The car arrived at 4 am and I was ready. The mural was done, the hopscotch painted, the art room set up, and the music room was at least out of boxes. I was spent, my clothes were dirty, and I was tired of peeing in a hole. I had grown accustomed to warm beer, instant coffee, my plywood bed, and the unending rubbish. By the end of the project, I was dropping my chicken and fish bones on the floor just like everyone else. I even thought about spitting on the playground, but I didn’t. I would miss the morning “halloo’s” from funny kids, and the incredibly good, spicy food cooked by warm hearts, but I was growing uneasy with my bitten tongue and I was ready to go. We stuffed our luggage into the trunk and I took the back seat, squeezing myself between the door and a box stuffed with Chinese medicine and rice wine that Mr. Zhang was asked to bring back to Shanghai to bury in a hole for a few years. I leaned into my jacket and closed my eyes for the 2+ hour drive. It was quiet and peaceful, and the Long Lin air drifted past the bag of bananas on top of the rice wine box as if to send a sweet spell along for the ride, “that was hard, and I’m happy I did it” I thought to myself. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. Ah Yai-a-yai-a-yia, Yai-a-yai-a-yia … ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. The speaker in the back of my head began busting out Chinese disco. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. Holy shit! Really?! ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. Really?! At 4 am? ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. Oh my God make it stop, please make it stop! It was foggy and the road was slow. Maybe the driver needed to stay awake? I bit my tongue. About an hour into the ride my colleague said something in Mandarin and it went silent. It was the last peaceful moment in our 15-hour journey back to Shanghai.
Taxi, plane, layover, plane, taxi, train, taxi…hotel. Sweet Jesus, a down comforter, a toilet seat with a flush button, a kicking wall heater, and Internet. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ. I did a little dance around the room and went to bed.
We’ve spent two days sharing stories from each village and the hardships and sweet spots are very similar. Their work is important, and it means so very much to the kids it serves. I’m looking forward to seeing how the exhibition about the project develops in April, and I hope this collaboration between ArtAmbassador.org and Jiugian.org helps them achieve their goals.
My responsibilities here are finished, and it’s time to play… well… paint. Tomorrow I’m headed to an ancient city outside of Shanghai called Xin Cheng. Kevin connected me with a couple of other artists there so I can focus on painting for the rest of my stay. In a crazy small world way, one of them is from my hometown of Lambertville, NJ. He’s one of the only guy in the village that speaks English, and he’ll help me along. Hoping to post new work and fun short stories for the rest of my stay. ZDTZ, ZDTZ, ZDTZ.