Originally published at Andy Does Beijing. You can comment here or there.
Today’s main event: a real live baseball game at the ballpark! A few minor catches: the ballpark was the Beijing Olympic National Stadium and the hot dogs were cold — but the sausage on a stick was still hot! (Incidentally, the sausage tasted like a kosher hot dog, but kinda sweet.) Another catch: CHN vs KOR. The great American sport, and we’re watching two Asian teams. Oh, Chinar. To tell you the truth, they played a pretty good game: good hits, good catches, good runs, but no runs.
It was a fun little game until, halfway through the fourth inning, xiale da yue：it poured. Man, it started to drip a little, and then the skies just opened up and the thunder rumbled and the crowds deserted the stands to hide under them. I put my cell phone and my camera in my bag and handed it to Linda, who had an umbrella, and just stood there in the rain. The Americans started acting up and singing random songs from the USA in the rain. I don’t entirely understand these athlete sorts; but then, these are the same kids who would rather eat at an expensive pseudo-western restaurant than go out and eat delicious Chinese food at a nice, inexpensive, local place. Whatevs, there’s still the folks who enjoy Chinar culture. The Olympic volunteer crew, who was prepared for such happenings, had a few boxes of ponchos handy to pass out to everyone at the event; so, pretty soon, the stadium was awash in a field of translucent yellow plastic. The game wouldn’t be called for an hour and a half, though, so our fearless leaders decided, in their infinite wisdom, to hoof it back to the bus. The bus driver wouldn’t have none of our wet patooties on his nice dry bus, so as we walked up to the bus, he took the ponchos from us to store underneath in the cargo space.
What do you do with a sodden student?
Really, what would you do with forty-some wet, tired kids who just missed half a baseball game? You take them to the National Art Museum, of course! Unfortunately, the Art Museum wasn’t ready for the Olympics; most of their exhibition areas were under construction, so we could only walk through two galleries. It was an awful lot of watercolors and line drawings, of mountains and fishies and the occasional goose. There was also two line-drawing portraits! We were duly unimpressed; it was an art museum like many, many others. Also, the translations came out in Engrish. I think this was one area that the Beijing Olympic Committee missed when they anglicized the city.
Our first priority in the museum was finding the bathroom. Apparently, the second was finding something to eat. (I, at least, hit the galleries first.) Turns out the museum coffee shop was on the far edge of the ground floor. You could reach it by either walking around the building or walking through the construction. The museum attendents said it was okay to just head on through between the painters and the carpenters, so we took the trek towards the tea with trepidation. The coffee shop was nice, though; a very tall Chinese woman (like, I could like her in the eye) was hostessing, so she took all of our orders and, as they were made (slowly, since we were many), walked them over. She later asked me for a good English translation for “肤浅“ — Would you like to pay now? A lovely coffee shop, I must say.
After looking disreputable in the coffeeshop for two hours, our professors decided it was time to join us. We left soon thereafter to go get dinner.
I assume. I forget where dinner was. Seriously, nobody remembers, except that Brenna thought it was a good place. (That must be why we don’t remember. I’m writing this a week after the fact, too.)
A Night at the Opera
The Peking Opera closed out our evening — but just two acts, not a full performance. (Peking is, incidentally, the old name for Beijing. I’m not sure why, I might be Cantonse instead of Mandarin.) The theatre we went to is housed in a Peking Opera Theme Hotel. Outside of the theatre, they had two glass display cases showing the history and development of the Peking Opera. In the entrance to the theatre, they had two men doing their makeup before the show — quite fantastic. In the theatre itself, they had many dinner tables in the front half, seats and a balcony in the back half, and large opera masks and paintings of actors on the walls. Also, a nice lady was selling fancy programs for 30元, a nice boy was practicing tea gong fu (pouring tea from a tea-pot with a rapier spout), and another lady was selling regular cans of beers for 18元. The program was a good deal — but the beer? A royal theatre-style rip-off =p
We expected to, y’know, dress up for a night at the opera, so we thought we’d have a chance to go change into nice shirts and pants and, for the girls, all their pretty silk dresses. No such luck, of course, since we went straight from the game to the museum to dinner to the opera. Our professors told us that our street clothes were alright, but we didn’t believe them till we walked in to the theatre and saw how casually it was set up, as dinner theatre.
The show itself was pretty fantastic, but not so much as the pre-show annoucement. It was delivered by a man employing a very sing-song voice, like he was already singing in the opera style. Unfortunately, his scansion didn’t work out so well in English, as my classmates noted. Our local guides didn’t give a hoot, though — one doesn’t even speak English, but both napped through it. (They’ve seen the Opera a few times.)
The show was cute, nice light entertainment with an Asian flavor. After the overture, performed by a traditional Chinese band with string, wind, and drum instruments, we saw two scenes; the first, Autumn River, was a little farce about a woman (a “nun,” but not by choice) trying to follow her lover down the river. She had to engage a boat, but the boatsman saw that she was a naive young woman and teased her a bit about getting down the river, getting in the boat, getting stuck in the boat, getting some lunch and leaving her in the boat, … it was cute. The closed caption marquees mounted beside the stage definitely enhanced the experience — indeed, made it possible to watch. (An experienced guide had characterized the Opera as four hours of high-pitched, whinging singing and silly staging.) So, since we could follow, it was rather entertaining and quite silly, with some standard theatre artifice standing in for actual props and scenery: taking a long walk around the stage signified a … long walk; bobbing up and down signified bobbing in the water; two people bobbing in opposition signified two people on opposite ends of a board. I found it both well-acted and sufficient to convey the scene.
The second scene was much more slapstick. The opening scene was a panorama of Buddha (?) and his disciples, a la ancient Chinese painting. Buddha decided that, to tell a little story, he would decide — emm — the Monkey King was acting up in his part of Heaven, so 17 of Buddha’s erhu’s should go put him back in his place. The Monkey King was a wily-looking man with funny makeup, a kooky demeanor, and a staff, with which he was apeing about. Each of the seventeen erhu’s challenged the monkey in turn, with staff, sword, spear, Asian-style morningstar, and one with a jug of wine. He had many jugs of wine — each time the Monkey King stole away a jug, yet another appeared from within the sot’s robes! This scene presented some fancy martial arts stickery, lots of trick moves with bouncing weaponry about the stage, tumbling, launching weapons, and so on. The Monkey King was well-versed with his staff; I should have taken video for Steve Keiser and Rah. (At least I’ve got kung fu tea master on video for them.)
After the theatre, back to the hotel to finally dry off a titch!