Gill Reflects on Guangzhou Part 2

GUANGZHOU, CHENGDU & BEIJING 17th – 24th JUNE

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.