Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Sound of One Plastic Hand Clapping

Amy and the clapper
Good morning from Hangzhou! We, the eight from Shaoxing, are on what Amy is calling "A Brady Family Vacation." She is calling me "Jan" and I am calling her "Marsha." "In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Hangzhou" is what the Chinese say about their favorite tourist spot...we spent yesterday figuring out trains (we got a standing train only for over an hour) and finding a hotel, and were then treated to a day of taking little ferries to a series of Islands called "Falling Snow over a Broken Bridge Island" and "Birds Singing on the Bridge Island" and "Three Lakes Mirroring the Sky Island." This is a very beautiful city.

HOWEVER, I don't think I will travel with eight people again! The day moved very slowly, trying to wait for everyone. Finally, Amy and I decided to break off from the group to get Italian food and then go to a "show" - "thebest (sic)show in Hangzhou!"

We are ushered into a theater where we quickly note that we are the only Westerners and are seated at a table upon which are two 'clappers.' This clapper is three plastic hands connected to each other, green-red-yellow and is used to clap for the performers. We were a bit surprised as we thought this was going to be a fancy show and thought that surely the entertainment couldn't be all that good by the looks of the clappers. Then we were brought a tray of watermelon and Land of the Lost grapes and were given abour five dollars in change. A note here...we have come to say, simply, "We're in China" when odd things the plastic hands, the fruit plate and the money made us look at each other at the same time and say this, which struck us funny and we started to laugh. Shortly, the waitress came back, mortified, because she had delivered the money and fruit to the wrong table (which would be easy to understand if we didn't COMPLETELY stand out...) So this struck us even more funny and we started to laugh the kind of laugh that just won't stop. Within minutes we were crying and everyone was staring...which was even funnier. All of this occurred while a heartthrob warm up singer was on the stage, crooning with tight white pants, a vest and dark sunglasses (also projected on two "big screens" which were impossibly to see!

Thank God we calmed down by the time the main show started. I tried to take a video, but was reprimanded quickly, but oh my, what a sight. A Chinese variety show! Jugglers, dancing, drums, Opera singers, Chinese opera singers...a man sitting in front of me turned around and asked where we were from, and was instantly embarrassed...he said, "Oh! This show really isn't for Western taste!" But we loved it. The best part was definitely the eight girls dressed in long pink socks and tutus, juggling four volleyball looking items with their feet. They played catch with these balls while they contorted their bodies into unimaginable positions. The other show that blew us away was the one where eight Japanese samurai warriors came out and were eventually annhilated by the Chinese, to much plastic hand applause. At the end of the "battle," a huge banner of Chaiman Mao came down...the clappers went mad!

What a night, what a place. Amy is very involved in theater at home in LA...she was thrilled. She does improv, writes and directs plays and sings in her brother's band, "Dick Diamond and the Family Jewels." She is so much fun, always a party. By the way, at the nice Italian restaurant we found, we heard music coming from the top floor, so we decided to was a place we were not welcomed - business men and call girls! Prostitution is "illegal" here; but in China, what rules apply? Prostitutes line the streets in front of certain "salons." It's wild.

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