Shanghai December 2010

And as I had alluded to 2 posts ago now, even more things happened and one of them was that Maria and I got to go to Shanghai together finally! I had only been there once before in my entire life, and I’m not sure it counts seeing as it probably happened about 15 years ago I barely remember. Though I remember it being short, I remember it raining, I remember it being very windy, I remember that we went to a very fancy restaurant but they only took credit card for some reason so we had to leave rather awkwardly, I remember having an umbrella, then being awe struck by something, probably a lit up skyscraper at night, and actually letting go of the umbrella and having it caught by the wind only to then be miraculously caught by my father out of what I could only explain as excellent reflexes. This time though, it was just Maria and I, and she had been wanting to go, though during the Expo, which we unfortunately or fortunately missed. Ah well. The point though, after the events of the previous post in NYC, it was final rehearsal week for my Beijing IFC annual performance of Handel’s Messiah, and as we were rehearsing, my choir director surprises me with the question of whether or not I’d be able to sing with him in Shanghai, something he had alluded to many weeks ago but which I had forgotten, and well, I had the time, and it kinda worked out schedule wise what with the fact that I had to turn in my passport again this time with a work visa but to apply for a residency permit. So Tuesday night, the 7th, off we went by train! Maria had really wanted to take the train as well, and I always enjoy them. It was the overnight train meant for business men to take so that they’d arrive just in time to attend whatever working obligations they may have, leaving around 10PM the night before and arriving around 7:30 in the morning the next day. We saved about 70RMB (10USD or so) by booking one top bunk and one bottom bunk because the bottom bunks are more desirable. I’m not sure it’s worth doing this anymore considering it was very awkward staring across the tiny aisle in the tiny little berth at this random looking Chinese person. But we got to watch TV on the computer, and slept decently, so it was all good. Shanghai was nothing like I remembered obviously, and though there were lots of rehearsals and concerts and the concert venue was out in the middle of nowhere where all the expats were, we got in a good bit of exploring of the town. What struck me the most was the massive amount of European architecture everywhere. They had these plagues hung up on the historic buildings telling of what architecture style it was, who designed it, and when it was built. Very large range of styles from “Spanish” to “Modern” to “English Country” and etc. Along this thing called the “Bund” which was their word for the water front area, they had these massive and massivly ornate sort of high European buildings, with columns and statues and everything, in an imposing sort of grey, but all of these buildings had the Chinese flag flying over them. And not to be un-PC about it, but it felt very surreal, very much like those alternate reality TV shows and movies where Nazi Germany takes over the rest of the world and you see the flag flying over Capital Hill. Not that there’s anything wrong with that ya know? The expat part of town where the concert was at (the Shanghai American School) was also surreal in its own way, much more an entire bubble of its own and entirely cut off from the rest of the city and population than the expat communities in Beijing. We actually had a very difficult time trying to buy a pair of black pants because even though I’m colorblind the Chinese concept of “black” is highly flawed, ranging from different shades of even very light greys to obviously dark blue. Apparently they have a different descriptor for what we would normally consider “black,” and unless you specify that when purchasing clothes, you’ll most likely end up with navy blue, which is what I got when I went to buy a new off the rack suit and the lady selling it swore up and down to me that it was “black” when ultimately it turned out to be navy blue. So fair warning…And whoo! Finally finished! This processed involved uploading 3 new albums to facebook and 2 new posts here. We’re talking all in all over 500 photos being uploaded to different places…try doing that over a VPN connection with any quickness.

And right, a couple of details. The German looking industrial building is called an “Incubator” and is where developing technologies go to get “taken care of” as it where so that they don’t die and can develop in a peaceful and safe environment, or so I understand. The hotel room is at the Longement Shanghai, quite a nice hotel actually where my father managed to get a night’s stay for us because he was in the area anyway plus we toured the “Incubator” with him. The rest is of all the different kinds of Shanghai architecture, mostly along the Bund and in the immediate surroundings. The houses that look like they’re out of some beach front city in Southern California is in the neighborhood around the Longement hotel. There are photos of elsewhere, but they’re on Maria’s camera. But it’s striking how familiar the area around the hotel felt to me. I also don’t quite understand the oneupmanship of ways to air dry your laundry; not only do they have enclosed sun rooms explicitly for such a purpose, they have specially made railings attached outside these enclosed sun rooms so that you can dry even more clothes. Maria thought they looked festive, like flags fluttering in the wind. I tend to agree.

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