Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part III. A rap video! Let’s film a rap video. What else is there to do when you being held against your will?
If you need to catch up from the beginning, click here to read Part I.
The yetis silently entered my room the following morning. A thermometer extended, the yeti shook my shoulder to brusquely wake me up from my chilly sleep. The yeti’s deep black eyes peered at me, over his face mask. After a minute, the yeti yanked the thermometer from my mouth. I sat half way up and noted that the yeti scribbled down 37 C. I displayed a big thumbs up and smiled at Jess, my roommate, in the next bed.
The Yetis taking a smoking break before taking our temperatures
Everyone eventually shuffled out of their rooms to congregate in the sparsely furnished lobby. The mess crew staff, dressed in Maoists outfits spooned out our breakfast slop. Frustration mixed with irritation. We had received no updates on when we might be released. And there was no internet, being this was 2009. We were in a communication blockade. We started to pressure Chewy, our tour guide, who stopped in to check in on us. We insisted that the Chinese government should provide access to our embassies for consulate support. Chewy again was devoid of any information, imploring us to be patient. Chewy left us.
Some of the group sat on the stairs, others lounged on the singular couch. Some leaned against the wall, and others wistfully stared out the chained glass door. And then there was the Sleeping Guy. He was a traveler from Portugal, I never learned his name. He had an uncanny ability to sleep anywhere and at any time. Besides this, the only thing I remember of this silent man, was he shared with me his pocket ripped off his pants when traveling in Iran. He sewed his pocket back on with dental floss. Cheap but resourceful.
The Sleeping Guy
Jess and I started brainstorming on how to make the day pass by more quickly. After some time, we decided to incorporate Jess’s video camera and create a cheesy video, a rap video. We put pen to paper and within short order we had our rhymes. Jay Z has little to fear in terms of competition, but we were quite proud that our little rap did rhyme.
Jess and I pitched the group and managed to gather nine intrepid aspiring artists. It wasn’t pretty, but fortified with Lhasa beer, we threw ourselves into the project.
Jess putting on her director’s cap
After several dry runs, we felt confident enough for a live take. It did not go that well. But after several more attempts, we were satisfied with our results. Jess and I hoped we would be able to improve the results with the magic of post-production, but that would have to wait until we were released. Assuming we would be.
Chewy, our guide, reappeared sometime after lunch. The Chinese government had decided that they would allow us to have contact with our embassies and consulates within China. Initially, the Chinese government wanted to charge us for the phone calls made to our representatives. After some push back, they relented, and said they would allow us to use the one phone in the motel gratis. The Chinese were feeling a bit miffed since they were already providing us with free meals and motel rooms.
As we lined up to make our calls, Crazy Frenchie created a commotion. With her grey buzz-cut and non-subtle behavior, she grabbed the phone from one of our compatriots speaking to a US consulate official in Chengdu. Despite the fact, that Crazy Frenchie was not a US citizen, she insisted that her opinions be made known. After Crazy Frenchie finished I was allowed to speak to the representative. I provided him with my father’s contact in Boston, but informed him to hold off on calling my father unless things made a significant turn for the worse. I figured no need to alarm him, there is nothing he can do.
Crazy Frenchie took hold of the phone once again. In a flurry of either French or Polish, or something in between, she enthusiastically said her piece. After hanging up, she informed us she had called her media contacts to tell our story to the world. Who knows who she was really speaking to.
Exclusive video unearthed in the archives showing Crazy Frenchie on the phone.
But Vlad, our Ukrainian compatriot, had some real juice behind him. We found out after the fact, that Vlad had contacted some of his contacts within the Ukrainian government. A resolution was made by the Ukrainian Parliament which demanded our release. Well, at least Vlad’s release.
The third day came to a close. Frustration and boredom grew in tandem. I drifted off to sleep hoping for a better tomorrow.
To catch up on earlier parts, click here: Part I or Part II.
Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part III.