Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saturday August 13th, A day in city

The thing about us being here in Shanghai is that we don't speak the language.  I know that is an obvious point.  We also don't understand the symbols.  Our plan for this day was to get to the subway and ride the Metro to the Bund - and see the Pudong (Pu - River, Dong = East, Xi =West...our School is in Puxi.) stretch of Shanghai - The Pearl TV tower and all on the River.  

We made it about a half mile to a coffee and pastry shop - somewhat westernized because they sell baguettes and pastries.  Quinn gets the hot dog pasrty.  hmmm.  hot dog pastry?  However, everything is written in Chinese and we still can't quite get a d-cof coffee for Bridget.  Wanting to save time we hop in a cab and the driver looks at me and probably says, "where to."  I look to him as if to say, "I have no idea how to tell you this."  I forgot my notes and struggle to point to the metro stop on the map.  Bridget remembered hers and helps me with what I need to say.   He finally nods his head in understanding and immediately takes off in the opposite direction.

BTW:  I spent a good bit of time on the road this summer perfecting a few Chinese phrases.  They include, "Excuse, may I please ask, do you speak English" and "I speak a little Chinese."  and "I don't speak Chinese very well." I love saying the last phrase because it is always followed with whoever I'm speaking Chinese to telling me in Chinese that "on no, you speak very well."  Then they go on to speak more Chinese, none of which I  understand.

Bridget is letting me know from the back seat that we're going the wrong way and I need to stop him.  I don't know if he misunderstood me or if he's taking us for a ride.  I repeat Xu Jing Xu Jing Xu Jing to him and he finally looks at me and says, "ah...Xu Jing!!"  and turns the car around and heads back toward Xu Jing.  hmmm.

Once at the subway station, we buy our tickets after 10 minutes of staring at the machine.  If you've ever gone to Denver's light rail and bought tickets after not riding it in a while you know that it takes time to figure out how that machine works.  It takes more time if it is written in Chinese symbols and everyone around you is pushing.

That is one thing about this big city.  People push.  It's not rude.  It's more so like there are 23.5 million of us and if you don't push you'll get left behind.

For example, we now have our subway tickets and we head toward the train.  Feels pretty normal as we wait for its arrival.  A bunch of people waiting for a train, kinda like at DIA.  Then the train comes and people prepare to board.  Now Pu Xing is the end of the line so this is an empty train we're getting on.  The train stops, the doors open and it's like the Who at Folsum Field...it is a mad rush for a seat.  People are sprinting into the train to grab a seat.  Why, I wonder there is plenty of room.  I soon get my answer.  By the very next stop the train is PACKED.  Standing room only.  I barely see Quinn and I can't see Bridget or Josephine.  It continues like this for 9 more stops.  When we finally get to the Peoples square stop it is a forceful push by all four of us to get out of the train by squeezing ourselves through the mass and out the doors before they slam shut and the train leaves.  Josephine claims she saw some dude get stuck while his family got off.  Guess he had to ride one more stop.

This is pretty normal I find out.  These people are calm cool and collect the whole time...calm cool and collect but pretty darned determined to get where they want to go whether you're in the way or not.

Fall for the old Tea scam.
Once off the train we are in People's square.  Bridget thrives on the pulse of this clean and incredibly visually pleasing city.  I'm in shock.  The girls are giddy.  We walk to the square and a woman starts polishing my shoes.  I soon realize that I will owe her a fee so I walk away.  She kinda crab craw-walks and continues to polish my shoes as I'm trying to get away.  I say politely, "no Thanks"  and she polishes harder and whips off a few Mandarin paragraphs.  I finally start walking circles around a tree until she finally gets the point.  

Twenty seconds after she leaves Three college age kids approach us and start speaking enthusiastically in English.  They are friendly enough (Really how just about everyone is here) so I try my Mandarin on them.  The seven of us enthusiastically converse for about 20 minutes - I'm skeptical of what their up to but don't really care.  Another twenty minutes later and we are in some ornately decorated small room sitting around a traditional chinese tea table somewhere in the neighborhood enjoying a tea ceremony with them.  Six different types of tea, all different types of protocols, plenty of laughs and entertainment. They buy a bunch of extra tea and I agree (begrudgingly) to split the tab.  We finally get out of there with bellies full of tea and a bit less cash in my wallet than one would expect and in desperate need of a bathroom.  We part ways and I'm a bit sore at myself for being overly generous!

We walk to the bund and see the sights...Wow, it is truly spectacular.  We are in awe and taking many photos of the scene.  The other people there are in awe and taking many photos of us!  Being the only white American looking folk around we soon find that we are more of a spectacle than the Shanghai architecture.  Incredible!  Women ask if their youngins can stand next to Quinn and Josephine for a photo op.  It really is an eye opening experience and a learning time as Quinn talks about the "melting pot of America" where we see so many people of so many different races nothing is odd.  At this particular time being the massive racial minority was a new joint for us all.  

We stumble upon Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant.  Josephine orders some yummy sweet corn pancakes and I get a small bowl of spicy beef stew which ends up being a few gallons worth.  Not the best food in Shanghai.  Grandma ought to get out of the kitchen.

Next stop is a foreign language bookstore, a nice treat for us because English is the foreign language of choice.  Now I don't want to sound closed here.  I'm learning some Mandarin and excited for the prospects, but every now and then it's nice to be able to read something.

The rain starts to dump like buckets and we run through the streets with umbrellas out through ankle deep water back to the subway.  Fortunately the cars are not as packed on the way back.  Josephine makes a friend with a 3 year old girl by speaking Mandarin to her and the girl shares her cookie with Josephine.  

Back home exhausted, Bridget and I head back out for the mile walk to RT mart in Zhudi town to exchange our purple door mat for a red one.  Zhudi, although on the outskirts of Shanghai, is a happening place.  All kind of street food and people all over the place on this Saturday night.  We manage to get back home and get to bed.  Ahhhhhhhh.

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