The following is a report from the road as John Doan begins his 2014 concert tour of China.
When leaving the Seattle airport to China the concert tour began to seem so real and no longer an idea. The line for the plane was filled with Chinese people speaking to each other in Mandarin. The silence surrounding my host family Hougquan, Li, Yilin and Guo Guo was lifting as we were beginning to enter their world.
The plane was literally shoulder-to-shoulder with people except for first class that was sparsely occupied. People had money enough for air travel but these are a practical people use to long lines and enduring inconvenience. During the flight Chinese faces were aglow from individual screens watching a marathon of movies both in Chinese and Hollywood ones with English subtitles.
After each movie I checked the flight map to see our route up north into the arctic arcing over Alaska and Siberia and down across frigid expanses of barren snow covered mountains and remote ice covered lakes and waterways. This impassible region still defined the old barriers of place and people prohibiting any to pass through on ground or boat especially this time of year yet we leisurely passed above it all at 40,000 ft. and at -70 below freezing!
We landed in Beijing at a modern airport amongst the glow of lite streets, freeways and buildings as far as the eye could see through the man made fog that clung to the ground. Deplaning onto the tarmac we were confronted by the reality of the December cold causing all to bundle up as we walked fifty yards to an incredibly long and wide bus that transported us to another terminal in the airport.
Without the roar of the Rolls Royce engines of our plane I could hear the music of Mandarin spoken from every direction. Passing through Customs was simple and efficient but the security crew we next encountered was beyond diligent as they opened and or went through and emptied our carry-ons, removed offending electrical cords and suspicious additional tuners, strings, and nail files from my harp guitar cases. They then passed everything again through the X-ray machine without regard for all the crowds of people waiting in line.
In their defense, I imagine most people do not carry two harp guitars, computers and tools for changing strings. They politely held onto my combination pliers and screw driver and had my host fill out a form so that it could be returned to me when I left the country. It was not clear where I would go to retrieve it or how long it would take to actually locate this small and inexpensive item.
The flight to Xi’an was in the same plane we had arrived in. It was only two hours in length that for me was two hours of sleep. I did not know that our small group positioned at the back of the plane was to deplane first and Lin’s father Hongquan with authority shouted to the crowd in front of him and across to my isle for people to let us pass. This being all in Chinese I was completely in disbelief how I was to pass down a narrow corridor solidly packed with Chinese but somehow they all managed to step aside.
Once we got our bags we were met by five or more reporters bearing huge arrangements of flowers and endearing smiles.
Armed with cameras and video equipment they proceeded to ask my interpreter Lin various questions to pose to me. “Of all the concerts I will be giving which I am looking most forward to?” “What are my plans in Xi’an and will I be sightseeing and what am I most excited to see?” etc.
I was a rock star with cameras clicking with my own personal interpreter pronouncing in Chinese my brief and fleeting responses to an eager and awaiting assembly.
Although they asked me questions to know me better I also was full of questions about who these remarkable people were. Perhaps in the next few weeks I will get to know them better through what I see and what I hear during my visit. I am hopeful that much new music will come to me to reveal a small glimpse into the heart and soul of China.