September 29, 2014

To Live Or To Understand Life

Life (BBC TV series)
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's one thing to live life, another to understand life. The former requires subjective belief, the latter requires an objective (honest) mind.

September 9, 2014

My Life In Savannah (Part 4)

4. The Beautiful South 

Looking back, I found that the days I spent down River Street was extremely precious, because the passion I witnessed there was not something I could see in my everyday life. Whenever I recall my life in Savannah, what jump into my mind first are not always beautiful gardens or houses, eloquent professors or kind classmates, but also the heartfelt laughter down River Street,the beautiful bar waitress who brought me free beer on the hot night, or the handsome young man who sitting beside me playing guitar, even the drunk homeless man who crashed my chair, while a couple of “coarse” southern women wrestling together in the middle of the street…

Many friends of mine back then were not so fond of Savannah, or “deep south” like I was. They looked down on its monotone culture and sluggish economy. They said the reason that I liked Savannah this much was because I had not yet seen other cities in the country, had not visited those multicultural places. However, after all these years, after being lived from place to place, Savannah remains as my favorite.

September 8, 2014

My Life In Savannah (Part 3)

3. Street Passion 

Life as a “street artist” wasn’t easy. There were good and bad days, occasionally I could go home with nothing. The working condition was rough. Beside the uncomfortableness like heat or coldness, humidity or mosquitoes, the most troubling condition was weather. Georgia’s weather was so “capricious” that sometime it would rain instantly in the middle of my portrait process. At this moment I usually moved into stores, whose employees were kind enough to let me staying there for a little while, until I finished my works.

Savannah's River Street is a popular destinati...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But all these hard time could not beat good time. How can I forget all those beautiful faces I drew, the joyful eyes that looked back into mine, or the broad smiles that messed up my drawing process but lightened up my heart? Once after I finished drawing a lady and her newborn baby, the lady gave me double amount of money and asked no change back.

September 6, 2014

My Life In Savannah (Part 2)

2. River Street 

The first (illegal) job I got in America was working in restaurant: washing dishes on Sunday, from 11am - 6pm, paid total $48. It was on the fourth day after I came to this country, when I had not yet settled down myself. Since then, my daily life was mostly from classrooms to restaurants, and back to my cheap apartment at late night. I was impressed by the beauty of the city, but could only enjoy it during some brief moments like when biking to school, or taking bus to restaurants. Most of time, my focus was on one thing alone: survive.

Hanging out with "rich friends".
Jacksonville, FL. 1996.
Working in restaurants didn’t help me to “survive”. SCAD is an expensive private art school. The first quarter’s tuition pretty much took most of (borrowed) money I brought with me from China. So I had to work very hard every day. However, despite of situation, mentally I was quite relaxing. I hanged out with rich students (most students in this school are from rich families), went to beach couple of times, occasionally went to parties, had lots of fun. One day in library, a guy from China told me he decided to quit school, “advised” to me that I should do the same: “I can’t believe you go out with those Taiwanese or Japanese… their one meal would cost your whole day hard work in restaurant!”

September 4, 2014

My Life In Savannah (Part 1)

My Life In Savannah 

(Savannah, Ga was the first stop of my American adventure. Though my life there was extremely challenging, the beauty of the town and my rich life experience made it an unforgettable chapter of my life.)

1. Savannah, GA 

English: The view looking southeast from atop ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In my memory Savannah was always hot and humid. Maybe that's why those giant oaks threw their dense shadows all over the town, cooled down the brutal summer heat. Streets were laid out neatly, on each sides stood elegant old style buildings and houses, which was why Savannah drew tourists. At intersections of streets there were garden-like squares, in which you would see people walking leisurely, or sitting on the benches chatting friendly, while feeding pigeons or squirrels. Everyday, colorful tour buses drove by with the speed of snails, some time even stopped for a while, let passionate tour guides to finish their fascinating stories. Old style coaches moved by now and then, also slowly, but those handsome horses would keep their paces brisk. The showy coach drivers in colonial costume occasionally took off hats, gently greeted to people with smiles. The crisp sound of horse hooves sometime could be heard from blocks away, made the town even quieter than it was.

Yes, quiet and slow. It was south. Nobody was rushing to nowhere.

Outside of downtown was Nature's territory. Driving towards east to Tybee Island, the endless vista stretched all the way to horizon. Swamps scattered here and there, water glittered under the Sun, vaporized in the heat. Sometime, the vapor could be so dense that it became a transparent milk-white sheet, floating ghostly a few feet above grass, giving a mysterious touch to this otherwise a bit empty view. But most of time, the vapor would carry damp heat and penetrated through every inch of air, created that typical sticky humidity of deep South. At Sunset time, the intense color reflected in swamps, turned the whole view into a crimson landscape oil painting. Every time, when this “painting” appeared in my mind, I always heard that familiar song by Ray Charles: “Georgia On My Mind”: 

Georgia, Georgia 
The whole day through 
Just an old sweet song 
Keep Georgia on my mind … 

Savannah is a small city located on the east side of Georgia, about 15 miles away from Atlantic Ocean. It is small, only about 2.5 square mile in downtown area, but it’s old, famous for its rich history.

In 1733, authorized by British government, James Oglethorpe led 114 men, women and children, after months journey across Atlantic ocean, landed in Savannah. Together with local Indians they built the city. Oglethorpe designed the city by himself, made it the first “planned city” in United States.

Savannah was both the first city and the first capital of Georgia. Most buildings were made in 18th and 19th century, and they luckily survived through all these centuries, especially Civil War, during which majority of southern cities were destroyed. In 1864 just before Christmas, after ransacking Atlanta, Union General William Sherman and his army occupied Savannah. Deeply impressed by the beauty of the city, the general decided to keep the city unharmed, and gave it to president Lincoln as “Christmas gift”.

Walking around downtown area, one can hardly not impressed by all those elegant architectures, from Italian or Victoria style houses, to Greek or Roman style buildings and churches. Among all of them, the most outstanding masterpieces I can remember would be the Telfair Museum (Regency style), Cathedral of St. John (Gothic Style), Forthyth park (French style). Of course, the 23 squares scattered in downtown are also inseparable part of this harmonical design.

Savannah was once left behind, almost forgotten. As someone described it as “a beautiful woman with dirty face”. Fortunately, in 50s of last century, several rich and far-sighted women founded “Historic Savannah Foundation”, so Savannah was finally back on its way to revive. Started from 70s of last century, Savannah not only began to draw tourists, also became an ideal place for filming. The well known movies made in Savannah include “Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil”, “Force Of Nature”, etc. and the most famous probably would be “Forrest Gump”, which begins with a piece of further drifting above the downtown Savannah.

Savannah College Of Art And Design (SCAD), the school I once went to, is located in the downtown Savannah. Instead of building school in an empty area, this school purchased existing buildings of city, one after another, so the project of constructing the school became project of preserving the city. This process ended up that the whole downtown area is SCAD’s campus.

SCAD was found in late 70s, so it’s development was perfectly synchronized with Savannah’s tourist industry. I still remember vividly when I worked as a greeter in SCAD, there were always tourists asking me: “Where is that bench Forrest Gump sits in the movie?” “Where is the bus stop that Forrest Gump waits for bus?”

However, even though I lived Savannah for almost 4 years, I had not learned her rich history until years after I left her. Throwing myself into a New World without much “preparation”, my life in Savannah was extremely challenging. Yet I survived. Not only that, when looking back, I found my life there was the most unforgettable chapter of my “American adventure”.

(To be continued)

part 2