It’s our last day in China, and my jetlag has me wide-awake at 6 o’clock in the morning. Outside my window, I hear the city of Kunshan slowly awakening. Birds tweeting, cars honking.
Our trip is slowly coming to an end. No one has mentioned it really. Perhaps we’ve silently agreed to just live in the moment and enjoy it while it lasts. This semester, “living in the moment” has been a foreign concept. In the blitz of midterms, time is a rope I grip tighter and tighter. I always seem to be pulled into the past or dragged into the future by some exam, application, or project deadline. They come and go, and I jerk from blow to blow like a floater caught in a current.
This trip has been smoooooth sailing. Not to say that it’s been without its obstacles—jet lag, adjusting to a new culture…But each bump along the way has been welcomed with open arms. It’s been radical happiness.
We are a motley crew of artists ensuring that each day has been an adventure. On boat rides, around dinner tables, across ancient cities I have been flooded by a feeling of wonder, of joy. We laughed A LOT and as each moment echoes back into my memory, I can’t help but smile.
While the art, architecture, and culture has absolutely floored me; I am most moved by the people I have met and grown to call my friends.
The Duke Kunshan students and staff so warmly welcomed us to their campus that I’m seriously considering coming for a semester. (fr fr #DKUFall2016) So many smiling faces accepted our bad Chinese, joined us on adventures, and enthusiastically engaged in cultural exchange. I am so grateful for their kindness!
As for my group, we are a squad of the dorkiest Dukies. There’s no one else I would have rather shared this week with.
There is nothing more beautiful than creating with other people; to build and grow together is a true blessing. The “Evening of Art” event on Thursday reminds me of this deeply. We did all the art! Literally every medium of expression you can think of was employed. The whole campus came and we—of all ages and ethnicities—danced, painted, sang, played instruments, made poetry, took photos…We were creating together, building and growing. It was magical.
At the end of the night, we all left with a rainbow of colors splotched across our palms. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had paint on my hands! It’s then that I realized that I’ve been depriving the artist in me.
Making art was pretty much all I did as a child. Life was a box of crayons. I sang so much that my aunt still calls me Song Bird. I played guitar and flute. I participated in every theater production at my high school. I made documentaries and stop-motion videos. I read books deep into the night with music humming in my ears. (Shout-out to my mom for being the marshal of all this!) I was always up to something creative and since coming to college, I’ve let the busyness get to me. I spend most of my time with my head in a textbook. I’ve wandered away from my first love!
This trip has revitalized my devotion to the arts, to artists and creativity. Regardless of what career I end up having, I want to make art for the rest of my life. I want to duArts! Sometimes, you have to travel halfway across the world to realize that life is better when you have a little paint on your hands.