18 May 2008
Like I Never Left
4 days in and as Lianne pointed out to me last night, it’s as if I never left. I thought about quite a while because a lot has happened since my last stint in Shanghai. For one, I literally traveled around the World. That on top of Dengue Fever (note the capitalization to emphasize the gravity of said Fever), shoulder surgery and 8 solid months back in Washington, DC. Still, for whatever reason, I feel as though I’ve slid more comfortably into a way of life here than I ever had in DC which begs the question, what is it about Shanghai that I find so appealing?
Of course there are the negatives – human rights wrongs, extreme poverty and downright absurd pollution (I think I’ve already contracted the black lung, pop). Maybe it is in part that Shanghai is somewhat set apart from the rest of the country because of it’s governing autonomy and economic prowess, so those negatives are missed at some level (at the same time there have been countless events held to raise funds for Earthquake victims).
The city is, in large part, extremely different than it was 14 months ago. There are now EIGHT subway lines that move nearly 12 million people a day. A DVD now goes for $1. 40-story buildings have shot up in places where there was no more than a pile of bricks when I left. It seems the only constant in Shanghai is change. I, of course, love change. It helps to fend off boredom.
With so much of the setting altering, there remains a certain consistency in the people. Getting on the subway is still an all-out war (“no learning”). Umbrella’s are an all-season item, as Chinese women work tirelessly to lighten their skin (meanwhile, I’m attempting to roast myself in an effort to appear “healthy”). The park is flooded with people practicing tai chi (the only time you’ll see a Chinese person move slow). The only difference is, they’re doing these things wearing different clothes with cell phones strung from their necks and “Louis Buitton” bags hanging over their forearms.
More than anything else, the energy remains the same. The city is cranking ALL THE TIME. I was walking through the supermarket this morning and felt nothing but excitement from everyone and everything. Ogling over the newest western imports. Trying out treadmills and hand weights (a phenomenon still not fully embraced in China. They hop on in heels and start “treading” along with a perplexed look on their face as if to say “why do white people walk and walk to get nowhere?”). I wasn’t around in 1950s America, but I’m guessing it was similar: An unparalleled increase in wealth over a short period of time, leading to massive growth in quality of life and purchasing power. That feeling just makes everyday life so exciting and quite frankly, entertaining.
In short, I’m missing people (certain ones especially) but happiness abounds. The global perspective has given me new insight into all that is China, which means more thoughts to fill my mind. Exciting? I think yes.