From Big Sky Country to Country of Heaven (Part 2)

Authors: Go Chengdu


No longer greenhorns to the culinary heaven that is Chengdu, hometown friends Joe Schadt and Andy Springer have lived it up during their time together in the Panda Land.
I sat down with the two American friends from Bozeman, Montana for one last time to discuss their adventures over the past month before Joe heads back to the States.
Joe, talk about the film/documentary you are shooting? What inspired it?
I came to Chengdu to shoot promotional material for the wood shop that Andy has been working for — essentially a series of web advertisements. Coming in I had no idea what the space was like, or really anything resembling a standard shooting plan, so pulling it off came down to showing up and figuring it out as I went along. Lucky for me, the place is fantastic — not only is there a lot of visually compelling things going on, but the staff is super friendly and helpful, and there were always customers in there having fun. The real trick is going to be dealing with the hundred plus gigabytes of footage I took and pairing it down to a few minutes of advertising. I'll be sure to send you a link if you like.
Joe (front ) and Andy (back) went to the Mt. Emei
Awesome. Yeah, I'd like that. Joe, tell me something that you've discovered that you maybe didn't notice was there about Chengdu and China the last time we talked?
Going on the trip to Mt. Emei (Emeishan) was a big switch up — for the first few weeks in China I hadn't been outside of a city, so it was refreshing to see the countryside. Andy and I stayed at a monastery and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to hike up 7.5 km of icy stairs from Leidongping to the Golden Summit to catch the sunrise — well worth the struggle on every count. Seeing the Big Dipper on the other side of the planet is something I won't be forgetting anytime soon, and if and when I come back to China it will be largely in pursuit of the wilderness areas outside the city.
Andy, quoting Christopher McCandless from the book and film, Into the Wild written by Jon Krakauer, "HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED." So that being said, what has this experience been like showing Joe around and having him see China through fresh eyes?
A little bit of me definitely wanted a friend from back home I could show around the city. All the crazy, unfamiliar things you see eventually fade into a little bit of a blur, but having someone who grew up in the same place as me allowed me to constantly find newness in my day to day life. Everything became fresh again by just pointing at something and asking, "did you see that too?" There is something nice in viewing all this craziness through a curious and unassuming lens.
Joe, when your buddies back home ask you what was China like, what will you say?
I'll say they've gotta go see it and find out. Good and bad, China and Chengdu are places I don't think anyone with a chance to see should ever miss — I know I'll be missing them and the people I met there dearly when I get back home. Maybe I'm too easily entertained, but I'd pick walking around the streets of Chengdu over any theme park in the world — until they get around to finally making Jurassic Park a real thing that is, then maybe I'll reconsider. Then again, Sichuan food is maybe the best I've ever had, to the point where I'd buy another plane ticket to Chengdu just for the food.
Joe has a camera with him
Joe, how has your trip to Chengdu changed the way you see the world?
Chengdu has changed a lot for me — how I see my own country, what I think of people in general. In particular, it's made me want to learn Mandarin — I could go off for a while on why I think that's a good idea, but here I'll stick with the old "speaking English and Mandarin means you can speak to 80% of humans on the planet" line. I also found out I like frog meat, so I suppose that's a pretty big switch up too.
Any last words you guys want to add?
Andy — I think there's something interesting about living abroad with a friend from home. It extends the social boundaries of your clan from home. Joe may return to America for a bit, and then he may come back to Chengdu, and then I might head to Bozeman, and then who knows. Now though, all of our friends realize that the connections we have in Bozeman extend outside of that place. We can flow in and out of our home finding new cool places and people and all of that grows our clan. It's okay to take a risk on your own but if you are doing so with the mindset of a growing community, you're not gonna be disappointed.
Our friends from home have all traveled and done their own exploring, but there always seems to be some sort of feeling of abandonment attached to leaving a place like Bozeman or Chengdu which attract amazing people who intend to stay for life. I believe in no such thing... go explore and then come back or don't, we're all fighting the good fight and helping each other out.
Joe — all I can say is thank you — Chengdu taught me so much and gave me so much to take home with me. The friends I made are people I hope to stay in touch with for the rest of my life, whether or not I end up moving to Chengdu. They all knew I was only there for a month, but they never hesitated to welcome me and make me feel at home when I was very far away from mine. Andy opened this door for me, and there's simply no way I can thank him enough for the opportunity he provided — this trip has and will continue to change my life. I want to give a bunch of shout outs — Johnny, Brooke, Red, Steph, Grace, Dan, you... there're 40 other people in my WeChat contacts that weren't there before this trip, and I wish I could list them all.

About the author: Jordan Wolff is from California, the US. He has been living in China for almost 3 years and is currently working in Chengdu. His articles and photographs have been published on the Bottom Line Newspaper and Gaucho Marks Magazine.

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