Special Announcement: New Babies!

The Harvard Din and Tonics are beyond excited to announce a very special event: the birth of an unprecedented eight baby Dins this past Saturday!

These gentlemen will be singing with us for the 2016-2017 academic year. Their numbers and names are as follows, from left to right in the picture above:

#239 Patrick Moran
#240 Brian Rolincik
#241 Michael Giles
#242 Peter Chang
#243 Mason Sands
#244 Kevin Kearns
#245 Sam Rosner
#246 Austin Lentsch

Over the previous week these babies braved nerve-wracking solo auditions, fast-paced group repertoire performances, and even fire alarms to earn themselves highly coveted spots in the Dins. We can honestly say that each one deserved it just as much as the others.

Here's to a wonderful year ahead with these great singers and all-around class acts!

Signing off,

Ethan Craigo #237

Stops #14 and #15: Sydney and San Francisco/Fallen Leaf Lake

Sydney

After waving goodbye to Ethan and Lee in Singapore, the Dins arrived at the airport in Sydney, to a warm greeting from all of our homestays.  Most of us spent the afternoon sleeping off the redeye, after which we reconvened at Ted Blamey’s house for a delicious potluck dinner and, of course, more singing.  To our surprise, we weren’t the only performers of the evening, as our newfound friend Blake performed a wonderful musical theatre number and Ted himself recited the Cinderella story entirely in a variant of Pig Latin.

It was off to Waverly College (a high school for boys) for a performance and workshop the next morning, as we celebrated our final early call time of tour!  After giving our performance, we spent some time warming up and studying an excerpt from Sydney’s arrangement of “The Very Thought of You” with the boys.  Following a delicious lunch from the school, the energetic and well-uniformed students gave us a very detailed tour, which culminated in some wonderful views of the city from the rooftop.  The Dins then broke off into smaller groups, spending the afternoon exploring Bondi Beach, visiting Harvard friends, and shopping in downtown Sydney.  In the evening, several Dins joined Ted at a reception for the Harvard Club of Australia, at which we had the pleasure of meeting several newly admitted students.  To finish off the night, several Dins relived their childhoods at a screening of Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory.

The next day was free until the evening, and after a hearty sleep, the Dins were ready to tackle the city.  In a day full of art, Danny and I explored the Contemporary Art Museum:

Danny basking in the glow of modern art

Danny basking in the glow of modern art

before reconvening with the other Dins at the Art Gallery of New South Wales:

The Dins outside the gallery

The Dins outside the gallery

We explored the galleries for a while, then began preparing for our performance there in the evening for the gallery’s “Art After Hours” event.  After narrowly escaping disaster in the form of a forgotten dress shirt, the performance went off without a hitch, and the Dins met up with some friends from the good ol’ USA for a night on the town.

The next morning, after a beautiful lunch on the Harbor, several Dins were lucky enough to catch a performance of Stravinsky’s famous Rite of Spring by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Opera House!

Danny, Jacques, and Billy at the Opera House

Danny, Jacques, and Billy at the Opera House

Dins continued to explore the city, finding koalas and new friends at the Sydney zoo.  A few of us even managed to sneak in a trip on the ferry to the beautiful Manly Beach:

Taking in the ocean breeze

Taking in the ocean breeze

before returning to the Foundry 616 jazz club for our final performance in Sydney.  Ted Blamey topped off his perfect attendance record at our shows by making an appearance with several friends.  The next morning, we began our long (but eagerly awaited) journey to the USA and to the wonderful Barber family!

Billy Cox #230

 

San Francisco and Fallen Leaf Lake

Another day, another redeye!  The Dins arrived at SFO airport to a warm welcome from not only Mr. and Mrs. Barber, but also one of our favorite Din alums, Vibav Mouli, who joined us to celebrate our final weekend of tour. After kissing the sweet American soil and making a pit stop to take in the beautiful San Francisco Bay, we proceeded to the Barbers’ wonderful home in Orinda to prepare for an evening get-together and performance.  There we enjoyed food from a delicious taco truck and reconnected with Lee, serenading the local Din alumni, friends, and family in attendance.  Always ready for more travel, the Dins decided to pack their bags and make the drive out to the Barbers’ summer home in South Lake Tahoe later that night, arriving at the shore of Fallen Leaf Lake in the wee hours of the morning.

There could not have been a better place to spend our final few days than Fallen Leaf Lake.  We want to thank the Barber family for several delicious meals and wonderful hospitality throughout.  The Dins had a blast sleeping under the stars, relaxing, playing cards, and partaking in several amazing aquatic activities, including stand-up paddle boarding:

Danny and Billy stand-up paddle boarding in the lake

Danny and Billy stand-up paddle boarding in the lake

And cliff jumping:

Will posing for the camera in midair

Will posing for the camera in midair

Our second night we gave our very last performance of tour at the general store on the lake to a wonderful audience—we love when everyone knows all of the jazz standards!  After that, it was time to get sentimental, as we all huddled up in blankets on the Barbers’ dock and gave our final toasts to each other, spotting shooting stars all the while.  There could have been no better venue than Fallen Leaf for us to sing our family song, “My Lord, What a Morning,” one last time together.  From Reykjavík to Monaco, Osaka to Sydney, we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who has helped make this tour possible.  Every stop, the hospitality and kindness we receive from our hosts has been unmatched; never have I felt so welcome so far from home.  Stay in touch, everybody!  We hope to be able to see many of you again in two years.

Until then,

Billy Cox #230

 

Editor's Note: To all of you who have followed this blog on our tour, either from the beginning or after a certain stop: thanks for keeping up with us! Writing posts and finding pictures on our downtime wasn't always easy while we were still touring, but it has created a record of an amazing experience that we will be able to cherish for many years to come. We hope that you've enjoyed the stories we've had for you, and that this tradition can continue for more tours in the future.

It's been a great ride. I'll let our Reykjavík friend Svavar Knútur play us out with the unofficial anthem of Tour 2016:

Signing off,

Ethan Craigo #237

Stop #13: Singapore

Greetings from Singapore!

Singapore was one of our longest and busiest stops yet, offering a wealth of rewarding opportunities.  The Republic of Singapore is the world's only island city-state, and is poised as a unique financial and commercial hub in Southeast Asia.  Walking through the Changi airport and driving through Central Singapore, we witnessed what a masterpiece of infrastructure and urban planning Singapore is.  We checked into the beautiful five-star Pan Pacific hotel in the heart of Marina Bay on July 24th, and we couldn't have dreamt of a better location and accommodation!  In the evening, we were welcomed by our tour contacts with a dinner at Tony Roma's, whose American barbecue cuisine felt quite nostalgic after spending almost a month in Asia. At this dinner we met Ms. Denise Phua and Mrs. Ng Sock Kian, who were to help us greatly with our performances over the week. Denise is mayor of Central Singapore, the main commercial section of the country.

A panorama of Marina Bay and the main commercial district of Singapore

A panorama of Marina Bay and the main commercial district of Singapore

The following morning, we performed at St. Andrew's Junior College, kicking off our week that featured many school performances in Singapore. We were incredibly energized by the enthusiastic reception from the students, who would continuously delight us with sunny welcomes and avid curiosity.  That afternoon, we produced a promotional video for a benefit event on Saturday run by Pathlight school called "A Very Special Walk".  The event fundraised to support children with autism, and was a goal we spent the week working towards.  We chose the song "Stand by Me" as it relates so well to the theme of dedicating ourselves to the needs of the autistic community, and sticking with them as they seek meaningful lives into adulthood.   Adopting a fun "flash mob" style approach, we chose to spontaneously sing in the trains and stations of Centra Singapore alongside children from the Pathlight school.   Combining music with a powerful message in this way was one of the most meaningful experiences of our tour, and Singapore would have many experiences like this in store for us to come!  The video was shared by the wife of the prime minister of Singapore, and posts sharing it eventually garnered hundreds of thousands of views.  You can watch the video at the link below!  

Tuesday was quite packed, as we were up early to perform at Victoria Junior College, and also performed for Anderson Junior College before the early afternoon was finished!  In the evening, we performed in various areas of the Pan Pacific hotel.   The Pan Pacific club lounge, the Atrium Bar, and the buffet restaurant called "The Edge" each provided beautiful and intimate performance venues for us to serenade the guests of the hotel.   With that, perhaps our busiest day of our summer tour was complete, and we were rewarded with a free morning and afternoon the following day to rest and sight-see.  

Dins performing, while a number of junior college students watch on

Dins performing, while a number of junior college students watch on

On Wednesday evening, we were treated to a dinner at the Baskerville household, where we sang a few short sets among the company of family and friends.  The Dins would like to extend a special thanks to the Baskerville family for graciously offering their organizational and outreach efforts that made our stop so special!

On Thursday morning and afternoon, we visited the Pathlight school, and received a wonderful presentation by Denise on the development of the school and the challenges it faces.  The special-needs school aims to the unique needs of the autistic community while trying to remain competitive with academic standards at large.  Moreover, the school offers special vocational training opportunities, holding ties to Autism Resource Center (ARC), which is a not-of-profit organization founded by professional and parent volunteers dedicated to serving children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). That night, we had what was to be our biggest performance in Singapore – a very well put-together concert hosted by the Central Singapore Community Development Council at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub mall. We had gigantic LCD screens and walls with our logo behind us as well as a sizable crowd watching on as we ran through our set. The council had even set up an Instagram hashtag for us, #dinscentralsg, to publicize the concert, which was very cool. We felt a little bit starstruck to be on the stage that night.

The stage set up for our very large gig at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub (a few seats filled up after this, we swear!)

The stage set up for our very large gig at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub (a few seats filled up after this, we swear!)

Posing slightly off-stage with Denise at the mall gig

Posing slightly off-stage with Denise at the mall gig

Friday morning provided our last school performance at the Raffles Institution, one of Singapore's finest junior colleges. In fact, one of our group's alumni, Kai Huang #213, attended this school! After a short photo shoot for a Singaporean magazine in front of a school building, we went on stage and once more gave it our all.

Forming our infamous "McDonalds Girl" arch at one of our junior college performances

Forming our infamous "McDonalds Girl" arch at one of our junior college performances

After a short relaxation break back at the hotel, we traveled to the Chijmes building complex for another Central Singapore-organized concert, this time more of a corporate event. We had an excellent dinner at one of the restaurants in the complex before performing in the central building, which was formerly a Catholic church. The acoustics were excellent, which made the gig all the more special to us. This was our last gig with Lee, so we made sure to sing our family song "My Lord, What a Morning" as an encore. We rarely perform the song live – only on special occasions – but we felt the generosity that we had been shown over the week by Denise and her organizations warranted its inclusion.

At the end of the concert at Chijmes, there was a brief ceremony in which we were all presented with stylized giraffe stuffed animals for our work over the week. The giraffe suggests the quality of "sticking one's neck out for others" so to speak, to echo the themes of our charity work with Pathlight.

A picture of our beautiful venue at Chijmes

A picture of our beautiful venue at Chijmes

On Saturday, we saw the efforts of our week culminate in the fundraising carnival open to the public at the Enabling Village.  The turnout to the event was wonderful, and the weather was lovely!  We opened by singing two songs, Stand by Me and The Bare Necessities, with students from the Pathlight school.  We sung a few sets throughout the day, and enjoyed interacting the kids, and raising awareness for an amazing cause.

A nice appearance in a prominent Singaporean newspaper, for which we were interviewed on Saturday

A nice appearance in a prominent Singaporean newspaper, for which we were interviewed on Saturday

A particularly fun highlight came from participating in the dunk tank booth.  Some even took a dip in tails!

A few wet Dins captured shortly after being dunked

A few wet Dins captured shortly after being dunked

The Dins enjoyed a relaxed day before leaving Singapore on the night of July 31st, but not without taking wit us some of the inspiration and impactful spirit of the great cases that we encountered.  The incredible charitable events and programs we witnessed were driven by intense empathy and selflessness.  For this dedication, we especially thank Ms. Denise Phua, Mrs. Ng Sock Kian, the staff of the Pathlight School, and the prime minister and his wife.  Our hearts are full as we travel on.

Onward to Sydney! 

#234 Sydney Mukasa 

Stop #12: Bangkok

Beautiful architecture at the temple of Wat Pho near the Royal Palace in Bangkok

Beautiful architecture at the temple of Wat Pho near the Royal Palace in Bangkok

Greetings from Bangkok, Thailand, the home of beautiful temples, reckless tuk-tuks, and most importantly, Pinky Tailor. We arrived very early Thursday morning on the first flight from Hong Kong (thanks to our wonderful business manager who also happens to be writing this post), and upon arrival headed straight to legendary Pinky Tailor for our traditional suit fitting and shopping spree. As Pinky himself would explain to us while carefully taking each and every one of our measurements…twice…the Dins have been going to his shop for over 10 years. Each year we show up in full force, wide-eyed like kids in a candy store as we head to the third floor to search through hundreds of fabrics and linings, and each year we leave with the sleekest and finest looking suits we could possibly ask for (and at a great price too…for all you parents reading, don’t worry – we haven’t completely maxed out our credit cards just yet). We returned that evening to the Sukosol hotel for whom we would be performing for over the next few days, and where we would call home during our time in Thailand. From its gorgeous pool to its endless buffets the Sukosol was the sanctuary the Dins needed after a busy stop in Hong Kong and before an even busier one in Singapore.

The exterior of Mahatun Plaza, where the legendary Pinky Tailor is located

The exterior of Mahatun Plaza, where the legendary Pinky Tailor is located

It was not long before our resident foodie, Lee Seligman, had us out and about in search for food, and we came to one of the most delicious street Pad Thai restaurants in all of Bangkok called Thip Samai. The line was down the street, winding around ten or more chefs, each frying shrimp or artfully making a fried egg thin enough to engulf an entire helping of Pad Thai. The freshly squeezed orange juice paired well with our main course, of which we each had two, and we joyfully returned to the Sukosol to get ready for our full day of singing and sightseeing to come. 

Everett and Leon chowing down on the "Superb Pad Thai" at the fantastic Thip Samai restaurant

Everett and Leon chowing down on the "Superb Pad Thai" at the fantastic Thip Samai restaurant

Our first performance of the day began bright and early as we traveled down the street to Sri Ayutthaya School to perform for the students, and get our first taste of “fame” as many of the Dins were swarmed by students after the performance to chat and take pictures. We returned to the hotel to the best surprise of them all…CLEAN TAILS!!! Yes, you heard me right…The Din & Tonics would once again smell fresh and clean for the first time since…well you probably don’t want to know. We split from there, with many Dins heading into the heart of Bangkok to test their bartering skills at the markets and eat more savory food. We ended the night with a performance in a banquet hall of the hotel. It was a great success and a chance to officially unveil our brand new album “The Dark Side of the Lime.” 

On-stage in casual gear at the Sri Ayutthaya school

On-stage in casual gear at the Sri Ayutthaya school

Saturday was our last full day in Bangkok and was filled with return trips to markets, more delicious food, river boat rides, temples, and of course, more singing. The Sukosol’s boutique hotel is called the Siam. It has to be one of the most spectacular hotels I have ever seen, and served a perfect venue for our final performance in Bangkok. With only 39 rooms it is an intimate setting, but that did not stop the Dins from putting on a great show for our audience, which included the owner of the hotels and foreign ambassadors. We concluded our brief tour of Bangkok by hitting the town Saturday night. A small group of us went out to Sukhumvit Soi 11, a famous night market and bar street in the city. The beer was good and the people-watching was even better. And with that our stop in Bangkok must come to an end as we gear up for Singapore. So long Bangkok! We will see you again in two years. 

En route to our next stop!

En route to our next stop!

Signing off,

Will Jaroszewicz #228

Stop #11: Hong Kong

Hello from Hong Kong! After a long night of travel and a late arrival, the Dins were thrilled to arrive at the Mini-Hotel in Causeway Bay. There, we enjoyed the comfort and privacy of individual rooms, a luxury not even guaranteed on our beloved campus.

Some hungry Dins getting very excited for their food

Some hungry Dins getting very excited for their food

The next morning, we embarked on what would be our main mission for the week to come: finding the best food and bubble tea in the Causeway Bay area. Divided into two groups - those preferring Asian food, and those looking for a good old steak - the Dins were thrilled to experience the culinary variety and multiculturalism that the city has to offer. In the afternoon, we met with our contacts, Wing and Karina, who would accompany us through the rest of our stay, helping us to navigate the island. Our first performance took place at the beautiful Queen’s Garden, where residents of the complex came to enjoy some food, drinks, and music.

More Dins eating more food

More Dins eating more food

The next day, still led by the wonderful Wing and Karina, the Dins performed at the International Finance Center (IFC) Mall, where passersby halted to enjoy a few of our songs. From there, we took some time to look around Hong Kong’s bustling Central District, before returning to our hotel. There, we started the tradition of sitting in the Mini-Hotel’s lobby to play cards for countless hours.

Dins finding inventive ways to cope with the air conditioning

Dins finding inventive ways to cope with the air conditioning

After a good night of sleep, we headed to the Dragon Center Mall. Clad in everyday clothes, the Dins blended in with the crowd before starting an impromptu pop-up performance in the mall’s food court. As we were singing, we hopped on an escalator, and were followed by a crowd down a few flights of stairs – one of the many perks of using no instruments.

Walking through Stanley Market

Walking through Stanley Market

Later the same day, we headed to another location of the Mini-Hotel, in Stanley, where we would be spending the night. The residents of the Mini Studio in Stanley got to enjoy a lobby performance before Wing and Karina treated us to some delectable dim sum. In sum, some Dins dined on some dim sum.

The Dins in full tourist attire on Stanley's beach

The Dins in full tourist attire on Stanley's beach

Upon waking up in Stanley, we decided to get a whiff of the local air by checking out the local attractions. First, we took a stroll through the streets of Stanley Market. Second, and most importantly, we feasted on some more dim sum. Finally, armed with sunscreen and umbrellas, we braved the scorching sun on Stanley’s beach where the water was barely cool enough to make the temperature bearable! Then came the time to make our way back to the center of Hong Kong, where some of us went to see the city’s skyline brighten up from across the river for the daily musical light show.

"A Symphony of Lights," the Victoria Harbour light show

"A Symphony of Lights," the Victoria Harbour light show

The following day, the Dins completed their tour of the Mini-Hotels in Hong Kong, performing first at our basecamp, the Mini-Hotel Causeway Bay, and later at the Mini-Hotel Central. Sadly, this night was our last one with Wing and Karina, who took us yet again to an amazing restaurant before we parted goodbye.

Matt and Wing taking a graceful goodbye selfie

Matt and Wing taking a graceful goodbye selfie

But the Dins’ experience in Hong Kong wasn’t over quite yet. With two more days to spend in the city, we went to visit some more traditional tourist spots. Some went to see Macau with its casinos and its enchanting Portuguese influence; others went for a scenic experience on the Peak, offering a breathtaking view of Hong Kong. A third group, with clearly better priorities, went to get lunch at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world!

At the top of Victoria Peak

At the top of Victoria Peak

In the evening, the Dins were invited by the Rainbow Foundation at Noah’s Ark, a themed educational amusement park. There we got to share a dinner with children who were part of a program conceived for the underprivileged youth in Hong Kong, organized by the Rainbow Foundation. Its founder, Mrs. Kwok, also joined us. After dancing with the children and getting to know them a little bit, we performed for them, and for children from the Foundation’s basketball training camp. The evening was filled with joy, laughter, and heart-warming moments with the children. Later, we reconvened in the lobby for yet another round of cards; at this point, the staff and residents of the Mini-Hotel would have been surprised not to find us there…

Dins and children dancing at Noah's Ark

Dins and children dancing at Noah's Ark

For our final day in the city, the Dins still on their gastronomical quest went to Sing Heung Yen, a street restaurant specializing in tomato flavored noodles; a unique and delicious cultural mix. Finally, in the evening, we were invited to perform at Bond, where we got to enjoy some refined cuisine alongside Mr. and Mrs. Kwok, as well as their son, Dominic Kwok ’16, recently graduated from Harvard!

Performing on the terrace of the restaurant Bond

Performing on the terrace of the restaurant Bond

And so, stomachs filled and bags packed, the Din train keeps on rolling, Bangkok bound! Stay tuned for more of the Dins’ adventures.

Until then,

Jacques Berguig #233

 

Stop #10: Shanghai and Beijing

Ni hao! The Dins have had a wonderful time visiting Shanghai and Beijing on our tenth stop of World Tour!

One of the many majestic views on offer to tourists in Beijing's Forbidden City

One of the many majestic views on offer to tourists in Beijing's Forbidden City

We arrived in Shanghai in the early afternoon on July 9th, and checked into the Grand Park Jiayou Hotel in the district of Pudong.  We immediately got to work, traveling downtown to a gig at the Jinhua Seafood Restaurant, organized by Din alum Wayne Fu (#129).  After being given an introductory presentation on economics and politics in China, we sang a few short sets at a dinner for students celebrating the end of an internship program in Shanghai.  That night, we went out to a jazz club with Wayne Fu, as well as Din alum Tom Seery (#45), continuing to enjoy the stunning city and the music it has to offer.

Our very cloudy view of Shanghai's skyline from the Bund on our last night in Shanghai

Our very cloudy view of Shanghai's skyline from the Bund on our last night in Shanghai

The next day, we performed a lunch gig organized by Wayne Fu, and were treated to a wonderful meal that included traditional Chinese dishes with very slight touches of Western influence.  In the evening, we performed in the beautiful Shanghai Oriental Arts Center in a public show with a choir from the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS).  Our contact from the choir, Greg Wu, put together a wonderful joint concert arrangement, and we were delighted to be received warmly in such a large venue.  Five Dins in our ensemble were also able to exercise their skills in Mandarin, introducing the group and our repertoire to the delight of the audience.

Performing on the stage of the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, one of our nicest venues so far

Performing on the stage of the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, one of our nicest venues so far

The following afternoon, we would have the pleasure of sharing the stage again with the CEIBS choir at an auditorium in their beautiful campus.  The choir would gift us with very nice long t-shirts with the CEIBS mark and logo that the Dins appreciated very dearly.  The shirts made for a strong visual presence in place of our tails during the second half of the show.

Striking our best boy-band poses in shirts generously given to us by the CEIBS Maple Choir

Striking our best boy-band poses in shirts generously given to us by the CEIBS Maple Choir

Closing the concert with a joint rendition of Seasons of Love from the musical Rent was certainly a highlight!  From there, we unfortunately had to bring our stop in Shanghai to a end, heading to the airport shortly after the concert.

Final images from our joint choir concert held at CEIBS – a real treat for us

Final images from our joint choir concert held at CEIBS – a real treat for us

After waiting through a flight delay, we were met with technical issues that involved landing back in Shanghai after taking off!  Despite these challenges, we were able to arrive in Beijing late into the night, and check into the Beijing Friendship Hotel, still excited for what the next day would bring.

In the morning, we were able to talk one-on-one with students from the Beijing area about the Harvard experience, and the things we believe are keys to a strong college application.  Our activities were managed by an organization called Pu-Xin Education, which works for the academic advancement of students in Beijing.  We were questioned extensively in the afternoon by the staff on the wisdom that we've gathered from our schooling, which gave us the opportunity to reflect on our education, and give our best advice for the very curious students.  Our afternoon interviews were streamed live online, amassing an audience of about 30,000!   We gave an hour-long performance at the Affiliated High School of Peking University, which was also streamed for thousands of viewers, and enjoyed reaching so many people.  The decorations set up for the event were also top-notch and quite life-like.

Re-creating the pic that Pu-Xin education used for our event (we miss you, Aaron and Adam!)

Re-creating the pic that Pu-Xin education used for our event (we miss you, Aaron and Adam!)

At night, we taken out for a fun dinner by Din alum Dillon Powers (#195) who has lived in Beijing for the past few years.  We cooked our own vegetables and meats in hot pots, and explored the exciting variety of sauces and spices at our disposal.  Din stories through the generations were exchanged and, of course, hilarity ensued.

Eating at a wonderful Sichuan-style hot pot restaurant with Dillon in Beijing

Eating at a wonderful Sichuan-style hot pot restaurant with Dillon in Beijing

On July 13th we were able to take a whole day to sight-see! Pu-Xin Education afforded us the opportunity of touring the Forbidden City.  For many of us, including some of the staff leading us on this trip, this visit was a first, and certainly an exciting one!  The Imperial Palace was a stunning reminder of the deep history of Beijing, which we were able learn about from the guides in the Pu-Xin education staff. All too soon, we left in the evening for our flight out of Beijing.

Last but not least, an obligatory Tiananmen Square selfie

Last but not least, an obligatory Tiananmen Square selfie

We extend our sincerest thanks to our main contacts in Shanghai, Wayne Fu and Greg Wu, as well as to Pu-Xin Education for their wonderful work in Beijing.  Stay tuned for our next update on our stop in Hong Kong!

Signing off,
#234 Sydney Mukasa

Stop #9: Japan (Osaka, Tokyo, Choshi)

A view of the busy walking streets of Kyoto

A view of the busy walking streets of Kyoto

Greetings from Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun! The Dins have just completed their ninth tour stop here, and though it’s been long and often packed with gigs it’s been one of our favorite stops so far. While here, we have stayed in Osaka, Tokyo, and Choshi. Tokyo is of course Japan’s largest city and Osaka is the second largest in the country, while Choshi is a smaller fishing town on the eastern coast of the country.

Something worth mentioning before I continue onward is that with this stop we have officially picked up another member, Lee Seligman #203! Lee got his undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2013 and is an active and beloved alumnus of the Dins. He will be singing with us for all remaining stops of the tour except for Sydney. Lee grew up speaking both Japanese and English and has lived independently in Japan for some years, so he was invaluable to us in this country. Over the past week he’s covered everything from MCing our events in Japanese to interfacing with our longtime contacts and even taking us sightseeing to his favorite spots, so an immense thank-you goes out to him.

Dins at a fantastic southern-style ramen eatery on our first night in Osaka

Dins at a fantastic southern-style ramen eatery on our first night in Osaka

We arrived in Osaka from our few days of “free time” on July 1st, most of us still very jet-lagged from the seven time zones that we crossed on our flights over from Europe. While on free time, we had split up in places ranging from St. Tropez all the way to Seoul, and so we all had interesting stories to tell each other after meeting up again. Our first night in Osaka was fairly relaxed. We lugged baggage to our resting places, either at the Osaka Castle Hotel or Lee’s house in the city, and then went to one of Lee’s favorite ramen spots at a covered market in the city for a nice dinner.

Exploring Kiyomizu-dera, a famous Buddhist temple, on a mountain in Kyoto

Exploring Kiyomizu-dera, a famous Buddhist temple, on a mountain in Kyoto

The next few days were packed with activities. On July 2nd we had a morning gig at a senior center in Hirakata, after which we were invited to take part in a delightful Japanese tea ceremony steeped in tradition. For the afternoon, we took a train to nearby Kyoto, often described as Japan’s cultural capital and home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. We were fascinated by the artistry and attention to detail within these cultural centers, and were quite glad to take in a traditional side of Japan alongside the more modern parts of the country.

Neat views of Osaka en route to a gig

Neat views of Osaka en route to a gig

July 3rd and 4th were our two busiest days in Japan, both packed with two gigs each. On the 3rd we had a morning gig at Uchida Youkou hall, in which we had a lot of time to interact with students from Doushisha Women’s University in Osaka. During this gig, we sang a popular Japanese song called Hana wa Saku (“Flowers Will Bloom”) with the whole audience for a video that was later uploaded to YouTube:

This was one of the first gigs in which we got to experience the very enthusiastic crowds often found at our concerts throughout Asia. I personally had never signed so many autographs or taken so many pictures with people in my entire life, and it was a total pleasure to know that we were bringing happiness to our audience despite the language barrier. That night we had a performance at a restaurant called Cafe de la Paix, to similar effect.

At Osaka International University, visiting a tree planted with the Dins on our last tour in 2014

At Osaka International University, visiting a tree planted with the Dins on our last tour in 2014

The next day we traveled to Osaka International University. Here we participated in numerous activities with students studying English, including some question-and-answer periods and a short performance. After lunch we headed to Kwansei University in the outskirts of Osaka, where we performed in a chapel. During this concert we sang “Hana wa Saku” again, this time with students from the school’s widely acclaimed glee club. The students in this glee club were great sports, and after the concert we ate dinner and conversed together, occasionally singing some songs for each other. We were delighted by the students’ powerful voices, and agreed that it was no wonder that they were ranked the best in all of Japan. Though these two days were tiring, it was precisely this kind of camaraderie that got us through them.

Dining on the top floor of a hotel in Osaka

Dining on the top floor of a hotel in Osaka

None of this is to say that we didn’t get some downtime during all this, though. On the night of July 3rd we had a delicious dinner with Lee’s family on the top floor of a nice Osaka hotel, and afterwards relaxed in the hotel’s naturally heated hot spring bathhouse. The next night we had our own little Fourth of July celebration at a jazz club called Misty in one of Osaka’s busiest bar districts. The president of Osaka International University, whose birthday it was that day, treated us to drinks and karaoke with a live band. We performed a few songs and made sure to sneak in a performance of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Heading to Toudaiji Temple in Nara and seeing many deer along the way

Heading to Toudaiji Temple in Nara and seeing many deer along the way

On July 5th we had our only completely free day in Japan, during which some of us stayed back to explore Osaka and others went to Nara with Lee. In Nara, known far and wide for its docile wild deer and temples, we first took a tour of a pristine garden that had been preserved for centuries. We explored the ruins of a building that had been in the garden more than a thousand years ago, and then had another tea ceremony in a tea house that had been standing since the 1600s. This type of serene experience in a carefully sculpted natural environment was what I was most eagerly anticipating upon coming to Japan, and it did not disappoint. Petting some deer along the way, we then ambled over to Toudaiji Temple, known for being the largest completely wooden structure in the world and also for housing a very large Vairocana Buddha made of metal in its center. After admiring the craftsmanship of the Buddha we took a very exclusive tour inside Kasuga Shrine, a noted center for the Shinto religion in Nara. That night, we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo, where we would be spending only a short time.

At a traditional tea ceremony in Nara, a welcome air-conditioned respite from the humidity

At a traditional tea ceremony in Nara, a welcome air-conditioned respite from the humidity

We appreciated the more temperate weather in Tokyo after the occasionally punishing heat and humidity of Osaka and its environs, but we quickly had some business to which to attend. Our one full day in the area was mostly spent performing in nearby Kawagoe – first we had a short concert and question-and-answer session at a local university, and then we traveled to a historic part of the town preserved from the Edo period for a sold-out evening concert in a restored 1800s house. The stage was the hottest we’d been on yet, but we pulled out a pretty good performance nonetheless.

Some very tired Dins in transit

Some very tired Dins in transit

It was only just the next morning that we departed Tokyo for Choshi. As mentioned above, Choshi is much smaller than either Osaka or Tokyo, but the Dins have a strong tradition of performing there that has lasted for over a decade. Right on the eastern coast of Japan, the town’s lighthouse is the first place in the country of Japan to see the sunrise in the New Year. Our visit was managed by Terajima-san, a very kind man who has been overseeing the Dins ever since we first came to Choshi. He enlisted a number of people around the area to help drive us and assist with logistics in our performances throughout the town. We had great accomodations at the Taiyo no Sato hotel, which also had natural hot spring baths on-site of which we eagerly availed ourselves.

A very impressive pagoda at Enpuku-ji temple in Choshi

A very impressive pagoda at Enpuku-ji temple in Choshi

Our days in Choshi were packed with both performances and sightseeing. Some of our visits, in which we connected with some of the town’s most prominent citizens and talked to audiences about our collegiate experiences, underscored our roles as representatives of Harvard and the United States abroad. On Thursday the 7th we performed for the Choshi 1st Junior High School, participating in our third question-and-answer session afterwards. We were pleasantly surprised by the students’ great appreciation of us and were delighted to sing a few songs together with them in Japanese as well. The next day was our major concert in Choshi, located in the town’s major community center and organized in partnership with a local youth choir. We sang a translated version of the Disney classic “It’s a Small World” with this choir, and also sang a Japanese rendition of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie with Terajima-san’s granddaughter Elena. The latter song was especially touching to perform, as Elena has grown up listening to the Dins come to Choshi every two years for her whole life.

Testing out an old military helicopter at the Chiba Institute of Science's marina campus

Testing out an old military helicopter at the Chiba Institute of Science's marina campus

In between gigs we traveled by tour bus to restaurants, shopping malls, Buddhist temples, the Yamasa soy sauce factory, the Chiba Institute of Science, the aforementioned lighthouse, and a beautiful observatory. The sights could leave us exhausted, but as a crash course in Japanese culture we couldn’t have asked for better. I of course can’t speak for everyone, but on Saturday morning when it was time to leave for the next stop, I was left wanting more time in Japan.

Taking in views of Choshi and Chiba on the top platform of the Horizon Observatory

Taking in views of Choshi and Chiba on the top platform of the Horizon Observatory

The number of people who gave us kind assistance with our performances, transportation, and sightseeing in this country is truly too large to be able to name everyone (such is the incredibly respectful nature of Japanese culture), but we would especially like to extend our thanks to Nao-san, Komori-san, Lee and his parents and other relatives, Terajima-san, Jun-san, Miko, Mena, Mieko, and the entire staff of the Taiyo no Sato hotel for their troubles. The Dins have a very busy few weeks in Asia ahead of us, and so we plan to hit the ground running as we fly from Japan into China. Next stop, Shanghai!

Signing off,

Ethan Craigo #237

Stop #8: Monaco

 

Editor's Note: Due to Internet issues we have not been able to publish this post for a few days. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Greetings from Monaco!

A view over the main port of Monaco

A view over the main port of Monaco

The Dins arrived in Monaco on June 24th, and were immediately welcomed by our very own member's (Jacques Berguig) family! We then settled into bed at the beautiful Fairmont Monte Carlo, strategically located on the waterfront as well as the main road that serves as one of the hardest turns during the Grand Prix.

Tired Dins arriving in Monaco from Luxembourg

Tired Dins arriving in Monaco from Luxembourg

During our first full day, the Dins had some relaxing time at the rooftop pool before heading to Jacques' apartment to rehearse. Our first gig was then at the Monte Carlo Bar, where we were served a delicious dinner in endless small courses in exchange for intermittently performing. That night, the Dins then headed to La Rascasse for drinks and a good time with a few of Jacques' high school and family friends.

A very nice Lamborghini parked outside our hotel

A very nice Lamborghini parked outside our hotel

The next morning and early afternoon was just as uneventful, with even more pool lounging! At night, the Dins sang at the famous Café de Paris, which is situated directly in front of the grand Monte Carlo Casino. On our way over, we spotted a black Lamborghini Aventador with a lime green trim—a beautiful car meant for beautiful people, hence why the Dins were not driving it! After the performance, a few Dins gathered aboard the 220' Oasis yacht to celebrate a successful Monaco leg of our trip. (We were invited on board by a few friends that we met at the Fairmont and our various performances.)

Posing at the Monaco Yacht Club

Posing at the Monaco Yacht Club

The following morning, a couple Dins went up to the royal palace to explore and potentially fall in love with Princess Charlotte. Then later in the evening, the Dins sang at the Yacht Club de Monaco, where we had the pleasure of performing for the former Reagan-era Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, on top of other distinguished guests from the Consulate of Monaco in Boston. Our many thanks to Consul General Mrs. Rina Spence for helping us organize this performance.

A few Dins out exploring the what the small country has to offer

A few Dins out exploring the what the small country has to offer

The Dins now have a few days to explore the world in smaller groups before reconvening in Osaka, Japan. Our destinations range from Seoul, South Korea to Saint-Tropez, France, and we look forward to keeping you all updated on our travels through Asia in the coming month! Until then, take care.

Matt Barber #222

Harvard '16, Underwater Basket Weaving

Bikini Bottom, CA