The Longest Journey
No internet, no washing machine, no non-Chinese, no English...
I apologize to the readers at unscripted for not writing for so long, but I have good reason. I have been stranded for two weeks in a remote town where few westerners have ever roamed before. I have biked 83 miles on terrain that no westerner has seen before. I have recieved gifts that no westerner will ever receive again.
Here is how it went down: I was contracted to act as a US colonial in a Chinese Kuomintang/CCP civil war drama shooting in the Shandong province of China. After I arrived there, I shot for two days back to back, which went rather smoothly (minus the drunken revelry on at the promotional event I attended on the second night). I had fun, barking orders on behalf of an international investigation unit, and (when not filming) getting more attention from the locals than the star himself. See, I was the only foriegner in town. And only 3 foriegners had ever lived there before, according to the locals. They were a Finnish businessman, a Romanian backpacker, and a Ghanan English teacher. I was the first American, so obviously I was expected to be the coolest one and great at basketball. I'm better at ping pong actually.
By the final day, I had already made friends with the local high school kids (including ping pong, basketball and pool clubs), and the local long-distance bicycling gang, who took me for a 83 mile race up and down a mountain, in which some people had to be pushed the last dozen miles, but other "old pros" drank Chinese vodka and beer for lunch at the top before heading back down. At one point I even visited a man up in the hills of the moutain who created his own clay works in a kiln. It took him hundreds of tries to get one perfect sellable piece. He gave one to me for free, since I was the first foriegner he'd ever met. It was a giant "luck fish" that looked like a frog. The cycling club was emphatic about having a US American on their tour as well. They even wrote a whole blog about me.
Then it was time for the shoot, finally. Thank Buddha for that, since I had a flight from Beijing to California the next day. I was so convinced that they were going to delay my shooting date again, that I had developed an escape plan in case they did. Luckily, it didn't get to that point. We shot a great scene at a train station, and then I packed my bags and got ready to leave. However, the bar owner of the only bar in town (cowboy themed, too!) had been giving me free beers the whole time I was there, and he said I owed it to him to go to his friend's wedding right before leaving on the train the next day. It was tight, but I managed to guest-MC at the wedding, jump on the train to Beijing and fly from Beijing to California within hours, all without spontaneously combusting!
After the longest journey, I arrived at my house in California. I stayed there with my parents for a day or two before I took another plane to north Florida to see my cousin's wedding... which was also in a forest in the middle of nowhere... So now you have my reason for not writing sooner. Rest assured the next entry won't take so long. Or at least I won't have as good of a reason.
Photos by Nathaniel Boyd and Michael Bao
-- Nathaniel Boyd