Last week our tutor suggested we might sketch a wonder of the world as our weekly image for the group FB page. I immediately thought of The Great Wall of China. But heck, my visit there was back in 1997. A photograph. I knew there were one or two taken of me that hot day with the migraine and having to rest every few steps as we walked along that magnificent structure. They weren’t online, as all our photos are these days, so I raced off to ask my husband to help locate them. Oh my gosh. What a man. There all the photographs were from that year, in his study cupboard, the prints sandwiched neatly between their pertinent negatives. I was in awe. Let’s not mention my filing techniques here.
And who was that young thing with dark hair posing against The Great Wall? Why, it was me! Perfect for the sketch. But as I placed the photo before my sketchpad, so many memories came tumbling back. Kerry was working at the Chinese University in Hong Kong that auspicious year when the ninety-nine year British rule ended. I was indeed lucky to be with him as the year un-folded and exuberance ran riot in the territory.
There was every kind of theatre and music performed in celebration of the handover, and we went to every thing we could. Traditional music, contemporary opera, dance, film, plays – it was a fantastic finale to our time in Hong Kong.
Just before leaving we took a trip into China, doing the three cities’ tour of Beijing, Guilin and Xian, taking in the magnificent historical sites. We travelled down the River Li by ferry. In Guilin we strolled along the riverbank where people danced to boom-boxed waltzes. We met local artists through a chance encounter with a Chinese teacher. In Xian we walked in awe past the rows of Terracotta Warriors and gulped at the history of their making. We strolled around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and visited many of the city’s temples; absorbing the ambience while remembering the past.
It wasn’t just a tourist’s impression we took home with us but the interactions we had with the local people. Hong Kong was a culture shock at first, there’s no doubt about that, but being a minority in a Chinese culture was as fascinating as it was a challenge.
I would never have learned about Chinese culture if I hadn’t had this experience, and I am so thankful for that.