Saturday, September 22, 2012

No Rose Scones For You (a few Shanghai Pics)

It seems that part of me would be completely satisfied with sleeping the entire weekend away, but lowwwww, how low would it feel to wake up only for work again? The second cup of tea (on top of the morning coffee, natch), plus a bit of couch laying hasn't mollified the would-be dormant. Could be Fall. Could also be a couple hours spent this morning, using the noxious Chartpak markers to hand color the "After the Snake, Before the Bite" prints I pulled a couple weeks ago. Also a thought -- the slow arrival of which would certainly support a nice chemical dumbing-down. In any case, here we are, in the cold air, a rainy Saturday perfect for Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley.

Life has begun to assume a familiar shape. Had a handful of sales at Etsy over the past couple weeks, which was heartening after a dry spell (well, mostly because I had to close the shop while I was in China). One excited customer bought the Destiny Llama print for a friend of hers, who has a llama farm on a mountain, "I can't wait to give it to her!" How rewarding to have one's prints chosen as that special something!

One of these things is not like the other.
Still, not everything has fallen back into place. I was at the hospital for a doctor's appointment this week (which, for a nice change did not snowball into additional appointments) and carefully fished around the Canadian dollars for quarters to hand the parking attendant. The woman looked through the coins before plunking one back in my hand, muttering, "I don't know what it is, but that ain't American." Not actually sure how the Yuan got into my coin purse, since I didn't take it to China, but that's kind of it in a nutshell: little things keep popping up. Maybe they're just nice reminders. I'm not going to profess to be profoundly changed for having finally left U.S. soil for a month, but there was also a certain amount of stepping-outside-of-one's self -- or at the least, one's life -- which has not yet settled back into everything else. I don't know how to talk about it more than that.

Well, let's get settled in, shall we?

This was the view from my apartment-within-a-hotel.
Before I started doing early morning work before heading into the office, I loved to begin the day by sitting in the window bay, looking out.

View from the kitchen.
I always intended to walk a few blocks over, so I could see the water at ground level. Didn't.

Since clothes dryers aren't really used, you'll see clothes hanging outside numerous residences
Barges large and small slowly drifted in and out of view.
Storms on the outskirts of a passing typhoon made everything but the near buildings disappear

While not technically legal, a strip of girlie bars faced the hotel. The X-TRA-SEE Bar!, The Happy Sisters, Blue Angel, Spicy Girl, and most unfortunately, The Naughty Beaver. Predictably, they were shut down during the day (or at least gave the appearance of being so), before coming to neon life each evening. A handful of bored women occasionally sat out front. For all the neon (which, every self-respecting business has a neon sign, no matter what it's selling), things remained quite on the outside. No drunken men careening across the street or being tossed out for poor behavior by burlier men.

Inside, the owner of the apartment was clearly keen on the POWER of DECALS. It was amusing and mystifying. One of my neighbors from home repeatedly urged to add more decals before leaving. While the idea held appeal, time flew by and my Chinese never advanced enough (read that: barely at all) to say, "Excuse me please, I am in need of decals. Where is your selection?"
I actually grew fond of the flowers above the desk, which was good because I woke up seeing them each morning.

a little waterscape.
Are decals more cheering or depressing atop ailing baseboards?
Bonus Snoopy and Woodstock beneath the bathroom sink.
While welcoming, the dogs did not help me to understand the vexing heating system panel.
The space was serviceable, and a five minute walk from the metro --with only two stops to get to work -- so it was perfectly located. Within the first week, I started hearing an electric saw, which I initially attributed to street construction. But no: it was actually on my hall. The sawing and nail pounding would have been aggravating, were it not for being extremely sporadic in the late evenings and weekends. SAW-SAW-SAW!!! The beginning was startling. But then, after a few minutes it would stop. And that would be it. Same with the nailing. What exactly were they doing? They seemed to be there throughout the entire month. Seemed liked the slowest work pace ever, judging by the noise. Occasionally I saw men wander by in dusty coveralls. To be fair, maybe they were whizzbang busy during the normal workday. It just seemed like so much of my experience, with not speaking the language. Even mundane things are rendered mysterious. Something is going on: you know that much. But what exactly is being done or how it will shape up will only become apparent in time. Most likely it doesn't concern you, as you are not really part of this equation. Best to keep your eyes and ears open, just in case...

In any case, the view outside was much more interesting.

People setting out to work each morning

The normal crush of cabs. If a cabbie picks you up but needs to be going in the opposite direction, he will simply make a uturn into oncoming traffic. Simple enough.

A guy across the way, practicing with a staff.

 What's one of the first things most people do when in unfamiliar circumstances?
Reestablish familiarity. Luckily, this was in my office's building complex

At home, I go through alternate phases of visiting and ignoring Starbucks. But coffee was hard to come by in Shanghai. Even the coffee here tasted different, but was good -- the espresso was less sharp than the U.S. roast. I enjoyed the similar-yet-different experience, with everything naturally tweaked for regional tastes. One of the few benefits of looking entirely different: the second time in, one of the more chipper baristas beamed at me and sang out "Ehsoy Lahhhhtay!!" Hahaha, yes, please and thank you. My to-go cup was always labeled "Lady"; the departure from drink details to shorthand for "white woman" or "foreigner" cracked me up each day. 

Not to give a chain too many props, but in a sea of really embarrassing U.S. exports, which people assumed I'd like, I was pretty pleased with them. The red bean scones were FANTASTIC.
....Bested only by the rose scone. I SO ARDENTLY WISH THE U.S. PUBLIC LIKED FLORAL TASTES MORE. I counted the days I could eat this. I would have hoarded if it would have done any good.

All for now. Back to present day Ann Arbor, where I have just stopped skyping with my neighbor a few houses away -- a habit we picked up when I was half a world away. Maybe I'll try my hand at baking a batch of rose scones tomorrow...

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