crossing the  border

The next step

Posted in: by Pete Moser on 10 October 2014
Tagged with: Far East 2014 0

On the move again - I pack the one man band in it's case, say goodbye to the friends at Gen Ed taking another selfie with Chi Chung!

The challenge of travelling across HK to the border awaits - a prospect that I am curious about. Not sure how it will go and quite what awaits me when I arrive, even though I have a very good contact and a weekend schedule.

In the meantime I go to the Macau Ferry terminal to meet Mandy and Arvin who are supposed to have been planning the 8 day residency in the city. I understand that what we are trying to do is breaking new ground and therefore not easy and I have been very worried about the lack of communication. We meet in the Starbucks cafe and start to talk - the recruitment for the training has been non-existent and there are no community groups to visit. Hmmmmm.

I think on my feet and start to ask questions to establish both what Arvin had hoped would take place and how we can address the challenges ahead. They are paying a good fee and so I want to work and deliver a clear outcome. What is it to be ?

We establish that the aim (and what the funding is for) is to try and establish community music activity in the city. Do we understand what that kind of work is?  I think Arvin does (as an artist who works mainly in Hong Kong) but Mandy, as a person who has only just qualified with a degree in Event management, has very little idea. I ask more questions. Who do they know ? In what groups do they already have friends? We make a list of possibilities and I begin to reconcieve the project. Visits to groups, meetings with people and training along the way. I try to establish what success would look like after the 2 weeks - numbers, contacts, connections and all. Then we move onto practicals ... where will I stay and what instruments do they have! We part after a couple of hours with a promise from Mandy to reply to emails and communicate. 

The next journey starts and I drag my big drum case along to the escalator and down to the MTR. It is so busy with people at 4pm on a Friday afternoon and I have 4 trains to take with some long interchanges down crowded tunnels before I will get to the Fu Tian checkpoint and the border. It is not easy and I keep up a lovely 'what's app' chats with Kathryn in the UK and Wingo in Beijing. They keep me sane.

Finally at the very end of the East Coast Line I arrive and the realise that I am among about 5,000 people who are going through 2 border controls - one out of HK and the next into China. Mary-anne, my new connection is waiting the other side (I hope) so patiently I queue and snake backwards and forwards - the only foreigner in a sea of people of all ages heading home after work or on business or coming home from school. I reach the final escalator and she is there waiting. We head for a truck and the new orientation begins.


This is China - so different from Hong Kong. How? Difficult to describe but it feels and looks so different, and also familiar. She answers all my questions patiently as we head to an arts event in Baishizhou urban village - where I was last year for the opening of their arts residency. So much to digest about the city and also the weekend programme that will see us working in the north of Shenzen in the district of Dalang hosted by the cultural department (more later). 


In the meantime we go to Room 302 - a tiny room in a residential building where they have been making artist residencies all year. I have no idea what is going to happen! We arrive  through a door at the back of a noodle cafe and up stairs to the space and the Friday evening get together and arts event. 2 young artists have been working with one wall over the last 2 weeks - painting it black one in week one (to reflect the oppression of the space), adding a white painted window in week two (to start to imagine escape) and this week they have drawn a room in perspective with a clock, a door, plants and a phone.


We sit and begin to talk and slowly the room fills until there are 5 locals and architects from Latvia, Montreal, Toronto, Amsterdam, Italy and me. It is like a 'salon' as we ask the artists questions and talk and discuss the answers. What does the room mean? How have they conceived the space and our reaction to it? and much more. I ask "how can we use the room to discuss the protests in HK" - a difficult question, they say and then we go on to talk about what is happening there and how it is perceived on the mainland.


2 hours later we leave!

The drive north of the city to Dalang takes an hour and we arrive to meet Luki - our host for the weekend - at a typical big style Chinese hotel.

Tired - we check in and then go to a local noodle shop for a bowl of noodles. 

Lines of traffic crossing the border
At a frontier not made for foreigners
People queue and chat in a calm sort of order
Plenty of smiles for this stranger
Out of one country and into the next
A new adventure, I hope with no stress

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