Our fabulous group of 14 dancers and musicians arrived in Beijing, China, on May 10 after a grueling 22 hours of travel, then we stayed in a nice Western-style hotel overnight before making the final leg of the journey by air to Dali City in Yunnan Province. There we were met by a smiling and friendly Yuqi Zhao, education coordinator at the Linden Centre, who had arranged a comfy motor coach to the small town of Xizhou, where we will be spending the first five days of our tour. We first passed by the huge Ear Lake (seventh-largest in China!), intensive development and building of high-rises in Dali City contrasted by small businesses fronting right on the busy roads. The driver showed off his skill at threading the needle through road construction, minivans, bicycles, pedestrians carrying loads and on their way to work in the small fields that lined the road. I was surprised to see so much corn, less surprised at the rice, garlic, onions, and cabbage, and rejoiced at the fields of yellow and purple flowers. The mountain range rising up from the broad valley reminded me Lee County, Virginia!
We are staying at the Linden Commons section of the Linden Centre, quite a luxurious hotel (and more) housed in historic buildings. The staff are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and gracious. The food is abundant and delicious, with 8 or 9 different dishes served at each meal. After a short rest to try and dispel some jet lag, we got a tour of Xizhou town and even performed at the Linden Centre for their guests, in a stone courtyard in front of a statue of the Buddha. This town is gorgeous and so full of history, being on the Tea Road and with so many nationalities with their own distinctive customs as well as sharing Chinese identity. The feel of the place is so cozy and full of tradition, beauty, history and community, while it is obvious that many people live a very hard life. The friendly people we would so like to communicate with, their tie-dye cloth, tiny tea shops, traditional architecture, and the little horse carts that carry people through town have all captivated us.
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