Today is my 32nd birthday. Our final concert of our tour was this afternoon. I’m on the high speed rail train from Kaohsiung to Taipei, Taiwan thinking about the day, and my heart is full.
We just wrapped up three concerts in three cities in three days. We arrived in Taiwan around 11pm on Thursday. Before we left Cambodia that morning, we had the incredible opportunity to tour the temples at Angkor Wat that date back to the 12th century. Our new friend, John (director of American Voices – the team that manages AMA tours), flew in from Thailand to meet up with us, and rearranged our travel arrangements so we could have time to see the temples with him. We started our tour at 6:30am with a private tour guide named Rom (pronounced Rome).
My favorite temple in the massive complex was one that was featured in the film “Tomb Raider.” Unlike the main temple at Angkor Wat, which has been cleaned up and restored, the temple from the film has been consumed by the jungle. There are vines wrapped around the stairs and doorways, monkeys run free around the complex, and 200 year-old trees grow right out of the stone. I felt like Indiana Jones as I explored the eerie ruins. Indiana Memmel?
Our first full day in Taiwan was really special. I looked out my window in the morning and noticed that the neighboring building to our hotel was Taipei 101. Formerly the tallest building in the world, it towers into the clouds and its distinct look, like stacked blocks, really intrigued me. I took about a zillion photos.
Our first event was at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei. The staff told us that they have concerts there because they believe music is so important in the healing process, AND for the well-being of the caregivers. They also told us the crowd was the biggest they’d ever had at an event. Over and over, we have been so touched by the response and receptiveness of the people in Asia towards our band.
That night we played at Da’an Forest Park. Described to me as “the Central Park of Taipei.” The weather was challenging for an outdoor concert, and the organizers apologized over and over (not that it was at all their fault). It was cool and raining cats and dogs, but once again, the audience arrived far in advance, and stayed through the ENTIRE concert. Looking out at the crowd of people holding umbrellas and wearing ponchos, I sang as hard as I could for them.
The final performance of the tour was to a packed, super-enthusiastic house at the Fine Arts Museum in Kaohsiung. After my voice rang out the last song, and the final note of the tour, our awesome friend/interpreter/Taiwan-tour-manager/and travel buddy, Wanda, spoke to the crowd and told them that it was my birthday. She arranged in advance for the saxophonist, Sam Tzu, whom we’d shared the stage with, to play “Happy Birthday” and lead the audience in song. The entire crowd sang to me in the Taiwanese dialect of mandarin… I was so touched. The best birthday gift I’ve ever received. Thank you, Wanda!