Hong Kong

I know of one way to see the world without a study abroad program.

My friend Jamie, a 22-year-old American studies major at Yale University, is a singer and was a part of the a cappella group The Yale Spizzwinks(?) (Yes, that’s how it’s spelled—question mark, too.).

In May 2007, the Spizzwinks(?) toured China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam. In tailcoats and peak lapels they rocked high school auditoriums and downtown nightclubs.

And the praise they received was unforgettable: At a high school in Shanghai, students presented the group with a large banner of a Spizzwinks(?) publicity photo, blown up life-size. “It was a bit un-nerving to say the least,” Jamie said. “Our reception over there was unlike anything we received in the States… they treated us like rock-stars.”

Yet there were no mosh pits. “I think the most amazing thing was how silent they were during the show,” Jamie said of a performance in China. “Complete silence during each musical number, and enthusiastic but polite clapping after every song.”

A Spizzwinks(?) performance is a combination of music, skit, and comedy. While the language barriers made parts of their shows hit or miss, the humor was never lost on their audiences. “We did have them laughing out loud when we tried to introduce ourselves in Chinese,” Jamie said. “The one Chinese guy in our group taught us all to say, ‘Hello, my name is_________ and I study ______’ before the show, but needless to say we all butchered the language during the actual performance.  I think they found it endearing! ”

The group performed every other day on average, Jamie said, and in their free time they were “full-time tourists.” Jamie witnessed the heavy construction going on in Shanghai, host of this year’s World Expo. They experienced a Chinese spin on Karaoke–the difference, as Jamie described, is that you get to avoid the bar crowd. They rented a room, ordered drinks, and sang to Chinese renditions of U.S. pop videos.

They braved new foods and were…well, brave: “We all wanted to be outgoing and challenge ourselves with the strange Chinese delicacies we were offered” Jamie said. “I think that attitude eventually got the best of us, since we all ended up getting sick at one point or another…there was definitely a period when I was feeling very ill and refused to eat anything but Oreos and Ritz crackers.”

But it takes more than indigestion to discourage the Spizzwinks(?). They have since toured New Zealand, Europe, and Africa.

Watch Jamie and the Spizzwinks(?) perform Billie Jean.