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China: Time to play mas!!

China: Time to play mas!!

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It’s time to play mas and this day is action packed! At breakfast, Ansel feedback to us as a group what the judges thought and any last minute changes to be made to our performance. Before we leave for the route, we visit the stunning Jade Budda Temple.  For me, this was actually jaw dropping and one of the highlights of my trip. In the middle of busy Shanghai is this temple which upon entry you feel an immediate sense of stillness and serenity.  The statues are beautiful and the temple itself is immaculate.  The central Jade Budda is beautiful but pictures cannot be taken of it.  We spend some time there before heading to lunch in old china town.

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By the time we have lunch and get back to the hotel, we only have an hour and 15 minutes to get dressed before the coach comes for us.  We are ready by 3:50 pm and the gold costumes are amazing! It has a great visual impact and causes a stir. This begins in the hotel as people want to take pictures with us.  As we get to the waiting area where we were yesterday on the 13th floor, more pictures are taken. And whilst we are waiting some of the masqueraders have a bit of a drink.

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Similar to yesterday we head downstairs to the road to the start of the route.  We know we are number 52 and have a long wait so we get ourselves settled to wait.  Suddenly we are told to get ready as we will be going on the road soon!  We were being moved to number 4 position!!  Apparently, the organisers saw our gold costumes and loved it so much as well as the routine that we were going on earlier!  We were pleased and I congratulated Melissa Simon-Hartman (the designer of the costumes) and Ansel Wong. This was fantastic news! We were going to go on soon! I looked at the main masquerader who was wearing the main blue costume distinct from ours and noticed she was swaying and was flushed.  To me she looked all kinds of drunk.  I spoke to a couple of the other masqueraders who have been with this band and they told me that’s her way. She is normally shy and needs some rum for some confidence or dutch courage as the say. I am looking at her and thinking well she must have taken a whole lot of dutch courage.  Her steps were not steady but I thought ‘alright, I am new to this journey so maybe I don’t know’.

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At the eleventh hour, when they would be calling us on any minute, this main masquerader decides she has to use the bathroom. This means she has to remove her big costume and go all the way to the 12th floor of the building.  Ansel is not pleased and neither are some of us to be honest.  What if we missed our slot? And that is exactly what happened.  The Chinese are so precise with timing. We missed our 4th position whilst waiting for the masquerader to return from the bathroom.  We were back to the 52nd position. They gave us this opportunity and it was squandered. But we waited around taking pics whilst the masquerader was fed and given water in an attempt to sober her up. It was felt in her condition maybe she should not wear the entire costume but only a bit of it.

It was time for us to go on.  Quite a few of us looked at the masquerader.  She said she was fine and she put on the entire costume. Me I am not so sure. Ansel spoke to her. This was it. The time we had all practiced so much for.  The time when we would be on live television and being watched by over 200 million people.  We start the routine with confidence of repeated practice. The main masquerader falls down. On live TV.  And needed help getting up by some of the masqueraders.  We continued but some of us knew that this was no way as good as our rehearsals.   We had to do the routine three more times at various spots along the route and these got better. Ansel coached the main masquerader at those points along the route. It got better. But these won’t be televised.  The first one will. Ansel gave the Chinese officials a variety of soca songs for us to dance to along the route. It was probably too long so they cut it and the song ‘Sugar Rush’ by Hyper Spice was on loop for the entire route!  I swear if I never hear that song again in my lifetime, it will be too soon!

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But here’s the thing. The spectators didn’t see any of this. What they saw was these exotic people, very different in appearance to them, in gold, dancing to different but catchy music and twirling on the road. They loved seeing us perform, especially the young children, they would clap and wave to us.  We were told that the Chinese were quite reserved and would not come to us but we would have to go to them on either side of the route.  We went to them. They shook our hands, welcomed us to China, took pictures, clapped. They were so happy and excited when we went to them. Such a response made the disappointment of the first judging point a little easier. Honestly this mas experience was the hardest I have ever worked on a carnival route. A dedicated routine and knowing that we were entertaining the crowd, putting all our energy into that.  I loved it!

And then that was it!! Playing mas in China done!!  By the end of the route I was dripped in sweat!  It was an unforgettable amazing experience. Playing mas at night?? Awesome. The colourful night lights and music brings a different energy to playing mas and being on the road. Big kudos to Ansel Wong for giving the West Indian culture the ability to be seen by perhaps the biggest audience ever.


Saturday was the main parade and performance. However, we still have one more performance to do tomorrow on stage in a busy square. It was not so bad.  It was drizzling so there wasn’t that big an audience and this was a more relaxed performance.  With the performances out of the way, we could truly relax and take in some more of Shanghai.



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