When you are planning to leave your home to”see the world” and have all those experiences you believed you’ve dreamed of, but couldn’t achieve because of age, inexperience, budget, and various excuses, you are not really thinking about what you are leaving behind for an entire year.
Suddenly after all the excitement settles in, your routine bores you to death, and you need a friend, you realize you are in a city of 7 million people and you are a part of the very tiny small percentage of foreigners who looks like a giant, is too dark, speaks strangely, and acts in a ridiculously different way… The whole sky opens up, you fall down on your knees with arms wide open and scream, “What am I doing here!!??”
In China people take pictures of you wherever you go, but they don’t pursue your friendship, they only want to post on social media that they’ve seen a Laowai (foreigner).
I developed a good friendship with two foreigners though, but one of them had to leave because his visa expired. Now, with my only close friend, our schedules rarely match and finding time to spend with each other sometimes becomes as painful as not having my friends from Charlotte nearby. Speaking of schedules, she will be flying to her vacation for 6 weeks soon, while I’ll have to work because my break comes much later and shorter. I’m going to have a long hiatus to… meditate perhaps?
Oh my dog! How much I have cried for my faithful companion. It seemed so unreal to say goodbye that rainy morning in NY when God found him the most fabulous family in the world. But as fabulous as they are my heart broke in small pieces when I kissed Boomer’s little face for the last time. I lied down depressed for weeks, and I still cry when I see him in pictures. He looks… sad, disconcerted… Or it’s because I see him with mother’s eyes and wish I had telepathic powers to let him know how much I still love him. Not having him with me torments me at times.
At least during the first month I was trying to find a place of worship. I had read that people don’t talk about religion in China so I tried to be cautious; until I saw a post on WeChat. One of the Chinese teachers posted something about Jesus. It was in Mandarin, but the picture accompanying text was pretty clear. I looked for her during lunch. She said she attended services in Mandarin, but told me other teachers went to an international church. That was such great news!! I met with one of the teachers at the mall close to us on a Sunday, we rode the bus for a while, then the train for another long while. It took us about two hours to get there. Wow… In Charlotte it was so easy to jump in the car and drive to the morning service. It usually took me 10-15 minutes. How much do I appreciate to be able to worship in a communist country though. I had heard terrible stories, but so far we have been able to have fellowship in peace here. Amen!
The Art Circle Starts to Open Up
In Charlotte, NC life was accelerated. One event after another, poetry readings, commissioned poems, fashion shows , every week there was so much to do, visit, perform, party, celebrate with friends, awesome friends everywhere… In China I came to a full stop. Zero. Nada. Nichts! Nevertheless, I started small, showing part of my heritage first, dancing cumbia during a festival at school. Then donated my books In the Prism of Your Soul and The Fragrance of Water to the International School library.
After about 2 months I created my own event. I had to! Like a fish has to swim! People came to my apartment to listen to my poetry and one of the attendees delighted us with Navajo chants! I felt so alive! At the same time the Mint Museum of Charlotte asked me to send them a video reading one of my poems to celebrate Candle Day! I’m so thankful with Rubie Britt Height and Claudia Soria for making me feel I’m still part of the artsy life back home.
Shortly after my event I was introduced to a Kenyan art teacher, we have to meet yet again to plan a collaboration, and I found a lovely couple which performs at the Shangri-La Hotel weekly. I was reading about them on Ningbo Focus Magazine where I learned Diane is Colombian (Yay!!!) and Vladimir is from Bulgaria. I contacted her immediately and we have been corresponding since. I’ve even asked her if they would let me share some of my poetry during one of their performances… Let’s see what happens 😉
I’ll be back home soon, changed by this experience, maybe wiser, but definitely much more thankful and appreciative. I promise never again take anything for granted. I love my friends and family more than ever now that I don’t have immediate access to them. Distance puts everything into perspective…
The thing I’ve learned about watching artists is that they’re willing to indulge following what’s interesting without knowing where is going to lead. They trust that is going to lead somewhere and even if in that day or that week or that month it doesn’t get interesting they have this, ‘It’s going to get me somewhere interesting’ ~Vicky Taylor, Anthropologist