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"Welcome American Red Flowery Road Symphonic Band"

UGA senior Julia Reidy, a journalism major from Atlanta, kept a travel journal during the 16-day trip to China with the Redcoats. The following are excerpts.

Wednesday, May 17

I woke up in Beijing today. The foggy images of skyscrapers with Mandarin lettering outside my dingy window tell me that, for the first time, I’m in the East. Yesterday (and the day before?) was a gigantic blur, full of layovers and rocky plane landings, maps and whirlwind tours through this new city. We made it to China.

. . .The storefronts and billboards are explosions of color. Big gaudy ads and print are commonplace. Modern shops are side-by-side with old rundown shacks. The wealth gap seems huge.

Thursday, May 18

The Great Wall was fantastic. After struggling through some dehydration I made it to the top of the left-hand side, supposedly the more difficult side. From there I could see the stairs winding down to the valley below . . . The wall seemed to teeter dangerously there on the mountain ridges.

. . . Through the dusty air and exhaustion, the overwhelming sense of vastness and, well, distance came through. It was distance in both the physical and chronological realms. While restored recently, these steps and stones stretch as far as the eye can see and thousands of years backward in time, to an era when our culture was merely fledgling, if existent at all. It makes you feel small, as most really great things do.

This morning we met the Kunming Police Band and played for each other. All the formal pleasantries were exchanged. I loved the musicians. The way they chatted to each other reminded me of the way we are. I guess musicians are the same all over. They’re just like us . . .

This is the most foreign I’ve ever felt in my life . . . Our interpreters, mostly students from local universities, have been priceless. That, and they’re lovely people, rich with enthusiasm and thirsty for knowledge. This is more of an actual cultural exchange than I ever expected.

Friday, May 19

“Welcome American Red Flowery Road Symphonic Band to Darenghe Restaurant,” reads a banner outside a lunch restaurant.

The first performance was awesome. People were very enthusiastic, but especially because of our size and when we played songs they knew. Floodlighting made yard lines absolutely invisible, so really sketchy sets. But excitement was high and we were so proud to have done as well as we did in that situation.

Saturday, May 20

We just ate at the most adventurous restaurant so far. There was chicken soup that had the rooster head floating in it. Someone pulled it out in the ladle and a girl at our table screamed. The wait staff seemed bewildered by us. . .

I keep being afraid we’re insulting people wherever we go. The finishing touch on our meal was the platter of fried caterpillars they brought out. Everyone at the table except myself and Kat Wood tried them. That’s not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, May 24

We’ve gone from four-star hotels to ones that seem bad enough to be zero stars, from smog to sun, from warmth of reception to no reception at all. The first performance may have had a lukewarm audience but the second one (in Chengdu on Sunday night) more than made up for it. There was such energy. The children around the stadium smiled and waved. We took pictures with absolutely everyone. . . It was the first time I felt like a celebrity.

Thursday, May 25

I find myself missing home. I actually smiled when I saw that the airport toilets in Xiamen were western-style. . .

The staring does begin to infringe on your comfort in public places. The stare is unflinching. They’ll look as they walk by, turn their heads. Once they pass, they’ll turn and look one maybe two more times. In the Chinese culture, it’s not rude to stare and many of the people here rarely see people who don’t appear Asian.

Friday, May 26

The cabs here are kelly green. The huge billboard ads are for things like Adidas shoes and huge new suburban upper-class housing. There are pockets of affluence but they can sometimes be well disguised by the grime. . .

The pets here are fantastic. The one dog we saw as we were walking down the street made us stop and stare. A woman was holding it and she laughed at us as we smiled. He was the fuzziest of the long-haired, dragon-mouthed small dogs we’d seen so far. They’re everywhere in all their cuteness and their mouths pull back at the edges, making it seem like they’re smiling.

Monday, May 29
On the way home

We all packed up and left in our different groups, some early, some late. We were a later group. We left Shanghai in the evening stopping in Chicago . . . We had a delay in Chicago because of weather so we went to eat at the Chili’s in the airport. There, we ran into Redcoats, friends of ours from a much earlier flight. . .

One of the things that struck me the most was how we set up camp in a corner of each airport, in Kunming or Chengdu, the same way we would at the buses at an away game in Tennessee.

Even though I was tired and had been traveling for what felt like forever; even though I was sick of some of the people around me, in that Chili’s in Chicago, it hit me what we’d done. Suddenly there was nowhere else I’d rather be.

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photos by Dot Paul (M '97)

Click on image to enlarge

UGA senior Julia Reidy

Redcoats pose for a picture alongside the Huangpu River in Shanghai. From left to right: Steven Bunker, Emily Gauld, Allie Chambers, Cayla Bellamy, Matthew Boyle and Sarah Stout.

Flagline member Melanie Erwin (left) and band member Heather Owens chat as meats, vegetables and an array of spices cook in hot broth on the table before them. The Chinese hot pot is a communal soup for the table.

Chinese dancers perform a festive tradition called a Dragon Dance during a tea ceremony in Kunming.

The Pearl TV tower dominates the Shanghai skyline.