UPDATE: I found some online media – photos/video etc. – about the Swan Lake performance I describe in this post. There are now links/pics at the bottom!
Welcome to this month’s update. No photos this time, I’m afraid! I have no camera, and facebook being blocked the past month means it’s pretty hard to steal from others!
First, the news headlines. Then, some water stories.
- I managed to sprain my ankle stepping off a curb a month ago and have had a fair bit of trouble with it – took three weeks to get back in a pair of heels!
- My new friend Katie introduced me to a lovely outdoor pool in a Shunyi housing complex – and I had my first swim in mainland China! I think the last time I’d been swimming was in Hongkong in June 2006. SO SAD!
- Christina (flatmate in 2006-07 and still one of my best friends, even though she lives in Cambodia now) came to Beijing for a visit! She spent a bunch of time in Langfang with me which was AWESOME!
- My Daddy retired after 31 years with IBM. I’m very proud of him and pleased for him! Now, who wants to join the betting pool on how long it takes him and Mum to become nationally ranked bridge players? I say about 3 years…
- A few times in the past couple of weeks a group of 40 camouflage painted helicopters have flown in formation over our office (twice each time, in a huge circle). Random!
Now, the water stories (warning – they get progressively longer!):
In the past week or so we’ve had three huge rainstorms that have dumped more water on Langfang than the drains could handle, resulting in very flooded roads etc. The first time was shortly before I headed home for lunch with Christina. The road to the east gate of the university was TOTALLY underwater. The water was so deep that the median strips were underwater – you could just see shrubs that seemed to be growing out of the water. A bunch of cars were stalled along the road – the only reason we didn’t was we drove right in the wake of a bus. Worked well, although one tyre did seem to leave the ground when we hit the wake of a bus going the other direction!
The second time was right after I got home – judging by the people (and car) trying to get through below my apartment, the water was 30+ cm deep! For a LONG time after the rain stopped water poured continually from drains on the penthouse balconies. Some water got in my balcony windows but it wasn’t too bad.
The next day was the real insanity. About 4:55pm rain started bucketing down, with crazy wind going as well. Most people at work ride bikes/electric bikes to work, and the cab company wasn’t answering, and the only driver I could get in touch with was stuck in deep water somewhere so we were all hanging around waiting for the rain to die down. It was crazy! After nearly an hour the rain was a bit lighter and we started to venture out. I then spent over an hour outside once trying to get a cab or a bus or ANYTHING – one cab stopped but said you can’t drive into university city because of all the water. Ages later (when the rain had started up again) another car stopped for me. There was WAY too much water at university city so he dropped us near the gate and I jumped from the car across to the curb to avoid the deep water. Once I got to the gate, however, I gave up and started wading through mid-calf deep water. Of course, I was wearing an ankle-length skirt and 3 inch heels… At one point the water was as high as my knees! There were a few drier high ground places but mostly it was ankle deep or more the whole 30min walk back. It was just so crazy and ridiculous I spent most of the walk laughing! What else can you do?
Speaking of laughing, may I present my final (and stupid-long) water story:
It all started when I saw a friend’s twitter post saying she was going to Swan Lake at the Water Cube (the Olympic Aquatics Centre). This intrigued me. She got me two tickets along with the rest of her group so that Christina and I could go along. Christina and I had a great time thinking up what the production might involve, and were pretty much resigned to it being boring compared to the fantastical ideas we came up with. Hah!
First we had our temperatures taken while standing in line – a swine flu precaution (apparently this is becoming quite common across Beijing, but still the only time it’s happened to me). Once inside the swimming arena (yes, the same place the Olympic events were held) we saw a stage built across the very end of the pool, with big plastic “curtains” printed with forest scenery and a castle. On the water (a.k.a. “the world’s largest indoor lake”) were fake swans and a canoe tethered to the edge, baskets of flowers, and lots of fog machines to carpet the pools with mist.
After a little while a guy in a gold lycra suit came out to the top of the top diving platform and, moving in a robot-like fashion, proceeded to get the crowd clapping. Having acheived this, he CLIMBED BACK DOWN!! He didn’t dive in! It was very sad.
The production was a Chinese creation, using three groups of performers (and some special extras). There was a Russian ballet troupe, a Russian synchronised swimming team, and a Chinese diving team. The diving team wore full costume, so you knew which characters they were playing with each dive. It was quite random – every now and then a spotlight would hit the diving platform and some people would jump off and the spotlight would move back to somewhere else.
Most of the ballet happened on the stage (which was the castle) but some happened on the strip between the two pools (this seemed to be the forest/lakeside). Now we add to the mix some crazy lighting and a screen behind the dancers on the stage constantly playing B-grade graphics (to help you understand where we are – ballroom, forest, lakeside… it was a little weird). The swimming girls were swans, and were really good. The best moment was when one of them went skitz in the water just next to the stage when the prince choose Odile (the fake Odette). She was spinning and splashing and it was awesome!
I know that all sounds fantastic, but it gets better. And by “better” I mean “infinitely more ridiculous”. During the second ball scene, the music (a recording played through the speakers) suddenly changed to a well known Chinese song. And out came four Chinese performers – girls with those string toss hourglass things… I never know what they’re called. They finished, got big cheers, and the classical music resumed – only to later change to spanish music, and four dancers in ballet-flamenco outfits danced between the pools. And THEN the prince chases the evil Von Rothbart – did I mention his evil Batman costume? Black with cape wings and red sequins. Oh, and every time he showed up the screen showed a graphic of THE EYE OF SAURON. I am SO not kidding.
So, anyway. they fight – the Prince with a wushu sword and Von Rothbart with NUNCHUCKS (the characters had strangely morphed into shorter Chinese men by this point). To highlight the importance of this scene, the lights flashed quickly between red and green throughout the fight. Von Rothbart runs away vanquished, and the girls join the prince – then Von Rothbart appears at the top of the diving board, the prince shoots him with a crossbow, and he falls dead into the water. AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER. (Not quite how I remember the story going…)
All that was missing was a polar bear ;)
Three gold stars to everyone who made it this far! I hope you are entertained :D
More on “swan pool”:
- A short clip of syncronised swans
- A 6+ minute video taped off Chinese TV showing ballet, acrobatics, and swimming
- Photo gallery 1
- Photo gallery 2
- Short article about the production