(Written by Maarten)
If I didn’t knew any better I’d think I’d entered a southern-European country. A warm climate, wide streets with tall, yellowish apartments in a hilly landscape with lot’s of green. Chinese people like to look at and copy European architecture, explains Vivian, our helpful guide and main contact in China.
This fact also becomes apparent when she took us to Fisherman’s Warf. Which is some kind of tourist hotspot. For this particular place they chose some sort of colonial architecture. It is a funny sight. We particularly enjoyed the Mimicafé, which is a catcafé already made famous by previous dutch residents.
Vivian took us to a couple more places over the next days and it becomes clear that Dalian is a beautiful city. It’s not without reason Chinese themselves like to spend their holiday in Dalian. A city with lots of nature, full of life and interesting architecture. In the city center for instance you see a lot of Russian and Japanese architecture, which show marks of a different time.
Personally at arrival I felt nervous meeting Chinese and their culture. As if they’d be from another planet. Fear of the unknown. It was a joy to experience how that xenophobic feeling evaporated quickly. Naturally and thankfully, on a basic level humans respond to the same things. In particular I enjoyed how easy it was to make contact using just nonverbal communication and the power of humor. At the museum we overlook a sports field which is being used by elementary schools for gym. There is something very uplifting watching the joy of those kids while they play. Children in particular, so it seems, behave the same wherever. The gym lessons with music also act as a natural get-out-of-bed-alarm (for better or worse).
Another thing that is quite noticeable is traffic. Traffic in Dalian feels like some sort of controlled chaos in which markings on the road just act as guidelines. Later we learned that in China you are always allowed to turn right at crossroads. This explains why the Chinese squeeze their car into every little gab. Weirdly enough, it all seems to organically work. One explanation could be that Chinese drive quite slow. This makes the life of a pedestrian also very easy. Pedestrian crossing marks are decoration and cars will not stop for you, but they drive so slow it’s easy to find a way through safely. Besides, they love to honk. And it’s more of a “watch-out-I’m-coming”-honk, which if I’m honest, sounds less threatening, almost kind.
The first couple of days have been about adapting to the new place, finding your rhythm in this new country, this new space and with these new people. I’ve slowly started preparing (materials) for paintings and can’t wait to start. In the meantime, I have started small works on paper, which I make every other day in search of light. A project I started in February which I’m continuing here as well(see www.maartenvanaken.nl/gouaches).
Till next time!