Monday, November 24, 2008
Eva here. WOW four days back in NYC and I am still amazed I was just in China! What a whirlwind trip, what and incredible experience, what a massive city; Shanghai is home to 20 million people! Where to begin? Having just read Edith’s post, I will not give a play-by-play. I will share however my personal story of a Shanghai experience that included:
1) As a [mostly] vegetarian, I had prepared to be ‘open’ regarding food. I have no idea that I would eat sea snails, various unidentifiable parts of octopus, pork, lamb and ‘meat’.
2) I was pick-pocketed on the Bund on our last night and had my credit card, ATM card and license stolen, along with some cash. Passport was safe… phew!
3) I haggled for a silk scroll on the streets
4) Went to a gorgeous Taoist temple
5) Wandered back allies where poverty and poor living conditions were beyond what simple words can express.
6) Performed feminist street theater in a police state…
…perhaps not such a ‘typical experience’, but all just a day in the life of a Guerrilla Girl on Tour!I left for China EARLY Monday morning the 10th of November. I brought the following with me around the globe:
As a [mostly] vegetarian, I had prepared to be ‘open’ regarding food. I had no idea that I would eat sea snails, various unidentifiable parts of octopus, pork, lamb and ‘meat’. It seems that most Chinese people eat according to Chinese medicine principles, so the idea of not eating the foods prescribed for a season is pretty ‘foreign’. There was no way to eat with groups of people and not consume animal products…. So I dug in… OH and beware next time you are in China, the ‘vegetable dumplings’ may just have pork in them !
After reading and hearing about the poverty in China, I knew I might see some things that were disturbing. I vowed to carry compassion in my heart and be realistic in my sensitivities. On Saturday, after the performing part of the journey was over, Edith and I went wandering through back allies in Old Shanghai. Poverty and poor living conditions were beyond what simple words can express. As I strolled past housing complexes that were home to eight or more families sharing one bathroom and kitchen and seeing that a bathroom/ kitchen might consist of a hose, several plastic basins, a hot plate and a hole in the ground, I also realized that life in other parts of this country were worse still. I carry these memories with me now and am still sorting out my emotional reactions to what I have seen.
On the day we performed our piece ‘Silence is Violence’ all over the city [in parks, on streets, in malls] the press was everywhere and always wanted to chat! One particular question prompted me to share what I was bringing to the piece. I thought for a moment and realized that even in China, I bring to this work every story I have heard, witnessed, experienced of violence against women. As we performed, I gathered more observations to take with me on the road. Several times over the course of the day, a couple would show up and begin to watch. One of us would extend a flyer to the woman, the man would grab it and once he read it would drag her away. The flyer contained only simple statistics and information regarding domestic violence in China, yet this seemed threatening to many of the men in the crowds. Of course, and in all fairness, many men, and women, completely embraced the message and our presence in their communities!
When leaving for this trip, friends and family members were a little worried. After all I was going to a country where political, feminist street theater might not be readily accepted by authorities. However, we were brought to Shanghai by the Zendi MoMA and were assured that they would take good care of us. That is exactly how it happened! We were chauffeured around on the city on the day of the events, photographed, video taped and protected every step of the way. We were part of a team, part of a vision, part of an international arts community and I thank all the organizers for doing a brilliant job!
Thanks for reading!
Love, Eva Le Gallienne