I am typing this from a sub-optimally air-conditioned performing arts theater in Liuzhou, China. Chinese people really aren’t into cold. Even the iced coffee I got from the vending machine outside would barely qualify as “chilled” back in the States. But I can survive. Being a native Chicagoan for almost two decades trains one’s body to thrive in any weather condition (jury’s still out on Beijing-level air pollution though).
This summer I received the opportunity to complete what I can only describe as a dream internship pre-ordained by the gods. I’m working at a performing arts production team based in Beijing, whose mission is to promote dance, theater, and music as effective tools of cultural diplomacy. I assist on projects that bring performing art groups from around the world to China, and projects that bring China’s performing arts to the world stage. Currently, I am touring southern China with a French dance company, and practicing my dismal French and rusty Chinese with native speakers. Recently in China, the government has almost doubled the state’s budget for the arts and culture. Even though most of the performing arts industry is privatized right now, artistic exchange has always acted as a forum for different countries to engage in diplomatic dialogue. So I’m extremely excited (and a little intimidated) to meet government officials from all over the world who attend our performances. Seriously, if someone asked me my ideal job, this would be it.
Many people consider “cultural diplomacy” to be a fluffy endeavor. Maybe it’s the sentimental, romantic, feelings-driven artist side of me, but I truly believe that it’s impossible to view (or listen to) any form of art without also getting a glimpse of the artist’s soul. Every country has artists. Witnessing the arts of cultures foreign to one’s own makes one realize that people everywhere are bound together by common experiences. Death, love, loss, joy, despair – these are themes found in all art and all people, regardless of cultural origin. You don’t get that from the news reportings on other countries. So much of the human experience is lost in articles and montages depicting other nations, swirled into a hodgepodge of political will and financial numbers. Yeah, these are lofty ideals for the arts. But a large part of my hopes for this summer is to see how my ideals play out in the real world.
Oh I guess I graduated from university too. So my life’s story-arc at the moment is the inevitable clash of star-filled dreams and bleak reality.
One too real realization already is that, while waking up in a different city every other day makes my heart soar (to see so many different horizons outside your window is invigorating), single-person hotel rooms are rather lonely. I spend about an hour a day chatting or Skyping my friends back home. I miss you all individually, and I miss us – our synergy, our dinners, our roars of laughter – collectively. A part of me wants so badly to keep living in that little piece of heaven we had carved out of our last months of college. But what was beautiful and perfect during that particular period of our lives isn’t sustainable. We are all starting new lives in new cities with endless possibilities. But, the people who really matter, I’m sure I’ll see them again. In a way, this mutual feeling of uncertainty, excitement, uncontrollable change is just another bond that strengthens our relationships.
End post-graduation feels. I will upload my super belated post on Central Europe soon, and hopefully on-time posts of Kunming, Liuzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beijing over the next week or so!