Sunday, January 11, 2015

Great sites, great food, great friends

Sunday, January 11 began as every other day of this tour…..a beautiful sunrise (there’s something about the sun breaking through the morning fog intertwined with smog that makes the sun espepecially interesting) followed by an extensive buffet breakfast, this time with more “western” options: bacon, fried eggs, sweet rolls and, would you believe, beer?  Not kidding….there was a beer dispenser.  And it worked.  You’ll have to wonder how I know this….  

View from hotel window into Shanghai Stadium.
Our hotel is a fascinating place, connected to (actually part of) Shanghai Stadium.  When we pulled up last night, we thought we were attending a concert or soccer match, but it turned out our hotel is “embedded” into the stadium.  Some of our rooms actually overlook the inside of the facility – my room for example, is right on what we’d call the 50-yard line!  This is probably the closest we’ll ever come to having a “sky suite!”

Prayers before the Great Hall at Buddhist Temple
At 9:00 a.m. we boarded our buses and headed out for the day with our first stop being a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple, one of the most famous Buddhist Temples in China.  Our guides explained how the overwhelming majority of Chinese people follow no religion, but that Buddhism ( as well as Christianity) have followers and it’s not unusual to find temples and churches, especially in the main cities.  

Golden Buddhas in Great Hall
The jade used in this temple is an off-white color, not the green that we most often associate with jade.  As it was a weekend day, there were many Chinese visitors to the temple area and we had the opportunity to observe the followers and their use of incense, bowing and reverential  prayers.    The “Grand Hall of Magnificence” houses three golden incarnations of the Buddha, and we later saw the large reclining Buddha (in jade).  Up the stairs was the jewel-encrusted seated Buddha, but pictures were not allowed there. 
The Reclining Buddha.  Solid jade.  2x lifesize.

Once we managed to get everyone together again (there are shops here too!), we headed off to a special street - a street full of music shops.  Honestly.  One after another, and instruments of all kinds.  We moved in and out of the shops and observed kids in lessons, invitations to pick up and play various instruments, and even buy them if interested.  Mrs. Pennington, a violinist, purchased a two-stringed violin-type instrument called an Erhu and I understand some flutes were purchased as well, and a “tiny trumpet” too?  (I’ve heard it – just haven’t seen it!)

Off to lunch and a chance to drive along the Bund.  Once again, we’re enjoying a beautiful day with sun and warm temperatures.  There are many, many Chinese people out enjoying a walk along the Bund parkway, and it’s a great day to observe the amazing/interesting architecture of the incredible, quickly changing landscape that is Shanghai.  It seems that bigger means better, and taller with creative design technique is the operative slogan.  Can’t wait to show the students this area at night when the lights are in full force – it truly is beautiful.

Our guide, Daisy, was asked “What kind of lunch are we having today?”  Her reply was “Chinese, but Shanghai Style.”  Hmmmm.  She’s done such an excellent job at selecting a variety of “styles” of food for us, and today’s was, to put it mildly, “yummy.”  The lemon chicken was out of this world, and my table really dove into the dish with calamari as well as the “tentacle one” – octopus.  Seriously!  All in all, I’ve not heard of anyone going hungry – in fact, when we polled our table about the food in general, all responded very positively.   It’s always good to hear that, and yet it’s only been four days…….still, no one has found McDonalds yet (at least that I know of!).

"Introducing The Augustana Band!"
In the afternoon, we moved to Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University where we rehearsed for a bit before meeting members of their University Band.   Jioa Tong is considered one of the “big 8” universities in China and it is an honor for us to be with them.  Tonight’s concert began with their group and was attended by many of the University’s VIP alumni including their current and past presidents as well as many local government officials.  It was a full house yet again, and great fun too.  Our introduction was provided by the president of the university in tandem with the chairman of the communist party who outranks the president  Quite an honor indeed!   Following the concert, our students and the students who played in the University Band enjoyed the opportunity to meet and visit with one another.  As you can tell, there were some
very engaging conversations and lots of smiles.  A perfect way to end an almost perfect night....we had a full house, both the players and conductor thought they "burned the barn down" and those of us in the audience enjoyed it all.

Amanda Marohl, president of the band with Dr. Schilf

To end the night, gifts were exchanged, flowers presented, and off we went - back to the hotel with an air of expectation about tomorrow - a full day of sightseeing with a close to the day with the Chinese Acrobatic show.  Should be fun!

Another gorgeous day for January in Shanghai.  55 degrees, bright sun and smog.