Finally I make a Proto-post about my Asian excursion. I was thinking since a lot of travel blogs end up with a couple posts in the first month and then one every 3 months after that, I would try to hold myself to one post every month. So, now that I’m 5 months late, let’s get right to it.
I organized my initial opinions on my arrival here by comparing it with Africa (Madagascar, La Reunion). I automatically slipped into Africa mode and found myself surprised at how good things are here. The weather in Shanghai is almost on par with Africa so far, since Shanghai’s latitude is about the same as Louisiana in the States. Smog is not nearly the problem it was in Antananarivo, Mada’s capital. Traffic, while still very noisy and congested, at least makes sense here when compared to other places I’ve seen. And people here work hard: While apartment hunting during my first week in Shanghai, I noticed large wall being constructed around a business complex, and, to my surprise, when I came back a couple days later I noticed it was finished. Subconsciously I expected it to take half the year, simply because I was still in the above mentioned “Africa Mode.” I was expecting to have to haggle for taxi prices and to guard myself from being ripped off at every turn, but the taxis use meters and many prices here are fixed and well advertised. This might be due to this place being Shanghai rather than some random town were foreigners don’t normally visit. All in all, I’m impressed all except for not being able to drink tap water. I was counting on being able to do that. Not sure why.
What took a little while for me to figure out is the milk situation. Milk in Africa was just French milk, and therefore very substandard. Most of the milk here, however, is utterly vile. See, most of the milk here is infused with plant matter, like aloe or whatever else. While that might be healthy or what not, it makes the milk impalpable. It wasn’t until my source of imported milk dried up that I started looking back into Chinese brands. Luckily Buff and I were able to find just one brand that keeps the ingredients at 100% milk.
Which is good, because the only meal I’ve prepared for myself at home is milk and cereal. If you live in the right place in Shanghai, there are tons of cheap eateries everywhere. Let me tell you, I live in the right place. I live in Pudong, meaning east of the Huangpu river. Those words alone usually scare off foreigners since it doesn’t cater to expats quite like Puxi, or west of the Huangpu river, does. The problem is that most foreigners live too far away from the river. It gets too modern and somewhat suburban. I met up with Wi-Hi alumni Shayne Fitz-Coy here, who lives way out in Pudong. He actually has to take a taxi to catch the metro, which for me is a 15 minute walk (I usually just hop on a bus, that cuts it down to a few minutes), and he’s never been to a Muslim noodle place, when there are 3 within a 2 minute walk from my flat. Anyway, when it costs anywhere from $.50-$1.00 for a good meal, I don’t see the logic of turning on my stove.
Speaking of my place, there it is as seen from the Pearl Tower:
If you’ve seen Mission Impossible 3 then you should recognize the area, which is within walking distance of my place. I live on the 20th floor of a 25 story building with a window that looks right back at the Pearl Tower and the river. I don’t know many foreigners that can say that. What is neat also is I have a blend of the modern and ancient. On one side of my block, there are department stores filled with more expensive clothes than I will ever buy, but on the other side of the block locals sell fish and fruit on the side of the street the same way they have for thousands of years. The latter is the side where I get my $.50 haircuts.
Back to Africa comparisons for a moment, one fear I had about coming here is that everyone would insist on practicing their English on me. This was often the case in Africa, with both the Malagasy and the French, to an annoying degree, but surprisingly few people here try to speak English with me (unless they’re trying to sell me some item or some “service”). On the down side, dealing with Shanghai-nese accents is a challenge. The number “10” å (shi) in a thick Shanghai accent sounds a lot like “4” å›› (si), so that causes a great deal on confusion. It’s really unfortunate when “44” comes up, since it sounds like “444.” Oddly enough, how a Shanghai-nese speaker alters Mandarin is somewhat similar to how a Malagasy accent alters French, so I was able to catch on pretty quick.
It would be inaccurate to post about Shanghai and not mention fireworks, because I hear them every day. No exceptions. It’s usually just firecrackers, but one day I was sitting at my desk when there were sudden flashes and bangs at my window. A restaurant was setting off fireworks on the corner and about 20 stories up is where they would burst.
Lately I’ve been hanging out with some musical retirees from the Jiangsu province. In my apartment complex there are a few underground bike lots, and in one I’ve noticed a couple old men playing the Erhu, a kind of 2-string fiddle with a very distinctly Chinese sound, with a lady who would sing. I found that they were there every night from 7:30-9:30. While Buff was here visiting, I got up the courage to actually go down to listen and talk to these guys and they invited me to a some event. It’s like a retirement community get together that happens every week. The videos below tell the tale:
- Video 1 – In the underground bike lot with the original crew
- Video 2 – The next day at the weekly get-together
- Video 3 – Same as above
- Video 4 – When I came back that night, they party had moved back to the bike lot
I might have gotten myself into singing something for them for the Chinese New Years party they’re having. More on that as I get it.
In closing, let me just say that I love Chinese Muslims for bringing street-vending lamb kabobs and their Xinjiang black beer (æ–°ç–†é»‘å•¤), the best Chinese beer out there.