Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Last day in China, Summer Palace, Birds Nest, ect...

Ok, today was our last day of sightseeing and we had a very busy schedule. Mr. Lei, our Guide gave us a cell phone last night and told us to take a cab to the Summer Palace. When we got in the cab I gave the driver the card with the Chinese symbols where to go, and then I called Mr. Lei so he could talk to the cab driver about which gate to drop us off. I think our driver took the long way, but who knows. I paid about 63 rbn, 7 dollars, which is a lot for china standards. We got to the summer palace and it was packed with Chinese people. They come here, like Americans go to D.C. There were many elementary school field trips as well. The Summer Palace is a place on the lake that the Emperor would come to during the summers and holidays. He had over three thousand wives that lived here. It is a very big place with temples, walkways, boats, etc... We looked up and saw the biggest temple and Mr Lei said, come this way, up to the top. Great, more stairs.. Made it fine this time, of course got lots of joking from Karen and the Vasquez's who were with us again. I'm glad we came here, Mr Lei said that many, many, many; many, many generations come here and get the same picture, so we took one as well, we will see if our kids ever carry on the tradition.
After leaving the summer palace, we said goodbye to our new Friends, Hector and Jita Vasquez, they were headed back to their hotel to rest and catch the Beijing Opera that night. Karen, Mr Lei and me headed to the Olympic Stadiums. Again, this place was buzzing with Chinese tourists. They are everywhere around these buildings. We did not pay to go into the Bird's Nest, Mr Lei said nothing to look at but empty seats. We got many pictures outside and were approached about 30 times by people selling junk. Ok, so I finally gave in an bought a Fake Olympic Medal.
We saw the Olympic village, where all the athletes stayed and the water cube, and the arena where basketball and gymnastics were held. The Chinese really built some amazing venues for the Olympics. But what is strange is they don't really use the birds nest much anymore? only rarely do they play soccer or have concerts in there?
Next we were in another cab, to the Forbidden City area. The Drum and Bell tower were next, Where if you remember the man was killed during the Olympics. Under the Bell tower, they have a free demonstration about Tea houses in China. Mr Lei took us there to experience tea and said most tourist pay big money to do this. It was nice having an honest person with us, who wanted to show us as many things as possible. We then headed for lunch. He took us to a small place, and we walked in to everyone in the place staring at us. We sat down and Mr Lei ordered for us, wonton soup stuffed with meat. It was very good and only 4 dollars for three people to eat.
Next we headed in yet another cab to the Forbidden City. Inside there were again, thousands of Chinese tourists and lots of retired Chinese people in this place. The retired folks come here to relax and enjoy the scenery, paint pictures, play some kind of chess game, and play hacky sack?
We trekked up again to the very top of the place, again more stairs, but nothing was like the Great Wall. Got some great pics up top. This place is enormous, and you could spend 3 or 4 days in this place. The flowers were blooming and were everywhere, and the Chinese seemed to be infatuated with them. They were posing and taking pictures of all the flowers. We took the condensed tour of the Forbidden City, and headed to Tiananmen Square.
Tianamen Square is quite a place. The Parliament is next to it, as well as the Chinese Museum and the Hero's Monument. There are guards everywhere and I wanted to take a picture of them, But Mr. Lei said I should try to be sneaky about it, because they do not like tourist to take pictures of them. This was the one place I wanted a picture, because you see it so much on T.V. Mr.Lei says that on Oct. 1 this year they will host a 60 years celebration of something? not sure what he said, and they will have the big parade with military and soldiers marching goose stepping.
After Tianamen, we headed to the dirt market, which is a Chinese flea market. We really didn't see much there we wanted, said goodbye to Mr Lei and headed back the pearl market for some final gifts for folks back home. I love the Pearl market. Even found a toy market behind the Pearl market, so got a few things there as well. Karen learned a couple new phrases from Mr. Lei about how to bargain, so while i would bargain, she would step in and say in Chinese,
Pi Fa Duo Shao Qian (not sure about spelling).
Seemed to really work, but really the key is to smile and stick to your guns. If they sell it to you, then they made a profit.
We finally met an American in our hotel, he was from Nebraska and we only talked a few minutes. Saw a lot of Chinese people though:)
So now we are going to try to get a good night's sleep. We don't fly out until 3:30pm tomorrow, but we aren't going to do anything in the morning, except rest and get packed and ready for the long trip. We are planning to eat at KFC today just to get our first Americanized meal, (although I hear it is different than we are used to).
This will be my last blog. Thanks to anyone who has read it. It was mainly for me and Karen to have as a diary for our trip but hope that it might have brought some insight to my students and friends about china. Again, thanks for putting up with my random thoughts and long run on sentences, Karen didn't proof many of these and hasn't' read many of them, so I'm sure she will have many corrections about my perception of things. She is much smarter than me, and remembers things much better.

Anyway. Thanks to Dick and Jeanne Conners (Karen's Parents) for volunteering to come and take care of Molly Kathryn and Mason for us. We never worried once about the care that they were in, I know they had a great time with their grandkids, and I'm prepared to be called Grandpa for at least a week when I get home. Thanks to Pat Morrow for recommending me for this Conducting job. Thanks to Matt Gaines for hiring me to come work this ACAMIS Band, thanks to Stacia Gaines for taking Karen around for two days while I worked with the bands. Thanks to Band Director Kimberly Hogsett for helping me prepare these great musicians, thanks to Terrance Cobb (my assistant director at HMS for covering for me while I was gone, And to super intern student Chris Hall who I'm sure had to work harder as well.
I cant think of a better school system than Homewood City Schools who let their teachers take on opportunities that come there way, no matter where they might take you. thanks to my principal Martin Nalls, and Superintendent Bill Cleveland for letting me take this incredible journey. I will never forget it, and hope that many of you will get to visit this wonderful place. By the way, i have a great guide for you, if you come.
Now off to SWEET HOME ALABAMA. hope to see ya soon, I won't have any stories to tell you, you already know them all. Chris Cooper

Great Wall...... the rest of the story

Ok, now I will tell you what really happened during our trip to the great wall.

We met our Tour Guide, Mr. Lei, at the Hotel Monday morning in the lobby. We got his name from Stacia Gaines from the Tianjin School. Apparently he is one of the best in Beijing for English speakers and does many tours for people at the US embassy and their guests.
Anyway, backtracking the first day me and Karen arrived on Sunday we trekked down a few blocks to the Temple of Heaven. People were everywhere, very crowed and you get approached a lot from people trying to sell you junk. This one nice man even asked if we would like a tour to the great wall. We said no thanks, we already had one lined up and he said thank you, and kept walking with the couple that he was guiding. I told Karen I thought he was a nice man, and for some reason he seemed very honest...... So anyway. Why am I telling you this. Well Guess who Meets us the next morning to take us on our Tour..... MR. LEI. We laughed, and he said the odds of us running into each other in Beijing was incredible, Since there are 22 million people in this city. Yes 22 million.
We set off to the Great Wall in a mini van, picking up the other couple that went with us. They were a very nice middle aged couple from Porta Vallarta, The Vasquez's, Hector and Jita. We talked for a while in the van, as we traveled the two hours to the Great Wall. It turns out that they had been in Tianjin for business the same time we were there and were visiting Beijing to sell all the sights like us. Also turns out that we are on the same flight as them heading to the states on Wednesday. Small World, and that's hard to say after being in this place.
Mr. Lei, was taking us to a very remote place of the Great Wall. Badaling and Myituna? are the very tourist areas that most people go to, and he said that they have been rebuilt many times. He wanted us to see the untouched part of the great wall in the country. The ride was long, and as we finally got out of the city, which took a while, we started to see the beautiful countryside. We drove through many villages, single lane roads, beeping at any bikes, cars, or mules that were in the way. We finally got a glimpse of the wall in the distance way up in the mountains, and that when we started driving on the dirt roads. We then came to stop and got out and Mr. Lei quickly said just right up here and we will be there. I looked straight up and asked, were we really going to walk up this mountain? you have got to be kidding me. We started up, I really didn't think the older couple would make it, so me and Karen went on and followed Mr.Lei. The starts were very steep and it was brutal climbing them. I asked later how many stories the climb was, and he said about 60 storys. I guess I made it about to the 40th story, when I realized that maybe I had gone at it a little too fast. Lightheaded and sweating, I decided to sit for a while. Hector and Jita came up a few minutes later to see me dragging, The next thing i know, I'm laying on the cement stairs, trying not to pass out. They were so nice and stayed with me and Karen while I tried to recover. Of course Karen was barely sweating, exercising is paying off. Hector took my backpack and Jita and Karen poured water down me, and finally I was ready to go. We finally made it up. Mr. Lei was patiently waiting and said many people have trouble getting up. That made me feel a little better. Anyway, you can see in the picture that I lost the shirt on the way up and Karen looks like she is out for a nice stroll.

The Wall was amazing, trees and bushes going on it. Stones lying around, and at times you literally had to climb straight up. We walked a while. It was a perfect day to go, weather was great and clear, which is unusual for Beijing. If I ever go back I think I will opt for the tourist area and ride the Gondola up. But I am glad and appreciate what Mr. Lei was trying to show us, just didn't know that It might kill me to see the real untouched part of the wall. The walk down from the Wall was much easier, of course legs are sore today but we expected that. I slept most of the way back in the van.

We then went to a Chinese restaurant that Mr Lei took us to and we ate dinner with our new friends the Vasquez's. Hector is a Manager of the Five Star Resort in Porta Vallarta and it was fun to here about his job and their kids. While at dinner, Mr. Lei ordered for us and took off to get us tickets to the Acrobatic show that night. As he was gone, we had a lot of trouble communicating with the wait staff. None of them spoke english and of course we didn't speak any Chinese, so we had the whole restaurant laughing at us. After saying goodbye to our new friends, we went to the Acrobatic Show. It was the Chinese version of what we would call Cirque de Soliel. It was amazing all the tricks that they did. Great show at CHEAP PRICE, as the market girls would say. Cab ride home was much easier tonight. If anyone ever comes to Beijing you must call Mr. Lei, I have all is info. He is very cheap, and will take very good care of you. He even gave me a cell phone to use. We will meet him on Tuesday morning as well as the Vasquez's to tour the Summer Palace. Off to bed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Great Wall highlights.

Very Tired tonight. cant write too much. Great Wall was amazing. I about died trying to climb up to it. We went to a very remote area were no tourist go. We were to only ones there. Most poeple go to Badaling and the other one that starts with a M. Anyway, tour guide says that they are both, more rebuilt than actually true wall. So we went to this part of the wall and it was quite an expirence. Will blog more tommorrow morning. can't stay up.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beijing here we come!

Well, we got up this morning ate our last breakfast in Tianjian, we are gonna miss that hotel :(. anyway. checked out. Met our Driver and off we went. About an hour and a half drive to Beijing. Not much to look at, fields and fields. We drove in a VW car, driver didn't speak any english, and hey we dont speak any chinesse, talk about trust. Driving into Beijing, you start to see signs about roads, There are 6 rings roads around the city. Think 285 in Atlanta times 6! its mind blowing. Anyway, made it into town, We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express Temple of Heaven. New hotel that opened week before the Olympics. It is in a Local part of town within walking distance to the Temple of Heavan, and if we get adventurous, we could walk to Tinenaman Square, but doubt Karen will want to walk it. Cab rides here are very cheap.

We checked in and felt good about the check in. I booked this hotel online a few months ago and was taking a leap of faith I made the right choice. Of course nothing will ever compare to what we just checked out of in Tianjian. I guess I could have booked something like that hotel in Beijing, but really didn't want to spend that much. When we checked in, there was a film crew there filming scenes for the hotel for a commercial. I didnt pay any attention to them until after I check in, got my key and turned around and they were filming me and Karen. We were a little surprised> they lady in charge just said no worries, just shooting a commercial. Guess we will be famous here one day. Room was nice, very small. some nice things, Bathroom smells a bit, but everywhere in china seems to smell a little like this. Signs over the water facet say don't drink, Even the chinesse dont drink the water here. They have bottled water for you in the hotel room.

After a short rest, nap for me, we headed out on our own. Walked to Temple of Heaven, which was a nice walk. Chinesse people everywhere visiting this Park,Temple. Its like americans going to D.C. I guess. The Temples, building were amazing. We spent about two hours walking around and got some great pics.

Left Temple of Heaven and got a cab, and went to the Pearl Market. Walked in and I was right in my element. Loved every minute of it. People shouting to come look at their stall. Every stall was the same. Watches everywhere, shoes, clothes, Iphones, electronics. you name it, it is for sale here. A friend from my sunday school comes to beijing a lot and told me where to go and who to look for on the first floor and even sent me a watch of his that was broken. Sure enough I found the guy, told him who sent me and he wisked us away to his store out back? We left the building and walked down this back alley, Karen was very nervous, i kept telling her this is what we were suppossed to do. He was taking us to the really good Fakes, anyway you can see the pics. after passing some chickens, some lady selling big bottles of beer, and some locals playing some kind of chinesse checkers. we made it to this little 8 by 8 room. Full of Watches, Ties, Sunglasses, etc. Peter started fixing the broken watch and pulled out several cases for me to look through. I found two that i wanted, bought one for Coach Gibbons, and talked karen into getting one. Didn't have to haggle since he new that David had sent me. I just told him what I was going to pay and he said that is fine. I'm sure he still made money, but i felt good about it. As we were looking Peter's wife brought in three Big German Guys. They were a bit nervous to come in, but when they saw us in there, they came on in and started shopping.

We then went back in and looked for the kids northface jackets, we had trouble finding small sizes, so don't know it they will fit, or really how long they will last. but it was fun getting them, The sales girl was very pleasant. spoke about 7 languages, Her parents didn't speak english, they owned the stall but she did all the talking. I looked at Tommy Bahama shirts, Polos, Hilfiger, you name it they have it. all fakes but really looked good. didn't buy any though.

We then headed over to buy a bag to put all this stuff in, and the dolls karen bought in Tianjian, We bought a doufel bag, she started at 800 yuan, i said 70 and away we went, I really worked her, I finally gave in at 140. that is 20 bucks US. I'm sure it will fall apart, but hopefully will get me home, it is a swiss bag with wheels. They are very good and haggeling, the key for me was to get my final price and smile and say, sorry last price, They would say , your killing me, no profit, and grab you as you walk away. then after the deal she would say you hard dealer, your mean. Pretty much if they sell it to you. then they made money, but i was satisfied with what I got it for. All this takes place with a calculator, so as not to tip off anyone else that might be listening. She would type, then I would take it and type my price. It was a lot of fun.

Karen has already made comments about my blog today that the real history part of seeing the Temple of Heaven was about three sentences, and the Pearl Market experience is two full paragraphs. Hey I have my priorities straight. I was here to shop. Almost bought a ipod but didnt feel like it would really work. It looked real, but so did the Iphone's, "works in america" is what they would say. I told them no thanks,

After cab ride back to hotel. we rested and then headed for the Quanjude Peking Duck, it was a short 10 yuan ride, about 1.50 US and we headed right in. This is a famous place to eat duck and is a must if you are in Beijing. We went up to the second floor, Very crowed, looked at the menu, couldn't figure anything out and the waitress walks up and says, "you want special" . we said OK.

The Special was a 9 piece meal, and by looking around, was what most people were eating. Of course we were the only americans around. Just chinesse people. We just smile a lot and they look at us with curiosity. Meal starts coming.

First : two colds. Duck Wing (raw we think) we both tried it, couldn't get past it was called duck wing, interesting texture, really didn't care for it, but tried it. Also had cucumber in a sauce, it was good,

Next was Shark Fin soup. Not bad, interesting. bland.

Then, Spicy Shrimp Dish. pretty good, we ate all of it.

Next, Chinesse Kale, lettuce type

then, cook came to table and cut Duck in front of us. They bring small thin pancakes in a bamboo steamer and plum sauce.

Last was Cake, Cookie (strange) and Fruit. It was a good meal. Duck was great. Will eat small dives now and pay fraction. You can eat for 3 bucks here and be stuffed. That is what we will do tommorrow.

Cab ride back to hotel was interesting. We hailed two cabs, and neither knew where the hotel was. We then find a nice man who said yes. So we went and he pulled up to the Temple of Heaven east entrance. 12 yuan. (about 2 bucks) We got out thinking our hotel was around the corner. Well it wasn't. I said to Karen, Lets just walk a bit and see if we recognize anything.. Well that is what is different about men and women. See, I liked the challenge of walking and exploring. Well Karen, Not so much. after about a 20 minute walk, and her not talking to me for a while. I decided to try another cab. again, cab didn't know where to go, so we didn't get in. Finally one nice cab driver said yes, i take you. He didn't know where to go either. So I asked him to Call hotel. In China, you always carry a card for where you want to go. I had the hotel card, so he called and couldn't get through. I finally just took the phone from him and called myself. finally getting the hotel on the phone. we were close. Apparently if we would have walked the other way we would have made it, of course I choose to walk in the wrong direction. Anyway, heard about that one for a while. Women are always right. Women are always right. We made it back.

Tommorrow is Great Wall Day. We have arranged a Private Guide who Stacia recommended. He is meeting us tommorrow in the lobby with a private car. Two hour ride to wall. at least we will have a guide. Hopefully will stop and see the Olympic Stadiums and get many pics. Sorry for writing so long. Karen is fast asleep, so she can't read through it and check it for me, so I'm sure there are many gramatical errors. Hope I didn't bore you to much. Off to bed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Concert was Great!!

Well today was my concert with the ACAMIS (assocition of Chinesse and Mongolian International Schools) Middle School Cultural Covention. My understanding before I came over here was the this was a convention of students in Tianjin coming together to play in an honor group. Upon meeting the students, I learned that this is an honor group from all over CHINA! About half of the band flew from cities all over, some from Hong Kong area south of here, and some from east china. It was a great experience getting to know them, rehearsing them, and seeing them come from friday morning's first rehearsal to saturday's concert. Not unlike most honor bands that I have done, but the difference was, these kids had never done any kind of honor band like this before and were so genuinely grateful that I was there to lead them. This was their first experience. The Many directors I met were very interested in what I did in the states with such a large band program, and couldn't fathom teaching 350 kids a day. I gave every kid in the band a Homewood Patriot Rose Parade Pin from 2003 (we had a ton left over that I found in a closet) and you would have thought I gave them money, they were so excited. I also brought HMS band shirts for the band director Kim, and Matt and Stacie Gaines. Kimberly Hogstett is the band director and really done a graet job with starting the band program over here six years ago. She is from Missouri.
Matt Gaines is the Choir Director who was in Pat Morrow's Homewood Patriot Band many many years ago. He is a great choir director and is really passionate about being at this school. He brought his 11th and 12th grade chamber choir down to sing for the band, and I was speechless, especially at how good the boys were. His wife Stacia is such a true southern belle, who we couldn't have survived without. She speaks amazing chinesse for an American and is such a fun person to be around.

Driving to the concert took us about an hour by bus with the Middle School band. We were going to TEDA, not sure what that stands for except it is an area in Tianjian near the coast. It is really hard to explain how big and vast this place is. Its bigger than LA,(not Lower AL, the real one) with about 10 Million people. And they dont' live in houses, they all live in high rise apartments. I counted at least 100 buildings going up on the drive over that were still being constructed. Think driving through the biggest city close to were you live. You see the big skyscrapers in a group and then thats it. This place is just big skyscraper after another for miles and miles and miles. People everywhere. The longer I'm here the more it grows on you. TEDA seems like they came in and Built this city from scrath. The newness of the buildings and beauty was everywhere.

Anyway back to the concert. The kids did a great job. Drummers were weak but somehow, after many rewrites, they pulled it off. I took many pictures with them afterword and they really loved the experience. One of the band directors told me afterword that her students loved this honor band and she wanted me to come back in a few years when she is in charge of the ACAMIS at her school in East China. We will see. So this part of our journey is over. I can't explain how incredible this trip has been. It has exceeded my expectations by a mile. I was excited, nervous, scared when we got here on Wednesday and have just had the time of my life here and will never forget Tianjin China. Now on to Beijing for the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and SILK MARKET :).

Friday, April 24, 2009

zao chen hao (good morning) day 4 in China

Hey y'all--- wow haven't said that to anybody for about four days... It's Saturday now, Chris is off to prepare the band for this evening's concert, so I'm going to update you since he's a little behind. Chris is enjoying working with the kids here and had a fun time trying to communicate with his Homewood students last night via a "skipe" type program. I use "fun" loosely because we have been having some trouble with our computer freezing up--- so after a few choice words and a number of restarts, we finally got it working and he talked to 2 classes and we were able to talk to Molly Kathryn and Mason before she left for school Friday. I have been fortunate enough to hang out with the choir director's wife, Stacia, and we have been having a great time seeing, shopping and eating. It's been awesome to be here and very interesting as two blondes walk through Tianjin. Yesterday while we were out, a young man asked to take a picture with me! :) At first we thought he was asking if we wanted him to take a picture of us, but Stacia had a quick conversation with him and realized he wanted one with me. How funny that I may be in someone's scrapbook here in China... I also took a picture with him... for mine. I was able to have a chance to look at some really neat things yesterday and even bargain back and forth to get a good deal. Obviously, Stacia did most of it for me, and I was able to get some amazing porcelin dolls, a beautiful red jacket, a very cool hand-painted eagle kite (war eagle..), and some other handmade items. These things were purchased at a plece called "ancient street". In that area, I saw the "drum house" which would be compred to the town's bell tower in colonial days. A lot of chinese tourists were there and Stacia and I noticed a number of people kind of sidling up to me to get a quick picture with the "foreigner" without having to talk to me! After a near death experience in the taxi (just kidding) we went to a Chinese restaurant (yes, I mean literally) for lunch and had lu sun (asparagus-steamed) and bao zi (which is a steamed bun that usually has a stuffing-- looks like a big puffed piece of garlic) with pork and vegetable stuffing and tea of course. We also ordered water... which is served boiling here, unless you ask for bottled. After lunch we went to "food street" and had two things, sorry can't recall the names right now, that were kind of snack/dessert items. One was like a a twisted hard pretzel/cracker item and the other was a flaky bread (baklava flaky feel) with a sweetened red bean paste in it. The first was too plain for me and the latter was great--tasted better than it sounds. The three things we ate were recommended by one of the students Annie that I met yesterday at the college. She is from Tianjin and was all about me trying "the three best foods" in Tianjin at food street. She actually said the three most "extinct" foods in Tianjin, and I explained that it was "distinct" not "extinct"... distinct means special/stands out and extinct means dead/ no longer living like dinosaurs... she laughed..."so sorry"... we were teaching each other. :) Stacia and I had a great day it was tiring but fun and I was able to try some of the Chinese that I am learning. The people here are kind and funny and patient as I am sure I am mutilating their language. They are very curious about me too and I have learned that the stares (although seeming unfriendly) are just curious since I look so different. I noticed a number of times yesterday and last night that a few people on bikes made a couple of "passes" by us to check us out. [I don't know if Chris told you, but two nights ago a little boy saw us after dinner and said, "America, America". :)] For dinner last night the band director, Kimberly, and her roommate took us out for dinner near their home at a market place. Besides produce and meat, people are cooking outside all kinds of meat and breads. Kind of like shishkabobs and stuffed dinner pastries. You sit in little "huts" to eat. We ate food that was cooked by people from upper/greater Mongolia who are mostly Musilm, so no pork. They have more of a distinct look than other Chinese-- their faces are flatter and darker. Dinner was great, their dishes are spicey, so Kimberly ordered some plain lamb for "ketchup's-too-hot-for me" Chris. :) We started off with something similiar to what I had for lunch,but the filling was lamb and the bread was grilled instead of puffy...it was cooked in a large drum barrel... we had another dish with lamb and onions and red peppers and grilled pita type bread and lots of seasoned spices, lamb kabobs and this noodle dish with more of the above. Tea was served, and we also ordered coke minus the ice (the 2-liter cost just under a dollar) all of that meal was less than 10 dollars, and the girls had at least another four servings to take home. After dinner we walked over to where they live. They call it the slums, but it looks a little shadier than it actually is. There is hardly any violent crime but a lot of petty theft, like for bikes. Kimberly said that they will take the bike from under your nose, but you can totally let your child go from a to b and they would be unharmed. The inside of their apartment was very nice and the have a fridge that they considered big for China, but was about 1/3 the size of ours. Also, the Chinese don't have ovens; but the school owns the faculty's apartments and they put in ovens and kind of Americanized the bathrooms.... I'll tell you later about "squatty potties"... hope that all is well for you guys...talk to you later...zai jian P.s. we will send more pictures later, i don't know how to do it...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

day three

Hey, yesterday, was reast day. I went to the Tianjin International school today, took a tour, met with band director, Kimberly Hogsett. School is small, k-12 with mostly korean kids with a few americans spread in. Kids are very driven, High school band rehearsal was with about 40 students, decent instrumentation. I rehearsed, first suite in Eb. Kids played well, and responeded very well. NO BEHAVIOR problems. Karen went with Choir Directors wife, Stacia Gaines (samford grad) to an English speaking class at Tianjin university. she met some students there trying to learn to speak better english and had a great time learning about those kids.

After that we went to dinner with the Gaines, Cab ride was fun, i sat in front and counted about ten times when we either almost hit someone or got hit. Bikes are everywhere and there are pretty much no rules when driving. you can drive on the wrong side of the road it you want. which gets interesting. anyway, went to dinner at a Thai resturant. Matt ordered for us and I ate everything that was on our table. then went to star bucks, little boy in the resturant, yelled out Americans to his parents, it was funny. here are a few pics