Welcome to Penglai

Trip Start Aug 13, 2006
Trip End Aug 26, 2006

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Friday, August 18, 2006

This morning we woke up way too early in order to board our big coach bus one last time and make our final trip with our guide, Stone. The drive to the Beijing airport was only about 40 minutes long and we arrived just in time to check in and get everyone organized. In our matching red China 2006 shirts and grey zip-ups, we paraded through the airport with our large suitcases and garment bags. Basically, we are a spectacle everywhere we go and the Chinese really don't mind stopping in their tracks to stare at us.

The flight to the Shandong province was relatively uneventful. We flew Shandong Air in a large airplane filled with Chinese business men. Again, a group of loud western girls was apparently very entertaining to them. After only an hour in the air, we began to descend and I caught my first views of my next home in China. The landscape was completely different than Beijing. For one thing, the air was clear and the haze of Beijing was completely gone. What I saw out the plane window was green fields, sharp mountains, and beautiful rivers and lakes. It was amazing. I felt like I was seeing China for the first time.

As I stepped off the plane, I immediately noticed the freshness of the air and the smell of fish all at the same time. I remember that my Lonely Planet said that Shandong is known for it's seafood, which doesn't excite me very much at all.

In the airport we met up with Lily, the woman who is responsible for organizing our involvement in the Penglai Peace Festival. She and Da Dong will basically be in charge of our group while we stay here (a job I now know they are taking very seriously). Lily led us out of the airport and to the vans that would take us to the mystery hotel. As we waited for the vans to be loaded up with our luggage, we all just enjoyed the clear skies, bright sun, and ocean breeze... a few things we haven't experienced in the past few days.

Shandong is absolutely beautiful. Our drive to the hotel took us through villages, farms, and countryside. All we could do was soak it all in. The hotel we're staying in during the festival is only two blocks from the ocean...it's strange to think that I'm back on the "east coast".

We dropped our bags off, had some lunch (which definitely wasn't as good as any food we had in Beijing), and spent the rest of the afternoon ironing and steaming our costumes. After that was taken care of, we all went to a conference room in the hotel in order to have a stretch and conditioning class to get us all back into shape. Then we went to dinner, which was just as bad or maybe even worse than lunch. I'm getting scared that I'm going to have some trouble with the food here.

After dinner, Da Dong took us on a walk down to the beach and to the stage where our opening ceremony dance performance will take place. The stage looked huge and the area is set up like a baseball stadium. How many people are really coming to watch this thing?? I'm definitely getting nervous...

Now I'm happily in my room with Ellen's computer. The have free internet in the hotel rooms, so hopefully I'll be able to keep in touch with everyone a little better this last week...now I have to rest for a long day of rehearsal tomorrow. Honestly...I'd rather be touring China right now than dancing here :(
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