Riding in another taxi from Shanghai airport, I can tell I'm in a different climate zone. Alongside the freeway evergreen auralias, podocarpus, Sago Palm, oleander and the occasional yellow magnolia. Gas stations are right on the freeway in a turnout. How sensible. As I sit in the Bund Riverside Hotel deserted bar, having happy hour by myself with a glass of white Bordeaux and peanuts, I glance at a map of Japan on the TV over the bar. It's been shocking, this horrible situation with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor. I'm wondering if Kadafi is poiunding the rebel holdouts to bits or if our last minute UN resolution will make a difference.
Strains of Christmas carols with oboe and strings blends into the "Way you look tonight." The lobby is fragrant with white lilies in a massive arrangement below a crystal chandelier. Looking past that, I can see a monolithic abstract oil painting above a collection chairs and sofas.
For another surreal touch, when I return from tramping all over People's Park, the original BTW, and shopping, getting my pants and shoes soaking from the steady drizzle, I run into a mob of tourists in the lobby clustered around a tour guide holding a Gate1 flag, the tour company of my first China visit in 2010.
While at People's Park, a group of young people accosted me with a gentle, friendly greeting. We stood there a few minutes under our umbrellas. They were from "the interior of China" and for some reason wanted to chat. They were so adorable I wanted to take their picture but they refused, saying they were followers of Buddha.
A few minutes later, a gentleman on the street tries talking to me in Chinese, of course of no use with me. Shanghai is a very friendly place. :)
After being gone for several days, I'm not surprised to see my bike lying on its side since it had been windy over the weekend. But imagine my dismay to find the chain has fallen from the sprocket. It doesn't take more than a minute for a lady from the guard shack at the gate to notice me and come over with a screw driver. Her friend joins in. they shove me away and attack the problem. They are on the verge of giving up when a man walks over. He takes charge of removing the chain guard and quickly gets everything working and back together. Such sweet people.
Yue helps me shop online for an external monitor I can use with my netbook Pepe. I get a reasonable Acer brand for 888Y $148, free shipping, and it arrives the next day. Only one annoying thing, I can't use my VISA card. They only accept debit cards on Chinese banks or a VISA from a Hong Kong bank. But they do deliver COD. Around lunchtime I get a call to come quickly to the guard shack at my Puji building apartment. I jump onto my bike and pedal as fast as my old legs can go, fortunately Beijing is flat, no hills.
Waiting for me is a darling and serious young man dressed in a red jumpsuit. I pay the cash and lug the box up the five flights to my apartment. The driver jumps back onto his bicycle driven, micro delivery truck with a metal cargo box on the back about the size of a refrigerator, off to his next delivery.
When I return to the office, Yue is jumping to Russian techno on a hopscotch mat synced to the computer, a kind of dancing aerobics, getting exercise at lunch. I'm impressed. When I try it, the Russian accented English speaking voice keeps nagging at me, "someone is not keeping up" with the Barbie doll virtual exercise girls on the screen.
Today I worked up an inscription for a plaque commemorating their Centennial Garden of 100 trees being planted by 100 visiting presidents of international universities like Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and they have yet to decide on the design and construction of it.
Hui tou jian