Hefei is in the Anhui province of China and looks kind of like Troy, MI or Schaumberg, IL. It’s a sea of nondescript office and apartment buildings. From a distance, such as from my hotel window, the only things distinguishing it are the Chinese characters on the buildings and the ever present pollution, which people kept reassuring us is “just fog” (I’m sorry, People of China, I’ve been in San Francisco when the fog rolls in and it is not brown and it does not burn my eyes and lungs).
I’m sure there are people who could prove me wrong on this but I didn’t find much to do or see in Hefei, and I think that’s just what I needed. We were traveling every 3 or 4 days and it was getting quite exhausting. I’d been good about getting up early and exploring but it was nice to have a few days to relax. One thing I enjoyed about our time there was that, for the first time, everyone hung out together, cast and crew, in the hotel. I was traveling with a great group and it was nice to have everyone in the same place for a night. It was too much fun. The night started with drinking games (do Irish dancers really need drinking games to consume a plentiful amount of alcohol??) and ended with me in a chicken fight in the hallway, which I realize is an activity traditionally done over water to soften any falls but such was my reason at that point.
As I said, I didn’t see much of Hefei, but I learned a lot about myself from the people there. Namely, that I look terribly fat on stage, that my chi is out of whack, and that being a singer is not nearly as interesting as being an Irish dancer.
After the first show, the music director, Liz, pulled me off the bus because someone wanted to meet me. It was a young woman with a camera and I thought, “Great! I have a fan in China!” But as soon as she saw me she said, “Nononononononono. Seenger. Seenger.” We tried to convince her I was the singer but she wouldn’t believe us. Lindsay came to the rescue to translate and explain that I was, indeed, the singer. She was translating my one fan in China in real time and said, “She didn’t think you were the singer because….oh….I’m not translating that.” I insisted that she did and she said, “Well, she thought you were much fatter on stage.” Mind you, I was wearing a DOWN COAT during this exchange giving me plenty of extra inches. The cast was supportive at first.
“Maybe she meant tall?”
“Maybe she meant you were larger than life!”
“You know, I’ve always thought those lights on stage add ten pounds”
But soon after the fat jokes were flying and I procured a new nickname: “Fatty”. It’s ok. I don’t actually think I’m fat. Though I do think it’s a little odd that, to my one fan in China at least, I look so much heavier on stage that in real life I am unrecognizable.
The next revelation came while getting a massage the following day. The company hired a few massage therapists to come to the hotel. They were actually kind of massage therapists/chiropractors/practitioners of Chinese medicine. I had a massage at the same time as Linsday and after about ten minutes we had the following conversation:
“Oh…they’re saying something’s wrong with you.”
“Something’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me??”
“I’m not sure. I really don’t have to vocabulary for all the Chinese medicine terms.“
“Is it my chi?”
“They are saying something about your chi and something about air conditioning in the summer. They’re saying you need to be cupped”
“Like, that fire cupping?”
“Wait…I don’t even run the air conditioning that much in the summer. Is there anything wrong with you?”
“No, just you. Oh, and you sit in front of the computer too much.”
So I have to get cupped pronto. I can’t very well be walking around with my chi out of whack.
Later that day we were at the theater before the show and a couple of camera crews showed up wanting to interview members of the cast. After talking to some of the dancers, they came into my dressing room. The first thing they wanted to film was me putting my feet in this foot warmer box thingy. The day before some people who worked for the theater asked if they could photograph me doing the same thing for a brochure. They really love this foot warmer. So after I did that, one of the presenters said, “Show us your…” and then proceeded to stamp her feet around. I said, “Oh, actually, I’m the singer!” To which she replied, with a crest fallen face, “Oh…” and then promptly turned and left with the cameramen following behind her.
So, Hefei, thanks for the memories. I don’t think I will be back anytime soon. Namely because I didn’t find you very interesting but mostly because you made me feel really, really bad about myself.