I asked about a possible chant, and this is what I got, “We’re number one.” Sometimes you just know which battles to fight and which ones to ignore. This was one of those battles that I chose to ignore, and so we went with it. Let’s just say Monday should be interesting (and exhausting). I may have to slip some uppers into my partner’s coffee just so I can take a break from the energy.

But even after all that struggle at work, Friday night led to another adventure in town. Six of us went to a themed restaurant and the symphony.

The Cave in Shenzhen

The Cave in Shenzhen

The restaurant was The Cave. Back in the day, a few decades ago, my cousin and I went to a cave themed restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale; we loved it! My hopes were high for this one, and it did not disappoint. The wait staff wore caps with furry pointed ears and a wolf’s tail in the back. The inside of the restaurant looked just like a cave, too. The menus were shaped like bones and the drinks (that were printed in English) had catchy names too. Also, if you bring a writing utensil, you are allowed to write on the restaurants inner walls. Shamefully, I forgot my marker at home, but luckily another friend had a pen. I left my mark on the restaurant for all to see!

I left my mark in the cave!

I left my mark in the cave!

Our friend, Sheryl, ordered for us since she has a history of ordering great food whenever we go out with her. Again, there was so much food I will attempt to remember everything we had: mutton ribs, an eggplant dish, cabbage, sweet and sour chicken, and cucumbers. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. I also ordered the lemon strawberry soda, which was superb. And I know this is one of those things that I say a lot probably, but the food was great! A place I would definitely be willing to go back to.

Mutton Ribs

Mutton Ribs

Once we were done with the eating portion of the evening, we walked over to the concert hall. But first, we encountered a little square full of life. Artists were painting portraits in unbelievable detail while others showed little kids how to sculpt figures out of clay. Also there was a gentleman playing an instrument accompanied by a radio (I want you to know I really tried to get the video into this blog, but my phone was being stubborn).

Clay sculptures

Clay sculptures

The concert hall is breathtaking. Jutting up from the ground were windows that reminded me of growing crystals.

The library is on the left and the concert hall is on the right.

The library is on the left and the concert hall is on the right.

As we entered, I glanced up to see the amazing architecture—gold beams going every which way above us.

The ceiling of the concert hall

The ceiling of the concert hall

Our seats in the actual performance hall were about 7 or 8 rows up. Apparently in this performance space, one must not eat (even a mint), take pictures, or laugh too loud (a poor friend of mine was laughing at a story I was sharing with her—actually the story about meeting the other teacher I’m paired up with on Spirit Day—was asked to turn down the volume). The lights soon dimmed and the orchestra stepped onto the stage. The conductor came onto stage and the music began. The symphony focused on the composer Ravel, playing his works beautifully. About halfway through the performance, a pianist joined them. He played a gorgeous Steinway grand piano—I was jealous as I played the piano for years while growing up and haven’t played in a long time. His fingers glided over the keys flawlessly. He also treated us to a solo piece (I think it was a piece from Stravinsky). Soon, the orchestra was finished. However, I’ve never seen a conductor take so many bows before. We would clap, he would exit the stage, he would come back, bow, we would clap, he would exit, he’d come back, bow, we’d clap, he’d exit, and you get the point. He probably did this about three or four times. Watching the evening’s performance, I will admit to wanting to go back. Music has the power to evoke emotions in one’s soul and physical being; this particular evening proved to be relaxing and contemplative for me thanks to the Ravel’s pieces.

As my weekend comes to an end, I hope that this week goes by swiftly (especially tomorrow’s Spirit Day). We leave for Thailand on Saturday and I’m so super excited, as this place has been one I’ve been hoping to visit. We’ll see tigers, elephants, tuk-tuks…and more! If you have any suggestions for places that we must visit while in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, please feel free to share! One tour we’re going on involves seeing some of the ruins and temples of where Siam used to stand. Well, I’m a really a romantic nerd deep inside and one of my favorite musicals I can remember watching from my childhood is The King and I. Remember where it takes place? Yep, Siam. So, of course I plan on bursting into a beautiful rendition of Shall We Dance while touring this area. However, I need to brush up on my musicality a smidge (I hope my voice doesn’t get us kicked out of the country). In an attempt to do this, I invited my fellow travelers over to my apartment to view the movie with me. There was so much I had forgotten about the movie. And to really add some jazz to the evening, we ordered Thai food and enjoyed cupcakes (because cupcakes are Thai, right?) to feast upon as we watched this brilliant movie. Now, when you watch the news in a couple of weeks and hear about an American being asked to leave Thailand for butchering a classic song, you can say, “I read that girl’s blog!” You’re welcome.

直到下一次,安全的旅程。

Zhídào xià yīcì, ānquán de lǚchéng.

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