November 6, 2007

Machine City

While being driven through certain parts of Shanghai at night, namely Pudong near my hotel, I see the towering apartment buildings with irregularly lit windows surrounded by a green haze and I am reminded of the Machine City from The Matrix.

I'm exhausted from so much food and from having heart palpitations every time I set butt in a taxi, and also from the irregular sleep (which I think is getting better), but I want to write down what happened on Sunday before I forget :-)

We indeed started out at the Jin Mao tower observation deck, 88 floors high. I took numerous pictures. I looked down into the atrium of the Grand Hyatt hotel (which covers the top 34 floors of the building) and get vertigo. I look up at the World Financial Center just across the street and can see the yellow hard hats of construction workers moving around on the 90th floor. Such great heights indeed.

At one point a guy comes over to me and starts talking at me in Chinese. I can't understand a word, obviously, but he drags me over to a replica of the Jin Mao and pulls my arm around his shoulder. I see his buddy getting ready with a camera, so I smile and pose for a quick photo. Ah, a photo of a replica of a skyscraper with an actual skyscraper of a white guy. Can't beat that :-)

Afterwards he starts trying to talk to me again, but all I can do is stand there and repeat "Okay... don't understand you ... sorry ..." I don't even know how to say these phrases in Mandarin. He hands me a piece of paper and a pen, and I'm not sure what to do, so I write my name on it: Ryan. His friend comes over and after some more misguided attempts at communication, says "Country. Country." They want to know where I'm from! I say "America! USA! " Not sure which one of those is more recognized. I even throw in a half-hearted "Texas!" (It turns out the phrase to use is mei guo, or "beautiful country," which refers to the USA. China is zhong guo, or "middle country.")

I buy some more batteries from my camera, a hat for my dad (shh don't tell him) and my co-workers and I head downstairs. We walk across the street and around the Pearl Tower when one of them notices an aquarium. He's a scuba diver so we jump at the opportunity to see what's inside the aquarium. We take the tour, which lasts about an hour and a half.

After that we are supremely hungry and walk to the Super Brand Mall (best name ever), 10 floors of shopping insanity. Restaurants are on the upper floors. We get to one that does not have English on the menus, so we are at the mercy of the pictures and our Chinese co-worker (a different one than the previous two days). What we think is beef, he tells us is rabbit (mmm). We order it anyway. The spicy tofu also is good.

Afterwards I'm very tired, so I get a coffee at Starbucks. I hate Starbucks coffee but I figure it might be different and/or better here. No such luck! But it wakes me up.

Afterwards we meet up with another co-worker and take a walk along the Pudong side of the Huangpu. Then we take a cab over to Xintiandi, this new-fangled upscale shopping center mixed-use development thingie. Among the things to do is the Shikumen museum, which we take about an hour to wander through. Shikumen is a style of dwelling that is unique to Shanghai in the 20s. The stores in Xintiandi are built inside Shikumen replicas, and the museum holds many domestic artifacts from actual Shikumen.

Then it was time for the coup de grace - the circus!!! We headed north to Shanghai Circus World and caught a performance of ERA, this Cirque du Soleil-esque acrobatics and dance show. Simply put, it was amazing. You know those circular cages where performers ride dirt bikes around the inside? They had EIGHT dirt bikesgoing around in this tiny cage. It was nuts. Definitely a great cap to the weekend. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep on the ride back to the hotel :-)

Monday and Tuesday I have been at the office all day and out eating tons of food at night. Those who know me know that I do so enjoy my food (perhaps less now than two years ago, but still) and Shanghai has some amazing cuisine. I've had drunk chicken, rabbit, fish cheek, pigeon, jellyfish, and some stuff I don't know what the heck it is. But it's all really good, and it comes in huge portions, and we eat family-style. Nice. My biggest surprise today was drinking corn juice. I had no idea such a thing existed. And it's served hot. And it's good.

I added a new phrase to my vocabulary: zai jian, or "goodbye." It's weird; I keep finding myself about to say something in Spanish a lot of the time. Like the other day I had a choice of beef or chicken, and I almost said "pollo." I guess that when I think "foreign language" my mind immediately goes to Spanish, since that is what I know the most of. But that won't get me very far here :-)


bluegiraffe said...

Excuse me, are you the same Ryan Pollack who would eat nothing but fettucini Alfredo in restaurants for several of your delightful teenage years, causing great problems for your honorable parents?


Bob London said...

Ha ha, great comment Sher.

lifepart3 said...

Aunt Ilene weighing in here with another point of view...I do remember 'little' Ryan exclaiming 'Ooooh! Broccoli" at a very young age.


chibi said...

i had that same instinct in japan. i did know how to say some things in japanese, but my default foreign language is spanish. ha.

R_D said...

This is all so awesome to read about! I love the guy wanting to take a picture with you, and your mind jumping to Spanish, haha!