Freaked, frazzled and frisked in Beijing

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Freaked, frazzled and frisked in Beijing

We didn’t have anything planned for the second night at an international school drama festival in Beijing. But chance threw us a bone as we got off the bus en route to our homestay.?
Three lads on skateboards and a noodle-delivery bike were pulling stunts at the local park.? My friend Danny and I walked over to watch these guys, who turned out to be pretty decent skateboarders.? After chatting with them, Danny scooted around on one of the skateboards and I opted to do a little extreme noodle-biking before calling it a night.
On the final day of the drama festival, most of the groups (including mine) spent their last few hours together rehearsing for the first time. Lines were frantically memorized and a girl from Shanghai and I clumsily tried to learn a simple Wu Shu routine. The whole theater was a swirl of flags, dragons, swords and screaming teenagers.
When the order of performance was announced, my group groaned because we were chosen to go last.
The first group performed a rendition of a story about a monkey who defeats the king at chess. It didn’t help the nasty feeling in my stomach when I realized that they had executed the whole thing in carefully planned rhyme. On top of that, the kid playing the monkey was an excellent gymnast. Most of the productions, despite a few humorous errors, were quite good. Things were starting to look grim for my group.
We got on stage and performed a story about a governor who solved a mystery by painting fans. While I can’t say we really did justice to the wit of the story, our production did have its moments and came off as one of the more “avant-garde” acts.
Sitting through the awards ceremony was tougher than the three grueling days of practice. The kids from each school had to file up, listen to their names being mispronounced by the announcer, pose for a picture and sit back down.
When the festivities ended, the mood was subdued as we trudged to bed with thoughts of make-up work and tests on our minds. The next misty morning we charged into the airport (charging is a time-honored Seoul Foreign School tradition) only to be stopped by customs officials who suspected that one of our bags had a firearm in it. It turned out to be a shampoo bottle. We miraculously arrived at our gate in time, boarded the plane, took off and took one last look back at China’s capital ― just in time to miss the arrival of SARS.

by Phil Chang
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