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So near, yet so feared: all together now

Cecilie Gamst Berg

 

When it comes to luggage, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who think my small wheelie bag and laptop-sized backpack are too much, even for a two-week trip in the mainland; and those who remark, "Wow, you travel light!"

Then there is my friend P. He believes no mainland trip is complete without his (self-built) electric guitar and battery-powered amplifier.

Spurred on by our success in Sihui a couple of years ago, when we performed Love Me Do in Cantonese wearing rubber beer guts and fake moustaches (you had to be there), he insisted on bringing his instrument on our epic tour of Guizhou province so we could sing for our train tickets, in a manner of speaking.

Our first performance was outside Guiyang's train station, one of the busiest spots in town. Wearing Santa hats and green deer antlers with bells we set up the video camera and amplifier and started belting out A Hard Day's Night (P has a fondness for The Beatles), much to the amusement of passers-by who soon formed an audience. Strangely, nobody gave us any money. People can be so stingy.

It took several minutes for the police to turn up, but, amazingly, they just smiled and gave us a thumbs up. They can't have realised the threat we posed to national security.

On each train trip we would rehearse our next performance and that's when I realised the full extent of the chasm between mainlanders and myself: I get irritated when people spend even the shortest of train journeys shouting into their phones or watching loud films on their iPads. Mainlanders, on the other hand, seem to enjoy and encourage the playing of an electric guitar in a tight four-person cabin.

Proprietors also don't mind that you play in their restaurants, remarking as the place quickly empties: "Just stay on as long as you like; tell the security guard when you want to leave."

In freezing Kaili, we set up outside the station and our show was immediately stolen by one Mr Liu. We tried to perform I Saw Her Standing There but he decided it would make for better entertainment if he stood in front of the camera singing: "I love Hong Kong, woooh." Several children had the same idea - standing in front of the camera that is - and that afternoon session became one of our fondest memories on a trip full of video comedy gold.

Needless to say, I was rather put out on arriving back in Hong Kong to have the handycam service centre tell me the entire holiday's worth of footage had been wiped off my hard drive.

 

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