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2. Beijing: Day One

Scrambled eggs. Today was a plate of scrambled eggs.

Just a few minutes post landing, we’re scrambling in messy buns and smeared makeup to prep for tonight’s concert. It’s 5am, it’s humid hot, and our concert takes place at Peking Normal University this evening.

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5am-7am: Luggage Struggle
After pushing a toppling cart of luggage through a winding crowd and struggling through customs, my father greets us at the airport and we head for the hotel. By the time we check in, it’s 10am. We grab a quick bite and settle in our rooms.

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11am: (Finally) Practicing
First date with the new cello that I’m borrowing in Beijing. The strings are much higher than I’m used to, so there’s much adjusting to do. Humidity level is crazy high and our strings are crying out in unimaginable pitches, but we get comfy with our pegs and make do within the time crunch.
(Traveling internationally with a cello is a nightmare. Different airports seem to have different policies about oversized luggages and whether or not we need to buy a ticket, and so to avoid miscommunication and heavy fines, we decided to borrow a cello at each city. )

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2pm: Showering, getting dressed
The hotel room is a flurry of hairdryers, clattering heels, and makeup palettes. My mother and sister put a lot of work into designing what to wear pre-concert. This evening, we’re wearing red, green, and blue gowns. We double check that our instruments, music, concert accessories, phones, and camera are packed.

Parents are waving at us to make sure we’re still alive in this heat.

3pm: Head to venue for rehearsal
It’s a long, logistics-dominated car ride, with “WHO HAS THE ROSIN WHO HAS THE ROSIN” and “DID ANYONE BRING THE EXTRA STRINGS” and “DANNA NO COFFEE RIGHT NOW YOU’LL START SHAKING” being thrown around a cramped cab. Not really much room to move or think.

3:30pm: Calm before the storm
Things calm down a bit. We are finally reunited with Niu, who arrived to China a bit earlier than we did. Nerves are high, the hall is spacious, and we’re not really sure what to expect. Since it’s the first concert of the tour, we agree to keep our expectations modest. We run through the pieces, and our fingers are in pretty good shape.

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6:00pm: Dinner, Relax
Niu orders delicious bento boxes for us all. We chat and munch in silence, and my mom reminds us (aka me) not to eat too much.  As the crowd grows, scattered noise travels to the dressing room. We begin to peer through the curtains, and quietly complete our final touches backstage.

7pm: Showtime
As with any firsts, a nerve wrecking but breathtaking experience.

8pm: Pictures
So many fascinating people and conversations to hold post-concert. A melting pot of ideas and interpretations follow. We’re fatigued, but adrenaline remains high from our physical and mental workout. It’s a chance to express our gratitude to our audience through words, and learn more about where they come from.

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9:30pm: Hotel and Chill
There’s a lot to reflect on after our first concert, but we need some space to breathe and think. We head back to the hotel, making notes of things we want to improve, and reflect quietly on the things we learned.


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