This city is coastal so the pollution does not hang like in the others. It is a great blend of old traditional architecture and super modern chic buildings. The food specialty is dumplings and dim sum. Teahouses with amazing handmade bundles that reanimate into a full flowers when soaked in hot water are sprinkled through the town. In our travels as tourists I would say 2-3 out of 10 service people speak English.
There are many tourists here from other parts of China. We can tell this from the high level of picture requests. The kids have clocked more publicity photos here than anywhere else. The girls have become quite interactive and engaging with our Sino friends. Every encounter is like courting- the Chinese always initiate contact then without any language at all there is respectful interaction, lots of smiles, pictures and laughter….and genuine mutual acknowledgment at parting recognizing the joy of the encounter. The girls now embrace their role as ambassador. I tell them that everyone one of those people they have given their smile too is leaving with a feeling about Americans/westerners in general…and that the goodness will pay forward exponentially in ways their children may be benefactors of.
We have spent more time in China than in any place we have been thus far on our trip. I have a bunch to say about the country present day in comparison to how I found it 20 years ago. That is going to be a long one. But for now, on the eve of saying goodbye, I want to reflect on some of the things I take away from this place.
Boiled lettuce is really good.
Eating with chopsticks improves your health and prevents gird- everyone should own their own wooden pair.
Tea is an amazing thing- the good stuff is not readily available to us in the west at grocery stores and such. It is worth it to take a trip now and again to a specialty teashop and get the actual flowers and leaves and a strainer and make the real stuff. If you can find a tea house and do a taste test to find out what you like best and what its benefits are than all the better.
It's quite amazing the music you can make with just percussion. A big heavy drum, some cymbals and a gong can easily get your groove on.
Kung Fu is cool. I am going to dig up some old movie series and stock up so the kids can enjoy this keep the peace sport.
Drinking hot water is really nice and aids digestion. Just invest in a nice sized teapot you can place on the table to give yourself refills and sip on.
Gaze deeply into your loved one/child's face and hold it with both your hands. Even more personal than a hug- it's the Chinese way.
Consider making dumplings- they are so easy and you can get creative with the fillings.
Most everyone, but not everyone thinks of the Cultural Revolution with disdain. Some old geezers still love to sport the Mao suit and gave us a nod and a thumbs up when we took a picture with the Chairman's statue. For them, everyone being the same was the way to go...like a hippy reminiscing about Woodstock I can tell they dig they were part of the good old days…the movement.
Consider having a local lion dance troupe come for your next party. Everyone can join in on the percussion and its so freaking cool to see these life-sized puppets come to life.
Before you turn your nose up at a squat toilet think about this…to sit on a seat that others have either sat on or sprayed their urine on is MUCH less hygienic than hovering over a hole that you pee into then can flush with your foot. It builds your hamstrings and you can not only visually check your urine for health/proper water intake but you can also get a good whiff. Was that asparagus?
Smiling is the universal language.
Cucumbers aren't the only vegetables you can pickle.
You can live without cheese and milk. You can eat soup and salad for breakfast.
Save a tree, give air hankies and lugies a chance.
Bringing your own toilet paper to the toilet is the new bringing your own bag to the grocery. Sometimes you can get some at a central spot hanging on a paper towel-like roll.
Red Pandas are the coolest animals in the world.
Traditions and religions all over the world are in danger of being lost in the next generation.
I used to think about China when digging a deep hole in my youth. Then they were suspicious, cross purveyors of Kung Pao chicken. Later, they were joint venture partners that lured a long island boy and me to their country for a project resulting in a friendship that blossomed into in a marriage and 3 beautiful children. In spite of any commentary I have forthcoming on their infrastructure and governance, the people far, wide and consistently are the friendliest and most outgoing we have encountered anywhere else in the world. The stone-faced elderly melt when they see our kids and their face goes wrinkly in smile. Its unspoken solidarity with me and fellow parents as we both hover over what we hold precious and gain joy from each others precious treasures as we see them watch each other and connect. The younger 20-30's set wants a pic so they can post it on their Chinese version of social media and show their friends their exotic encounters. They are so polite and gracious with their gratefulness. Sometimes their huge THANKYOUS are so broken and loud it sounds like they are deaf and have never heard the language so are trying with their whole being to speak it. It is a beautiful sound, makes you feel something when you hear it.
Goodbye great city of Shanghai at 31.2000° N, 121.5000° E.
Goodbye China. XO