Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Winding down, Summing up

Winding down:

Our trip is now finished. Although we are excited to be back home, many great memories of China and Japan will forever remain. The people during the trip and the places we visited will not soon be forgotten.

We have been gone from Wartburg College for over a month. It is bittersweet to be home. Many of us have been writing in journals to remember some of those experiences that we don’t want to forget. In my journal, I tried to write less about what we did and more about what we noticed along the way. I hope none of us will forget some of those subtleties that make China and Japan so interesting and remarkable.

While preparing for our trip, we focused more heavily on Japan than we did on China. We were obviously excited to go to China and see many amazing places, but sometimes it was thought of as just a detour on our way to Japan. That was wrong. The incredible places we visited will not be easily forgotten and we soon realized how lucky we were to be in China. For example, playing on the Great Wall of China and seeing David propose to Brittany on the Great Wall was pretty memorable (youtube: 'David and Brittany engagement'). We also witnessed the history and impressive archaeology of the Terra Cotta Warriors. Still, the Silk Museum, Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square, Beijing Zoo, Temple of Heaven, and Jade Buddha temple were very special to us. I hope none of us took those experiences for granted. For many of us, this was a once in a lifetime experience.

Honestly, the history of China was so vast we found ourselves lost and confused quite often. But the fact that this country has so much history was fascinating. We could see this history in the customs, architecture, traditions, ceremonies, and people that we came in contact to.

One of my favorite parts of China was leaving the hotel early in the morning with a small group to go explore. Because we weren't able to have home-stays in China, this was a very exciting part of seeing China. China woke up to a new day. We saw businesses starting up, monks praying, people eating breakfast, vendors selling dumplings and egg sandwiches, father and son de-feathering and cleaning chickens, and people patiently waiting for the perfect moment to cross the eternally busy streets. We did it too and it was an experience that cannot be forgeten.

It would be a shame to forget one of the most influential parts of our visit in China. Our Chinese national tour guides were with us throughout Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. Many of us mentioned that spending time with them made the trip not just possible but also very memorable and fun. Michael and Anthony were a huge blessing for us. They helped in endless ways and were always happy to teach us about the culture and history. They quickly became a part of the family and were missed very much when we left for Tokyo.

One of the best parts of the trip was recollecting spending time with host families in Japan. We had some unforgettable experiences in Japan because of these amazing people that shared their homes, culture, and values with us. It was hard to express in words how special these families have been. No matter how many times we said “Thank you” or “Arigato Gozaimasu,” it could never come close to conveying our real emotions and gratitude that we felt for these families. In this highly digital world, it will be easier to keep in contact. Thank you World Wide Web, Facebook, Gmail… and blogspot!

Part of what made our performances so special was that we had host families to play for. We also had friends to play for because we were able to meet and get to know the students from the schools that we were performing with. This trip has not just been about touring around and giving performances. We have found it to be so much more about the people that we had the opportunity to meet and friendships that resulted from them.

Looking back on the trip, it is interesting to note that we took just about every form of transportation you can imagine. We rode on planes, trains, cars, subways, trolleys, public bus, private bus, rickshaws, and ferry boats. I’m sure some of us did even more with our specific host families.

It is difficult to say everything that should be said. It would take too long unfortunately. But we don’t want to spoil the surprise of what Asia has to offer. If you can, go and experience some of these things for yourself. Maybe you can write a blog yourself and explain how your eyes have been opened to a whole new culture like ours were. The language barrier was an example. However, no matter what language you speak, we have found smiles, laughter, and music to always be universal languages!

Summing up:

We performed concerts in Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Ichikawa, Utsonomia, Kumamoto, and Uto.

We visited at least a dozen cities, including: Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Tokyo, Ichikawa, Nikko, Utsonomia, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Kumamoto, and Uto. (I personally want to include Nasu on my list because one of my wonderful host families lived in that town, about an hour north of Utsonomia).

We performed various joint-concerts with local school and community bands, heard performances from some amazing Japanese bands, had the opportunities to have clinics with Japanese school bands and play a couple songs together, played on the Great Wall of China, etc.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog. The Wartburg Wind Ensemble has enjoyed writing about these unforgettable experiences and sharing them with you along the way has been very special. If you have not been to Asia, we hope you will have a better idea of the people, places, and culture that make up China and Japan. Maybe you will have the opportunity to go someday. If you do, don’t forget to make your own blog so your friends and family can see it too! We thank you for taking the time to read and discover parts of asia with us.

Huge thank you to Dr. Craig Hancock, Dr. Eric Wachmann, Kiyoshi Miyamoto, Anthony and Michael from China, our host families in Japan, Concert and Study Tours, donors, family, friends, and everyone that made this trip possible.

Jeremy Idler
Wartburg College Concert Bands
May 2013

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