Sunday, June 8, 2008

China Day 09: Little Old Lady Variety Show

On the way back from the market, Tom told us that today is the day his son takes his entrance exams for college. I hope he did well!

During the school year, Grand Circle usually takes its guests to a school, but as of a couple of days ago school is out for the summer. As an alternative cultural destination, today we get to visit a local Senior Center.
This is a pretty mod looking building, I think. It serves a large number of people, mostly retired women, in apartments like these
across the street and around the block.
They were ready for us by the time we arrived for the second time, so we went in and climbed up to the visitor-entertaining room on the second floor. Tom introduced us to Madame Wu:
who is the head of the local Neighborhood Committee. The Neighborhood Committees are the lowest level, semi-informal, of government in China, and (at least according to anecdotal evidence) monitors the daily lives of its citizens very closely indeed; if you are fighting with your husband, the head of the Neighborhood Committee is likely to show up and try to talk you out of leaving him, and so on. Kind of like the stereotype of ladies peeping out from behind lace curtains in a random small town - they know all, see all, and gossip about all - but with official status and the ability to get you in big trouble if you show up pregnant for the second time. Anyhow, Madame Wu certainly gave us the impression of a forceful personality.

At this neighborhood center, the retirees have classes in dancing, singing, crafts, sewing and many other skills, and they put on a bit of a variety show for us. The first was a dance act:
which was followed by what I called the "Little Old Lady Fashion Show":
These gals took to the runway - or at least the path around the center of the room - bowing,
smiling, waving
and swaying to the runway music. The impressive thing was that they had all sewn their own gowns, sometimes in the traditional cheong-sam style,
and sometimes in a more Western style.
This adorable granny is my favorite:
I think they said she is 85 years old.

The last act was choral singing. The ladies gathered and all sang us a rendition of "The More We Get Together, The Happier We'll Be". This video:

was taken by a GCT traveler a couple of years ago; it is the same group of gals, though! We had been primed by Fred: we reciprocated with a dirge-like rendition of "You Are My Sunshine". I never realized how funereal that song sounds if you do it slowly enough, and with poor enough breath control!

We then had free time to browse the merchandise for sale "for the benefit of the Senior Center". I found this:
for my "Things I Didn't Get For My Buddy Robert" collection. I bought some chopsticks for Susan at work instead.

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