May 27, 2008

POSTCARD: Playing in the Park

My friend Camille shares my addiction for travel and she's been EVERYWHERE. Here's a bit that she sent me from China--her one last fling before flinging herself off to the emerald city that is Dubai.

On my way to the Temple of Heaven, I was distracted for more than two hours watching individuals and groups engage in various forms of exercise, music, and merriment. Two separate groups of 30 to 50 couples were waltzing, and more than 75 women danced with fans. I saw groups balancing balls on racquets while walking, swaying, and turning around; walkers with ski poles; a group stretching dramatically to an elevator music rendition of Edelweiss, and young people riverdancing to trance music.

I heard loud cracking and realized it was a group of men cracking whips. One man motioned for me to try it, so I grabbed the whip and they all took a step back. A group of old men laughed together as they flew colorful kites. (Have you ever seen anyone over 60 flying a kite in the US?) Following a loud whirring noise, I found about 15 middle-aged men balancing and moving large tops on strings. The most accomplished twirler moved the top across his legs, over his head, and jumped jauntily over the top as it swung under his legs.

Next I discovered the musical section of the park. A harmonica band played while one woman danced; several choirs sang; and a group of about 80 people clapped rhythmically and chanted. The most entertaining sight was an old man with one tooth, a Santa Claus hat, and a frilly apron, lip-synching the high-pitched female part of a Peking opera while batting his eyelashes. Even the Chinese were gathered around laughing at the spectacle.

-Camille Heaton
Photo by Camille Heaton

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