Sometimes, there are no words

Catching up on the blog and attempting to summarize five days in Shanghai in one entry is proving challenging.  Really, I’m finding these entries challenging no matter how many there are.  I can’t even put into words the amount I’ve learned…about people and places and culture.  It’s been a daily discovery of good things, interesting things, and things that are ten times more difficult than they need to be.  But, let’s see…

Arrival…this in and of itself was an adventure.  First, my suitcase was too heavy, and rather than be able to pay some obscene service charge, I had to actually start pulling stuff out and shoving it into my hiking bag. Which, I was pretty sure had a hole and wouldn’t survive being checked.  Awesome…I really didn’t want to be that girl in the airport, but whatever, it was over pretty quick.  Add to that some gross airport food and I was ready to land before we ever took off.

Once we landed, the plane pretty much unloaded on the tarmac.  Slightly odd, and really hot, then you get on a bus to the terminal.  Where it’s time to clear customs. Which would have been fine if the flight attendants had given me the clearance forms, but minor detail I suppose.  So I have to get out of line to go fill out the form.  Which should have been easy, but of course I need an address….and Jaime’s still flying…I see this going well.  So I’m waiting…considering putting down some random hotel – they aren’t going to hunt me down, right?  Then one of the officials comes over and asks if I need help.  Of course, I’m too honest, and tell him I need to find out my friend’s address. Apparently me being in there for so long made them nervous and he let me in with just a phone number.  The upside, my luggage was ready and waiting – old hiking bag made it in one piece.

Finding the driver and getting where I needed to go was easy after that.  Had dinner at a Chinese restaurant on the bund – really cool atmosphere (including tables decked to the 9’s) and amazing food.  Walked around downtown after dinner and took some amazing photos.  Apparently the city has grown so much in the past few years.  Ended the night with massages – I’m still amazed places like that were open late, but it seems like things here open and close later than in the states.

I spent most of Thursday wandering Shanghai – five mile run, Jing’An Temple, Lujiazui, Nanjing Road, and People’s Square.  It was all so cool…and I managed to navigate the subway without getting lost. There are so many people and so many stores, so many large stores.  I had such fun just wandering, and then the temple in the middle of it all.  That’s the coolest part about being here – there’s modern buildings, stores, and whatnot, then turn the corner and there’s a temple or a picturesque old street. Wandering was the perfect way to spend a day, and when I needed a rest, I stumbled upon a park with a restaurant that served coconut water straight out of the coconut.  So yummy!  Once I was tired from wandering, and done being asked to buy a bag or a watch, I met my friend Aimee for a Thai dinner.  So nice to catch up with her after several years.  So good….the food here (aside from McDonald’s) has been amazing. So interesting what happens when you’re not necessarily sure what you’re eating and try just about anything.

I spent Friday traveling stores with Jaime and Ken.  So interesting to see how similar it is to the US and Japan, but also how different. We visited two stores, talked to the store managers, district visual, and Ken explained how the processes here worked.  So interesting to hear about.  We had dim sum for lunch…something else new to me, despite being able to try it in San Francisco, but never having done so.  I may need to do so every once in awhile….it was quite yummy.

Friday night was pretty low key – happy hour at a bar with a great atmosphere – little lanterns dangling from all over the ceiling, and an amazing roof deck.  After a few drinks and appetizers there, we spent the evening wandering the little stores in Jaime’s neighborhood.  Once again, I found it interesting that stuff is open so late there – 24th St. closes at like 7.  She introduced me to the $1 DVD store where you can get just about any new release, or old release for that matter, for a $1.  We popped in several other stores, and a local coffee shop, offering spiked coffee – perfect for a Friday of wandering followed by DVD night.

We were supposed to run and then walk around Shanghai on Saturday, followed by a beer fest.  Then came the rain and out came some more $1 DVD’s.  There was brunch at Mr. Pancake, which reminded me of San Francisco, from the food down to the fact that we were seated right on top of the people next to us….similar to Caron and I at Polk St. Toast.  We did go to the beer fest, which was a ton of fun, despite the rain.  Post beer fest, feeling (and probably looking) like a drowned rat, we went to a hair salon where they wash and blow dry your hair.  Apparently quite popular here, and also lots of fun.  Made getting ready for dinner and a night out much easier.

Dinner was at another Chinese restaurant, I’m totally going to butcher the name, but here goes….Szechwan Kitchen.  Also very good and lots of new stuff to try, including a basil martini – it was kind of like a milkshake, or something.  Then came my introduction to Shanghai nightlife.  I know I don’t get out much, but it was big…so many people…so many places to go, filled with people.  I still don’t know where they all come from.  And so much fun to be a part of, even for a short time.

I forget the name of the place we went on Sunday – lots of little alleys, shops, bars, restaurants, very much reminded of the alleys in Japan.  So much to see and so easy to get lost.  We started with brunch somewhere in the maze, and then wandered.  So much to see and look at – I think I have some photos. American style brunch, but still so good…and I tried a mimosa.  Interesting….not a fan of orange juice, or champagne, but, mixed together, they were actually quite yummy. Then more wandering before we stopped at a cool little bar for a drink…or two….or the rest of the afternoon.  This place was kind of like the cannery, Shanghai style.  There weren’t many people, really five groups throughout the day – tourists on their way to a wedding, expats who’d been there before, expats who hadn’t, a guy with a kitten….a good time and ali, the 20 year-old bar tender makes a great tom collins.  Yay for a drink I understand.  He also made a great shot….ready for this? Tomato juice, Tabasco sauce, tequila, amaretto, and I’m sure a few other things….apparently, if you take a bunch of stuff that’s not so good on its own (other than tequila) and mix it together, it’s also quite yummy.

We met a bunch of interesting people, everyone had a story – where they were, where they were going, where they’d been. Then somehow, Jaime’s playlist became the bar music…and we were behind the bar….and there were panda hats and a bunch of Chinese tourists.  I wish I had turned around when the hat was put on my head…I really have no idea where it came from….

Overall, so much fun.  So much culture and so different from Japan.  Once again, I was sad to leave, but excited to move to my next destination.  Travel started off as an adventure when my atm card didn’t work….however, I did remember that I could take the train to the airport and that I still had a pass for the train.  Not that I was crazy about lugging the suitcase on the train, but I could figure that out.  Luckily, there were more atm’s in the train station and I could get cash there and the driver understood where I needed to go.

Next up – my move to Sanya and the interesting, yet challenging time I’ve had since arriving….

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