Ummmmm, where am I again? I’ve woken up this morning and I’m um, what?! I’m in the UK. Right…ummm, OK. I’m trying to make sense of it all and at the same time I know I’m making no sense whatsoever. Slept…for…hours…14 hours in fact and boy did I need it. Cup of green tea in hand (actually its more like a bucket), a copy the Guardian newspaper to my side, I’m sat in my pyjamas with a hoodie on, legs crossed (as always) on the floor by the sofa at my parents house (currently my bed too) staring out into their ever so English garden. Thinking, daydreaming, smiling about certain last-minute Shanghai words said to me. I have a cat by my side, and I can hear family chatter in the background. It so silent here and cold, but look at that sky. Eugh. 2 duvets and hot water bottle last night. It feels so foreign too. How can it feel foreign?
I started writing this post during my final few hours of travelling (over Budapest right now…the ceiling of the plane interior is like a supposed starry sky when it’s the early evening…the girl next to me is running out of in-flight patience as she pulls at her hair getting tetchy…I like the word tetchy), on flight number 2 from DBX to BHM…Dubai, UAE, to Birmingham, UK. I slept surprisingly well on the first flight from PVG to DBX, Shanghai, China, to Dubai, UAE…actually not waking for every above average Jain vegetarian meal…they had all been discreetly left in front of me as a gift in waiting, I wasn’t hungry…and I didn’t manage to watch ANY films either as I’d fall asleep when I tried, I swear due to pure emotional exhaustion, no more adrenalin there to fuel me through the process, and a sudden sense of realisation as to what I have to face, and the real reason I’m coming back. Reality check time. I didn’t stop crying until about ten minutes before I boarded the plane.
Another strange Mr Tang private taxi journey to the airport this time accompanied by Chinese happy hardcore music with reassuring phone chats (thanks Amanda) and disjointed “Chinglish” conversations with the driver…it was funny seeing the chimney of the Power Station of Art light up as I went by…queuing in Terminal 2 seemed like forever when waiting to check in, at some stage I had a teary heated inappropriate argument with a female “I have too much power” member of the check in staff about my overweight luggage (prize time free dinner for Lenny earlier that night, although Margot guessed the nearest figure of 36kg…it ended up being 36.7kg). I also engaged in some unhealthy habits that for some reason I reacquainted myself with when in China. Finally, I collected myself, breathing, applying make-up, contentedly smiling, and sending some last-minute messages to people in China. I hope my Chinese mobile number stays with me, I’ve just realised that could disappear. I then hid, as usual, behind my black and white scarf like a security blanket. I bet other people who saw me might have thought I was unhinged throughout that whole process. Looking back I was a right state. Oh dear Marsden. I don’t think it really helped that I’d had no sleep at all as I’d partied all night into the early hours up until I left for the airport at 4am. Completely appropriate to go out on such a high and certainly unforgettable for so many reasons…
So I’ve left China…left Shanghai. For how long? We will see. I’m definitely back on UK soil for the near future as in the next few months. I won’t say back on “home” soil, as I’m not sure where home is anymore and I’ve said that before. Does anyone else get that feeling sometimes? I think its part of being an expat, an international, part of the nomadic global existence that so many people jump into now. I felt very settled in Shanghai and can remember that when I flew back in August this year after being in the UK for 6 weeks as I climbed the six flights of stairs to my apartment at 820 Julu Lu. I had this instinctive feeling of being “home”. It was strange yet clarifying. I already miss it. I think “home” might be with people rather than place. Here I am on my final day taking my left over boxed up belongings to China Post to be shipped home…a rather hysterical and authentic final cycle time in the city.
Anyway, the past two months back in China were a whirlwind…finishing my contract with AIVA, co-curating ‘NOW INK’ as part of ShContemporary 2012, assisting with the 4th Guangzhou Triennial 2012 and the 9th Shanghai Biennale and seeing them finally, as projects, become a reality, finding someone live my room, hot-desking round random offices, so many art parties it was ridiculous, a short sub-tropical swim-filled escape to Guangzhou, squeezing in as many cycle times as possible and 2 bike crashes (yes two, one literally hours before I left for crying out loud!!!) and last-minute adventures, whilst packing up and sorting out…with an air raid siren city-wide interlude…meeting new people and friends along the way, questioning why on earth I hadn’t met them earlier, but that’s life right? And it really, frustratingly, does suck sometimes.
This post is dedicated to all the Shanghai-ers, my Shanghai family…xie xie ni (谢谢你) THANK YOU for everything…to those of you that came out time and time again to say see you soon (not goodbye) and to celebrate life in Shanghai, to share my extended excuses for see you soon parties, I to V (I just wanted to bring people together as always…random shots from these adventures shown below)…to those that surrounded me during my final Shanghai nights…the night before at expat central Yongkang Lu at Handle Bar, night cycles, Lune hip hop dancing, impromptu rapping (Daniels you got skills), street beers and snack-tastic…and the final hours including bike crash number 2 (a French guy opened a taxi cab door on me where my knee went square into the edge of the door splitting it open…seriously Rachel), feasting on Hunan food at Guyi then tiramisu gelato at Le Crème Milano, Prosecco fizz toast at Dr Wine, “not enough time” close chats on tiny Chinese chairs, cocktails and reggae moves at Lune, late night friends arrival, kerbside (curbside??) conversations making me wish I could be in two places at once, group wander nostalgic chatter on the 2 block walk home, frantic last-minute packing with half melted Haagen Dazs mooncakes, hugs galore, crying kingdom, and old and new cornerstone friends waving me off.
The last few weeks were made by so many people…my Francesca, Miss Leontine (and Jeff), Todd, Savinder B, photographer Rachel, Anthony, “The Bear” (and Flo), Effy, Michele, b man, Karen and her ukulele, Maya and Jin, Girolamo, Amanda and Susie, NK and so, so many more…you know who you are! According to Shanghai’s random recollections…“like, whatever…really??!”…”such a baby”…go away Beyonce…black pants…”Kanye West is playing a piano, but the piano’s not really a piano, it’s a bear. It’s a live bear! And for some reason the bear’s not eating Kanye because he has so much respect for him”.…G5 (F5)…”Gyi”…“Goodie two shoes hipster girl with your glasses”…“someone I look up to for strength”…“you have abs like Jesus” (a 21-year-old said this to me, no idea what it means, apparently they are lyrics in a song, not down with the kids maybe)…“an inspiration”…“someone who connects the dots that people can’t see”…”what’s Shanghai going to do without Rachel and her sweeping fringe?”…Jason Mraz “I’m Yours” (thanks Karen’s serenade)…Gangnam Style Todd style…so Justin Bieber??…”they don’t understand China’s one logistical nightmare”…”take it one step at a time”…”I have a feeling you’ll be back”…and I think they’re right…probably sooner than I think too.
Right, I’m going to get up and roam the Staffordshire hills whilst its so early, breathe some fresh British air before I go back to university for day 1 of the “final PhD year” term (it is going to get done) and then head to London to celebrate my return (flipside party time and strangely enough see some ex-Shanghai-ers there…hey Mich Mich!!) and begin my professionalism in the UK contemporary art world again. It’s the opening of Frieze London Art Fair on Wednesday evening, along with other art and design events. My momentum is building again with a different kind of energy manifesting inside…a new chapter beginning in the book of Rachel, or just one continuing…first and foremost is health.
To you people who know the “box of trust” (as shown below…invented by my bff ‘mk’ and I), I stand by my words and it is always here for you over international waters. In my thoughts Shanghai. PLURF it.
It looks amazing in the UK with that nice cuppa tea!