We were supposed to have four days off in Beijing but we had an extra gig booked in a town in the south, about 90 miles from the Vietnam border, called Nanning. The first thing we noticed upon landing in Nanning was that we saw pure, unadulterated sunshine. Sunshine that was actually warm on our skin and hurt our eyes when we looked directly into it. It was glorious. Though I was thoroughly exhausted when we got in, I couldn’t sleep because I just wanted to be out in the sunshine.
The first night nearly the whole cast went to dinner at what could be best described as a Chinese food court. It was in a warehouse type building with food stalls, shops and dozens of tables. It didn’t take long before we started making friends. First, there was a group of men who were traveling together who had actually seen us in Chongqing. They approached us, and through our priceless interpreter, Lindsey, asked if we were indeed the cast of Celtic Legends. I mean, what are the frigging odds??
Then more friends were made when a few of the lads decided to buy rounds of beer for entire tables of people. There are a few things you need to know about Chinese beer for this story. First, it is very cheap. The beers here were 10 yuan for a 32 oz bottle, that’s about $1.40. It is also very weak, typically around 3% alcohol. There is a toast in China called “gambe” and when you gambe, you finish your whole beer. Luckily, you’re usually pouring the beer into a much smaller cup while you’re drinking so you’re not asked to gambe 32 ounces of beer, that would be ridiculous.
So some of the guys were wandering around the place, buying beers for strangers and gambeing with them. It wasn’t long before we were very, very popular. Some of us were invited over to a table of gentlemen nearby. Luckily, one of them spoke very good English and was able to facilitate a conversation between all of us. The one unfortunate thing about this tour was that I felt I hardly communicated with any Chinese people around us. In fact, it was nearly impossible. It was nice to have a couple hours where we could, even if one in every 12 words was, “Gambe!”
Luckily for me, I was excused from the endless, “Gambe!”s. I explained to them that I was a delicate flower of a young(ish) lady and that they wouldn’t want to see what happened to me if I were forced to go gambe to gambe with them.
I really enjoyed our time in Nanning. We had a wonderful few days off in 80 degree heat and endless sunshine. A few of us were able to escape to the countryside, which I will chronicle later. We also had the best audience of the tour there.
Chinese audiences are different than I’m used to. They’re just not…enthusiastic. At first I was a little put off, but the more I spoke to people about it, the more I realized it was just a cultural thing. I heard the same complaint from the Riverdancers who were touring there. And my friend, Jason Fetz, who is teaching English in Changchun said that when he produced a play at his school the audience was often louder than what was happening on stage. Usually, if I’m singing on stage and I hear someone start talking (by the way, people, we CAN hear that) or chomping on some potato chips, I throw glance in their direction in an effort to make them feel mildly embarrassed. But with some of the Chinese audiences I couldn’t keep track of all the conversations.
Not so with Nanning. They were attentive and excited. And it was there that we met our Chinese Super Fan, Jason. He came backstage bearing gifts for us. And he handed me the most cherished thing I brought back from China (maybe second only to a piece of the Great Wall (a very small piece that was already dislodged for any Chinese authorities that might be reading this)). It was this note:
Oh my god, is that not the nicest thing that someone could say to you? So we left Nanning with a warm feeling in our hearts to carry us to the cold of Beijing.