Friday morning was spent quietly in two buddhist temples. Interesting, and a calm and refreshing break from the insanity-inducing shopping. Might have found some kind of inner peace there among the incense, statues, monks, and praying people. In any case we found a wonderful vegetarian restaurant. A-hah! I knew there existed a vegetarian food-culture in China, it just seemed so well-hidden. Where better to look for it than among buddhists? Seems kinda obvious, in retrospect.
In the afternoon we headed off to Jiao Tong University to play together with their orchestra. Apparently they are the best university orchestra in China. Only a little performance anxiety involved in playing together with them! We got to play a piece that their conductor had composed; a rather simple piece inspired by Chinese folk music. Fun but a little difficult and scary to play à vista. The people in the orchestra were very nice and friendly as well, the little time we got to spend with them. Unfortunately they were in the middle of their exam period, so they had no time to party with us. But I've heard that they will come visit us in Lund next year; yay!
The concert, where we played half the set each, went well, and then we headed back to the hotel. The evening me and some friends spent at a smoky jazz club. The music was live and good. I mostly stood sipping my juice and watched people dance. Not dancing myself, though, I didn't want anyone to end up hurt. Dancing is one of those things that look very fun, but that I've just never gotten the hang of. Add to that my social anxiety, and my awkwardness at nightclubs is explained.
Anyways. The following morning I spent in a garden, just walking around and sitting down to write postcards. Almost managing to forget the noise and furious pace of the city, but not quite, having the skyscrapers looming high above. Also went into a tea house to taste and buy some tea for what was left of my travelling money. Black tea, apparently, gets better the longer it is stored, so it was not unusual to find decades-old pieces of tea for ridiculous sums of money. Like vintage wines, I guess. It was an interesting experience to learn a little bit of the art of tea-making as well. There is a whole science to it, and I doubt I will ever get to the point where I make small ceremonies out of my daily cups of tea, but still it was fascinating to watch and learn.
In the evening we played at another humongous concert hall, a much appreciated performance this time as well. Our friend from the train came and listened to us play, and afterwards we had a party together with him at the hotel. The neverending cold was however beginning to take its toll on me, so I didn't manage to party all night through like some people did.
On Sunday morning we went by bus to Suzhou, a city of four million people. Almost straight to the concert hall we went, which was overwhelmingly big and fancy! It was the last concert, and possibly the best. It was a delight to play every time, but still it was comforting that the tour was drawing to an end. It was the very last day of the journey; on the Monday only the long travel home remained.
It rained in the evening, but me and a couple of friends went out anyway to get to see at least something of this supposedly so beautiful city. “The Venice of China.” Indeed. We walked along a canal, and through the light drizzle we saw pretty gardens, bridges, pavilions, boats, bats, toads and nightly markets. A very nice little sight-seeing, it felt like the perfect way to end the journey.
And then the following morning we flew back home. In total over twelve hours of travel. I was so exhausted from being sick all the way through such an intense two-weeks-long tour that I couldn't wait to get home. All in all, the tour was tremendously fun, interesting and fantastic, but one of the best things was to get back home again. With some perspective on my existence and hopefully a little bit wiser. Certainly with a new appreciation for my privileged life in Sweden.
Thus ends my all-too-lengthy travel blog. Hope you've enjoyed reading about my adventures. With some luck there will be an epilogue containing some pictures, but I will not promise anything since I do not own a camera and would have to borrow any pictures from friends in the orchestra. We'll see about that. In any case, now I can finally get back to regular blogging. I've got so much to tell, so stay tuned, dear readers!
There's no place like home,