Wednesday, December 10, 2014


After flying from Boston to NYC to Beijing, there was a final 3.5 hour flight to Shenzhen. The Shenzhen Airport opened a new terminal last year. It is another architectural marvel with inventive materials, ephemeral use of light and a very funky design. After being jettisoned halfway around the world, it felt very space-like and surreal. 

Da Wang Culture Highland, an hour from the airport and on the southern fringe of Shenzhen, is situated at the end of a sparsely lit remote backroad that passes by two fresh water springs, an outdoor athletic facility with bike rentals and a couple of restaurants. It's not well known to anyone who hasn't been there and most Shenzhen taxi drivers, including mine, have not been there. Add to the mix that neither of us could communicate with each other. Lots of extraneous hand signals and smiles later, his determination paid off and we found our way. With his persistence, and making many stops for directions, he found the very dark entry to the very dark road that would eventually lead us to the residency.

It was a bit unnerving to be left alone in the back seat while the taxi driver repeatedly ventured out to ask for help from local people. Since I had just arrived, I was still imbibed with my city-girl instinct to approach every situation with trepidation. I fought the impulse to lock all the doors. Over the next week, however, after experiencing how peaceful,
kind and safe China and its people are, I quickly set myself at ease.
The entrance, in daylight, to the long road that leads to the residency.
We drove by it several times before we realized where we were going.  

The road is lined with a tree that is native to the area called Rong Shu. They grow to be very advanced in age with branches that sprout offshoots that fall to root in the soil. Each shoot adds a concentric layer to the growing trunk so that mature trees grow very thick with many fibery layers. Driving in the dark, the headlights would illuminate these viney fibers that hung from the branches into the road and it felt very magical.

My very first impression was how dark it was. I felt this often when in China. Unless you were in a main city square, where they have large neon signs constantly flashing like in Times Square, the exteriors and interiors of China are very dimly lit if lit at all. Most rooms have one fluorescent light in the ceiling for illumination and most streets only have a single post or light for every block. Being energy conscious, it makes sense to use fluorescent light but it isn't very attractive or conducive to coziness.

One night when walking the road back from the village.
A section of the path just before the entrance to Da Wang.
Red lanterns hanging from a tree.

My taxi finally pulled up at 11:30 pm and I was met by Tom Hayes, the art director of Da Wang, who led me to my room and helped me settle in. So I literally wasn't able to see where I had landed until the next morning when I woke up. It was like opening a present to see the surprise.

The first floor housed staff and some permanent residents. The second floor is where most of the artist residents lived.

Like most residencies, the accommodations are sparse but clean and just what you need. It didn't take long to fall into a routine with my morning Nescafe, yogurt and fruit while sitting at my desk listening to the rhythmic sweeping of the workmen in the circle and the birds chirping in the trees.  

I was lucky to have my own water cooler. A privilege to be able to make my
instant coffee while still in pjs - just like home.

A roommate living on my balcony. Easily 5 inches long. Being in a tropical zone the critters are very exotic.
It's creepy enough to have these large species around, but even worse that they also have special powers.
This spider can jump, the 3 inch cockroaches can fly and the snakes are poisonous. 

I left Boston the morning of October 29, arrived at Da Wang at 11:30 pm October 30. My first day there was October 31 and my first stop that morning was to go to reception and sign in. I was met by Shiny who congratulated me on my holiday, the American Festival of Halloween. To celebrate we were to go out that night to discos in Shenzhen and Ayi the cook was making her special noodles for the occasion too.

This post is part of a series documenting my experiences in China. 
Please follow previous entries by using the blog archive in the sidebar to the right. Or click here for the beginning.  


  1. This sounds so fabulous, and it's great how open and open-hearted you are to all these new things.

  2. Thank you Amy. I was privileged to be in a place where I had the time to experience differences without too much of an impact. I was there to learn and work. When unexpected things happened, and these were daily :), it was okay to take the time to resolve them, not stress and move forward.