You know you are in mainland China when an official points a plastic gun at your forehead in a train station. She is taking your temperature for H1N1 flu, but no one tells you this.
A sign says “we will provide maximum spiritual and physical encouragement for your cooperation with laws prohibiting the transportation of illegal substances.” Amie, a western artist has already had her fruit confiscated from her bag, and as a result the rest of us are delayed.
Moving Cultures, our group of seventeen Chinese and western artists, linguists, and musicians is a mix especially confounding to officials in a place where Chinese and foreigners don’t vacation together. My collage art materials—shattered glass, bits of paper—will interpret this unpredictable experiment. As foreigners, we must be vigilant self-editors or risk embarrassing our hosts. Painting messages of “free Tibet” means an abrupt end to a trip already postponed a year due to the Olympic protests.
In mainland China, there is nothing unplanned or unaccounted for, no matter how small. In the days ahead we will become experts at confirming and re-confirming our identities and itineraries at every Chinese train station, hotel and point of entry. We are on vacation not business. We will have our passports handy. < next >