After three days in China, members of the Rochester Oratorio Society talk about their strongest impressions.
"I can't get over seeing the children's faces and how beautiful they are and the thought of peace. I grew up thinking Communism was bad. Look at how happy these people are!" "I'm still processing." - Michelle
When the Rochester Oratorio Society landed in Beijing Sunday, singers were bused to the Ruicheng Hotel in an industrial-suburban about six miles west of the Forbidden City. Initially, I was deflated to be so far from the pretty stuff. I'd imagined daily jogs through the Imperial gardens. But now that we've had a chance to look around, I'm glad to be staying in a grittier part of town.
Today, we were tourists. We passed through the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of 9,999 rooms. We ascended the steps of the Temple of Heaven. Kites fluttered overhead. Azure-winged magpies shrieked from cypress trees. Hazy sun shone all day. Some of us are pink and peeling. One singer sank into a wheelchair, exhausted.
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.
Restless sleep. Vivid dreams. Sometimes my stomach hurts. Other times, I get a floaty feeling like I'm seeing streets and faces through a fisheye lens.
On Saturday, I'm flying to Beijing to represent the U.S. as a member of the Rochester Oratorio Society in a Pre-Olympic Cultural Festival. I haven't left yet, but I'm already learning a lot about myself. For one thing, I'm learning that despite my hunger for adventure, ya know, I'm just a girl from a small town in Western New York.
Hey, guess what? I found my copy of Alex Ross’ “The Rest is Noise” buried in a laundry basket, of all places. In such moments I think of Thoreau’s stint on Walden and wonder if I should jettison some stuff. But not Alex’s book. I’m very happy, and I apologize to my co-workers for suggesting one of them might have lifted it off my desk.
Now that I think about it, what a wildly optimistic notion. Not everyone is so crazy about 20th century classical music.