Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saturday August 13th...An Adventure and an Education

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 see baquettes and croisants.  Still 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 as if to say, "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.  He finally nods his head in understanding and immediately takes off in the opposite direction.

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.

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.

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