Arrival in a foreign land by Matt

We arrived in Taiwan early Sunday morning after a sleepless overnight flight. In heavy subtropical heat and pouring rain, a coach took us from Taipei Airport to the school. Around the edge of Taipei, ranks of apartment towers compete for room with tiny emerald-green rice farms. The highway cut spectacularly through the steep, drenched lower ridges of mountains hung with thick, dark cascading vegetation. Drinking it all in, I felt myself pulled apart: held alert by between the intense excitement of our arrival and the start our overseas tour; and dragged down by my state of exhaustion, knowing (and frankly, fearing) what lay ahead. We were to grab a nap, eat lunch, have perhaps another two hours’ sleep, then rehearse and give a two-hour choral concert; all this in an unknown destination,with new hosts and billets, and with all the uncertainties of a different culture and language.

The concert went superbly in the end, despite the stress beforehand. We performed a version of our ‘1000 Years’ concert, starting with medieval plainchant and ending with a choral soundscape by Australian composer Stephen Leek. Our biggest audience so far was absorbed by the performance, and gave us a great ovation. I felt a great sense of excitement and delight coming from them. For me, it was a high point so far in the tour. Then sleep swallowed me whole.

Manuka reflects on Taiwan and China

We stayed in Taiwan for a week at a lovely school in Yilan district in the countryside. It is a nice school from Kindy to class 10 and it is double streamed. Apparently that is a small school for Taiwan. There was a beautiful landscape and very lovely people who gave us lots of food!!

Yesterday we flew from Taipei to Guangzhou in China. It took us 1 hour on the bus to drive into the city. Nearly the whole time we were driving there were high – rise buildings as far as you could see. The school was next to all these high – rise buildings which was very different to the school in Taiwan.

We are currently staying in a 33 storey building on the 5th floor. Surprisingly our host gave us two rooms even though the apartment was so small. It was exciting to try all these different foods. Luckily we said we were vegetarian so I didn’t have to eat stuff like dog or cat! We had things like rice, noodles and vegetables for dinner, breakfast and lunch and fruit and pineapple cake for morning tea.

We will stay in Guangzhou for a week then we will fly to Chengdu which is further north than Guangzhou. That’s good because that means it will be less and

humid. It is boiling hot here. We have to have the fan and the air conditioning on all night.