Friday, April 02, 2010

Good grief!!

I saw this in Newark before I flew away. But it's more a chapel room than a meditation room. I SHOULD HAVE PRAYED before I left, though. This is the post I started a few hours ago, offline:

[This is the street where I'm living.]

I had fully intended for an uneventful trip but I was foiled.

0. Freak weather on the island: snowstorms, power outages, etc.

1. Flight delayed. Gate area packed w/people who all seem to be of Irish descent. I was the only person of color until I spotted someone slightly darker than me, to my shock.

2. Large man in the middle seat encroaching into my space, dinner at midnight, no sleep (this is not eventful, but sets up my comfort and exhaustion levels before I land).

3. Wait in line for clearance at the border, only to foolishly BE HONEST about why I am here, as an artist on a residency program. I had thought about printing out my acceptance email but didn't--my mistake in our current world of paranoia. After being questioned, "Who is sponsoring you? Where is are you work papers? You said you were going to work [I said I was working on my ART], do you know you a work entry permit?" and so on, she told me to wait until she cleared the ENTIRE flight before interrogating me further. I luckily had the text of the application on my computer but couldn't access my email to show her my return e-ticket or correspondence w/the people here. She kept calling the studios a "trust" or "foundation" and kept calling me a "student" b/c I tried to explain the program as a cross-cultural exchange and from there she must have extrapolated "exchange student" since "international artist-in-residence" is the same as speaking a foreign language.

It wasn't even a case of misunderstanding. It was just WAY too far beyond the realm of a border official. She said she was only letting me in by giving me the benefit of the doubt, but apparently I looked like I was sneaking into the country to work illegally. Which hurt my feelings, and I won't even go into the possibilities of racism.

So I was given a coded landing, meaning that if I ever try to come back, I will be flagged and if I can't show proof of this trip on future trips, I'll be denied entry and put on the next plane back. Later, a long-time artist in the studios laughed at said that everyone to this point has said they were visitors and it was no problem; he was like, "why did she tell the truth??" But I thought it would just look weird: why would a Korean person be visiting Belfast for 9 weeks?

Meanwhile, my host has been waiting about 2 hours for me at the gate; poor woman--she had seen tons of people coming through and I was the last one to emerge. I also was dying to pee but wasn't allowed to until I cleared.

4. Bus thru countryside to city centre and then a little walk to the pink bus to the residential area where I'd be living. Cute 3-story place. The washing machine had already broken before I arrived, so I'll be back to hand washing until it is fixed. Once I was left to my own devices, a fuse promptly blew as I tried to connect to wireless, leaving half the first floor w/o power. Which means NO HEAT.

I decided to take the bedroom next to the bathroom instead of my assigned room, and moved the electric mattress pad to my bed. After unpacking, I laid in bed to wait for it to warm up and tried to nap but failed. I took a tiny walk out to check out to Tesco to see grocery prices and get a top up for my phone. I saw the mailman.

5. The studio manager returned to take me out to dinner but then we were stuck for a while figuring out the power situation. Just when we thought it was fixed, and I had JUST started sending an email home to say, "I'm here! This is my contact info!" another fuse blew and we lost the power again. After making sure that the fridge was still working, and making a bunch of calls, we were cleared to get me back to the city center w/an overnight bag in case I had to stay somewhere else where I wouldn't freeze.

The restaurant the studio mgr wanted to take me to was booked (night before Easter holiday; everyone was out). We met her sister, also an artist, and finally sat down at a relatively chill place for a badly-needed beer and dinner. I had a lovely cod sandwich and then we went to the hotel and I had some tea before we decided it had been a long enough day for us and I went upstairs to get some sleep after essentially having two days in a row w/o sleep.

[The little cupola-thing is where I'm sleeping.] But the good things:

1. Breakfast at the hotel was lovely.
2. Erika and Holly, my hosts for last night, were fabulous. Both artists who love Belfast and are full of energy and ideas; amazing caretaking.
3. The city seems small enough to manage, and the outlying areas are close--I can see hills and rural areas from where I live.
4. Everyone says "thank you" to the bus drivers! And there are only buses, no subway, so I have less options for getting lost.
5. [now I'm resuming the post that I started at the hotel.] I've finally gotten back home and since the wireless is hopeless, I tried the ethernet, which decided to work today. GLORY BE.

This is my studio! Top floor of a factory. Bottom two floors produce lenses! Which is why it's called the United Optical Building. The heat is on, and I'm finally able to connect to the rest of the world. I slept well last night. I could have used another 8 hours, but I'm just happy I got one full night of sleep. Easter weekend/week is supposed to be dead around here--everyone leaves town and shops close up--so I should have plenty of time to get settled.


Chudney Thomas said...

poor you! As my friend says never a dull moment.

Velma Bolyard said...

YAY!!! you're there! i loved your post and hearing you sounding like you! what a wretched plane/border experience. it's looking up, though!

mjc said...

I'm glad you're there, finally. (I admit that I did the 'visitor' thing as well getting into the UK last year; I didn't on my first grant -well before 9/11- and had some similar hassles. Artists inhabit a relatively small world with a unique language that apparently makes no sense to outsiders).
I highly recommend getting out to the countryside!

elizabeth ross said...

oh coloured!!!! ja!!! just your hair is dark!
and yes, never say never ever, the word WORK trying to cross a border!
the place looks great, whit a blue sky!!

hard landing, but now, you are done! welcome to this side!!