Am I really on a plane flying to Shanghai? Am I really on my first freelance video production gig? Or is this a dream I will wake from? International travel is always a surreal experience, an experience all to its self: the grand airports, rigorous security, flying over oceans, foreign customs agents, entering completely new cultures where you don’t understand anything being said. Then, doing all that alone just magnifies the effect.
For the first time in my life, there was a guy waiting outside baggage claim holding a sign with my name, I felt pretty cool. But the initial excitement turned back to reality when I saw my name spelled wrong and admitted to myself there was a ton of ‘name on paper guys’. But it was still exciting.
Shanghai is the most modern and international city in China. With a whopping 22 million residents, it is the largest ‘city proper’ in the world. The landscape is a sea of 20 to 40 story buildings quickly replacing the sea of 3-4 story apartment complexes. The city skyline at night is a giant light show, with whole buildings used as video screens. The roads are a mess of trucks, cars, scooters, bikes, and pedestrians, where red lights and lane lines are just general suggestions.
USAC put me up in a hotel on campus, it was pretty nice. You Sha, the USAC Shanghai Resident Director (who was a pleasure to work with), and I sat down for 2 hours planning the week’s schedule, only to have everything change the next day due to weather, driver availability, student schedules, and so on, but that’s the nature of the work.
A student intern, Maggie, was my guide to the city, and made navigating the urban jungle a breeze. The coastal overcast occasionally lifted giving some proper lighting for video. Shooting outdoors in limited to 3 hours after sunrise, and 3 hours before sunset, because midday sun makes for horrible light, and the footage would look washed out, like a faded video from the 70’s. But when it’s overcast, time of day doesn’t matter as much since the light’s diffused and flat all day. The week went well, and I took lots of footage, hopefully not too much to edit.
Yesterday, I was able to go for a run at the school’s track, and then jumped into a basketball game with local Chinese students. Since none of them spoke English, we communicated through the international language of pointing and gestures. Although, an hour later, that international language didn’t work so well when trying to get a haircut. I avoided a wacky Chinese hipster look, but each miscommunication lead to shorter and shorter hair, until I left the salon looking like I just graduated from boot camp.
Today I am in Chengdu staying in an international student dorm, writing this blog and preparing for my meeting with the Chengdu USAC Resident Director, Wentao. By the time I write to you about my week in Chengdu, I will be in Viterbo, Italy.