Gill Reflects on Guangzhou Part 2


Sorry for abrupt end to Guangzhou.
Internet & time are very limited! Better to send something than nothing!

Our time in Guangzhou is a bit glamorous; my hosts have taken me out to dinner a couple of times & they have organised restaurant meals for the whole choir a couple of times.One of our hosts took me & another Wayfarer driving in his soft topped sports car. First time on the 2nd level of the famous, posh 4 floor restaurant, my host invited her English speaking friend who translated for us. She was from Inner Mongolia studying in Guangzhou & has studied in England.

I got to know my host, Hannah (her English name) a bit. Hannah is editor of the ‘Creative Weekly’ section of Yangcheng Evening News. I think it was her article about us that was published Fri 15th June. She believes in developing creativity from an early age, hence her interest in the school. She is also interested in architecture & design, for which there is much inspiration here in central Guangzhou. They are very proud of their tall towers & bridges which are lit up at night in multi-coloured neon glory. Freeway interchanges and bridges are highlighted with multi coloured edges to mark their sweeping curves. We live close to luxury car shops, the famous business class multi-level resaurant as well as Guangchou Tower, West Gate Square and other land marks. Freeways enable quick access, streets are lined with street trees & plantings including Mangos, Lillypillys, Gardenias, Camellias and Gum Trees. Yes, Eucalypts grow like a weed! Bouganvillea, Passionfruit, & Morning Glory drape beneath the bridges. Plants are sprayed with water regularly to wash off dust & keep them looking beautiful. Amongst the cars, trucks & buses, fully laden 3 wheel bicycles pedal or motor by. They are often piled high with the equivalent of a 6X4 trailer full of building rubbish, fruit or 100 litres of drinking water.
The traffic has no rules. Everyone, pedestrian, bike or bus, heads straight for each other, cuts off or heads into road-fulls of oncoming traffic. Everyone seems to miraculously miss each other. I think the drivers expect this behavior & waste no energy remembering any road rules. So each day all of us Aussies had tales of miraculous survival.

Near the school the street is lined with small shops filled with all sorts of things, several selling building materials or groceries or home made take away Chinese food. There is one where men gather to play cards & smoke. People live behind the shops in old, crowded 3 floor buildings, accessed by labyrinth dark alleyways. Fruit & vegies are sold here or beading to decorate clothes for sale.

Contrast is one of my abiding impressions of China. It feels safe outside, I see no signs of drunkeness or crime. Groups of women form outside in the evening and dance to up-beat Asian music on portable CD players, obviously for excersise & relaxation. People use the streets, there is little private space.

As with all Chinese families I have met, the children come with us every where, no matter how late at night. My host’s 3yr old Emma is remarkably good, given her late nights and 9-5pm at school as well as trailing around shops afterwards etc.

Classes with the kids are pretty nice. One of us (a trained teacher) takes the class while several of us help with singing, playing recorder, actions, hand movements, games or percussion to help the kids experience variouse parts of the music – pitch, rhythm, beat, tempo, language etc. Judy has written a book full of songs especially to guide children through progressive musical excersises. Steiner kids all learn recorder from an early age.
One song is about variouse Australian animals which the children can act, another is about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, another about a seed awaking to become a plant, another about sharing each others names etc. So basically I get to sing & a play for an hour or so without having to take too much responsibility except to sing & play correctly!

At the end of the week we have a concert where each class performs to the rest of the school, parents & teachers. Usually the kids sing songs complete with several parts, recorder & percussion ensembles& actions. Usually we have taken a class for adults, the parents & teachers, so they perform several songs with us in many parts & several languages, including some instruments. Usually we Wayfarers perform something for everyone.

Everyone is extremely appreciative. I think the schools love the input of quality music teaching, and Western culture. Usually there is a packed school hall, speeches & gifts for us. I feel I owe our hosts hugely, they have organised, cooked & transported us all week ; but often they press more gifts on us. In every place I feel I have made friends that are hard to leave, even if we have very littlle language in common. I notice the similarities between us and our common shared humanity.

My impression of China is a schemozzle of glitz & poverty, social order & anarchy on the roads, environmental disaster & valiant environmental wisdom, social control yet great human warmth.

Gill Reflects on Guangzhou

Greetings from Guangzhou!

It’s not too bad here on the 26th floor, amongst an endless forest of skyscrapers, construction, & a few pockets of small formal gardens. We all gape at the size of these apartment blocks. I feel like a country bumpkin.

Guangzhou is in SE China, 3rd largest city, hot & humid. Clouds or pollution cover the sun.
Occasionally on the triple lane roads, amonst the shiny Toyotas, one sees a rickshaw laden with scrap metal or bulging bags. People seem to smile less here than in ‘country‘ Ylan, Taiwan.

My hosts live-in home-help/child minder cooks the family beautiful Chinese meals – several tasty dishes of vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, fish, rice, rice noodles, & various desserts made from rice-starch are served on the beautiful professionally hand crafted table. My hosts have English names but do not speak much English. Hannah edit’s a magazine called ‘Creativity’ about building design. Roy is also professional. Emma is 3 & sweet & cheeky. I sleep in her room, also furnished with handcrafted furniture, in 4 poster bed with slim futon syle mattress covered with woven cane mat which makes a lovely cool bed.
They have an Oz style, ordinary toilet, unlike the Steiner School. (significant info…) Chinese loos do not suit me… Enough said!

Last night Roy & Hannah took me for a walk past Guangzhou Museum to West Gate Square, fringed by the Opera House and Asian Games Stadium, with a view of Guangzhou Tower & several others all lit up. Lots of happy people out enjoying the balmy evening.
Each morning Roy drives Emma & I across Guangzhou Bridge (another landmark) to the Steiner School a coulple of km away. It’s 3 level with 1 outdoor kindergarten play area. The kids here are younger. We teach 3 (!) to 7 yr olds simple pentatonic songs. Their normal teachers stay and translate for us. They have another campus, also for young children, which is a couple of rooms at the base of a grand old multi-story hotel. So ceilings are high with fancy columns & formal gardens outside.

Gill Reflects on Taiwan

Hi All,
Greetings from Taiwan!!

We took a shuttle bus from the airport, down freeways, through mountain tunnels and past towns & industry cuddled up to rice paddies & vegie gardens – to make the best use of space. It looks like north coast NSW – same weeds, also banana plants, pawpaws, & many other tropical fruits that I don’t know.

Saw lots of motor scooters ridden by people wearing rain ponchos & sometimes a traditional straw hat.

Our hosts greeted us at the school with hand-drawn signs of our names, so I met Christy(!), Joseph and Chantelle who walked me around the corner to their 3 story flat. Christy & her husband speak some English, Joseph is 10 & a bit shy, Chantelle is 3.They have Taiwanese names which I haven’t learnt yet. Mostly they speak Mandarin. They gave me some nice veg food which I promptly threw up due to being exhausted after sitting up all night on the plane…

After snoozing in my very nice bed, I woke to discover that I was on the 3rd floor, in a room of my own, with a view of misty mountains and rice paddies all around & of a cement factory & other flats.

Singing in the concert that evening seemed to cure the nausea, several hundred people from the school were a very appreciative audience.

The school is big by our standards, the kids are keen & the teachers translate for us!
We generally are in small groups taking a class. We sing the music through & then teach it to the class. Most fun bit today was impromptu performance of ‘The Owl & the Pussy Cat’ (me starring as cat) – to great hilarity…

Home cooked Taiwanese meals are abundant – the school cooks lunch for all students (at least 800) & also for us Wayfarers! Lots of vegies, various mushrooms, rice, sweet corn, noodles, greens, soup, tofu. Like home but better!

It rains heavily often during the day, there are big puddles, gumboots & umbrellas every where. Our clothes dry on a covered balcony helped by a de-humidifier fan.

Christy took me for a walk this arvo, first to the farmers co-op shop sponsored by the school, selling fruit & veg, dry goods & hand made Steiner-ish crafts. We chatted with the manager & her friend & enjoyed a homemade cookie. Next we walked up the road where Christy says many people take early morning walks, past a few houses, vegie gardens, many orchards of tropical fruits, a Mini Golf and a very ornate temple. Discovered at this point that the camera battery is flat, also soon this laptop battery will run out: then I’m not sure if I can borrow an adapter to charge everything. So communication may be short lived!

Best try & save & send this now.
Love, Gill.

A Ring Bearer dress rehearsal…

This is a collection of anecdotes from our dress rehearsal for the Ring Bearer performance in the Backnang Burgerhaus. Little snippets of what went on, generally the amusing moments. It was written from back stage though, with many interruptions for me to run onstage and act, so read it as a series of excerpts, a sporadic running commentary, not necessarily linked into a cohesive whole.

I’m sitting backstage in this fabulously huge and professional theatre waiting for our dress rehearsal to begin. Kristin has spent the morning attempting to get some lighting set up and is now up at the back of the theatre in the lighting box playing with very high tech equipment. Rohan and Theo are backstage with me and have just broken into a rendition of ‘To Isengard’ with harmonies and in F major (not minor) which is highly amusing, but they sang a little too loud so have earned themselves shouts from those who are working on stage QUIET BACKSTAGE!

Those who did the workshop with us who are dancing Song of the Elves have come backstage to get an elf dress, so all Wayfarers have got out their different sized robes and are matched them up with the appropriate sized person. “you put in on by first putting the elastic over your head, then you flip the long bit over…” passing on all the tricks of the trade… Kia is organising things and doing it well. Including ensuring that everyone knows where to put the robe after they have finished with it so that those Wayfarers who need them in a later scene don’t have to run around backstage frantically trying to find them! Then a final reminder for how to stand and walk as an elf before heading onstage to practice the dance.

As the rehearsal progresses, we get the same reminders that we seem to need everywhere we go. Keep further to stage left and COME FORWARD! The ‘old forest’ scene is looking and sounding fabulous. This group have come up with a whole lot of very evil tree noises which makes the whole thing so much more effective. Gawain and Will have just run off stage yelling Help! and when offstage, with big grins on their faces, have reverted to amusingly pathetic high pitched calls. The scenes are so familiar now that I only half listen to what is going on, but I am surprised out of my complacency by the sound of a new voice responding to their calls for help. With a German accent. He does a fabulous job and it immediately reminds me of when we performed this in Taiwan. The student there who played Tom Bom was fantastic and his “Bombadil is talking” line was so cool that we still quote it!

The pub scene is always a lot of fun to do. Normally I stand on stage and chat to the Theodore, very animatedly, with broad grins and lots of unrelated hand gestures, about whatever particular thing his gone wrong in our performance so far, but today there are so many more people in the pub that I am not needed and can stand in the wings and watch the new blocking that has gone into the scene.

The next amusing moment comes from Theodore who points out that he and the other black riders, after stabbing Frodo then running away (for no good reason), come back on stage to finish him off, but instead of actually doing it, they then wait patiently a few steps away giving the elves time to gather themselves and finally come on stage and fight them off! But we fixed the timing so it is now all okay!

One of the biggest challenges for us is in this performance is that all the narrations are being done in German. This is particularly hard in the Council of Elrond scene where we have a long narration during which everyone on stage simultaneously freezes and unfreezes about six times. All at specific moments. I walk on as Legolas and stand gravely beside Theo (a random elf), and I find it almost impossible to look at him and not laugh. Particularly when we repeatedly stop the scene to shuffle further downstage, or because Bilbo hesitated too long before singing, or people didn’t go up on their toes at the correct moment. Then I look at Boromir and see that the under tunic for his costume is all bunched up around his ears and he hasn’t noticed. My favourite moment though was watching Matt as Bilbo standing with the most fabulously hopeful look on his face in the moment in the scene where Elrond is choosing those who will travel with Frodo. Priceless.

Then the death of Gandalf. Genevieve is fabulous as the Balrog, she finally has enough space to really jump around and look wild. Gandalf is caught and falls off stage crying “fly you fools!” Then, instead of being horror struck, we all grin widely then burst out laughing because there is Terry, out of view of the audience, but in full view of us, sitting on the floor. A figure wearing a long grey cloak and a pointy hat, with her hands folded neatly in her lap, her legs out straight in front of her, her toes pointing upward, and watching us with a very interested and expectant expression. The complete opposite of the horrifying death which is what we are meant to be picturing as we act out horror and grief.

I’m not sure that our dress rehearsals are particularly professional. Well, that is if the dress rehearsal is meant to be serious like a performance. We use our dress rehearsals to make jokes and do silly things. Or perhaps it is the other way around. We make jokes and laugh a lot to help us to get through the dress rehearsals. This is really the more sensible view, I think, because our rehearsals are usually at the end of an already long day’s teaching and everyone is always tired. Today hasn’t been too bad in the scheme of Ring Bearer days though. Teaching in the morning, then dress rehearsal all afternoon- about a ten hour day. Not too bad really. It will be twelve hours tomorrow with the children’s performance in the morning then this a at night.

There is always an added level of excitement for me when we are performing it with other people. I haven’t really spoken a lot about the wonderful people who did the workshop with us this time. But they did a fabulous job and have been more fully integrated into the play than we have ever managed before. Narrators, small speaking roles, Orcs, elf dance, trees, soloists and instrumentalists. They have really added to the richness of the production. Having the narrations in German (mammoth task as it probably was to translate) certainly made the whole thing more understandable for everyone.

And now the performance has been and gone. It went well! Congrats, all!

The Ring Bearer-Backstage


Getting ready to go onstage


It is really quite dark backstage, which can make for some fun long exposure photography!



More waiting and preparing


The workshop participants got to watch the parts of the show that they weren't in...


The elves dance around Frodo saving him from the deadly shoulder wound. unfortunately we never properly choreographed this dance so it always involves a lot of watching each other closely and frantically trying to remember what we did last time!


Knitting has become the new pastime among Wayfarers, it would seem...


The Prancing Pony-the four Hobbits arrive at the inn. Everyone else is frozen in a fabulous tableaux, with Aragorn standing mysteriously (and given the camera position, very obviously) at the side.


Waiting and sleeping