I hope you will follow my journey through Shanghai with twocities art gallery to plan a community art event...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Dr. Standerfer! What are you doing?!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is probably my favorite new fruit I have met here in China! The rind is very tough and dry. The outside reminds me of an eggplant but is about the size of a peach. The flesh cleanly peals away from the rind looking like a head of garlic. The fruit has a texture which I feel like is a cross between a peach and a grape. The taste - DELICIOUS. Kind of like a grapekiwipeach. I'm going to bring some home.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lost in Translation...

I arrived in China knowing communication would be difficult. I knew it. I'm an Arkansan who does NOT speak Chinese. What else could I expect but some hurdles to cross?

My first couple weeks on my project we spent finalizing my plan-of-attack (aka: work plan,) making initial contact with community members who could introduce me to the galleries, and doing some background research; all of which was simple enough. My first interviews over the following two weeks were with foreign run galleries. Minor hick-ups included: not being able to fully sift through a THICK French accent, arriving 15 minutes late to a couple interviews due to some “navigation issues” (shocking… I know,) some galleries forgot I was coming… All-in-all things went relatively smooth -probably a little too smooth.

The following week I spent time scheduling meetings with Chinese run galleries and met my translator. (This is where things became rocky.) I fully expected to have difficulties with communicating with Chinese people. However, I didn’t expect to have problems communicating with the person who was supposed to be TRANSLATING FOR ME. AH… IPSP.

The first red flag was Yang (my student translator) showing up over an hour late to our meeting. We agreed to meet at a Starbucks off of the Changshou exit. She went to the Starbucks near the Changshu exit. In spite of my numerous emails and texts, (she thought that I had been misspelling the exit where we were going to meet) I still waited over an hour. Not a problem. I mean, how can you be upset with someone who is going to help you secure half of your data for your project?! You aren’t. So, we had a nice chat and I found out that she was only going to be able to help me for 3 days. NOT TWO WEEKS! Awesome.

Seeing the bright side, I thought, no problem… we’ll cram 15 interviews into 3 days. They will be LONG days, but we’ll get it done. Long story short, many of the Chinese galleries canceled so we only had a few interviews.

Translation during the interviews was rocky, at best. (I’ll spare the details.) Then Yang got sick. The last day I was left to fend for myself. I decided that I would push ahead and go on my own and get whatever information I could.

I showed up at the first gallery and asked for Xu (I pronounced it Zoo) The ladies looked at me like I had 5 heads and said... "We don't have animals here, we are an art gallery." I sat there for a second and realized that they just said, “We don’t have animals.” I immediately started to laugh at myself and then wrote down the name. They said, “Oh, you want to talk with SHIU.” Yup, that’s who I need to talk with. (obviously, X makes a SH sound!)

Today, I went into a gallery and having learned from previous mistakes, the name was already written down. I walked in and handed the man at the front desk my business card and the name of my interviewee and said that I needed to talk with Jang Jung. A lady came down and shook my hand and asked if I wanted to see the gallery. Absolutely.

After slowly walking around in the gallery for over 20 minutes, the lady asked me if I would like to buy anything. I said, “No, thank you. The art is amazing, but I don’t think that I can afford it. Would you like to start the interview?” The look. The look of me having 5 heads was back. Having left the name of the person I needed to talk with the man at the front desk, I tried to pronounce Jang Jung. The lady said, “Oh, you want to talk with my manager.” BINGO!

I waited another 20 minutes for “Jang” to get off the phone. “Jang” came out and handed me her business card… the pieces all came together. I was in the WRONG gallery. Great work, Becca.

At times I am amazed at what can be accomplished with no words at all and walk as proud as the World Champion of Charades. Other times, I wonder if I could be any more clueless! But that’s how it is in China. Some days you win. Some days you don’t.

On the up-side of things. In the interview at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), an undergrad student from Yale who speaks Chinese offered to help translate for me! He'll be coming with me to the rest of my interviews this week. Chalk that one up in the "win" column.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Before I left...

I was just flipping through old pictures on my camera to make space for new ones and came across these little jewels. My last day in Rogers before this adventure was filled with some of my most favorite people... in. this. world.From POPSCICLES....

to playing with the magical blue glittery boucy ball...

to playing hide and go seek...

to being little Pujols... to climbing trees....

It was a brilliantly perfect playful spring afternoon.

This pic goes out to my superhero tshirt wearing homies.

There were about 15 of these in the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Shanghai.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sculpture Garden... and the FABRIC STORE!

First off... crazy artists strike again!

The description for the leg sculptures that are in the picture below is this:

The Transhumance, in the form of walking, represents the basic traits of the modern period, trying to advocate a new point view of existence aesthetics to the effect that art is for life's sake and life is for art's sake.

If anyone can explain what the text and the sculpture actually mean... I'm all ears!

BUT... what I really want you to check out is the creepy guy in green. WHAT in the WORLD is he doing videoing that doll with the GI-NORMOUS legs?! That's the question.

Trenia and I went to the fabric market today! LORD HAVE MERCY! We had a ball. Jackets, dresses, bags, shirts, pashminas, scarves, pants...
ONE MILLION things - ONE MILLION tailors - a choice of ONE MILLION fabrics...
We picked out a choice stretch cotton and showed them a button up shirt from home that a tailor is going to recreate. At this point, it's $15 (100rmb) a shirt. But, everyone knows... Trenia "the wheeler and dealer" Byrd is going to get that tailor to come up off the 100rmb mark! We can not WAIT to see what we get next week!
The metro ride after the fabric market...
These guys... these guys were joking around, squeezing into seats, laughing, and pushing each other around from the moment they got on the metro. T and I loved them... so we HAD to get a pic. (I tried to get her to lay across their laps and take a pic... this pic was the compromise.) After this picture, ALL the guys pulled out their cell phones and wanted a picture with Trenia. Hilarious.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another week...

Well, I’m almost half way finished with my time in China! I. Can. Not. Believe. It.

For so many reasons, I am glad that I came to China. The people are beautiful, curious, family-oriented, and without a doubt very hard working. I have never been around Asians and the unknown was unsettling. Diversity is something that was not a part of my childhood. My elementary school in Rogers had its first non-caucasian students when I was in the 4th grade: the Esparza brothers. I remember them not only because they were great athletes, but also because they were the first Latinos I had ever met in my life. Here, I am constantly bombarded with diversity I never even imagined. For example, a Chinese guy who was raised in France and speaks English with a French accent. Or the Chinese news castors broadcasting with an Australian accent. Or the wide variety of bands I saw on Friday night: a Dutch Jazz Band, a garage band comprised of some Chinese kids and a middle aged American (appearing) man, a story telling band that had two Mongolians (Tom and Jerry), a Chinese guy, and an American (who touted himself as “the conqueror”), and finally a French hard rock band. Shanghai truly is a city of the world and I am LOVING interacting with everyone and observing the colliding of cultures between and within people. Every day, it truly is something new.

This week… I saw the CHINESE ACROBATS!!! The flexibility, strength, poise, balance, focus, fearlessness of the acts they pulled off was DAZZLING! The craziest part was the huge globe cage they stuffed 8 crazy guys (and GIRLS! YEAH!) on motorcycles in and drove around!!! I was so nervous for them! I’ve never seen Circ’ d Sole, but I imagine that it was very similar! I would have taken more pictures, but there was no photography and I almost got kicked out for the couple photos that I took! The picture below is of a little man flipping through a tiny hoop!

I also went to several gallery openings this week. The most entertaining was the Australian whose work was a collection of illustrations that told the story of a fictitious group of indigenous people whose way of life was soccer. Here he is.
He also made a collection of pens for the World Cup!!!!!!! Don’t worry my male friends… I gave the artist a hard time for making the American man look like that!!!

Lots of people ask me what I am going to miss about China. The following picture is an example of something that I will desperately miss. (The misuse of the English language over here is endlessly entertaining.) This was in the stall of a bathroom in a museum. A facility that actually had toilets as we know them in the states and provided toilet paper!!!

Number one: How is going to the bathroom like that even possible?!
Number two: Does standing really sound like STAMPEDE?! (I think they meant… NO STANDING…)

And… THE WORLD CUP! I am LOVING the energy and excitement that has come with this event. The games are on every TV in town, and it is all that people are talking about. And how about the good ol’ USA!!!! Calling a draw with the BRITS! NICE WORK TEAM! Mircha, Trenia, and I stayed up last Friday night to watch the game. We headed out at 1am to a bar with TV’s that Mircha had scoped out ahead of time. There were about 10 Americans in the bar. We painted USA on our faces and were ready for the game. The bar played Bruce Springsteen “I was born in the USA,” prior to the game… which if we weren’t pumped enough… we were after that. It was a great great night. Here is a pic in the cab after Mircha bought Trenia and me roses. What a sweet guy. :)

(Pretend this is a really funny picture of Trenia and me... it wouldn't load... for days. Literally.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Paper shop... and a taste of home!

If you're reading this, then you probably know me. If you know me then you know that there are few things in this world that excite me more than art / craft supplies! I like lookin at 'em. I like touchin 'em. I like EVERYTHING about wandering through a good paper store. I don't know if it's the possibility that lies within the object or if it's an obsession (i.e. David Monteith / Books). It's probably a combination. All I know is that I found the mother of all arts and craft stores yesterday (way better than hob lob... high quality products / none of the nonsense of cheesy sit-arounds, fake flowers, and crafts-in-a-box... just AWESOME materials, from paper to markers to paint to brushes to AHHHH... EVERYTHING!) Anyway, I'll save you from any more of this. Bottom line: I now have a fully loaded arsenal of materials to make homemade thank you cards for everyone who's helping me with my project! Boo yah!
Another simple pleasure... KRAFT MAC AND CHEESE... not an imitation, THE REAL DEAL. Trenia and I went grocery shopping yesterday and stumbled upon this little jewel! Needless to say, we put away the whole box. The featured item was accompanied by some apple slices, orange fanta, and some dark chocolate for dessert! We did eat the mac and cheese with chop sticks, so that should count for something!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Learning how to travel...

Traveling in foreign countries is just that - foreign. In every country there are many ways of getting around - some good, some not-so-good.

Mircha, Trenia, and I took a trip to Hangzhou last weekend. One of the guys sitting next to me on the plane ride over said that if I would meet him in Hangzhou, he would show me around. I originally thought that he was from there, but he is actually from a town even further South of Hangzhou.

I was pumped about the trip for many reasons:

1. The book that I was reading talked about Hangzhou and the cuisine!
2. In my short time here I'd already heard many people talk about how beautiful it is.
3. Roger would show me around!
4. In every China / Shanghai travel book I've looked at - Hangzhou was listed as a "must see"

I had no choice! I had to go. I was glad that Mircha and Trenia were excited to go as well! It's always a better time when they are around!

Lesson number one: NEVER think that you can purchase a train ticket the day of your trip. We got up at 6:00am to get to the train station before 7:30am. We wanted to get a FULL day in Hangzhou. Long story short - we got train tickets, but it wasn't for another 3.5 hours! Glad we got up at the crack of dawn! We made the best of it, and Mircha got his KFC fix!

We arrived in Hangzhou at the train station that was about an hour OUTSIDE of town (note buying the ticket the day you are traveling - OPTIONS are not AVAILABLE!) Roger had texted the hotel's address to us in Chinese, so we hopped in a cab showed the address to the cab driver (note the photo in the earlier blog) and we were on our way! Laughing around the 45 minute mark at just HOW FAR AWAY we actually were!

Roger and his friend, See, were at the hotel, so we were able to immediately start on our way! They took us to a "traditional" Chinese lunch which included chicken feet and river snails! I ate a WHOLE chicken foot and 6 river snails. Mircha could eat the feet - bones and all - I could not. it was everything that I could do to work the foot, bones, and chicken claws around in my mouth and consume the softer parts. I've never tried liver, but Mirch said the snails tasted like liver; so there you have it.

We went on boat rides and headed over to an island that was in the middle of the lake. There is an old folk lore about a white snake and a green snake... which formed the island. I didn't quite catch the whole story between what was lost in translation and my wondering mind (the people watching here never ceases to entertain me!) This picture is a prime example... the dude on the far left is talking on a phone that might as well have been a bag phone that was only used in cars about 15 years ago. The lady next to him had bedazzeled EVERYTHING that could be bedazzeled; down to her BOW in her hair, phone, sunglasses, and purse - if it could bling or sparkle, it did. The fact that she left the sticker on the lens of her shades was the icing on the cake for me! Mircha chatting it up with Roger and See about NBA basketball and life in general was enough to make the trip worthwhile! Anyway...

Our first boat ride was on a small boat with man who had obviously (NOTE: the calluses on his hands!) been giving boat rides for many many years! (I'll bet that he could use a Chinese / Cup massage!)

So we toured the island. It was so nice to be around trees and grass! Shanghai is like no other concrete jungle that I have ever witnessed! There is absolutely no "Central Park" here in this city. There are small areas that have some of the most beautiful landscaping you've ever seen. However, it's no Arkansas, I'll tell you that much! :)

Touring the island I got a good shot of "crack pants." I had never heard of this before coming to China. So let me tell you about it. Number one: there is no 5 second rule in China. If something falls on the floor... hate it for you, but game over. Crack pants are why.

Here they are, in real life. I've seen it in action many times, but haven't ever had my camera. Little kids will just go to the bathroom on a sidewalk, anywhere / anytime. It's one of the wildest things I've ever seen!
Roger and his friend had to take off early the next morning, so we were on our own. We had a GREAT lunch, then headed to the train station. (Why we didn't learn our lesson the day before about buying train tickets early... I don't know.) We get to the train station and get up to the front of the line. We have our landlord on speed dial, tell her what we want, and then hand the phone over to the teller. The phone is passed back and Cindy tells us, you are going to have to wait until the 6:45 train and there are no more seats! Whatever. We buy the tickets. We had to get back to Shanghai to work the next day. Then we end up bumping into a lady peddeling bus tickets. All we can understand is BUS... so, again, we call Cindy. Cindy talks with the lady and then tells us that there is a bus leaving in 10 minutes. We buy bus tickets, the lady pays us half the cost of our train tickets (Train tickets were $5 a piece...) and sends us on our marry way. We get shoved around in the bus not understanding that there is assigned seating! My bad... I CAN'T READ MY TICKET! Most of the time, I just laugh and let them push me around. What else can I do? In the end, most everyone is laughing, so I feel like its okay.
We made it back safe and sound! I had a little taste of nature and learned a lot about traveling: the difference between bus / trains, ticket purchasing, the central vs. the SOUTH station, assigned seating... We'll have it down before we know it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Employee of the month at a DUMPLING RESTAURANT?!



I can't believe that it has been a week since my last blog! I'm going to give you the Cliff's of my last week. I promise to do better moving forward!

The reason I didn't blog on Monday was because I was busy recovering from my CHINESE / CUPPING MASSAGE! Trenia posted a great blog about it, but in short... A Chinese massage will push you to your limit! It is not a walk in the park and is NOT FOR SISSIES! Those ladies put what seemed like the weight of an elephant on my back and almost made me cry! And... at one point they cracked my neck and back "into" alignment. The cupping was wild... they light a fire in a cup and then placed the cup on our backs. The heat difference created a suction in the cup which was strategically placed on our backs. The purpose is to improve circulation and balance out your CHI. (whatever that is) The spots on my back were far worse that everyone else's... I guess I need to work on my circulation! The darker the spot... the worse the circulation. The streaks on either side of my spine are where they took a cup that was suctioned onto my back and worked it up and down... AAAHHHH!

You all will be happy to know that I am recovering nicely!
Some of my favorite moments from last week:
This little girl was on a bridge. I'm not sure where her parents were, but she was just chillin having the afternoon of her life, just waving at everyone as they passed by! MADE. MY. DAY.

This guy... the one I blogged about earlier... BUSTED! SNOOZING!

This guy... bit off more than he could chew! STUCK in between the sea of flowing traffic! (This was probably way funnier to me at the time - than it is in this shotty picture, a week later! Oh well!)
My project is moving forward with full steam. I have made my way around the city and have begun my interviews with the local art galleries. Some people are intrigued and interested in a community art event and others are hard pressed to see the purpose. Some of my interviews have been just amazing. There is not much more that I love than talking with someone about something that they are deeply passionate about. Some of the gallery owners are artists themselves and have done amazing work. I am absolutely pumped up right now about art and improving the quality of people's lives through art! I am learning so much about China's art culture and the history of art in China. It is fascinating.
Next week I will interview more galleries run by foreigners, after that... the CHINESE galleries. I will have an interpreter, but that should be an adventure to say the least.
Its confession time. I've already failed on my "no American food" gig for the summer. I didn't even last two full weeks. The reason is simple: It was going to cut into my ability to engage with others. Really, if you look at it from a utilitarian perspective: the greater good would come from me attending social functions with american food and participating rather than isolating myself to this "personal" journey of only eating Chinese food. I'm not sure what I was trying to prove anyway! :)
This weekend Mircha, Trenia, and I went to Hangzhou. Hangzhou is a city south of Shanghai that is easily assessable by train and / or bus! Roger, my flight buddy, said that he would show me around if I came... so we did! It was a GREAT time. I will blog and post pics from the trip tomorrow!