the grass is greener on this side of the fence

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I wake up before the alarm goes off and get up to finish packing. 5 hours sleep will have to do. I throw away and leave as much as I can. It is hard to meet the 20 kg limit.

I am ready to leave, mentally and physically. Take a cab to the airport - off and away. Luckily they don't charge me for overweight so I can spend my last RMBs on tea for my friends. The food on the airplane makes me miss China: over-cooked carrots and potatoes, beans and broccoli with no spices. I am starting to feel sick in the cold, air conditioned, recycled air. Have to wait 3 1/2 hours in Helsinki. The airport is cold too, and by now I am sneezing and shivering. On the plane I read a small article in a Sweedish paper saying "don't think the rent of your condo depends on your local Sweedish politicians, it has all to do with what is happening in China". True.
I am glad when I finally arrive in Oslo. My suitcase and photo-tube show up right away and I walk through customs. I find out that the crate with my photographs will arrive at SAS Cargo tomorrow, buy a bottle of Solo and get on the train to town. The conductor helps me on with my luggage. Out the window I see fields so green, and the air is fresh and cool. It feels good to "be home". That said, China has been the most challenging, inspiring, mind blowing, eye opening experience I have had this millennium and I will be back for sure.

wrap up

Monday, August 22, 2005

After 3 1/2 hours sleep I wake up by the sound of a lawn mower. I start organizing my papers while I wait for Per Jonas from the Embassy to pick me up and go to the airport to send the crate with my photographs. The driver is stuck in traffic, and they arrive late. I am very grateful that they are helping me. I would never have found the place or been able to do this on my own: First they claim we have to repack the crate because Norway will not accept wood from China. PJ explains this is plain wood not from the rain forest and it will be no problem. He has to write a declaration letter stating so. Then they say they cannot take the crate for custom clearance because they have lunch break and tell us to come back in 2 hours - it might take until 4 or 5 before we are done. I am not happy. I have to take down the water series, speakers and pack, and I have an appointment with Baoju at 5. Nothing can be done. We have lunch at the airport, hang around and wait till it's time to return. After an hour they have good news: the customs did not open the crate and we can pay and leave. I am very happy. The Embassy is the best! They take me home and I am able to take down the prints and speakers without problems. I hook the sound up to the monitor speakers and the installation still looks good without the photographs. I have no time or means to take it down. Natalie says they will keep it up for a while.

I hop in a cab to 798 to see Iain's installation at Long March. His piece is really great: a charming phone booth with Chinese lanterns and a miniature pond with real fish outside. Many people have told stories about how they see China change on the phone. The stories are edited and played back over speakers. We say good buy.

I continue to At Café to check my mail and upload files. Baoju arrives and we talk about art and life. It is interesting how I connect easier to Chinese women than American. Natalie and Els arrive and we head for Hatsune, "the best Japanese restaurant in town". The interior is super nice and the food is excellent. Els who is from Belgium and works with Natalie has just got back from guiding a group in Pakistan, we share stories and opinions and have interesting conversations. Natalie takes me home and I pack till I drop.

last chance

Sunday, August 21, 2005
I digitize and edit photos of the installation. Manage to delete all the shots from the opening by mistake - what an idiot! I shoot some more and hop in a cab. Today is my last chance to see the Planning Exhibition Hall and the "Wall" exhibition at the Millennium Art Museum. My schedule is like a marathon but I manage. The exhibition Hall is not as impressive as the one in Shanghai, but still. A huge model of the city can be viewed from the floor and a surrounding gallery. It shows planned and finished projects, including the Forbidden City, the Olympic City and the area around CCTV. I skip through the rest of the exhibitions, buy a catalog and an ice cream and take the subway to the Millennium Monument.

This is some real communist architecture! The exhibition represents a huge selection of young Chinese artists and is super interesting. I will comment later. Unfortunately the catalog is very heavy and expensive. I regret not buying it.

Iain comes to see my installation, and helps me take down and wrap up the big photographs that will be shipped tomorrow morning. We take a cab to town to meet Ola and Kathinka and a group of Norwegian culture workers in a Japanese restaurant. After dinner Ola and Kathinka and I go to the Tea House Mette recommended before I left Norway. It is very charming with a traditional courtyard, right by the Forbidden City. Kathinka and I talk into the small hours. Great to have a new friend :)