Daisy Sweetgrass bids Beijing a dulcet a dieu
Yes, it’s true. I’m leaving China. I’ve been tossing around the idea for a while now, wondering if now’s in fact the prime time to depart, or if there’s an opportunity worth waiting for just around the corner.
I’ve been in China a little over two and a half years and never expected to be here for more than just a few months. My first lease for a tiny apartment in Guangzhou, where I arrived in January 2008 was only for three months. And then I kept extending it, and extending it because I continued finding great reasons to stay. I kept finding myself being pushed in sometimes difficult, but necessary ways. I’d never studied Chinese, and having just graduated from college, never held a full-time job. I never played an instrument until I moved to China, I’d never known all that much about bluegrass or old time music either.
Much of my time here’s been focused on developing the writer and editor in me (this factored high on my “reasons to stay”). Now, my reasons for leaving have to do with a desire to study and focus more on music. So I’m going back to the States to give it a go.
But my, what a long, strange trip it’s been! I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll miss Luke’s mile-long stare when he playes banjo, his easy laugh, and his infinite knowlegde of the bluegrass canon. I’ll miss Laurie, her truly pleasant presence and how she knows exactly what to say to make me blush. I’ll miss Jackson’s go-with-the-flow attitude and lovely spirit, Alex’s mac ‘n cheese, and Jasper curled up in my arms. I’ll miss Chris’s business savvy and his willingness to practice at the drop of a hat. I’ll miss Chip’s infectuous grin, his amazing capacity to tell jokes, and his ability to rally support for a song idea, even when I didn’t quite believe in it yet myself. I’ll miss Amy, who made a home with me when I needed one and whose strength, talent, and composure I strive to emulate. I’ll miss Tian Xiao’s doleful smile and wise-guy ways. I’ll miss Huang Wei’s generous, laid-back management style. I’ll miss Dofu’s abs and heavy-handed glasses of whiskey he pours. I’ll miss the boy who dedicated his backhandspring to me after a show at 2 Kolegas.
I’ll miss cycling to gigs with my bandmates, our instruments en tow. I’ll miss the jams at Amilal, and all of the mojitos made with love for me by dear Aluss, and the good friends I’ve made there. I’ll miss rehearsal’s at Russ’s apartment and his salesman acumen and big heart. I’ll miss busking at Jishuitan and practicing banjo with my feet dangling over the edge of Houhai. I’ll miss talking to Rod at Gingko in Swahili. I’ll miss Rob and Johnny and my first forays playing guitar in Beijing at Lush and Tun Bar. I’ll miss playing a bluegrass “Hava Nagila” at bat mitsfahs and hearing the praises of the US Naval attache after playing at the American Embassy. I’ll miss explaining to people that a washboard can be played as a percussive instrument. I’ll miss handing my banjo over to people the way a mother does her baby to a person who’s never held one before. I’ll miss Jaime Welton in my audience. The Kielmans, Pete, Tyler, Jordan, Mike, Megan and Badr, too. I’ll miss talking trumpet and Chinese politics with Dan on trains and sandy hutong rooftops, and his unwavering support. I’ll miss the cheap feasting and boozing pre and post-shows. I will, in sum, be very very full of miss.
Yes, of course, there are things I won’t miss (it’s China, after all), but it’s all eclipsed by the big picture. And the big picture is that I am leaving (and will return, just not certain when exactly) and am taking with me an outstanding and outlandish tableau that I’ll have even when I’m eighty and in my rocking chair. Yep, that’s right. I’ll still be thinking about you guys and telling my annoyed grandkids all about it.
I hope to have the good fortune to see y’all somewhere down the road.