Lauren Edson, TMP's Boise-grown dancer, sent this from Chengdu, the company's second stop in China. The dancers are in Seoul, Korea today.
On our first night in Chengdu, China, we all went out on our own to get a taste of some of the local food, which differs a great deal from what we had eaten in Guangzhou, historically known as Canton. The food in Chengdu is characterized by lots of spice and “heat.” With my first bite of tofu with peanuts in a spicy red sauce, I experienced an initial blast of incredible flavor and then an extreme burn. Sweat broke out on my forehead and cheeks, and I felt as if my head was on fire — but I couldn’t help myself from eating more.
Lauren gets a haircut:
On performance day, we finished tech rehearsal with a little time to relax before our show that evening at the Long Hu Theater at Sichuan Normal University. I was wandering around the campus and happened upon a salon, so I decided to get my hair cut. I walked in and was greeted with many smiles. The Chinese music that was blaring on the radio was immediately switched to American pop tunes — this was a kind gesture, I assume to help me feel more at home. The hairdresser was meticulous and clearly took great pride in his work. After about an hour, he styled it in a way that reminded me a bit of a porcupine with each hair standing straight up. He was so pleased and made an “okay” sign with his hand. I smiled and thanked him for his beautiful work. It was a wonderful experience that I will long remember.
One highlight was our visit to the Chengdu International SOS Children’s Village, a home for orphaned and abandoned children. We had visited an SOS Village in Hanoi, Vietnam but our experience in Chengdu was quite different. The Chengdu Village is home to about 15 families, and the kids participate in sports, language lessons, dancing, music, traditional Chinese painting, etc. We spent the afternoon with about 20 girls ages 6 to 16; we performed a few dances and taught them some basic ballet movements. They were all so sweet and eager to learn the dance we choreographed for them on the spot. It was another wonderful opportunity to observe the power of dance as a communication tool and its ability to unite us all.
On our day off, we went to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where we saw dozens of panda bears eating, relaxing, and wrestling with one another.
We learned that pandas are temperamental creatures that prefer to be alone, want lots of room to call their own, and need plenty of bamboo shoots and leaves to eat. We were told that breeding is a bit of a challenge for these territorial creatures because of their desire to have limited interaction with other bears.
For our final night in Chengdu, we were guests at a banquet hosted by the Sichuan Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. Our hosts acknowledged the long relationship between China and the United States and how special it is to now have TMP as a part of that history. Dinner was spectacular: duck, tofu, fried white fish, exotic veggies in broth, steamed shrimp dumplings, dragon fruit, noodles, and much more. The courses just kept coming. We also sampled baijiu or “white alcohol.” This spirit contains 52% alcohol and it didn’t take much for us to start to feel its effects. It was a rare treat to have baijiu, which is typically reserved for special occasions or holidays.
After a full day of travel, we arrived in Seoul, Korea, the final city on TMP’s four-week tour. South Korea is incredibly rich and vibrant and I’m anxious to experience yet another fascinating culture.