"Have fun in China, Andrew!"
These were the most common parting words I heard during senior week and graduation, and since I try not to be too much of a tool I just accepted them because clarifying where exactly I'm going is way too complicated when there are hundreds of other good byes to be said. Also it just didn't seem right to have my parting words be, "Ahem, well actually my prestigious fellowship won't allow me to return to China because I have previously summered there." It was just a little frustrating because China's the one place I'm not allowed to go on the Watson.
The first thing to sort out is that I'm actually going on two separate Asian music trips. Who the hell has ever heard of one "Asian music trip?" and I'm supposed to explain that I'm going on two. It's a bit much for people to accept when they just wanted to hear a one sentence response to "So what are you doing this summer/next year?" The first Asian music trip is a Freeman grant that sends students to study something in Asia in conjunction with a faculty member. In this case, Shao Min (physics and math major and erhu player), Ava (biology major and dizi player) and I are going with Gao Hong (world-class pipa master and professor at Carleton) to study, record, transcribe and analyze temple music in Kyoto, Seoul, and Beijing. This will be in July and we'll spend about 10 days in each location. So yes, I am heading to China, but only for 10 days! I consider this my practice Watson since I'll be with people and they will be people who know what they are doing. Then I fly off on my own. . .
The Watson begins August 1st when I fly to Taiwan. For the Watson you can't go to any country you have been before so China is out, but Watson says that if a place has a different visa then it is a different country. So, Taiwan is a different country. EXCEPT you can't say that in Mainland China! The politics are sticky and saying that you'll be going to a different country and that foreign country is Taiwan is likely to get you into very heated argument about lies in the Western press. The airports in China are even divided into Domestic and International plus Taiwan. So. . . I guess I'm kind of also in China from August to October.
Then I head off to Hong Kong for 3 months. Part of China? Well, yes! Ever since the British handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997 Hong Kong has been part of China, but as a special administrative region, the government still works very differently than in the Mainland. So okay I'm in special China from November to February.
But then I'm off to Japan which is definitely NOT China. And then I fly to the equator for Singapore which although it has plenty of ethnic Chinese and Chinese speakers is also definitely NOT China.
But as I've written this I've come to realize that I am going to be in China or China for about half of the next 13 months. Huh, what do you know?