Beijing, first impressions
By Brenda Tremblay ~ Posted Mon, 07/14/2008 - 5:58am
Members of the Rochester Oratorio Society landed in Beijing today. Dazed with jet-lag, we passed through a dazzling world of gleaming floors, polished steel, and walls of glass. Triangular skylights floated over us in a vaulted ceiling. Beijing's new airport opened two months ago, and the most astonishing thing about it is its sheer size.
After passport checks, customs, and a stop in the baggage claims office to report my father's missing suitcase, we stepped outside into a steam bath. Rochester singers have arrived during the rainy season.
We got in a van and headed for the hotel, zooming through the mist past hundreds of yellow and red fabric panels. Billowing from light poles, they'll welcome an expected half a million visitors to the Olympics next month.
We passed the Lama Temple. We streaked by an old city moat bisecting old and new Beijing. Everywhere we looked, buildings spoke of a mystical past -- or a glitzy future. A thousand year-old pagoda jutted up next to futuristic, rounded office buildings. We whizzed by white flowering trees, spectacular beds of red roses, and the grey tiled roofs of old hutongs, the traditional alleyway neighborhoods Beijing.
The good news is that we are here. The bad news is that we left a few singers behind. My roommate, an alto, had to drop out for personal reasons, and I'm sad since we'd planned to look for Chinese birds together. We also left behind a extremely gifted tenor, who canceled his trip the morning we left. Some singers are demoralized and bewildered by his absence.
Tomorrow, we'll explore the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. On Wednesday, we'll sing in the opening concert of the International Chorus Festival.