Life in Shanghai
What is it like to live in the biggest city in the world that also happens to be in China? I know I keep you updated, and I think most people want to hear about what happens to Rumi and Raine, but everyday as I walk to work, I compose this note in my head. I bet you would think this is so interesting…how can I tell this little story?…and, I bet no one would even think of this… So I would like to take a little time to talk about the past few days as almost typical days (If there is such a thing) living in Shanghai, China.
It kind of started with the morning of the fourth of July. I wake up really early for no reason at all because the sun rises at 4:30 am. I have not been able to find a scientific reason for this. I take a bath in the morning. That’s just how I start my day, because I can. Here’s a negative. Even though we are 25 floors up, for some reason, right around 7-7:30 am, taxis and busses decide that their horns are their most important tool and use them frequently. Some will just lay on their horns long and hard. I haven’t figured out the reason for this either. I asked some of my students and they said that busses need to stay on schedule. But honking at cars that aren’t moving and can’t move, or at people walking just seems pretty useless to me, but they haven’t seem to figure that out themselves. The honking doesn’t stop until about 11pm.
I usually make something for breakfast, and then I get the girls up, give them whatever I made, and we do something for school. On that day, we made glitter fireworks pictures. Often we will do about 4 subjects, but it is a holiday. Then Karen comes. She will often have groceries in her hand anticipating what we need. –Did I mention how much I love her? She will show me everything and give me the receipts. About this time, I am packing my lunch of yesterday’s left-overs (which was this awesome Indian curry) and a huge thermos of iced coffee that lasts me through the day. Then, kisses, and I am out the door.
As I’m riding the elevator (and my ears pop every time) These two very old men get on, helping each other to actually walk. One says to me, “Where are you from?” I am shocked by his very good English, and I tell him America. “I am from Los Angeles.” He said with a huge smile. He seemed really excited to speak English. “I was in World War II. Do you know General Schultz? I was in his 1st Airborne Division.” I was practically speechless, and then they got off on another floor as I thanked him for his duty –completely forgetting to wish him a happy Fourth of July!
Then I walked out of our gorgeous courtyard, through our gate, and into the fray, so to speak. I love our street. Tian Yang Qiao Road. I’m not sure, but it might be comparable to 5th Ave. in Manhattan or Michigan Ave. in Chicago, or not. It’s a one-way street and I walk in the opposite direction , it is actually faster for me to walk to work than take a taxi or the metro. Often, I will notice that things I have used as landmarks, or places I have frequented will be completely gone in the blink of an eye. I could have been there the day before, everything looks fine, the next day it is empty. I am told that rent, is so expensive many places can’t make enough. But all of the deconstruction and construction seem to keep a lot of people busy and in work.
Everyone is so dressed up. I could just stare at the dresses forever. It’s like the 50’s and the 80’s are back and every woman looks so feminine. And they all wear killer high-heeled shoes that I can’t imagine walking to work in. I mentioned before, but it deserves repeating, that most people are so tall here. Most people look completely together, but I found the secret is to get everything on-line cheaper.
I pass a huge grey granite building with a huge gorgeous fence in front. There is a drying line that has purple yoga mats every morning. It’s called Alexander Yoga and it’s a crazy expensive spa. Once I saw these two young women leave and light up a cigarette before they made it to the sidewalk. All I could do was just shake my head. I pass department stores with their doors open and feel the A/C hit me with a blast. I pass this one butcher where the line to window is about a half of a block long. If it wasn’t for all the old people I would have thought they were handing out crack, but bacon can do that too, so who knows.
Then, up the escalator to the pedestrian bridge, across the busy highway and down the stairs. Across a small road towards a mall with a pile of people waiting for the door to open, and then the worst 10 minutes of my day, trying to get to my office on the 33rd floor. Often there is a line for the elevators and I have to wait for 2 or 3 to fill up before I get smashed in. Sometimes I get the service elevator when no one is looking. I have had horrible experiences with these elevators, they stop on the 24th floor at certain times for no reason. Then you can’t get another one up, and you have to take a few flights to another floor and get a different one. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, but I have often thought it would make a freaky Hitchcock movie.
Work is easy. The first hour is prep for my classes. Then I teach. Then I eat my left-overs. I never leave the building again, if I don’t have to, because of the elevators. Sometimes we order delivery and everything delivers. I have two prep hours, one lunch hour and 5 classes. I don’t grade anything and I don’t bring anything home. I work with an amazing group of people. They are the ones who planned the birthday outing for last night. Sean is from England, Henk is from South Africa, David is from Atlanta, Johnny is from Ireland, Melissa is from Australia, and Andrew is from Columbus. There are others, but this is the main core, and we all sit in cubicles next to each other or facing each other. My company, WEB, has the entire 33rd floor (Actually, they have several floors), so my classes and office and all of that have windows with different views.
Then at 9 pm, I walk home. I think Shanghai is the safest city I have ever seen –EVER! When I mention this to students, they don’t understand. When I say, “I can walk around at night by myself with no fear,” they look at me like, “Of course, why not?”
I usually come home to a great dinner that I eat around 9:30-10pm. Maybe I watch a movie with the girls, sometimes I can just stare out the window. Sometimes we go out for ice cream where Issac is better than Tom Cruise when it comes to tossing and throwing ice cream around, cupcakes where they remember we like cold milk not warm, or something. We often run into some neighbors we know wherever we are around here. Today we went to my favorite lemonade stand, and they remembered that I like the lemon/pineapple with jelly cubes.
The thing that surprises me more than anything is the food. They use fresh seasonal vegetables, so right now there are a lot of tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, eggplant, and always a lot of potatoes and bread. Who knew? They eat sandwiches more than we do. Sometimes there are a few things we can’t find like sour cream, cottage cheese, and many Mexican foods, so taco night is kind of out. However, I found the “avocado lady.” She’s like the food black market –except REALLY cheap! (I think it’s like the old-time mafia, “truck sales.” Her husband works at the airport and that’s all I know.
The girls want me to tell you about how much fun they bowling last night. They even put bumpers up for them. We really had such an awesome time with my co-workers. They were the greatest. We went to Stubb’s Barbebue which was fabulous. I was planning on different things, but then I thought Sloppy Joe, and that’s all I wanted! So good. I was sitting with Melissa’s boyfriend who is also from Cleveland –how weird is that, right? Then the band sang Tracy Chapman and it was a bit surreal.
The girls also want you know they have made a lot of friends. This week, their closest friends from New Zealand took them to the Natural History museum while I was at work, because they home-school too. They were so impressed with the dinosaurs and the mummies. Karen went too, which was the first time she took them on a field trip. She takes them to the park and stuff, but never anything like that.
Even with all of it’s flaws, I have never been so in love with any place I have lived.