Archive for the ‘TOUR JOURNAL 2010’ Category

FAMILY & FRIENDS

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Nothing is more important in our lives that those people who help shape us into what we were meant to be – our family and our friends.  I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing wife who loves me with all my faults, supports me in my wildest dreams, and encourages me when things get tough.  I hope she feels like I do the same thing for her.

The older I get, the more I realize the uniqueness of my family.  We are all very close.  You would probably classify my family as a “touchy-feely” family.  We like to hug and show our affection for one another openly by our actions, not just our words. And even though distance separates us, when we all get together, it’s as though we were never apart.

My parents instilled in each us of the belief that we are capable of doing anything.  “Impossible” was not a word that you would hear around my house.  Things like honor, integrity, honesty, respect, unconditional love, the value of hard work, and humility were taught to us through the actions of my parents – not simply through the words they spoke.  Through their lives, we were taught to live to make a difference in our corner of the world.  Our faith is not just a Sunday tradition; rather it is something that influences every decision, every action.

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity I have to meet new people.  And I get to meet lots of people!  As I look back over 2010, I’ve had the privilege of sharing time with individuals who have dedicated their lives to making a difference in the lives of others.

Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together to celebrate our appreciation and love for each other.  In this politically correct world, it is more important to remember that this is not just the “holiday season.”  It is a time to celebrate LOVE, one who entered into the world in the life of a baby and changed history.  He invites us to join His family, celebrate His love, and enjoy His forgiveness.

Merry Christmas everyone.

HONG KONG – DAY ONE

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Alan and I arrived in Hong Kong on Monday early afternoon.  It was an quick flight from Xi’an but the temperatures are very different between the two cities.  It is warm and humid here in Hong Kong – a nice change from Xi’an where it was freezing cold!

We are registered for the East Asian International Conference for Teacher Education Research.  I’ll be speaking here this week as one of the presenters.  I’ll be talking about the effectiveness of the Hocus Focus project and some of the general research data that we have already collected.

Today we had some time to do  a little sightseeing as well.  We packed in a lot of stuff in a short amount of time!  Last night, we were able to take a taxi to The Peak to see the spectacular view of the city at night.

Afterwards, we met up with Katy and her boyfriend Martin for  late dinner at a Thai restaurant in the Central district of Hong Kong.  We worked with Katy on our first tour in Hong Kong in 2005 and she came to visit us in the States in 2006.  It was great to see her again and we hope to get together on Friday as well.

Today, we caught the subway train to the Harbor, walked Nathan Road and the Avenue of the Stars, and still had some time to stroll through a couple of the Night Markets.

This was the one of two “stars” I recognized…the other was Bruce Lee.

Alan did a little Christmas shopping in the night markets and picked up some nice things.  I made a single purchase of a pair of jeans.  We had dinner in one of the local – very local - restaurants downtown for some authentic food.  One we wrapped up, we caught train back to Shatin to our hotel…which has a very nice view of the park and river.

It’s an early day tomorrow so I’m off to bed soon.

XIAN, CHINA DAY TWO

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

I was talking to an education consultant here in Xi’an about the condition of the schools. Many of them are very good but special education is very new.  She is a special education consultant.  Most of the children in these schools are abandoned by their parents because they have some sort of physical or mental disability.  Because China has a “one child” policy, if the parents abandon their disabled child, they can have another one and hope for one that is healthy.  It’s very sad.  These are forgotten children. I hope to be able to work with her even more in the future with the Healing of Magic and Hocus Focus projects.

Today, we also did a bit of sightseeing starting with the Big Goose Wild Pagoda.  Buddhism came to China from travelers along the Silk Road from India.  During the Tang Dynasty (629 AD) a “master” teacher named XuanZang traveled from Xi’an to India along the Silk Road to get the Buddhist teachings.  He brought them back in 645 and the pagoda was built by the emperor to house them.

After walking the grounds of the Pagoda, we moved on to the Xi’an City Wall.  Xi’an was a fortified city with a wall built completely around it to protect it from invaders.  Today it stands as part of the city’s history and an attraction.  The top of the wall is very wide.  We decided to bike ride from the East Gate to the South Gate and back again.  If we were to bike around the entire wall, it’s about 14 km and takes about 90 minutes or so.  It’s COLD here so we just did half of that!

After biking the wall, we were very hungry.  Lunch today was at a very famous dumpling restaurant across the street from our hotel.  Through the course of the meal, they brought out 18 different kinds of dumplings.  Some of them were great, others were interesting, and some were just not “tasty” at all.

After lunch, we decided to take another walk through the Muslim Quarter marketplace.  This place is HUGE and a major tourist trap.  And since this is a not  ”tourist” adventure for us, we just kept walking!  We did make our way to the Great Mosque.  It was also constructed ruing the Tang Dynasty (742 AD).  It is allowed to continue to exist by the Communist Government of China because the Muslims fought for the Emperor and their “eternal safety” was guaranteed.  It is unique because it is built in the Chinese architecture rather than traditional Arab style.

The entire Mosque is very large – about 13,000 square meters.  And it’s divided into four courtyards.

Today wraps up our last day in mainland China.  Tomorrow we will fly back to Hong Kong where I’ll be speaking at the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research – a great opportunity and very exciting!

XI’AN, CHINA

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

We did find an adventure after all….we decided to take a tour of Xi’an, China.  We flew out of Hong Kong and arrived in the mainland around 6pm.  By the time we collected our luggage and caught the airport shuttle into the city, it was about 7:30pm – and we were tired.

Our hotel is right in the middle of the city and pretty much in the center of most of the historic attractions.  Right across the street is the Bell Tower – beautiful in the evening.  I sent this picture to Cindy…and I’ve been able to talk with her everyday either on the phone or by Skype.

We found some food, walked the a Night Market in the Muslim Quarter, and passed by the City Wall before heading back to the hotel to get some rest.

We are still having a little trouble settling into the time zone.  Our minds say we should go to sleep but our bodies don’t want to cooperate.  There is 13 hours difference between here and home.  Once we finally feel asleep, morning came quickly.  We arranged for a private tour guide to show us the sights of Xi’an.

Emma (our guide) met us in the lobby of the hotel at 9am.  Our first stop of the day was the Banpo Neolithic Village.  This is an ancient – I mean 6500 years old – village about 30 minutes outside of the center of the town.  It was only recently discovered so they are still excavating much of it.  But what they have found is very cool.  Alan and I got our picture taken with some very old Chinese people.

After the Banpo Village, we made our way further outside of Xi’an to the countryside to see the Eighth Wonder of the World and one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th century – the Terracotta Warriors.  The terracotta warriors were created by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.  He is credited with uniting China from a collection of warring states to become its First Emperor. He built several amazing things including the Great Wall.  The Warriors were built to protect him in the afterlife.

There are over 8,000 of these soldiers made from very special clay found only at the foot of the nearby mountains.  They were destroyed in a peasant uprising once the First Emperor died.  This is only one of the pits – and the one that is been most excavated.

Tomorrow we will see the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Xi’an City Wall, and the Great Mosque.  But for now, it’s bedtime.

HONG KONG AND BEYOND

Friday, December 10th, 2010

We arrived safely in Hong Kong last night around 9pm.  It was a good flight but the trip started off a little odd from Dulles International.  After we made it through security and gate check, there were six or seven FBI agents INSIDE the boarding ramp checking passports and boarding passes again.  I had also checked several times to see what route we would be taking on this flight.  Gate Representatives and Flight Attendants all confirmed that we would be flying west over Alaska, layover in Taipei, and then on to Hong Kong.  Once on the plane, that flight map on the screens also showed this route.  Once we were in the air, everything changed.  We were redirected to fly east over Europe as a non-stop flight to Hong Kong.  Strange?  At least we got into Hong Kong earlier than anticipated.

Because of our earlier-than-anticipated arrival, we spent the night at an airport hotel.  It was clean and comfortable…and after 18 hours in the air, we were ready to hit the shower!  And the hotel was all decorated for the holiday!

Not sure what Alan and I will do today since we have some extra time on our hands.  I think we’ll find an adventure!

ON THE WAY TO HONG KONG…

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Alan and I drove up to Washington, DC yesterday afternoon to spend the night close to the airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave mid morning and this would take some of the pressure off of having to deal with traffic.  We made good time, checked into the hotel, and had a fairly relaxing evening.

When we arrived at the airport this morning, there had already been some changes to our flight itinerary.  Continental Airlines put us on an earlier flight to Newark Liberty International Airport where we would spend the next few hours.  We arrived in Newark around 11am and our connection doesn’t leave until 3:30pm…at least that’s the current schedule.

We were able to gain access into the Continental President’s Club (thank you American Express) so we didn’t have to sit in the terminal at the gate.  It’s much more comfortable in here – internet, snacks, showers, etc.

I’m not certain if we are flying from Newark and going West or East to Hong Kong.  This is the flight map as indicated on the website….so it could be across Europe or across Russia, who knows.

I think we’re going to head out and find food before we board.  We’ve got 16 hours of flight ahead of us.  I’d like to start with food in my stomach!

I’ll be blogging all along the way…and, hopefully, uploading some images to FaceBook as well.

FAITH & THANKSGIVING

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the perfect example of living out my faith.  My life is a trail of wrong decisions and bad judgement calls.  And in a fairly competitive industry like mine, it is easy to lose sight of what should be my highest goal – living a life that reveals my relationship with Christ – for a more appealing goal like fame and personal success.  Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about fame and personal success; however, if I were to achieve them by sacrificing my faith and compromising my beliefs, is it really worth it?

If my faith – my relationship with God – is really important to me, it should impact every part of my life…and that includes my relationships and my business decisions.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  It requires me to really think through the options, consider the consequences of each, and make a decision based on how I believe it will honor Christ, improve my relationship with Cindy, build my friendships, and further my career.

Paul tells the people of Galatia:

“Since this is he kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.  That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse.”

Too often I see people looking for the shortcut to friendship and success.  They think there is some easy answer, a formula that just “works” and suddenly you have lots of friends, you’re famous and rich.  Even if there were such a formula, how would you feel accomplished if all of it was just handed to you?

I believe God has given all of us certain abilities – intellectual and artistic.  I also believe that things that happen in our lives have for a specific purpose.  My accident many years ago gives me an empathy for people who are struggling with physical rehabilitation.  My desire to see children learn and build confidence strengthens my dedication to use my skills to make learning fun and exciting.  I’m thankful for these opportunities – and for a great wife who supports me in them.

Paul continues by saying:

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

It is my responsibility to be creative with my life without the competitive comparison to what others are doing.  I know who I am, what work I have been given, and I’m trying to do my best to accomplish those goals without becoming proud or arrogant.

I want my wife to know that I love her.  I want my friends to know they are important to me.  And I want to be successful in my business because I want to use my abilities to honor the One who gave them to me…and to make a difference in the world.

WEEKEND IN NEW ENGLAND

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

We have “officially” wrapped the Fall 2010 tour with our final two performances – the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, VT and the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, RI – this past weekend.

Cindy and I are flying to Arizona on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) to spend the holiday with two of our best friends, Andre and Kathy Kole.  It’s going to be a very relaxing and enjoyable time.

When we return, I’ll be home for just a few days before Alan and I leave for Hong Kong.  I’ll be speaking at the East Asian International Conference on Teacher Education Research on the Hocus Focus project.  I’m really excited about this opportunity and having the privilege to share these concepts with Educators from around the world.  I’ll be blogging from China so stay tuned.

Let’s recap the weekend!

THE PARAMOUNT THEATRE – RUTLAND, VT

What I love about the U.S. is the diversity of the landscape and the people.  There is no place quite like New England – beautiful, quaint, and historic.  And the people are proud, focused, and hard-working…and they really enjoy a magic show!

We pulled into Rutland the night before the performance, checked into our hotel, and found food.  The next morning, we were off to the theatre.

It was a very easy day – Tom, the Tech Director, had everything ready for us.  I mean everything – curtains were hung correctly, light plot was perfect, etc.  It cut our day from 7 hours to about 5 hours of set up.

We had some stiff competition for the evening in this town of 17,000.  This was opening night for the high school production of BYE BYE BIRDIE and the latest installment of the HARRY POTTER movies.  In spite of it all, we had a large, spirited audience who was there to have a good time.

Bruce, the executive director, sent my office an email after the show:  “What a TERRIFIC EVENING for adults and kids alike!!  The illusions are refreshingly clean, crisp, and simple without being simplistic.  Much of the touring, illusion marketplace is cluttered with effects, music, noise, and distracting production gimmicks.  Not The Spencers – very impressive!”

Thank you Bruce, Eric, Tom, the entire team at the Paramount AND the community of Rutland for all your support!

THE STADIUM THEATRE – WOONSOCKET, RI

Immediately after loading out the show, we hit the road from Rutland to Woonsocket.  It’s about a 3.5 hour drive so we would take advantage of the adrenaline rush of the show and get a couple of hours down the road.  We stopped in Chicopee, MA for some sleep and then finished up the trip on Saturday morning.

We arrived at the Stadium Theatre mid-morning.  Dennis – the TD – actually met us at the local Stop-n-Shop and escorted us to the theatre.  Downtown Woonsocket is a series of one-way streets, a tough ride for a 65-foot truck!

We backed into the loading area, talked the crew through the necessary paperwork, and started rolling in the cases.  We took advantage of every inch of space on the stage as well as some in the parking lot!  Cindy never ceases to amaze me how she gets this stuff so organized everyday in a different theatre.

Another easy day working with this crew – I think we’re getting spoiled now.  We had many of the same guys working with us this time as we did in 2006 when we were here last.  That made it great fun, lots of laughing and comraderie among the guys.

Another fantastic audience too!  We had lots of great volunteers during the show and everything came off without a hitch.  It was the perfect way to end our time in New England…and our Fall tour!!

AXELROD PAC – DEAL, NJ

Monday, November 15th, 2010

We left the hotel around 7:40am on Sunday to head to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, NJ.  I know, we’ve been “touring” New Jersey this fall.  I think this is our 5th performance in the state since October.  But that’s okay, we LOVE coming to New Jersey – great audiences, big reactions, and lots of support.

A portion of the monies raised from this show would help a young lady named Cindy.  She has recently been diagnosed with cancer and needs all the financial support she can get.  As it turns out, the show was sold out and the audience had a great time…and so did we!

Today (Monday), we drove up to Albany, NY.  We made a stop along the way to replace a tire on the trailer.  I’ve got lots of office work and interviews to catch up on so we’re staying put in Albany through Thursday.  You gotta love an office-on-the-road.

INDONESIA

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that Alan and I will be leaving for Hong Kong on December 8.  I’ll be speaking at the East Asian International Conference for Teacher Education Research.  It’s an amazing opportunity.  I had also been invited to teach at the State University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for a few days and was giving that some consideration until….

MOUNT MERAPI ERUPTED!

This very active volcano is only 16km from the University site for the Healing of Magic workshops.  Yogyakarta is now in the “danger area” and all events are cancelled there.   Many charity organizations have set up shelters and treatment areas. Our Healing of Magic representative, Adjie Silarus, pulled together volunteers to work with the children during this traumatic time.

Pray for the people of Indonesia and for those who are there to serve them.