Saturday, August 07, 2004

95 and humid as all get out...

With 17 million people, Shanghai is twice the size of New York City. Needless to say, today I got lost. We had dinner last night at The Grand Hyatt, on the 55th floor overlooking some huge, lit, globe representing some Olympics of the future. I was so exhausted, I don't even remember getting back to our hotel. We passed out around 11, and Alex and I awoke easilly at 5:30 this moring. Wide awake and rarin' to go, I decided to work out as soon as the gym opened at 6am, and then swam 25 laps. By 7:30, we went to the huge breakfast buffet here and gorged ourselves until it was time to meet up with mom, dad, Rei the guide, and her nameless driver, in the lobby. I saw all kinds of Chinese people having chow mein and beef stir fry for breakfast. I had a croissant, scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, and the greastest cup of coffee ever made.
Rei took us first to the older part of town where it looks very imperialistic and British, but with bicycles and rickshaws everywhere. We toured a small museum there, and everyone stared at us. Then, she took us to this school in an old brick building, where we actually sat in on classes filled with 6 year olds. Literally, the 4 of us found ourselves in tiny classrooms, with little kids instructed to perform for us. An entire class sang us two songs, then a room full of tiny little ballerinas did a fabulous interpretive dance for us. We saw calligraphy and art classes as well. It was awesome. We just walked in and interupted their classes, and they acted like this was the most normal thing in the world. As we left each class, they all said in unison, "Nice to make your aquaintance!" Upon departure from the school, the teachers kind of rangle you into an office/giftshop where they encourage you to support the school by buying crap. So we did.
Mother was desperate to go to some Jesuit cathedral, because apparently every catholic cathedral in Europe in't enough for her. Poor Rei took us there, as I asked her to describe Buddhism. Hello, Joanne. If we're going to hit the churches, as you insist on doing in every foreign country, maybe we should check out a temple. I think I've got this Christianity thing down.
Then, Rei drags us to this rug factory, which everyone else claimed to be fascinated by, but I found boring. Plus, they practically force you to buy rugs, which we didn't. Please let it be time for lunch.
It was. Rei informs us that we'll be having Mongolian BBQ, and it was totally bizarre. This place is hugely touristy, as we were 4 of many "roundeyes" in there. The deal is this: you grab a bowl, then fill it with an assortment of raw meat, vegetables, and various sauces. You bring it to a window, and some dude throws it on a flaming metal disk. Once it's cooked, he throws it back in your bowl, and badda bing, stir. They also had a salad bar, where the two salad dressings available were ketchup and "Egg Mayonaise". Thank you, no.
It's at this point that I start to feel violently ill. Mom and I go to the ladies, where we discover that you flush the toilet by pulling an old rope attached to the base. The women next to us spoke in German, the only word of which I understood was SARS.
After lunch, Rei decided we'd hit The Shanghai Museum of Art, which is pretty interesting. I'm very into the furniture and the clothing. They had jade bracelets from 37BC and Tibetian prayer robes that blew my mind. But, as I still felt like ass, I told mom I was cabbing it back to the hotel and split. My big plan to get back here was to take a postcard of the hotel and show it to the driver. In China, you sit in the front seat of the cab, and as no one speaks any English, must find ways to explain where you're going in a city this fucking huge. He seemed to understand the postcard. Turns out, not so much.
Thru tunnels and over bridges, through the ghettos of Shanghai and the highrise, tacky apartment complexes, we drove and drove, nearly killing many along the way. 25 minutes into the ride, I pull out the postcard again. I point to the chinese writing at the bottom. The driver gets a look of horror on his face, as he flips the car around and hightails it in the opposite direction. An hour later, here I am. The cab ride cost me 3 bucks. Not bad. And I've seen more of Shanghai than the cast of the Joy Luck Club.
I've got to say, for as jet lagged and food poisoned as I am, this is one of the most fascinating and different places I've ever seen. It's extraordinary the number of people and the level of culture. I feel that we, as Americans, are nothing but cultureless cowboys. Everything looks different, from the cars (today, I drove in a VW "Santana") to the buildings, which range from old Chinese structures with ducks and wet clothes in the window, to Vegas-like monstrosities with orbes and flashing lights. For a Communist country, there's a huge difference between the rich and the poor, which I don't really get. I'm kinda chicken to ask Rei pointed questions, although mom had no problem pointing out to the rug factory guy that since he had one son and no daughters, he must be delighted. "Don't you people prefer boy babies?" Nice.
We have our own private butler named Ken, and I'm about to go upstairs and ask him to send my clothes to laundry and bring me some tea. I wonder if Ken can handle me sending underwear to be washed? There's only one way to find out. I think it's interesting that we come all the way to China to a hotel that gives you butlers, and his name is Ken. I asked mom and dad if their butler was named Troy. Mom didn't get it.
Tonight, it's the 1930's jazz club at the Peace Hotel, I think. At least, that's my vote. For now, it's to tea and then, to sleep. I hope this blog thing works from here. E-mail me and let me know. Sheshe. (That's thank you.)
PS. Today, at lunch, my dad goes, "You know who'd love this? Bonnie." Um, yeah dad. She would. Bon, hop a flight. Dick feels like buying you a Chinese beer.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Babe. A book suggestion for your journey: Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. A short, facinating read, and very suited to your adventure. Pick it up and I'll buy it for you. Love you. T.P.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot! »