Of Kimchi and Kangaroos
Sometimes on tour, I find myself settling into “tour mode,” where moving on to the next city and checking in and out of hotels become like second nature. As a result, it sometimes becomes all too easy to forget to experience a new city or country, but recently this hasn’t been a problem because these last few cities have really been a brew of distinct, yet exciting experiences!
After leaving Hawaii, we headed to South Korea. For me, this was really a leg of tour that I had been long looking forward to. It had been four years since I last set foot in Asia and from what I could remember of the short time we spent in Asia that year, it was an alluring experience! So upon hearing that it was finally our turn this year, I was all the more filled with anticipation.
I was not disappointed. As we touched down in Inchon-Seoul International Airport, I felt a sense of mysticism that accompanies being in a country so distinctly different from the one I had grown up in. As a Chinese American, I really had little idea of what life was like in the “other” half of the world, aside from what I saw in Asian movies and television shows, and it was as if simply setting foot in South Korea made me feel more connected to my Asian roots. At the same time, however, because everything around me was now so different, I truly felt like a foreigner, despite my similarity in physical appearance to the local population.
Everything was different but appealing. The cities were lively but clean, with electric billboards and neon signs setting the streets aglow, as if every city strove to identify itself with New York’s Times Square. Yet instead of the infamous curt nature of New Yorkers, we were treated to a characteristic sense of Asian efficiency, where services were conducted with a level of courtesy and deference the Western world rarely sees. Very refreshing. What touched me most, however, was the level of appreciation from the audience. Their cheers at curtain call left me with a sense of comfort and satisfaction that made it all worthwhile! So, given all that, I guess the only thing that Korea lacked was warm weather in January, but I soon had plenty of that when we arrived in New Zealand.
Arriving in Auckland, I saw a world that was much more familiar to me, even if I no longer disappeared amidst the locals. The warm weather quickly thawed off the residual bits of frost from Korea, while the laid-back atmosphere of the country felt amazingly familiar. Having grown up in Southern California, I felt very much at home!
We only stayed in Auckland for about a week before we left for Sydney, Australia. This year, Sydney was special because we were there for about three weeks, which made it the longest period of time I’ve ever spent in one city while on tour. This was really a treat for a large touring group like ours, as it meant less time spent on the road, less time spent setting up and taking down the stage, and more time to relax and enjoy all that is around us. Indeed, I really had some good opportunities to properly experience the city by exploring the local dining and shopping districts, as well as the local beaches.
After finishing up in Sydney, we performed for a week in Melbourne, before heading to Canberra for a few shows, where we also got to visit a nature preserve and had the chance to mix it up with the local wildlife population in the form of kangaroos and emus!
South Korea and Australia really feel like two different worlds, each exuding a different vibe, but each charming and enjoyable in its own right. The last month or so has really been a blast, but as a Chinese, I’m especially looking forward to our next country: Taiwan!
Tune in next time!
Dancer with Shen Yun's International Company
March 24, 2011