Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes.

I was with some friends a few weeks back, and we all decided to read our tarot cards. Believe what you want about tarot — you can believe that the cards truly feed off your energy, or you can believe someone just wrote some universally applicable statements on some cardboard. No matter how you feel, some level of self-reflection is almost unavoidable when reading tarot cards, which I feel is never a bad thing. All I know is I enjoy taking a few minutes to appraise and analyze where I’m at in life.

When it came to my turn, I drew the Death card.

The Death card has a bit of an undeserved bad rap. It seems pretty scary and ominous, but read this description from a tarot site I like:

“In the Tarot, as in reality, Death is nothing more than a transition to the next level of life… Nothing is destroyed, because nothing can be destroyed – there can be only transformation…When the Death card appears, big changes are heading your way. Usually this change refers to something in your lifestyle; an old attitude or perspective is no longer useful and you have to let go of it. Death is not simply destruction; it is destruction followed by renewal. Even though one door may have closed, another is opening. Will you have the courage to step through?”

And wouldn’t you know it… here I am, a few weeks later, and I am appreciating how accurate this card was.

I am someone who has a very hard time dealing with changes and transitioning. I think one of the most important lessons I need to take from this card is that I need to have courage, strength and energy to step through new doors. I have been finding myself asking the universe a lot, “What should I be doing now? What should I be focusing on?” I keep putting off decisions because I’m terrified I’m going to move in the wrong direction. But I am trying to turn that fear into excitement. I am at a point where there are a multitude of paths lying in front of me — I just need to have faith in my instincts that whatever path I choose is the one I’m meant to be on. I need to roll with whatever happens. I’m starting to come to the realization that I waste a lot of time wondering what I should be doing, as opposed to just DOING something. I read in a book once the line, “Understanding is a delaying tactic.” I feel like in my life sometimes I spend too much time and energy analyzing what has happened and trying to understand it, when I could be putting that energy toward dance. Nike got it right — Just do it, Megan.

So I’m just doing it. I finally committed to pursuing a really amazing opportunity that was presented to me. Yesterday, I bought my plane tickets to travel to Sacramento for two weeks in January to study with Amy Sigil of Unmata. I recently posted a review of Amy’s workshop, and to recap, this woman’s approach to choreography and teaching has truly inspired me on a deep level. My mindset going into this trip is that I will be going on an artistic pilgramage (I’m a fusion dancer, so of course California is my mecca!). I want to study with as many teachers in the area as possible while there (Suhaila, Mira Betz, Ariellah, Fat Chance). I feel that right now I’m in a huge transitional phase, and two weeks to focus on what I love, to journal/blog, to contemplate, to plan, to receive inspiration and good energy, and to start to look ahead is exactly what I need.

Back at home, I’m pursuing as many forms of training as possible. I still am taking 6 hours of free ballet and modern dance classes every week through my job at Stephens College, which has been a huge gift from the universe. I have also been studying Odissi (a Indian dance style), which if I had to describe it, I would call it “danced sign language.” Studying the different mudras (hand gestures), what they represent, and how they can be connected together to tell a story has been absolutely fascinating. I just took my first hula hooping workshop this weekend, and I am definitely going to try and attend more regular classes for that, as well. I am always looking for more training and new dance groups to work with.

There are some other really exciting opportunities on the horizon. I performed my latest piece, “Love and Loss in One Act,” at a fundraiser last weekend for Artica, and art festival in St. Louis (visit Artica’s website for more information on the event!). The night was absolutely wonderful — I love meeting new people, and it’s so inspiring to talk with people who are creating really powerful art. I will be performing this 17-minute dance piece again alongside Nichelle Lawrence’s photography show, “Unrequited Love,” at Artica, which will take place on December 19 on the St. Louis riverfront. My piece includes music by Etta James, The Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Keren Ann, Damien Rice, and Janis Joplin (covered by Melissa Etheridge). This piece is one of my tentative forays into what I have been labeling “contemporary belly dance fusion” — a combination of belly dance, modernized interpretations of classic belly dance props like finger cymbals and veils, modern dance, theater, and other contemporary dance styles.

While there has been a lot of excitement, some recent events have unfortunately left me contemplating the more literal interpretation of this card, as well. My grandfather was diagnosed recently with a very rare form of hip cancer — so rare, in fact, that he doesn’t even qualify for any experimental trials. He has undergone chemotherapy, I will be flying with my family to visit him this weekend. I can’t even really say how I feel about it… it’s an odd feeling. I am usually pretty good at understanding and expressing what I’m feeling, but on this issue… I just feel jumbled. I’m trying to focus on the fact that I am very fortunate to have three days to spend with my grandfather, who I do not get to see often since he lives far away.

I am gearing up for more changes in my life, and I am getting ready to put my energy into working toward new goals and exploring new opportunities. On that end, I am no longer dancing with the Dragonflies Dance Company. I, however, will cherish my Moon Belly memories dearly, for through this amazing community I have learned a lot about myself and the strength and power of women — I sincerely thank each and every woman I had the opportunity to train with. If you are in the area, do make a point to see their upcoming show on December 12, 8PM at the Blue Note: “100,000 Feet Deep: Mary Magdalene,” a theatrical/modern/belly dance interpretation of the life of Mary Magdalene. These women have been working exceptionally hard, and it’s amazing to see what this community is creating together. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://www.thebluenote.com.

I’d like to end with another excerpt from the tarot website:

“Take a look at the Rider-Waite version of the Death card, and note the bishop on the right side of the image. He is actually welcoming Death, because he knows of the great spiritual transformation it brings. Almost all versions of the Death card show a symbol of resurrection or re-birth.”

Bring it, Death. I’m ready for change.

Amy Sigil Workshop/Lola van Ella’s Showcase

The past two weekends, I have had a rare opportunity to really indulge in two great, amazing, dance-filled intense weekends. I learned a lot, and I am hugely inspired by the two women who made these events possible: Amy Sigil and Lola van Ella.

AMY SIGIL REVIEW:

I got to take this workshop with three amazing girls that dance at Moon Belly: Emily, Nicole, and Michele. We all agreed that this workshop was one of our favorites of all time. It is true that I have never had a negative review on my website, and I know I can be very complimentary. But I am genuine in my compliments, and I speak the truth when I say that if you have not had the opportunity to study with Unmata or Amy and they are coming to a town nearby, I would highly recommend making a point to go study with her, regardless of whether you are a tribal fusion dancer or not. The workshop was a combination of completely original, innovative choreography; intense, high-energy cardio dance drills designed to help you learn the combinations; dance games to help you think outside the box… but best of all, you are working every second you’re there. There is no time for people to ask long, involved questions and delay the workshop — but that being said, she explains things and breaks things down in such a way that if you are participating, you don’t NEED to ask questions. The Saturday night show was very fun, low-key, and relaxed, which I appreciated since my weekend was absolutely insane (lots of traveling, roaches in the hotel, a lot of sleep-deprived/slap-happy girls all together in one room). Amy and Kari’s performance was so high-energy that I genuinely felt fatigued watching them. Their performance had it all: good choreography, high energy, onstage chemistry, and lots of connection with the audience. I left this weekend with a completely new outlook on how I choreograph, how I teach, and the elements I want to present to my audience as a performer. This workshop is by far one of the best I have ever taken. Much gratitude goes to Lois “Salwa” Marshall and her husband Ken, who made this event happen. Every event I go to of Lois’ is always worth the trip to STL.

LOLA VAN ELLA REVIEW:

I took my good friend Sierra with me to see Lola van Ella and her burlesque showcase. This was my first time seeing a complete burlesque show, and I was beyond impressed by how well Lola had trained her dancers and how diverse the acts were. Lola’s girls each had their own character onstage, and I honestly did not see a girl look embarrassed, uncomfortable, scared, nervous, etc. at ANY point during the show — and some of these girls were performing their first burlesque piece EVER. I was the first set closer, and I had an absolutely wonderful time. The audience was extremely receptive and the venue (Off Broadway in St. Louis) had a great vibe to it (part bar, part speakeasy). Lola graciously let me crash at her place and introduced me to a great diner downtown. We had a great talk about business, marketing, and how to make money doing what you love (the woman revolutionized the burlesque scene in St. Louis and was second runner-up for Queen of Burlesque in New Orleans this year — to say I was thrilled to pick her brain is a bit of an understatement!). I would work again with Lola anytime — she sure knows how to put together a hell of a good show!

Already I am craving more dance opportunities and dance intensive weekends. I have a few things lined up that I hope will work out… more traveling on the horizon, perhaps?

Youtube Video of the Week: Yasmina Ramzy

My troupemate Stephanie posted this video on facebook, and immediately I knew I had to post this for y’all’s viewing pleasure. The past two videos I reviewed were solo performances. But hey, I think all of us at one point have danced in a group or troupe. Therefore, it makes sense to study videos where the group dynamic is powerful and effective in order to glean insights on how to be a better choreographer or troupe member. Without further ado, Yasmina Ramzy and Arabesque Dance Company:

— Costuming. In the “real world,” I work at a college theater department, sewing costumes. One of the golden rules I have heard in theater: Don’t put black costumes on dancers if you are performing in front of a black backdrop. However, as my boyfriend pointed out while watching the video, every time the dancers move, the light reflects off the sheen of the material. The result is a clean line that doesn’t blend in to the background. I feel the simplicity of the costuming helped accentuate the crisp choreography. Way to break the black on black rule and have an effective result!

— Staging. The staging of this piece almost reminded me of modern dance or some of Urban Tribal’s pieces. I think Yasmina Ramzy, the choreographer, used the space well and also used some really innovative formations and staging — level changes, dueling groups, circle formations, a weaving pattern. I also thought having one or two dancers represent different facets of the music was really visually interesting (I’m referencing the first minute or so). Yes, dancing perfectly in unison is impressive and powerful, but I also think highlighting each dancers’ strengths and personal stylization added a lot to this piece. The ONLY critique I had is that a few times, I was unclear what the formation was supposed to me — very few times it seemed like one dancer was standing in front of another, or someone wasn’t QUITE in the right window.

–Strong, graceful technique. The dancers poise and grace complimented their tight technique really well. It was like watching a troupe of Sonias from the Bellydance Superstars dancing. The arms were particularly lovely.

So what can we learn?

1) Be conscious costuming your dancers. Imagine not only what costumes would look like on dancers, but also in the venue you will be performing. After touring with the Bellydance Superstars, another tip I would give is that sheen, glitter, sparkle, etc. works exceptionally well onstage. You’d be amazed how much shimmery/glittery/sparkly elements go into their costuming — even the tribal dancers get glittery! I remember looking at one of Moria’s tribal outfits up close and being astounded by the amount of rhinestones and glittery bits on it. I remember having a revelation — tribal dancers can and do wear rhinestones!

2) Staging. Change up your formations! I get into the two-line formation rut ALL the time. If you watch these dancers, they’re not ALWAYS doing super-complicated belly dance technique. However, it stays visually interesting because they’re changing levels or formation frequently. Our eyes like to watch discernible patterns and big, visible movement — let your audience take a break occasionally from trying to analyze super-internal, complicated hip and torso work.

3) What pushed this piece into the “awesome” category was not the costumes or the staging. What I truly appreciate is that this troupe and choreographer did NOT sacrifice their technique and grace to take risks. We’re belly dancers, ladies and gentlemen. I feel like the most important part of our art is making sure we never sacrifice grace, good form, or solid technique (unless that’s the point of your piece — I once choreographed a dance for my senior project in college that was designed to be un-aesthetically pleasing).

Click here to learn more about Yasmina Ramzy and Arabesque Dance Company.

Blame Canada? I think not.

I’m not going to lie— after seeing Japan, I wasn’t too pumped about traveling to Canada. Why is it that we Americans always talk about Canada like it’s a weird relative that everyone avoids at family gatherings? The dislike is irrational – Canada is not going to get drunk at Christmas, crack lame jokes, nor tell inappropriate stories about your aunt.

We flew from LAX to Vancouver on Thursday and took a bus to the River Rock Casino and hotel. Everything in Vancouver seems to be under construction or planning construction in preparation for the Olympics coming, and the River Rock was no different. Construction or not, it was nice for the first show to be staying in the same building as the theater. Our first two shows were in Richmond and Coquitlam, and both were in casinos. The shows went well – it took me a few tries to get used to Canadian currency instead of yen, but Canadian money is color coded – fives are blue, tens are purple, twenties are green, fifties red – so it’s really intuitive. I found myself thinking, “Why don’t they do this everywhere?” They have two-dollar coins, too, which I like.

We were given quite a bit of money in meal vouchers for our stay at the casinos, and they were not redeemable for cash, so for the first time ever I had room service send me a steak. When in Canada, eh? I felt like a celebrity – all of the room service guys were like, “We really enjoyed the show, Miss Hartmann. Are you enjoying your stay?” like I was a celebrity. I felt guilty and had to sheepishly tell them I wasn’t a star in the show – just the merch girl.

Yesterday I got to do another workshop, this time with Samantha Hasthorpe. I highly, highly recommend taking her workshop if you get the opportunity – her combinations are so original and there is a lot of material that can help if you’re in a choreography rut. I got to meet Martina of Bellyfringe Bellydance, which was really neat since we’ve been friends on tribe for a really long time. So far I have met tribe friends Gabby from the D.C. area and Ashley Bennett and Natalie Brown from Columbia, S.C. whilst touring.

Currently I am on the ferry to Nanaimo with Brian, our sound engineer. It’s a one-and-a-half hour ferry ride to get there, and Brian and I were sent ahead of the girls with the merch and the luggage. The ferry is pretty incredible – it’s huge, and the view is so beautiful. There are restaurants, bathrooms, work stations… it’s like a mini mall on a boat. I am really enjoying Canda – the air feels so clean, and everywhere you look there are tall evergreens and beautiful flowers. We definitely picked a good time to see the Vancouver area.

Even though I have been excited to get to see new places, I am definitely ready to go home and get to work on marketing my dancing and working on some pretty exciting projects back in Columbia. One more show, two more flights, and I’ll be back in Columbia on Wednesday.

Goodbye, Japan… Hello, Canada!

The last show came and went and was less stress than I anticipated, largely because we had already sold 80 percent of what we brought to Japan. That night was uneventful , besides me seeing a building that said “Fucking Garage” (some signs have the most interesting English translations). I came home and crashed.

In the morning, Moria, Cecilia, Nathalie and I dashed to the market to buy some last minute clothes. Moria, power-shopper extraordinaire, ended the morning with armfuls of bags. I came home with only souvenirs and a pair of socks. Oh well, I guess I have to come back to Japan someday. We said goodbye to our Japanese sponsors and began the arduous process of getting 20 people and close to 60 pieces of luggage checked in and ready to fly. Everyone ran around in the airport buying last-minute goodies before boarding two planes – an hour flight from Osaka to Tokyo and the longer flight from Tokyo to LA. It’s amazing to think we’re actual time traveling – we will be arriving in LA an hour or so before we left for the airport in Japan. Crazy stuff. My TV didn’t work on the flight, so I got a voucher for Japan Airlines – another reason to return.

Once we arrived in LA at 11, we went to a hotel near LAX. I got to room with Sabah, which we were really excited about — that is, until the jet lag set in and we both become zombies. I got my Japan pictures developed, and Sabah fell asleep 3 times in a row at the same point in the same House episode (I’m not sure she ever finished it).

This morning, we flew to Vancouver. We’re staying at a casino, and I’m spending the rest of the day trying to get caught up and choreographing. The shows begin tomorrow!

Bullet Train to Osaka

Yesterday was the first day that I really, really enjoyed. I woke up early for breakfast and afterward explored the Japanese garden at the hotel. It was absolutely stunning. There were beautiful flowers, a koi pond, a meditation room, a temple… I felt like I was taken to the heart of Japanese culture. I love that the focus here is on the present. Everywhere I look there are indicators of what’s culturally important: even at this huge hotel they take the time and energy to maintain this huge, beautiful oasis. It is a living, thriving reminder to drink in and cherish the beauty of the present and thank the universe for life.

Since I used up my disposable camera at the gardens, I walked with Sabah to a store and bought another. We each got a free sample of some sort of “energy drink for businessmen” (according to the English on the label, which usually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). Sabah and I got a good laugh about that. Every girl on this tour is a little different and has a different story of how they got here. The thing they all share is a certain energy and dedication that is really inspiring to a younger dancer like myself. Sabah is no different. I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by women who continually encourage me and inspire me. I’m planning to go to Chicago in June to study with Sabah, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Afterwards it was off to the Bullet Train to take us to Osaka. The train can travel up to 120 miles an hour (it’s the second fastest train in the world) and reminded me of really, really comfortable airplane – tons of leg room, reclining seats, and attendants pushing around carts of food. I settled in my seat between Petite Jamilla and Brian, our sound guy, and just looked around, grinning like an idiot. There is nothing like new life experiences to make me unreasonably happy.

Brian had visited fish market in the morning before we left, and he had brought a whole container of sashimi and fresh crab. It was my first sushi in Japan, and it was incredible – there is really no comparison to fish that is only a few hours old. I really wish I had gone with him – Brian compared it to a flea market with fish. He said there were fish larger than a grown man, and men with swords were butchering the fish right out in the open.

After a two-and-a-half hour train ride, we finally arrived in Osaka. The difference between Tokyo and Osaka is like the difference between downtown Chicago and downtown University City in St. Louis – the buildings seem to be less on top of each other here. After Moria, Nathalie, Cecilia and I ate a small lunch in the hotel, Petite Jamilla and I embarked on a quest for authentic sushi — an idea that was hatched (and ,on my end, obsessed over) whilst on the train.

We walked to a street that looked like the lovechild of Las Vegas and Tokyo – tons of casinos, bright flashing lights, and unidentifiable Japanese. One thing I love about Japan is there are vending machines everywhere, just on the side of the street. For a buck twenty you can get these really little cute iced coffees, teas, soda, or water. There aren’t as many signs in English as there were in Tokyo, so we wandered until we saw a giant fish on a sign. Luckily the menu had pictures of everything, so we pointed to what we wanted. We got a sushi roll with tuna, I think, some sashimi (salmon, tuna, and some unidentifiable “meat wad,” as Petite Jamilla and I christened it), some steak with onions, and miso soup. Two words – culinary orgasm. Afterwards, we voyaged to the oh-so-authentic-Japanese 7-Eleven for green tea ice cream (we passed a McDonald’s on the way that was serving a McPork – I laughed so hard).

On our adventure, I had my second really inspiring talk of the night. We had a long talk about dance, and Petite Jamilla offered some really good feedback on my last audition. I love that girl! One idea that she had that I thought I would pass on to any dancers reading this is to keep an idea journal – she showed me her journal, where she pasted inspiring pictures, makeup ideas, interesting costuming, and different fashion styles. I’m looking forward to starting one when I get home.

I got back to the hotel, took a long bath, and collapsed into bed. It’s a big day today – we’re supposed to have a crowd of 2,000. The largest show I have been here for has been 1,500, and it was insanity. Wish me luck – I just want to make it out alive.

Leaving Tokyo

So I did more exploring in Tokyo, close to the venue, the U-Port Theater. I went into a bookstore, Starbucks, and I went to a gas station place. I thought I was buying a change purse, but when I showed it to Manatsu, one of the girls helping me, she laughed and mimed smoking – I guess it’s a pocket ashtray. Oh well, it holds all my coin yen, too. I saw some sushi at the gas station and considered buying it to say I’ve eaten sushi in Japan, but I figured that eating gas station sushi is probably a bad idea anywhere you are – even in Japan.

I hope the next venue or my hotel at the next place we visit has plugs I can plug my computer into and wireless internet. I am really going to miss Yuni and Manatsu, my helpers. I hope the next place has as good of helpers, too!
I’m really excited for some things coming up at home. I have a couple of performances lined up, I’m dancing with Los Desterrados, and Bootee Camp is the weekend I get back. Mark and I are planning a mini-trip to St. Louis, too. Good stuff.

I just found out that in the fall I will be going to Taiwan, South America (Peru and Argentina, maybe), another U.S. tour, Paris, England, Morocco and Spain. There are a lot of places to hit in 2 and a half months.

Another highlight of my day was taking the Jillina workshop. It was my first workshop in a foreign language. Jillina is so sweet — I didn’t get to eat today so she bought me soup when I got back to the hotel, and Jillina, Lauren, Sabah and I hung out in her room for awhile watching youtube videos. It was a good night all around. Tomorrow we’re taking the bullet train to our next location – I’ll take lots of pictures!

Second Day in Japan

It was a good day all around – I finally got to talk to Mark on Skype, I explored a little bit of Tokyo on my own, I bought a disposable camera, and I’m starting to learn some Japanese that will never come in useful later in life (“That is 1000 yen/ 2000 yen/ 3000 yen” and I say “arregato” more than I probably should). There were two shows today, and we sold out of almost everything we brought. Miles packed 15-20 complete costumes (which range anywhere from $250 to $500) and we’ve sold all but five so far. I’m starting to worry we aren’t going to have anything to sell when we get to the next place in Japan.

I am so grateful for the two girls helping me sell – I am able to get around with hand gestures and knowing basic, basic Japanese, but it goes so much faster and easier with the girls here. They help me restock the table and help a lot with the money. They are adorable, too. We all took pictures together, and the Universal Records guys (who have a table next to us) were laughing at us.

At one point I thought I lost my wallet with all my yen and my ID, but luckily it was at the merch table. Now the only thing I can’t locate is my calendar, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t all that important, only mildly irritating that I can’t find it.

I’ve got to go, the show is about to end and we’re about to be flooded once more with people.

First show in Japan

The first show has come and gone, and it was a whirlwind. The girls had it rough – they ran through and filmed the entire old show, Babelesque, before  the actual show, which was also filmed. I had much more merchandise than I thought – Miles brought seven or eight suitcases, which I had to lug up two flights of stairs because there was no elevator.

I had two girls helping me for the show, thank God, but neither of them spoke any English. There was a translator who spoke very little English before the show, and through him the girls and I worked out a rudimentary communication system. Out of the 1000 people that came to the show and the merch table, I spoke to three people that spoke English. I really gained some empathy for anyone that goes to a foreign country and is thrown in not knowing the language. It is really frightening and pretty lonely… it’s so funny, but I really took something as fundamental as communication for granted.

The show was insane. We started with three tables in a straight line, and by the end, the crowds had pushed the tables into a curve. As I was restocking hip scarves, people were grabbing them out the box. Between trying to communicate with hand signs, converting prices and remembering them in yen, and making change with currency I had never seen before, I was exhausted by the time I got home.

The only Japanese I have learned so far is “arregato” which is “thank you” and “Oh genki des ka” which is  “Nice to meet you” (I’m not even pretending I spelled those right, by the way).

I’m working really hard to communicate with my family and Mark over Skype but the time difference is so great and I only have internet at the venue, so it’s difficult. I haven’t spoken to anyone since I got here, and I’m feeling a little homesick and lonely.

I better get going, we have two shows today and both are sold out. It’s going to be a long day.

Flying with the Harlem Globetrotters

I’m currently laying on a bed that is about a foot and a half off the floor in the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Japan. It’s symbolic of EVERYTHING in Japan – everything is LOW to the ground. The sinks at the airport hit me around my thighs. But hey, they have the fanciest toilets I’ve ever seen. I admittedly did enjoy that the toilet seat was heated, but I wasn’t brave enough to explore any other functions on the toilet, like the “bidet” button (There was a button with just a crude drawing of water misting a pair of buttocks with the single word “spray” – is that not basically what a bidet is?).

The flight here was actually not too bad for it being 12 hours. The plane was the largest plane I had ever been on – I was in row 63. The Harlem Globetrotters were on our flight, and I sat next to one of the members. We had a really interesting talk about how both of our respective businesses functioned, and he was pretty inspiring. After talking to him, I realized that there seems to be a mold that successful, artistic people fit (he choreographed a lot of the stunts and “pieces” for the show). It sounded like he (and others I have observed) are excellent at marketing themselves, constantly creating their own opportunities, and last of all, really good at continually putting themselves out there. For example, this guy worked his way up from Chucky Cheese and explored theater and doing his own stunt work before auditioning for the Globetrotters. I think the lesson learned here is don’t be afraid to take any opportunity even if it’s not EXACTLY what you want to do at the time.

We were served two meals, and to be frank I’m not certain what I ate. What I did know was it was free, everything is expensive in Japan, and I had no yen. So, I ate everything on my plate, including a few raw pieces of what I assume was fish and some pasta dish that incorporated shrimp, pasta, and some sort of brown sauce. The fact that liquor is free on international flights didn’t go unnoticed by me and helped when it came to not caring what I ate. I didn’t sleep at all and instead watched some great movies (The Reader), some fair movies (Grand Torino, part of Quantum of Solace) and some I’m ashamed to say I watched in their entirety (Mall Cop, Bride Wars, and part of a Lilo and Stitch movie).

Once we landed, some interesting things happened. We had quarantine doctors come on our plane – dressed in surgical robes, masks, booties, hair coverings – to discern if we were ill with the swine flu. The flight attendants wore masks the entire flight. We had to fill out a questionnaire, and they came around and looked at everyone on the plane through a special camera. If I had to guess I would say it was a thermal imaging camera to see if any of us were feverish. After being detained for almost an hour, we were finally allowed to exit the plane. At one point there were six masked doctors in our section of the plane – people were taking pictures. It was like being in a horror movie about a killer virus.

I’m in the hotel now, and I’m going to try and get a decent nights’ sleep to offset jetlag. I do not have wireless in my room so it may be hard to reach me in Japan – best bet is to email, and hopefully there is wireless at the venue tomorrow. Tomorrow the work begins!