Music Together in Beijing

From Friday, March 22nd..

Katie just woke up. She is in her pack and play amusing us with funny sounds and her sweet laugh 🙂 I just want to eat her up in the morning! Yesterday was Mom’s Birthday!! March 21st. I had bought mom a little glass tea pot she had admired in the market the other day and had the Chinese word for Grandmother written on the inside. Cindy had left a card for her and we Skyped with Zane and Cindy and Tyler later in the day for BD singing 🙂

Our only scheduled activity today was to attend a 10am Music Together class. This is the program that I teach in Toronto, it is international so as soon as I knew when we were going to be in Beijing I contacted the centre here to see if we could join in on a class. Chloe and Michelle who run the Micho Education Centre were so sweet, welcoming and accommodating. Mom and I took a cab, to this lovely neighbourhood and the class was in the basement of a gorgeous condo. We met a mom from L.A. with her baby on the way in so she helped us find the room. While we were waiting for them to let us in, we chatted with a few “ex-pat”moms (foreigners living in China for work) and they were completely in shock that we were running around visiting all these tourist sites with the babies!

We had no idea what to expect from Katie once the class started. She had never experienced this kind of group dynamic…and it was her nap time. There were about 12 families, half Chinese, half ex-pat (U.S., France, Germany). Michelle taught the class and Chloe so kindly took videos and photos for me after introducing us and asking permission of the families. We thought this would be a very special opportunity to share this “international” experience with our MT families in Toronto so I was grateful that no one minded. Since Chloe wasn’t teaching or participating with a child, it wasn’t disruptive at all.

I have taught hundreds and hundreds of classes after 10 years of running Making Music Together and sung the names of more children in the Hello Song than I could possibly count. There’s no way to describe the deep comfort and surreal joy of singing “Hello to Katie” as a mom in a circle of moms, with Katie in my lap and see her immediate response and connection. I’m still getting teary about it. Katie has only been with me for 11 days. She does not understand English (all songs were in English), she has never been to this place or seen these people and she has only heard one of the songs before… but the power of making music as a group is universal. I have never seen more proof of that than I did watching her reaction to this class. She responded the same way as the children born and raised in North Toronto. She smiled, she moved her body, she observed carefully, she was very much “with me” during most of it but comfortable to go off and explore a little. She connected with other children (ok, took their instruments 🙂 and was in awe of things she’d never seen like the parachute with balls rolling on top. Mostly, there was pure joy and contentment! I had offered to lead a song so that their families could also experience the “international” nature of the program…that someone from so far away was singing the same songs that they were. So, I led the second song in the class (Sneak and Peek) and Katie was happy on my lap while I did it. The amazing thing is that Katie had never heard that song before and later that afternoon I put on the recording of that collection and when Sneak and Peek came on she laughed like crazy! She also had never heard the Hello song before the class and as soon as it started on the recording she stopped, listened and then started moving her body! Of course I got it on video and will eventually post it on Facebook 😉 The immediate recognition and musical memory was astonishing. This proves to me again, what I always tell our families…that the live, interactive experience is what makes the deep musical impression. Now that Katie had a live experience with these specific songs, they clearly mean something to her. She will of course become the poster child for Making Music Together 🙂

I was so focused on SK for most of the class but tried to also put on my teacher hat and observe the teaching and families. It was such a lovely group and Michelle did a beautiful class. Aside from a few small differences, it’s amazing how consistent the structure and tone of the class was…and I’m totally stealing some of their wonderful, creative ideas. It was exciting for me to lead a song with some families who don’t speak English and experience first hand how they were totally with me and getting the musical “play” and fun of the song….did I mention music is universal? My mom had a great time…she has been to many of my classes so she was totally comfortable and SK kept checking in with her too 🙂 Underlying all the joy, there was also a little current of recognition running through me that what I’ve worked so hard to learn and build at home has been such a huge part of what has brought me to Katie and landed me there here in China in that class.
I cherished every moment of this first class with Katie…I know there will be SO many more classes in our future but this first one, in China, will always be an incredible memory I am so grateful for.

We went out for lunch with Michelle and Chloe to a delicious restaurant and chatted about teaching MT and the challenges of running the business. SK did well at lunch because we found the most awesome, yummy soup for her (vegetable dumpling)! Then she crashed in the carrier while the ladies took us to a convenience store, Jenny Lou’s, that carries a lot of International food. We found avocados!!! If we’d known about this store when we first arrived in Beijing it would have been worth the $4 cab ride to get there and buy a few comfort foods (like peanut butter). We would have been in heaven since food was such a struggle for so long. We bought some more biscuits for SK and 2 avocados then got in a cab back to the hotel.

We had some quiet time and got started on a little packing. Katie had some excellent play time and then had another nap which was great because we were aiming to have a group dinner with everyone since it was our last night. I had a short nap too…so tired.

Sara made arrangements at a fantastic Hot Pot restaurant where they had a private room for us. They bring a whole bunch of different items to the table and you select what you want and put them into a communal pot of boiling broth (half was tomato broth and half was seafood broth). We cooked potatoes, mushrooms, meat (not me of course), greens, tofu….it was different and fun…and tasty. Since it was Mom’s BD that night and Ava’s birthday the next day, Ava’s parents brought a cake. A bear cake. So cute! Sara gave mom a little Cloisinee vase and gave all of the babies traditional Ming dynasty head pieces. How very generous of her! We presented her with gifts from Canada to thank her for being so wonderful through this challenging process. We are so lucky to have her! We toasted to a safe trip home and ate yummy bear cake.

It was a nice night so Mom and I walked a bit farther on our “strip” that we know so well now and bought 2 Chinese lanterns and a fan for Ava’s birthday the next day. Packed until quite late and finally called it a night. Our last sleep in Beijing. Tomorrow we’re on our way home!








6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sydney
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 21:56:10

    Risa it has been a joy to share these past weeks with you, Mum and your new daughter. She is indeed lucky to have found you. much love


  2. Bernie
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 23:23:51

    Wow, what a great story – and happy birthday, Mom!


  3. Genevieve Wolfe
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 01:03:12

    Love love love hearing about MT around the world, and what an extraordinary experience for you, your mom and Katie. So moving. You will never forget it.


  4. lori carolina
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 15:53:29

    Risa, I’ve SO enjoyed reading along on your journey!! I love the details of all that you shared. I’ve laughed and cried, and am just so happy for you and sweet Katie, she seems to be doing so well!!!
    I was in tears when you shared about Skype-ing home with your dad so he could see Katie in your arms:))
    Congratulations to your family!!!!
    Lori Carolina (Oct LID Facebook group)


  5. lori carolina
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 15:54:04

    Oh and the music class ….LOVE!!!!!! What a special time!


  6. Anne Churchill-Smith
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 21:56:28

    I can’t believe you and Katie did MMT together for the first time in China! Such a beautiful account…can’t wait to share this with Leah!


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