This gallery contains 17 photos.
7:51 pm, 17 June 2017, Santiago
It’s said that when you move to a new country, there’s a honeymoon phase. Everything in the new place is, to you, exciting, different, and often magical. This will, however, at some point, be followed by phase 2: Reality.
My honeymoon phase in Santiago is over.
It began raining here about 2 am on Thursday morning. Rain was slapping against my window so hard it woke me up — I’ve been sleeping fitfully anyway because it’s cold here, which is compounded by a lack of indoor heating except with space heaters. It continued raining for a straight 26 hours! Despite experiencing flooding in the past, and regular rain in their autumn and winter, Santiago’s drainage is very poor, so there’ve been streets flooded. It was also very windy last night, and there were broken branches landing on cars. A friend who lives near Salvador metro station had part of her building’s roof fly off.
Today, Saturday, I slept in and went to have a shower at 11 am. The water was off throughout our apartment. I had been warned this happens sometimes in Santiago during winter, because the sewage system gets overwhelmed. Buildings will be told to shut off water to keep from adding to the problem. If this had been a weekday and I had to work, I’d be going there looking and smelling like an angry cat.
The water’s come back on since, but now the power is off in all the common areas of our building. We still have electricity in our flat (thank God), but my flatmate had to rescue three wet loads of clothes from the common laundry room. She’s hanging laundry off the shower curtain rod, on broom handles laid across the tub, off the curtain rod in our living room, off the backs of the stools at our breakfast bar…!
All that, plus buses with plenty of room sometimes not stopping if they don’t feel like it. And transit fares having THREE rates depending on time of travel, rush hour being TWICE as much as off-peak (what’s called “normal” time is only a bit cheaper than rush). There’s the banks closing at 2 pm every day (including, of course, pay day). I find the drinking culture here is on par with Scotland — that is, more insane than France! Sure, you CAN say no if someone offers you another drink… it’s just not DONE.
Overall, I do still like it here. Except when it rains. And this is proving to be an unusually cold, especially RAINY, autumn.
I am a theatre junkie. Kabuki is at least as old as Shakespeare. It’s one of THE drama traditions I heard about as soon as I decided theatre was my life. Going to a kabuki play was on my must-do list while I was in Tokyo, but it was also felt, for me, like going to a cathedral and I hadn’t been to confession.
It was utterly amazing. It was actually four short pieces I saw, which — with intervals when you could get full meals and beer to have at your seat! — was three and half hours long. The style of acting and the men playing women (I’ll need to post about that separately—because) took some getting used to, because it’s so utterly different from any show I’ve ever seen before, and that’s part of the reason it was enthralling.
Everything I felt seeing my first kabuki was wrapped up in what I’d felt earlier that day while trying to track down Oiwa…the main character in one of Japan’s creepiest ghost stories, most famous kabuki plays (I didn’t see that one, sadly), and many of the country’s successful horror films.
I have presumed to put her into one of my stories…the short film I started work on in France over the summer, and the related feature-length screenplay I just drafted. They both concern domestic violence, culture clashes, racism, sexism, revenge, and guilt.
Theatre people are, put mildly, superstitious. We call it “The Scottish Play” or “McBoo”. We leave a “ghost light” on in the middle of the stage when the theatre is otherwise empty and dark. And in Japan, whenever an actor onstage, or an actress on film, takes the role of Oiwa, they go to her shrine in Tokyo and ask Oiwa’s permission to play her.
And that’s what I did too.
The trope of the Maiden Ghost, based on Oiwa, has appeared in so many incarnations now that she’s thrown the first pitch in a baseball game. Which sounds silly, but I find it actually shows that Japan takes her as seriously as kabuki; she is embedded in Japanese culture — everyone knows her, and everyone, in a strange way, loves her. She embodies something genuinely wrong — vengeance — but it’s something everyone understands and has, at some point, wanted against someone else. I’m frightened by and enthralled by her.
I hope it’s not cultural appropriation — Gore Verbinski’s remade Ringu, quite well, I thought. Yes, I went to visit Tokyo to see the city, yes I met up with an old friend who’s been in Japan 14 years. However…I also went to Tokyo specifically to visit Oiwa’s shrine and ask “is this okay?” I hope it is.
Asakusa is the neighbourhood where I stayed, still very much Tokyo, but quiet and hip. It’s where I had the best burger, doughnut, and sushi of my life (so far).
“I’m in Paris. I’m in Paris.” I had to keep saying that to myself. I arrived in Gare de Lyon, the main train station, which is already beautiful, and walked out into the chaos of a Paris taxi rank surrounded by 19th century buildings, trying not to cry. My taxi ride was a very similar experience to when I first walked on the Embankment in London…all of the places I’ve been hearing about my whole life actually exist and are right in front of me. When I first saw the Seine, I shrieked. I saw Notre Dame and felt my mouth fall open. My taxi driver pointed out Place la Concorde, and the Musee D’Orsay. I saw something pointing out above us, from behind another museum, and it took me moment to realise it was the Eiffel Tower. When we drove past the base, I choked a bit.
Because my residency in Vallauris only ended on 19 August, and I must be back in China for 1 September, I had to get home right away. I spent one night and morning in Paris before getting on a plane for Canada. I’m already thinking about when I can go back.
I didn’t expect to be accepted to this residency in Vallauris, AT ALL. It’s primarily for ceramicists, because that’s what the town has been known for, for centuries. But, it sounded interesting, and I’d never been to France, and well…I had ideas for movies, after having written plays since high school, and this seemed like a good way to kick my own butt into doing some work on “PRE-pre-production.” So I applied. And got it.
So I had to come up with a script for my idea, Am I Beautiful, Yes or No?, and having written that, I figured out how to break it down into shots. And, not having DRAWN in YEARS, I now had to create 38 pictures for those shots. Friends who’ve worked in film wisely advised that often, storyboards consist of stick people. This was my first one, and — if like my plays, I was doing it myself — I wanted them to be pretty clear. So, PANIC. I had 28 days to hand draw 38 images.
A fellow writer recently told me that the magic of residencies is that they turn on the taps. My first day of drawing, I did NINE pictures. I was DONE with that initial project in the first 2 weeks! So…I did the script and storyboard for another, which I’ve called Monster Cat!
I leave for Paris tomorrow. I’m going home the next day, for the first time in a year. Yet I’ll be very sorry to leave here. Exposition photos here.