Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Asia Memories 2: The Clarinet & the Long Crotch

Last month I asked readers to enter a competition for a copy of Lonely Planet's Vietnam guidebook, to mark the accumulation of over 1000 followers on my Twitter feed.

Here's the winning entry, Erin Matthews' account of an unforgettably hot day in Tiananmen Square, Beijing:


So you want to hear my most memorable Asian travel experience?

I was playing clarinet with the official Beijing Olympic orchestra and we had a performance on Tiananmen Square.

It was a big deal because we were the first non-Asian performing group to ever play there.

Only problem… it was 40+ degrees and 100% humidity on the day, and musicians were dropping like flies. About 100 of the 1,800 musicians, in fact.

Unfortunately I was one of those flies, and it wasn't pretty.

They put me in an ambulance with about five Chinese nurses and a doctor. They were all screaming at each other over the top of me while I dropped in and out of consciousness. The only comfort I had was one nurse speaking to me in the only English she knew "It's ok, girl. It's ok."

For those of you have never been in a Chinese ambulance, they're… small. I'm not a short person but my ankles marked the end of the bed with my feet flopping over the edge, and my head was resting on a pillow they had put on the table behind the bed. It was small.

We got to the hospital and they settled me into a room with some other Australians. Once I had calmed down a bit I was bombarded by four Chinese nurses. They were all trying to get me out of my spectacular snot-green and red marching pants and shirt (with a cape), in order to get me into a robe.

So then I was settled.

I then had a visit from one of the guys from my band who I hardly knew (I was very new to the band at that point).

His opening statement was... "So the crotch in these pants, right?" It's true that the pants did have an unusually long crotch… but really?

It turned out this guy had had a choice to go with me, the unconscious girl, or another girl with a dislocated thumb. He chose the latter.

This whole scenario became the topic of many mocking conversations later on. The crazy boy talking about the crotch in his pants became my boyfriend, and is now my very best friend.

It made the whole shambles worthwhile. 

[Read the second-placed entry here]