China in 3 days
Another airport blog post as I wait for the second leg (out of three) back to Kansas City from China. Tired but at least the long twelve hour flight is over. Still about 7 hours to go. Trying to figure out if the total travel time to and from exceeds the number of hours actually spent in China. A whirlwind, last minute trip to perform in the country's capital, Beijing, for Bvlgari's launch of their new female jewelry line, Lvcea. Quixotic received confirmation of the job a couple weeks ago, so it was an exciting challenge to create a new piece for the event- a collaboration of custom made animation, music, and choreography inspired by the diamond and ruby Lvcea watch. It was my first opportunity to be apart of this type of creative process and I'm happy to report it was a success! A beautiful culmination of art and culture. It's crazy how much time and energy goes into a four minutes piece. But the precision and synchronicity has to be spot on.
Three of us journeyed out last Sunday morning, ready for a long flight with pillows, books, snacks, and a Chinese language app on my phone (I only ended up learning hello and thank you). Four movies and three airplane meals (vegan upon request-go United!) later we were in Beijing. The airport was insane-huge and filled with people pushing to get through customs and lining up at the baggage claim with no intention of moving to let anyone through. Luckily we had an escort and driver to lead us around and get us on our way. The hotel was in the center of the city and was one of the highlights for me- spacious room with gorgeous furniture, walk in closets, claw foot bathtubs and a shower the size of a bedroom. We got hooked up. The boys had to go to the venue and load in equipment etc but I was able to workout, go for a swim in the beautiful, cabana lined pool, take a bubble bath while watching Les Miserable (there was a TV in the shower room), and pass out!
The first night and following morning were very foggy and rainy which apparently is odd for Beijing this time of year and definitely put a damper on any chance of exploring comfortably. In the morning I went to check out the venue, which was the Beijing Television Theater that they were pretty much re-designing into an event space with a tunnel entrance and stage. Production was still under way so I thought I would try to see some of the city. Shopping was my first stop, just at a mall near the hotel. Many of the same stores as the US but also a ton of Chinese candy shops. And many many animal statues and funny advertisements. Shopping was cut short when I started to notice people starring and pointing at me quite a bit. Blondes are not as abundant in China as they are in the US-not to mention the freckles, which were also shocking to one of the bathroom attendants who kept pointing at the "dots" on my arms and nose. I reached my threshold when a man starting yelling at me in Chinese and continued to follow me from store to store. I would stop and turn around to look at him and he would look the other way pretending that he wasn't following me. I quickly ducked into an H&M and ran to find refuge at my hotel.
After a nap, I woke up with a renewed sense of adventure and confidence and decided to leave the sanctuary of my hotel to see a little more of Beijing. The Forbidden City was close by and I felt good about heading to a spot where there would be other tourists. I trekked out toward the entrance of the city trying not to pay attention to the aggressive walkers and people starring. I made it to tiananmen square I got immediately discouraged when the attention escalated from pointing to people asking to take photos with me. I didn't make it inside the city and instead went to wait at the hotel cafe for my friends to return. Sam's cousin lives in Beijing with his wife, so we met them and they took us out for an authentic Chinese meal. We walked down a back alley off one of the main streets to a hidden gem. The restaurant was in a six hundred year old building- a quaint spot with a charming patio and tons of traditional artwork. We sat and plate after plate of food arrived at the table. There was no menu, just tons of dishes to share. And plenty of vegetarian options-broccoli, beans, hearts of palm, bok choy, salad, two mushroom dishes and jasmine sprinkled eggs. Not to mention the meat and fish that came out-thinly sliced beef, a whole fish, chicken concoctions and shrimp that had tasty little legs, according to Sam. A great evening and then off to a late night rehearsal!
Last full day in China was a busy one. We had to get up early for a traditional good luck ceremony for the event. It involved a group offering, where we each lit incense and prayed, followed by a cooked piglet being eaten by each member of the team. Luckily there was fruit on the table as well, so I avoided eating little Wilber without offending anyone. It was very interesting to see this tradition and it seemed to bring everyone together before the big show. After that we had a couple hours before dress rehearsal so we hopped in the car and tried to run to the 798 arts district to see some local flavor! Only bummer was the traffic! Beijing is a crazy crowded city and we were not expecting the back up to be as bad as it was at 10 am. It also seems as though red lights don't mean anything there. Each intersection seemed more like a cluster of cars threatening to hit each other until someone gave up and let the other person pass. I would never attempt to operate a vehicle in this city! Once we finally arrived (an hour later) we only had thirty minutes on the clock to look around. It was the speediest art tour ever. I snapped fast photos, shopped like a tasmanian devil, and quickly scanned the sidewalks for art installations and murals. I surprisingly got gifts for most of my friends and made it down about four streets to see the art. Then back in the car, traffic jam number two, hair and makeup into dress rehearsal.
Finally show time. The event kicked off and I was ready to go! Everything seemed to flow smoothly. There was a celebrity guest, a couple of speakers, then Quixotic. I was proud to be there representing and doing my thing. It was well received and successful. Champagne and celebration to follow.
One final detail that I forgot. The bathrooms here. Thank god I was warned ahead of time (thanks Tali). No tp and a bit different than we do it in America.