“ Mind di people dem make you nyam cat and dog!”
“ You know they shootin’ down them Asian planes over right?”
“ Oooo, gurl, I hope we don’t find you dead in a ditch…”
Although annoying, these statements from people who’d never been to China did not deter me from taking a trip there this past November ( I’d already booked my flight and hotel and this girl doesn’t waste money). Last year I started The “What’s Your Pointe Project” to encourage adults and other late starters to pursue dance, travel and challenge fear. I shared my vision with the director of Dangsters Dance Studio in Kunming, Yunnan Province. He loved the idea, invited me out and nine months later I was dancing in China!
I spent my evenings training with the pros in Dancehall, Hip-Hop, K-Pop and Jazz. It was my first time being the only Black person in the room, but my peers (although reserved in nature) made me feel so welcomed. We whined, popped and Nae-Naed all night. My fellow late-bloomers talked to me about their capped aspirations and the difficulties they face traveling due to their citizenship. I saw no hint of ill feeling though as their movements came from such a hungry, authentic place! Spending time with them increased my appreciation of being an American and strengthened me as a dancer. Even being saddled with student loan debt my citizenship still grants me ACCESS to the rest of the world. Before this experience I found myself very fearful. Now I can walk into any class, have fun and believe in myself (that’s a big part of dance ya know)!
I was feeling all enlightened and grateful…then daytime hit and it got real! Without the safety net of friends at the studio tasks like crossing busy city streets, finding food and getting directions were difficult. Trying to communicate simple phrases like “ where is the restroom?” took so much time because of the language barrier. Although locals were helpful only knowing “Ni Hao” and “ Xie Xie” didn’t get me too far. I have to admit, there was a point in my trip I stayed in my hotel room for a few days because I was so overwhelmed. Using squat toilets and hearing wet splats of spit being ejected from the souls of locals onto elevators and food court floors really disturbed me. Being stared at like some mystical creature every time I went out left me feeling frustrated and even lonely.
Let me tell you how good God is though. Just as I was about to sabotage the rest of my trip, I was introduced to Inga, a fellow Jamaican from Ft. Lauderdale. She took me to her favorite restaurant, a beautiful tea ceremony, encouraged me to visit Stone Forest and even invited me to her home! Meeting her made me a better traveler. Inga taught me all about VPNs, life insurance and government registration for emergencies abroad (all the things my eager- to- travel behind was not aware of). Even the connection between my Jamaican heritage and China was made clearer to me as we explored supermarkets. Things I grew up on in Miami like cho-cho, sugar apples and jackfruit were on the shelves!
See y’all? I’m not dead or in a ditch. I’m only richer in experience and more confident as a dancer, traveler and woman.
Kunming travel tips:
- KEATS LANGUAGE SCHOOL: If you’re interested in learning Chinese check out this highly rated school. The staff was very friendly and I hear they pay for your visa.
- TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT: Where else will you get to try tasty fried grasshopper and pineapple beer?
- BRING PEPTO. DRINK BOTTLED WATER: The food there was great! The perpetual burn in the depths of my intestine…hmm…not so much.
- STARING: Get used to it, especially if you’re Black. You’re pretty much a unicorn…dipped in melanin.
- TAXis. Only take the blue ones. Anything else isn’t registered and could leave you conned or in a ditch.
- COMMON SENSE: Use it. works well anywhere even with cultural differences. If you feel a situation is dangerous get out.
Dangsters Dance Studio
Saweade or Yaohuali (same place, different name. Great Thai restaurant)
I will be more than happy to answer any questions or share more insight
Thanks for reading!