Life inside a music box ain’t easy. – Regina Spektor
As we were walking across campus this beautiful Spring evening, we began listing off all the things we will miss about our life in China. We are entering the final ten weeks of our service in the Peace Corps, so we thought we’d try to do some Top Five lists of things we will truly miss.
We have been in China a year now, almost to the day, and still one of the most mystifying things is our inability to qualify, classify, or in any way explain this place. It is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and then promptly put in a blender. This post will in no way attempt to explain this phenomenon only illustrate the truth by which it is manifested in our daily life. Nearly anything you say about China is true, but then, so is the opposite.
For the last 28 hours or so, we’ve had a funeral going on downstairs. We live on one of the upper floors of our building, but we’ve been able to hear and “participate” vicariously with every gong and chant. I remember funerals from my childhood. There was always a wake. There were covered dishes. There was a lot of standing and talking. Funerals were mini family reunions.
Here, it’s just a bit more all encompassing. Incense. Chanting. Fireworks to rid the area of evil spirits. Banners. Gongs. Cymbals. Drums. Mahjong. Coal fires. Men standing. Women wringing their hands. White head wraps, and at least for this funeral, they’ve had our first snow of the year. We’re not sure who the woman was, but she’s getting quite the send off. 28 hours and counting. It’s 11:40PM, and it’s looking like another all-nighter for the family and friends in the tent downstairs.
This past week was an interesting break from the norm for us. Charlie along with three student actors and a Chinese colleague went to Hangzhou for the Chinese Universities Shakespeare Festival Master Class for the week. They spent 50 hours on the train in total but learned a lot and had a blast! I held down the fort and had a lot of time to think, plan, dream, and scheme. Some of the week was spent updating my website with some of the completed pieces in Nostalgia for the Present, a multi-faceted mixed media project which deals artistically with my observations as a westerner living in SW China right now. You can check that out at my personal website. I also spent time running and poking around some the tiny villages that surround our campus.