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Friday, September 9, 2011

A recording of Beijing

A belated update from the 30th of August onwards...

The first day in the big big city of Beijing, was chilled. Even with approximately 10 million people buzzing around us. Me and Helen hung out with Roger, had amazing food, did a small bit of shopping, some taxiing and lots of talking. I was exhausted though by 8pm and in bed by 9pm… Wouw! I’m showing my age here; the 1st full day to explore Beijing and I was in bed so early… Well, it was for a good reason: the following morning (Wednesday the 31st) I had a photo-shoot booked, at 9am. So I literally needed some beauty sleep. Ahum…

Yes! A professional photo shoot: It’s the typical cheesy Asian/Chinese thing to do, which only costs the equivalent of 40 euros (well, this was a special offer as it goes… how lucky was I that Helen managed to land me that deal, when booking it a week in advance). I’d been wanting to do a shooting like this for the past months. But never got round to doing it. However, when I realized I was leaving, I simply HAD to go for it. So Helen set it up for me, in Beijing, instead of Jinzhou. And what a morning it turned out to be!

For one, I’d had enough sleep and was feeling more on top of the world again, instead of just floating through the days. I was totally THERE on Wednesday morning. Having said that; this felt to be one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in China. Wouw…

4 hours it took…Getting my make-up and hair done and posing posing and posing some more, in 3 different outfits, with different background settings. I’ve never had such a professional transformation done to my face, in all my life! It was truly bizarre. I hardly recognized myself at all.

The photographer was so cool. He didn’t speak English, which of course made the shooting a little bit trickier than it otherwise would’ve been. At first, Helen was there to translate. But after a short spell, it was mainly me and him; I was feeling more comfortable and he was getting used to just using actions and body language when trying to communicate how I should be moving and where I should be looking, so as to get the best shots. I’ve never worked with a photographer before so I had no idea what to expect. I’m no model, far from it… But, I was suddenly getting a glimpse of what is involved in working with a photographer. All those hours of watching America’s next top model were suddenly paying off!!!

I found just how vital it is, to have some sort of a connection with the person taking the pictures and not just with the camera alone - most people who know me, also know that I’m not camera shy at all… ;) (this helped alot I reckon). Still through, without any lines of proper communication or speech (which usually forms the basis for any level of connection, especially if you’re strangers), it could’ve been made almost impossible for me to relax into the "posing-mode" and for him to NOT get impatient or frustrated with me, if I wasn’t understanding what he wanted me to do… for the best possible pictures to be taken.

But, luckily, this guy used his own body language to communicate. And so did I and it got easier and easier as the morning went on. We finished ‘shooting’ out on the streets. We were walking the ‘great outdoors’ of Beijing and I had to stopp taking notice of the cars, the bikes, the pedestrians. It must have been a strange sight, to see a foreigner being photographed, on a zebra crossing, a building sight, in a flowerbed and against several random walls… I blocked out all the stares and the tooting horns. It all faded into the background and it was a most amazing experience. And what I found was: this was my last day in China… My last FULL DAY IN CHINA for the foreseeable future and I’m marking it in a way that I’ll truly never forget. Wouw… I never expected it to be so surreal and natural all at the same time. I learnt so much… And couldn’t (and still can’t) wait to see the outcome, once the photobook and the 150 photos on file, get sent to me in India…

Oh yes… because in the excitement of that morning, I nearly forgot; I was still on my way to India! How cool the days of that particular week were turning out to be.

Once I was done, I felt as though there was nothing more I desperately needed to do or see in Beijing. How silly, many might say! Especially as I'd seen harldy nothing so far. Well, as I was hanging out with Helen, I realized what I gave more importance to, at that moment in time, even if I was in 'far-away' Beijing. At that moment it was (and will always be) friendship. I didn’t want to be running around Beijing trying to see the sights and experience EVERYTHING… I just wanted to savour my time with Helen, who had become my rock and main system of support, over the past months. I didn’t want my last hours in her company to be fuelled by the desperation most tourists will have, when ticking-off the must-see places of the world. Nope.

So… after the shooting, we sat in a cafĂ© for a short spell. And that alone was brilliant. I’d already established that my China experience was perfect in many different ways and that Beijing too was perfect. With this realization it was suddenly time to at least see… Tiananmen Square and the Palace (not even too sure of its exact name), but I DO know that it’s the most popular spot in Beijing, amongst many others. So we made something of an effort, without expecting it to be amazing. On hindsight I’m glad we made the effort. I now know that I wasn’t really missing out on too much.

But I did learn something: monuments and architecture, are famous for a particular reason. It's where both good and not so good things have happened throughout the history of time… It marks monumental people or moments for that nation. Those happenings/moments contribute, to a certain degree, to the way in which the majority of that particular nation can think, live and experience their own lives, on this very day… This small realization in turn, I guess, can explain a lot to an outsider who is suddenly up close and personal with a different country and society… It can explain what the values, beliefs, views and opinions of the majority within society (or in China in particular) are based on. So, a concrete square, a monument and a historical palace, for these reasons can become a place that holds something special. It was definitely an eye opener for me. And maybe I’ll appreciate such man-made gems, just as much as appreciate the ‘natural gems’ of the world… Hummm… interesting.

So, that was Wednesday… and just one last thing… sitting in the foodcourt in downtown Beijing, I was having my last ‘Chinese’ dish (that was actually Korean…), I went to the public toilet and – now this was a first for me, EVER – I saw that the toilets had NO DOORS whatsoever… they weren’t western style toilets either… but squatters (not that that fact of the matter bothers me). But the absence of doors, could’ve stopped me from answering to the call coming from nature. It didn’t though... And so, on my last day in China, and for the first time in my life, I did my business with strangers walking by… who were ‘of course’ quite amused to see that foreign girls also go the bathroom, just like they do!!! What a high note to conclude my China story with 

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