We walked back to the hotel, it was getting a bit chilly. The children watched TV. We were due to meet the guides again at 19:00 to go back to the SWI for the gala evening. We eat our bread, yoghurt and fruit, non of us feeling particularly hungry.
We were still digesting all that happened during the day – the SWI, all the people we’d met, the things we’d seen, and finally seeing Jinchang – we no longer have to search the net for snippets of information to try and second guess what it must be like – now we know (well, at least what it looked like in 2006 – it seems to be city under development). We’ve met the people that looked after Yanmei six years ago. Even though the buildings have changed, many of the people are the same people that looked after her all those years ago, and it was touching to see their affection and care. We were also proud that we had returned and seen the joy that all the pictures had brought – and that families had made the effort to keep them updated with news and pictures of “their” Jinchang girls.
To be honest, at 18:45 I think we felt we’d experienced more than enough for one day and the children would have opted for a night in front of the TV watching programs they didn’t understand, and we’d have shared a bottle of the local wine (which is excellent!) before taking an early night. It was good that it wasn’t left for us to decide – the SWI had, not least for Yanmei, prepared the perfect ending to a great day.
We met in the lobby at 19:00 and left for the SWI. It was already dark and there were very few cars on the roads. Everything was very quiet. To the left, the details of the evenings entertainment.
We arrived at the SWI and we were certainly not alone – the entrance and stair were packed with people – children and the pensioners from the SWI, the people that worked there as well as family, friends and relatives, and of course us! We were led to the top floor where there was a large room with a stage at the front. We were shown to the first row, centre stage – clearly the best seats in the house. The room is primarily used by the kindergarten children, as the chairs and tables were very low. Fruit and water was spread out across the tables. We were introduced to a 16 year old girl (centre picture above) who has lived at the SWI her whole life and who had known Yanmei.
The Director told us that the show was something they did 3 or 4 times a year close to the different festivals in China (the May or Spring week was just a week or so away). However when they had learnt that we would come, it was natural to hold the show the day of our visit.
The lady that led the show welcomed us to Jinchang. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, listening to the video once we came home, we can understand the words Yanmei and Bloom just before she bows (centre picture above!). The show consisted of traditional Chinese and ethnic dancing, classical and modern song and a flutist, as well as a surprise!
The pictures on the page give a small impression of the day – luckily we captured most of the evening on video. Eight acts entertained us with traditional Chinese dance, song and music. Everything was highly professional, the costumes were beautiful and the song, music dance of high quality. It was fun seeing something so different than what we are used too in Europe/US, and something that was thoroughly enjoyed by everybody.
After the initial dance troupe had entertained us with Mongolian (?) inspired dance, a female trio (Hope, Peace and Security?) sang two, seemingly, more modern Chinese songs. Halfway through the act they handed out teddy bears to all the children – including Yanmei and Daji.
The next group entertained with a very elegant dance in very colourful costumes, before two of the children from the SWI – the 16 year old we met earlier that evening and the blind girl we’d met during the morning – sang and the nannies accompanied them, dancing with large red and green fans.
The last act before the break was a flutist who played two pieces of traditional Chinese music on a traditional Chinese type of flute – at least the first piece he played is a well known piece of Chinese music, we have since heard it again on a CD we brought back with traditional Chinese music.
It was now time for a break and during the break we played a Chinese version of musical chairs. A balloon is sent around the room and a drummer bangs a drum. When the drum stops, the last person to touch the balloon performs a song or tells a story or something similar. The first time the older lady (top picture on the left) had just touched the balloon – she told everybody how happy she was living in the SWI. Next time a boy from the SWI (left below) told a story. After that it was Daji that was last to touch the balloon – he stood up and sang the Danish version of Frêre Jacques (Baker Jacob). Next in line was a 11 year old daughter of one of the nannies who had spoken a little English with us. She stood up and recited, in English, a long story about how we must look after the earth we live on. Finally one of the nannies was the was last and she took some of he colleagues up up on stage and danced.
After the break, a dance troupe danced a slower dance, something one could imagine from southern China or Thailand (without being an expert in any way!).
A lady sang Chinese opera – not the type of Opera we had heard in the parks of Beijing that sounded like lots of peculiar noices, but Opera similar to what we know.
The final act was a lively dance, again in new and beautiful costumes.
All the performers were on stage for the final song, thanks to the sound men and goodbyes. It had been a great evening, everybody was happy and Yanmei loved the dance and costumes. We felt very privileged to have been witness to the whole show. We were led back to the bus, not allowed to help put the chairs and table back in the classrooms. Yanmei had her picture taken with other nannies that had looked after her but weren’t at the SWI during our visit earlier in the day.
We had heard in the news that a sandstorm had hit Beijing and other parts of China. Between the 14th and 18th of April. 330.000 tons of sand fell in Beijing alone and the storm covered roughly 1/8th of China. There were no signs of a storm in Jinchang, although we have learnt that it affected some parts of western Gansu. However the guides told us that they felt it was best if we left Jinchang early the next morning – after we had visited the SWI to say goodbye. Our position was that it was OK, but we didn’t want to stay in another hotel (Daji was already affected by the moving from one hotel to another and his stutter was becoming more pronounced for each new hotel we stayed in!), we would rather go back to Beijing, i.e. take the flight at 18:00 from Lanzhou.
We had mixed feelings about leaving – on the one hand we would liked to have seen more of Jinchang – not that there was much to see, on the other hand we didn’t want to get caught in a sandstorm – especially as we had to traverse the desert. We started to pack our things – now we had plenty of room in our suitcases. Everything looks relatively new, the town seems prosperous and well functioning and the people friendly and certainly not poor, as we would later see in Wuwei. The city has clearly been built for a far greater population than the 500.000 it currently serves. Today the weather was beautiful (26C) – and normally the summers are very hot and the winters very cold. The air was fresh, we didn’t notice the smell of sulphur dioxide, that is supposedly all around and certainly would not believe that Jinchang was amongst the top 10 polluted cities in China, and top 100 in the world!