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In Shanghai, the Huangpu River runs right through the city dividing it into the Western District (Puxi) and the Eastern District (Pudong). We live in Pudong also known as Pu Jersey. I was quite distressed when I heard this term but then upon further thought, realized that this does in fact ring a little true. Our apartment tower faces Puxi and has quite a nice view. It is a little reminiscent of Fort Lee, NJ (in regards to the view of Manhattan) and since I am actually from New Jersey, this realization was a little distressing to me. It’s true: the other side of the river is more chic and charming and most of all more old with gorgeous tree-lined streets. Pudong was only developed in the past 30 years and its character is therefore more epic skyscrapers and shopping centers, and it includes the financial district adjacent to which we live and more or less all of the housing is high rises. Even 20 years ago, most of Pudong was farmland. However, Pudong’s proximity to Puxi is what is so great–it’s a 2 minute ferry ride across the Huangpu and costs merely 2 RMB (.60). On the metro, it’s only 2 stops to Nanjing Road, the large pedestrian street. So that beats the heck out of Fort Lee! If you happened to see to the film “Her” with Joaquin Phoenix, it was filmed in Shanghai, specifically the Lujiazue district in Pudong. The scenes where he is walking on an elevated walkway were filmed just about 1 mile from our place.
Life continues on for us here as we welcome Spring to China. All of the huge sycamore trees have grown their gorgeous green leaves and are now providing a canopy under which to walk on many of our streets on both sides of the river. Flowers are everywhere, too, and the lovely gardens in our building complex are great to walk through. There are some very fragrant climbing roses growing up along the walls along the Club House. The giant wave pool opens this month and it has begun to get cleaned. They are also cleaning the beach up, which by way of having dozens of feral cats live around it, cannot be clean. I watched from the window of the gym while riding the elliptical last week 3 men sift the sand by hand! They were throwing shovels full of sand through a sieve and then cleaning up the little piles. Yay for cheap labor.
I love this write-up in the May Newsletter:
“Club News: Beach is opening on May 17. Summer is coming! Are you planning to stay with air condition? Why not go out and enjoy the sunlight! Release yourself under sunlight and cool water, let’s enjoy this nice and cool summer!
Outdoor swimming pool is opening on May 17th, we are going to provide you a comfortable and clean swimming environment with professional water quality control, this extraordinary white beach allows you to experience harmonious with nature and feel romantic seaside beauty. May you and your family would enjoy sunlight, beach and water this summer!”
This past Friday night, we attended a Night Cycle tour of Puxi which was organized by the Brits Abroad group, the number one Ex-pat group with which I socialize. There were almost 30 of us and we met at a Metro station. The bikes and helmets were provided as well as a guide, Bato, and 2 “papa ducks” who helped keep the last bikes with the group. We rode into the tiniest alleys of the Shikumen (2-3 story lane housing), through the markets and food stalls all open well past midnight, as well as past the most expensive residences and along the most chic shopping districts. We even passed a nightclub where we got shouted at by really drunk Europeans. Most people were astounded to see us out and about so late and the Chinese food stall folks were just laughing. I posted on Facebook that this was the highlight of my Chinese experience thus far and as it’s only a few days later, it still stands.
Brits Abroad also hosts a terrific Mahjong game every Monday which I have played twice now. I really love it and understand why it is completely addictive. So far I have gotten a Mahjong twice, which is like going out with a Gin Rummy. However scoring based on one’s hand of tiles happens regardless of who gets the Mahjong that so it keeps the game pretty interesting. It is held in a pub where we usually meet for lunch at 12:30 and then the game goes from 1:30-4:30. Not including lunch, we each pay 50RMB ($7.50) for the game and 2 drinks. It’s a very pleasant way to pass the afternoon.
I have gotten a little closer to finding a location in which to teach Nia. Wednesday I am going to take a class over in Puxi from a German woman who runs her own fitness company. Then in June, I am going to give a demonstration there and we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I have embraced dancing by myself. I can use the dance studio at our club and do Nia routines or just dance and/or hoop. I am also attending Yoga on Saturday and Monday mornings and I really like the instructors. I am learning a little more Mandarin this way (inhale: shi and exhale: hu)
This Thursday and Friday (May 1 and 2) are a national holiday in China (International Workers Day). Already there are quite a few Chinese tourists in town. We can always tell when when everyone is from out of town as they want to take our pictures as they did last night on the ferry. Sometimes they take a selfie and include us in their picture on the sly or other times they ask us. It’s actually really endearing. They take pictures of us, and I stare at their babies. Good deal.
One of the most charming/modern things I have ever seen in Shanghai is men carrying their wives’ or girlfriends’ purses. I heard that it’s the Shanghainese women who wear the pants in the family and we saw that a couple of times while buying some merchandise in a setting where bargaining is used. But time after time, when I see a man carrying a chick’s leopard, Louis Vuitton or Coach handbag, whether fake or not, I really get tickled! Go women’s lib and good for you Shanghainese women. We have even seen Western men carrying their Chinese girlfriend’s bag. Whipped! I love it!
Let me interrupt this blog about China to report that I was in Guatemala for a week (March 27-April 9) and quickly passed through the Bay Area coming and going. Courtney and I led the first ever Nia in Guatemala Retreat called Sacred Dancer with 9 retreat participants. What an amazing place and culture. We visited the retreat center called Villa Sumaya on Lake Atitlan. The views from this place of the lake and two volcanoes were absolutely gorgeous. We could swim off the dock and lay out there and suntan. We danced and held our workshops in the Tiger Temple, a large thatched-roof structure with a beautiful floor also with the very good view. The lake is at 5500 feet so the climate was quite nice to practice Nia. I was astounded by the beauty of the land and of the sweet hearts of the Mayan people. We also had a cacao ceremony where I literally caught a buzz from the raw chocolate and we had a Mayan healing ceremony early in the morning with 2 Mayan Shamanas (women!) We finished the week off with a 2-night visit to the old city of Antigua, an absolutely gorgeous colonial city replete with cobblestone streets, ancient ruins, modern restaurants and cafes, and old stone walls with the trees and gardens inside. It was 2 weeks before Easter and there was an enormous parade called Procession coming through the city with entire biblical scenes being worked out. Many men were wearing either purple or black hooded robes. Families got together and using materials from plants only, decorated the cobblestone streets with beautiful geometric patterns. Some were quite ornate! Think Rose Parade on the ground. Shopping was a glorious thing as there is nothing but color and more color as their textiles boast a very cheerful Mayan tradition. There are ruins to look around as well as very nice hotels and shops. We stayed at the Panza Verde which we all highly recommend.
All in all, things are going really well for us here. Bob loves his job here and is challenged and engaged. I would say for me there are some really strong ups and downs (Shang-highs and Shang-lows, not my terms) and those continue to hit me. I can have a terrific day and feel really adjusted and in 30 minutes drop to the lowest low and really question why I have signed up for this deal. I am sure that the busier I stay, the less this will happen, hence all the activities and tours. There is a LOT to do here.
Thanks for reading and please stay in touch. I miss you all.