The program for this porcelain trip to China looks overwhelming. We will visit cities, towns and villages, museums and kilns in South-East China between October 15 and November 1, 2016.
The focus will be on those places which played an important role in the porcelain trade, such as Guangzhou, Foshan, Quanzhou, Dehua, Fuzhou, Jingdezhen, Jingken, Yaoli, Hangzhou. We will also be travelling to famous kilns in Southeast China and well-known museums, in the Guangdong, Fujian, Jangxi, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. During the last three and a half days I will be on my own, in Shanghai and Suzhou.
The persons travelling in our group will be: Bente, Carl, Christine, Stephen and Marion, Truke, Ting-Tiang and Wai Lan (joining us after three days later in Quanzhou). In China, we will get the assistance from guides and bus drivers.
Christine had sent out a list with practical information as to what to wear and take with us to China. It proved to be of great benefit during the whole trip. (The list, for example, stated: “bring Nescafe coffee bags” – which saved the life coffee addicts like me.)
The visa for entering China have cost me some extra money – due to the time pressure from my travels to Sweden, I had to obtain the help of a special bureau. So, they took care of all the paperwork and approvals and delivered the visa at the door in time.
I have never been in China so for me, this will be a totally new experience. My husband Pieter and the cat, Leila, will stay home. I have cooked some meals in advance and put them in the fridge; but they will not cover the full period of this trip.
At the Schiphol airport, on Friday October 14, Pieter and I are a bit emotional when hugging each other goodbye. This year, 2016, I have already been away a lot: I have travelled to Sweden for work, and family matters took a lot of our time as well. A friend will have a major heart operation next week. Before boarding the plane, I phone him to wish him luck . He shouts out: "Oh, are you calling me for that??? Haha...what a softie you are! You should not be calling people for these types of small interventions at the hospital...it will only take 8 hours. It is like travelling by plane...I will be home soon!". What a hero he is!
Air France will take me to Paris Charles de Gaulle first; and from there to Guangzhou.
Two happy Mexicans are seated next to me in the same row. In Air France’s instructional video, which is shown just before take-off, some smiling bop skirted supermodels show what passengers need to do in case of emergency – it looks like the best thing to do then, is to start dancing and hold hands while putting oxygen masks. Just relax and feel happy…oh…pretend you are just a feather! All this joy seems a bit too much. The Mexicans have to laugh as well; laughing is good for us. And for a moment it makes us forget about real dangers, n’est-ce pas?
In fact, the flight goes very well. Seated next to the window, I cannot believe how lucky and blessed I am, going on this trip. I am so curious about China! I look forward to meeting with the other members of group within the next 48 hours. Some of them I know already, from the VVAK (Vereniging Voor Aziatische Kunst), the Dutch Asian Art Society. Others come with us via the OCS: a couple from Guernsey (Stephen and Marion), and someone from Italy (Carl).
During the long flight, I try to practice Chinese words and simple expressions. Peng, one of my colleagues at the office, had already given me some advice. He was raised in the area of Xi’an, but we will not be going there, perhaps next time.
The Mexicans keep talking, mostly about business matters; the television screens keep talking and singing as well. I try some conversation in my best improvised Spanish. We make jokes; they are very kind and polite.
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