The Columbia City Jazz Conservatoryin China

On the train
Friend on a train

Thursday, July 20 - The Longest Train

When we awake, the doctors still don't know exactly what's wrong with Kate. The decision is made for the group to go ahead and board our train while we leave on of our chaperones behind at the hospital with Kate with the plans of them catching back up with us once Kate is better. As usual, our luggage slows down boarding a reat deal and folks in line behind us begin to get angry. We simply have to much stuff and there's no way around it. While still on the train, we find that Kate may have had a kidney stone and could be in the hospital in Guiyang for several days. With Siara still in Beijing trying to get a replacement Visa, and Kate back in Guiyang, we're now down two dancers.

This will be the longest train ride we've had yet - just a little over 25 hours. However, the train ride is not that bad and there's some very beautiful scenery passing by outside which slowly changes as we head south through the mountains towards Shenzhen. Crops of corn growing on mountain sides slowly give way to large areas of rice paddies and banana groves.

We've managed to make friends with somebody on almost every train we've been on, whether they speak English or not. This time, this beautiful little girl takes a liking to us and takes turns playing with us as the train speeds on towards our destination. Her parents check in on her from time to time, but since she's having a good time they are mostly unconcerned that their little girl is spending so much time in a compartment with total strangers from another country. In the evening, just before time to go to sleep, Lead Culture gets a call from Beijing. Siara wasn't granted a new Visa and will have to return to the United States without being able to rejoin us.

At the train station
New Friends

Kayla, Dale, Allison, plus our new friends Caroline, Winnie, and Caroline's sister.

Friday, July 21

We arrive in Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province, which is a very beautiful city on the coast. A few days before we discovered that we have the wrong kind of visa, which we must get straightened out before 30 days in China passes or we're in big trouble. Before we go to our hotel we go to the visa office to try and straighten out the problem. We fill out a lot of paperwork, but still have to have new pictures made, but we don't have time for this, so we check into our hotel.

Our client in this city meets us at the hotel. He brings two students with him that speak very good English to help us while in Shenzhen. Dale immediately makes a connection with these two youngs girls, and before we know it, we're in a car on the way to a mall! After 26 hours on a train we're shopping! The mall here is very nice, and even has an ice scating rink on the third floor! The prices, however, are a good deal higher than we've been seeing in in other cities, so we don't buy too much stuff here.

The two students are named Caroline and Whitney. They are both 15, and very mature. For some reason, they really connect with Dale. We have a number of long conversations with them about many things we've observed since we've been here.

Caroline tells us, "I have noticed on TV that so many American children are fat! Why is that so?" Just two days earlier, on the English speaking news channel, Dale and I watched a documentary on the dangers of fast food, especially McDonald's and KFC. The Chinese government has limited the number of these restaurants that can be built here due to health concerns. The commentator states, "American children have too much freedom and not enough guidance about nutrition from their parents":. While he's speaking, the screen is comparing pictures of typical American children and Chinese children side by side. It's embarrassing to watch because we realize that it's true. The commentator actually says that "Fast food like McDomald's and KFC are an evil presence in our country that will destroy the health of our youth." All we have to do is look around us everyday when we're out in public and it's very obvious that Chinese children, for the most part, are far healthier than Americans. Adults too. There's something to be learned here.

Opening Act!

Our opening act! These dancers are precious and we want to take them all home with us!


Opening Act!

Saturday, July 22

Kate flies from Guiyang to meet us in Shenzhen, hoping se might actually e able to dance in our show here, but as soon as she arrives she experiences intense pain and has to immediately go to the hospital again. The doctors at the hospital determine that Kate has a kidney stone, and will probably have to have a surgical procedure to remove it. It's not sure at this point if she'll have the proceedure here, fly back to Beijing to have it, or fly home.

That evening, we have our first performance in Shenzhen at 7:30. The audience is receptive, though we still miss the exuberance of audiences back home. The client here is very smart. Before both of our performances, he has a children's group perform, knowing their parents will all purchase tickets for the show. The young Chinese dancers are absolutely precious and we want to take all of them home with us!


Sunday, July 23

Today, just before our performance, we take pictures for our (hopefully) new visas. We're running out of time to straighten this problem out, as the entire group will have to return to the United States early unless the problem can be solved.

We have our second Shenzhen performance that evening, and then pack to depart to the next city the in the morning.