Midnight Rodeo
Ray's Retiring
Workshop Reports
Asia Cruise 2008
Contact Marilyn


September 2, 2010

Most of you already know that Jo Thompson's medical doctors have recommended she have a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible. She will begin to prepare for this in October, and it will take a total of 4 months, including one month in the hospital. She’s cancelled all 2011 commitments to recover from this procedure. She is an amazing woman, and we feel confident the transplant will be a complete success, supported by the prayers and concerns of her family and her "second family," the entire line dance community.

We encourage you to read her blog, posted with updates by her wonderful husband Tim at www.JoThompson.com_ ( Her brother is a perfect match for this bone marrow transplant and will be her donor, Anna and Tim will also be in Houston with friends and family during the time when Jo must be within 30 minutes of the hospital for her daily checks.

We just arrived in Shanghai for Judy Chen's WOW Event and will have the pleasure of dancing and visiting with Jo. By the way, she looks great and speaks of the future with an extremely positive outlook.

Hello from China! We're keeping a general log of our trip, but free time is practically zero, except on the bus. We fly to Xian tomorrow.

News about our Winter Workshop on January 22, 2010.

We are happy to announce that we have invited MICHELE PERRON as our guest instructor for this event! MICHELE has never been in Florida before, so we are excited to bring her to Midnight Rodeo to fill in for Jo, along with RUBEN LUNA and my own spot on the schedule to teach you Jo's last piece of choreography, in her honor. We will donate a part of everyone's registration fee to Jo's medical expense fund.

This workshop will have some special moments, plus the usual party we like to host for you. Friday night welcome party at the club kicks off the weekend for those coming in early. There is a cover charge on this night. Saturday Workshop is from 9:30AM - 4:PM and Ray's cooking barbecue with all the trimmings for lunch, Saturday night Line Dance party at the club, and Sunday breakfast in the barn around 9:30AM for all who wish to partake. Everything but Friday night is included in your registration fee of $48. Pretty good deal! A revised registration form will be on our website as soon as we return.

A lot has happened since this year's Winter Workshop with Jo in January. Her condition at the moment came as a surprise, our own David had a serious stroke, but is doing better, good friend George Winnegar passed on to his spiritual home, and many of you have survived serious illness and personal loss, including us. These dance workshops take us away from daily cares for a short time, to a place where music, friendships, laughter and hugs sooth our souls, and remind us that we are connected, and we draw strength from these happy moments. We are feeling that right here on the bus, as some are singing, with Louie leading the group! Life is good.

TOUR AFTER THE WORKSHOP (WOW Workshop report in progress)

Visit the World Expo tonight. Shopping and sightseeing tomorrow.

Delicious dinner and now a little rest, but just a little!

Rosie Multari - "found the perfect diet that has eluded me all these years! Eating with chopsticks at every meal"
Barbara Dyer - "want to learn to do the BUTTERFLY like beautiful instructor, Jennifer Choo"
Jennifer Choo- "wishes Barbara could to the BUTTERFLY like she wants to"
From me - Jo & John Kinser & Cam cheated last night and found a Burger King and Starbucks, while the rest of us dined again on Chinese cuisine. Then Jo topped my night off by demonstrating the art of the squat toilet technique. Wish I had my video camera to commit that scene to memory, as I hope to forget it by the time we get back to the USA.
Judy Chen - "Bad News. Leave for airport at 5am. Get to hotel tonight at midnight. Shower and get to bed by 1am. Be in lobby by 4:30am. Sleep in between. Be ready."
Ray McNeal's response to Judy's orders - Sleep FAST!
Sherry Loechler - We have learned the true meaning of the line dance "HOT, HOT, HOT." One other thing, the Traffic Light (you know, red for stop, green for go) here in China is simply a suggestion!
Don and Myra have nothing to say. The trip has totally disrupted their sleep cycle, and they are having a blast.
Louie - We are having a GREAT time - really we are, you know why? We are all on vacation and YOU are not!
Notes: Just passed a Pizza Hut and McDonalds and I heard sighs of cravings from those people feeling pain from the lack of.
Nancy and Barbara did not have time individual they showered in the rain as we waited for our luggage to unload.

THURSDAY IN CHINA, Wednesday at home.
We are on our way by a new bus to Hangzhou. Nora, our tour guide, just said it will be hotter than yesterday, more crowded, and "more busy" which is hard to imagine. Had a beautiful breakfast at Gloria Plaza Hotel Suzhou, and we are settled in for a 2 hour ride and everyone is happy. This report will be written as we travel, Wish you were here!

Hangzhou Xixi National Wetlands Park Tour, followed by lunch at the park, then on to Lingyin Temple, the former residence of Hu Xueyan. Buddist Temples at every turn in this park. Such a spiritual place and we love the names of each section, for instance Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake. Doesn't that sound lovely?

We opted out of the Tea Room tour because today it is 105 degrees and we are all exhausted and saturated. So we voted to check into the hotel a bit early to get ready for dinner at Louwailou Restaurant , followed by a very special show at West Lake.

9:15PM - after a wonderful dinner, we watched a beautiful water show that is very famous here, West Lake Impression, directed by Zhing Yimou who opened the worlds Olympic Games, and it is most definitely unique. We enjoyed the beauty and appreciate the experience. Back to hotel, we leave for Xion at 5AM !! (our first flight inside China)

It is 9am - I think today is Friday, but we just don't care. Time melts away. I continue to be amazed at how Judy was able to put this trip together. At times it's been so hectic, at times the oppressive heat caused us to be more tired and perhaps a little cranky. Today as I listen to the chatter aboard the plane, I know that everyone is happy and looking forward to today's experience at Xian. We are blessed with good weather and surrounded by people with a common bond through dance and friendship. Thanks to Louie for making sure our Bus#1 is all aboard. His military backgound is quite obvious! LOL

Last night was beautiful. Checked into Xian Yanta National Hotel (and that was quite hectic - but the most beautiful room). We visited the Musical Fountain which we thoroughly enjoyed to perfect weather. In the evening we went to a show with music and dance that we will long remember. The dancers depicted stories of love and action, and music by instruments we've never seen before. We enjoyed every moment. Famous Dumpling Dinner followed and it was a unique meal with laughter and a variety of 15 different dumplings. It was a lovely evening in every way. Plus, we were able to get a normal night's rest, and I think this might have been the first night for that!

We are on our way to the Terracotta Museum today by bus. Our tour guide Lisa gives us the history of the place while we are traveling. Chinese history is very interesting and the stories that happened more than two thousand years ago are colorfully told and just imagining how these scenes played out is impossible to do. I think today will be exceptional. Till tonight..........

First, the Quin Dynasty Terracotta Warriors replication factories, then to the Terracotta Warriors Museum, which was just awesome. It took four decades to build the tomb of Emperor who died before it’s completion. The story is amazing, and standing on these grounds over 2,000 years old, and just discovered in 1974, is an experience hard to really describe. If you are interested in this most historical place, Google it for the whole story. We then went to the famous Royal Gardens, "Tang Emperor and Concubine Yang," and Hauqing Pool, one of the most beautiful stops on this incredible trip. Ray, Louie and a few other brave souls took the tram to the top! TOOOOO high, but what they viewed was stunning. We fly to Beijing tonight and are presently on the bus to the airport. Time for one hour of rest........ *******************


We have not lost anyone between the two buses yet! But hey, we have Judy and Louie on Bus#1 with us, so we better NOT miss it! Cynthia, Show Ming and others are taking care of everyone on Bus#2. We are happy to also hear that Robert Mah is enjoying himself on Bus #2. All is well.

Some observations. We live in Florida and noticed that here in China they have so many of the same flowers, it was kind of a surprise. Crepe Myrtle, Roses, Crysanthemums, Weeping Willow trees, Canna Lilies, Lorepetulum, Petunias, same bedding plants, etc. etc. plus beautiful regional foliage.

Colors on buildings are symbolic - Yellow represents the Emperor, Red the Royal family, Gray the common people. Building walls facing the sun belong to the owner, opposite side is the servants, left side for oldest son, right side for youngest, and a lower door hallway for unmarried daughters. Message there!

We lost one person today, Jill, but found her, safe and resting in the hotel. All is well again.

SUNDAY - Beijing, China, arrived at our hotel at 1AM, in bed by 2:30AM, on the road at 8:30AM. We all rode in manpowed tricylces, which was hilarious, as OUR Rickshaw passed all the rest and we were lovin' it! Bought gifts from street vendors, as we do on every stop and it is great fun to see who gets the best price! Then we all go for the lowest and the vendors give in to us! Women shoppers led by Louie, always seem to get the best prices!

Sites included Chang dynasty Beihai Park, which was the Imperial Garden, and the Summer Palace. It was a lovely spot. Chinese people believed that if you are benevolent to others, you will live longer. Good philosophy for all of us, whether the end result is true or not.

There was a man playing music and we all started dancing Come Dance With Me and Hello Dolly! Some locals joined in and it reminds me that music and dance is universal. We all love it and appreciate that we are able to hear it, move to it, and enjoy it. Olympic National Park, saw the National Swimming Center (Water Cube) and National Stadium(Birds Nest), followed by the best dinner (in my humble opinion) the Peking Duck at China's MOST famous Peking Duck restaurant. And believe me, it WAS! They carved it at the tables and it was delicious and plentiful. My reports may be a little mixed up, with some things left out, but I it's an overview of this trip, and the pictures that many will post to their Facebooks will tell the stories. Ours will be posted only to our website as we compile an album. There will be thousands posted by others.

Today will be a great highlight of this amazing trip. I'm sitting next to Jo Kinser as we travel to the Great Wall of China at Badaling, which we will climb today - and dance on it, photograph ourselves dancing for Youtube. Then on to the Ming Tomb, followed by Jo's most vocal request, SHOPPING!!! (P.S. Jo tried to sell one sheet of toilet paper to those on our bus at the rest stop for 10RMB - that's about $1.46. Paper is GOLD here!). She must need some extra shopping money! We will stop to shop at Xiushui, then to the Silk Market. We are looking forward to this adventure with all these wonderful people aboard two buses with great guides, and we are laughing, creating new friendships, looking out for each other as we travel.


WE DID IT!!! WE ALL CLIMBED A SECTION OF THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA! WE DANCED "COME DANCE WITH ME" led by Louie with music too, plus our own singing!!! There is no Youtube of Facebook here so look for it when we return at the end of the week.

We separated and went at our own paces, and at this moment are recovering on the bus. I had to quit after the first climb, but Ray continued on with Judy up the Western wall. It's been an experience of great magnitude, and we are all so glad we were participants in this amazing adventure. There is really no true way to describe the feeling, but I think that on the plane home, each of us will realize more fully, just what we accomplished today. And to think that line dancing has brought us to this place, physically and spiritually, thanks to Judy Chen. We are grateful to know this incredible woman, who pushes us hard to see all we can. Any minor inconveniences are absolutely insignificant, compared to the extraordinary journey we have enjoyed together, thanks to Judy.

FRIENDSHIP STORE for Lunch. Unfortunately, even with having walked 10,000 miles, I (and many others) have gained weight, even eating with chopsticks, due to the bountiful plates served at every meal. How can that be?

Nice lunch and a little shopping and on to the Ming Tomb, where the 13th Emperor of the Ming buried. It was accidentally found when lightning struck the location and a tunnel was found leading to the tomb.

OOOOHHHH, AAAAHHHH! We shopped at the Silk Market, one of the most influential shopping malls and considered to be as popular as the Great Wall and Forbidden City for visitors! Over 15 million people came to this mall last year, with 80% being foreign visitors. 6 floors and over 1000 stalls of merchandise. Pure craziness as vendors jockey with each other for our business. THANK GOODNESS for the Asian women who helped us in groups and bargained for us and got us all these incredible "deals" in this warehouse of stuff, stuff and more stuff. Special thanks to Patty for letting some of us tag along with her and we appreciate all the great bargains she got for us!!! We all left with bags! More OOOOOHHH, AAAAHHHH!

Judy said tomorrow will be another full day and we need to get some rest tonight, Tomorrow wraps up this trip, as most of us are heading home on Wednesday. Some are fortunate enough to be going on the next section of the tour. I know that the memories will bring smiles to us as we fly home and remember what we have seen here. It's important to let everyone know that we will not forget the people who made this experience so special. Judy is of course, at the top of the list. This trip has been one amazing accomplishment and it is because of her, that everyone is here. She, her close friends and all the others who interpreted conversations for us, described the food, the places we visited, the customs and traditions of the Chinese people, made this experience one we will never forget. Chinese people are proud of their country as we are of ours. Our local tour guide Sam Lee speaks from the heart as he describes the history of these places we are visiting. The sights, sounds and the people are unforgettable. Time for some rest. Tomorrow is almost here!

FROM: Marilyn McNeal,

We are off to the largest city square in the world, Tiananmen Square, then to the Forbidden City, lunch, Wangfujing Street for shopping and as they say here, we will then "appreciate the Show of Chinese Acrobatic Troupe."
Details are we travel.....................

Over One Million people can be in Tiananmen Square at the same moment. It is gigantic, as are all the places we saw at the Forbidden City. Ordinary people were not allowed in the city unless summoned by the Emperor. It too, goes on for what seems like miles, before actually reaching his residence. 'The size of this whole place is unbelievable, and to explain about it would take much too long, so check it out online, where all the information is available. All that we've seen is hugely impressive. Temples, Pagodas built in the 13th century and before, city squares, parks, modern day buildings in the financial centers, with Old World structures right along side.

China's history and culture is overwhelming to me. There are millions of people passing by us every day, speaking so many different languages. We are the foreigners.

One little bit of trivia was that in one square, the statues of Lions had the ears standing up. In that place, the Emperor listened to the people. In another square, the Lions' ears were folded down. That meant the Emperor did not want to listen to the women and children! Hmmm, kind of sounds like selective hearing to me. Hey, the same thing happens at my house too!!

Lunch today at the beautiful Diamond Restaurant and we are almost at our final shopping stop.

1. Lost Tom from Long Island somewhere in the Forbidden City. Hope he got back to the hotel okay. (He did)
2. Mimi had to go home today so as we left the Forbidden City, Louie made sure she got her cab. It was driving in front of Bus#2. As everyone was looking out of the windows, all of a sudden shouts came that there was MIMI, RUNNING ALONG SIDE OF THE BUS!!! She had left her purse or bag on the bus and had jumped out of the cab to retrieve it. But the bus actually PASSED her as she ran towards it, so she was trying to catch it! If this scene had been videoed, it would have won the first prize on World's Funniest Videos. Everyone was just happy they actually SAW her trying to stop the bus. If you don't know Mimi, she's a special lady, always smiling, and a real inspiration at age 77. What a story!
3. We are really proud of Myra because she has mastered to art of using chopsticks. Yeah, Myra! And Don is REALLY enjoying all the food too!
4. From Louie: "I'm not going shopping again. My brain is sore from bargaining."
5. From everyone who shopped with Louie: "We got the BEST deals"
6. At WOW Line Dance event, Jo and Rachael choreographed Shanghai
Surprise, which will be my first teach next Thursday night at the club and also at Tampa Bay Line Dance Classic.
7. A group of us are choreographing the Shanghai Squat, to the song "I Love My Toilet" which is sung in Chinese with a rumba rhythm. Judy found the music this morning (yes, there really is a song by that name). It will have movements depicting this "interesting" experience that we must share with all of you dancers. Jo Kinser demonstrated how to do it best, and I think if we clean it up a bit, it will go to number one on Carol's Line Dance Newsletter!!! Y'all will just LOVE it and want all your local instructors to teach it to you, I promise! Be sure to watch for it as it will be NEW hit from Beijing! How cool is that!
8. From me: I'm shopping for glitz today! I suggested to Ray that we spend all the rest of our Chinese money so we don't have to worry about changing it back for USA cash at the airport. Sounded reasonable to me, He gave me one of those Judicial looks that say, "are you serious?" I just smiled. I love “my Honey!”
9. From Ray: “I can’t understand why a nation with miles of corn fields doesn’t eat GRITS!” (from me: He’s a true Southern boy).

Hey we're here for shopping! Wait for me!!!!

4:30 PM
We are back on the bus. I cannot even explain the shopping experience here. Paul says "I have never had so many women put their hands on me at one time." That does not translate to happiness. Every vendor tries to pull you into their stall to sell you something. Unless you have someone to speak for you, it's just ABOLUTELY CRAAAAAAAAZY!!!! My hair is standing on end!!! And to top it all off, Rosie just got on the bus with an iced coffee, just ONE - for herself! I AM STRESSED!!!! LOL!!!

We bought Jade and Pearls with Judy's help. We bought clothes with Patty's help. We bought all kinds of other stuff with help from many others. We are HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!!!

On to dinner and the acrobatic show. Speaking of dinner, we have eaten THREE full and good meals every single day. That means more shopping when we get home, unfortunately, to buy bigger clothes.

The acrobatic show at Tiandi Theatre was like none we have ever seen. It was a display of incredible talent, magnificent strength, and unbelievable acrobatic maneuvers. A perfect finale to a perfect trip here in China.

1AM from the hotel lobby:

NEW DANCE FROM THE TOUR - The SHANGHAI SQUAT, choreographed by the following Shanghai Squatters - Jo Kinser, Jennifer Choo Sue Chin, Janice Khoo, Rosie Multari and Marilyn McNeal. Music (sung in Chinese) is "I Love My Toilet." (absolutely true and it's a Rumba!) It was written for fun because of our combined experience with the squat toilet. Music and translation provided by Judy Chen, Booty Call and Bonus ending by Jo Kinser, optional arm movements by all the rest. I just know you are going to love it. 32 counts, 4 walls, 3 VERY easy restarts, one VERY easy tag, 4 count opening and a real BONUS ending!!! English translation in progress. Now doesn't this peak your interest???? Step sheet almost completed and being approved by all involved. I'll post it soon!

It’s time to call it a night. We fly home tomorrow. I'll write from the plane and also tell you about the dances from WOW 2010. The whole experience has been fantastic!

NOTE FROM ME(Carol Craven): And we have enjoyed living vicariously and shopping and eating nonstop. It sounds like everyone had a fabulous time. I hope all the new people on this list realize what a special world you have entered with an opportunity to travel anywhere in the world with old friends and new ones by the time you get home.

We arrived at home at 1:30 AM and can't believe we were in China for 2 whole weeks. I will compile the reports previously sent and put a link to it on our website. The journal was just an overview written while riding the bus from one place to another, trying to rest a little before the next stop. Sleep was not a priority.

I want to share this with you, because we think it's important. Most of us know Louie’s unique personality as "DJ Louie." On this trip, we experienced a different Louie St. George. The difficult heat at the event caused frayed nerves, but Louie stayed calm and encouraged us to persevere, and we did. On the tours, he was funny and helpful. His shopping techniques were most effective! I better stop here because I don't want to tarnish his image, but it was really refreshing to experience his kindness towards the whole group. Thanks Louie. You were great!

Spending so much time with people you haven't met before on a personal level, (except those few we knew), is an experience in itself. Ray and I are touched by the kindness of others and the effort made to increase the joy of this adventure. There was never the slightest feeling of fear being in China. Every day was new, in every way. Each meal was a little different as were the restaurants chosen and the places we visited. We saw Temples that looked the same, but the history behind each Temple or square was different and interesting. Our tour guides waited with concern for us. Our bus drivers were fantastic. And unless you have been in China, you really can't imagine the driving. There were times when there was a mere 6 inches between our bus and another. One time a big truck "played chicken" with our bus and even Judy gasped!!! But it was not in the cards for us to crash. Millions of people move through the subway system daily, same as on the roads and the only real thing to remember is not to stop - keep moving forward, because there's another million behind you, all trying to get somewhere!

There were no problems, no casualties, just constant movement. I know I already commented on the shopping experience, but it still boggles my mind! The shows were wonderful with bright and beautiful costumes. Each depicted meaningful stories. I can only describe the Acrobats as amazing, both in discipline and strength.

We want to thank ALL of you who took care of the 70 tour participants. Each of us made new friends, enjoyed special moments and look forward to seeing you again somewhere in our world, which seems to be getting smaller. There will be other tours in other places, but this one will never be forgotten. At our last dinner together, we all stood and toasted Judy, as Ray spoke for all of us with his words:

"Tomorrow, most of us will be going our separate ways. So tonight I want to offer a toast to Judy Chen, who has worked very hard to make sure we had a good time at the WOW Event and on this trip. She faced a lot of challenges, and it was not easy. Judy is a wonderful woman. I am sure that you have found her to be honorable, generous, kind and a lot of fun. Thank you Judy, for taking us on this amazing journey and giving us the opportunity to explore new worlds and to make new friendships that will continue to bless our lives in the days ahead. We love you."

FOOTNOTE: 16 people from the group of 70 were fortunate to go on the 2nd leg of the tour and we look forward to hearing about their experiences. Next year WOW 2011 will be held in San Fransisco with event directors Kathy & Sue and Judy Chen. Be there!

SUBJECT: MIDNIGHT RODEO , Winter Workshop 2011, & T-Shirts

We return to the club next Thursday with rested bodies after our long flight home today and two new dances for sure - SHANGHAI SURPRISE by Jo and Rachael, and the SHANGHAI SQUAT by those listed below. I'm updating the website with dance news. We took 1300 pictures that we need to index. So that will take a little while.

Most important is that MICHELE PERRON (Bossy, Stuff You Gotta Watch, Your Eyes in Mine) and RUBEN LUNA (Hey Soul Sister – still #1), Regresa, If I Could Change) will be our guest teachers for the Midnight Rodeo Winter Workshop on January 22, 2011. Revised flyer will be posted this weekend. Nothing changes except Michele replacing Jo, who we hope will be back in 2012.

If you have sent in a registration and prefer a refund, please let me know. Part of the proceeds from this event will go to JO THOMPSON'S medical fund, set up for her locally in Denver. This fund will help with her bone marrow transplant expenses. Jo looks wonderful and we know she will recover from this with everyone's prayers for her healing. Prayer lists are powerful medicine!!

You can send good wishes to her at Jo Thompson Szymanski, 10950 Bellbrook Circle, Highlands Ranch, CO 80130. We've already asked Jo to be our 2012 Winter Workshop, and look forward to welcoming her back to Ocala.

If you would like one of the t-shirts we had made for this trip, please email me soon as I have placed an order. I will have them at Windy City and the Tampa Classic event. $15 each, $2 postage if mailed.
LADIES: Red or Black, short sleeve or ¾ sleeve, LAT V-neck, good quality, true to size. Pretty silver print says, "Dance" in Chinese on front, and "Live, Laugh and Line Dance" in Fortune Cookie Font on back of shirt. Silver notes on sleeve.
MENS: Black, M, L, XL, Jerzees short sleeve t-shirt, Same print.

These shirts were created for us by Richard and Helen Tang, two special people in my Prestige 55 Wednesday dance class.
THANK YOU, Richard and Helen, for your creativity and kind friendship.. The shirts got much attention as we traveled!

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