Saturday, September 06, 2008

Adventures in Wonderland

Everything is better when my husband is home, and he returned safely from his first business trip to Beijing. So today we went adventuring in the Wonderland that is Shanghai.

First stop: Suzhou Creek
We love art galleries and were especially taken with Beijing's funky 798 Art District. So when I heard about Suzhou Creek where Shanghai's artists congregate, we had to visit! The very cool graffiti lining the tiny street, Moganshou Lu, gives you a hint that you're approaching gallery alley. Converted warehouses, warrens of alleys, funky coffee shops, and studios bursting with creativity...I was in heaven. I can't wait to share this neighborhood with my mom and mother-in-law who are both artists!

Second stop: French Concession
The first time I stepped onto Anfu Lu, I knew this was the place we were supposed to live. Unfortunately, the locations of both my hubby's workplace and the kids' school conspired against us. So when I found a great Jazz School
where my daughter could take guitar lessons, located a mere block away from one of my favorite streets in all of Shanghai--I had to check it out. Situated inside an old lane house, the school literally rocks with music. I loved the vibe and was sad to hear that they were moving out of the building. But they're staying in the neighborhood.
Around the school were some very cool streets where a meal can be had, from steaming hot buns to Kermit's cousins.
And if your stomach can't handle it, the cleaning implements are right there for your disposal. Ha! (I do love these Harry Potter brooms made out of sticks. As soon as I spot someone making one, you can be sure that I will plunk myself down for a how-to lesson.)

But in all honesty, even food products that we know look different here in China--and I'm not talking about frogs that fairy tale princesses kiss and kindergarten teachers keep as classroom pets. Even regular items. Take this can of Coke that my husband enjoyed at a yummy Taiwanese restaurant, Charmant. It's actually...beautiful!
While strolling along, I heard my name! It was my friend's cousin who moved to Shanghai a week before we did. We had met once in Seattle, but haven't reconnected until today's chance encounter. 25 million people in Shanghai and we bump into the Gibbs. And where do they live? Anfu Lu, my fave street! Not only that, but they live in the apartments above Torana House--the very place where I will be interviewing Chris Buckley (the Tibetan rug expert) on Monday!

Third Stop: Metro (Think Costco, Shanghai style)
In an odd, yet profoundly American way, I found it much easier to navigate this Costo-ian warehouse store than my local supermarket Carrefour. Pallets of food being forklifted to skyhigh shelves--oh, yeah,seen that before at Costco. Gigantic cases of soda, megapacks of noodles--yup, spotted those, too. The meat department at Metro, though, was definitely not like any I've ever encountered at Costco.

Please reference the previous blog where cashless, my kids and I skimped on meals. That was absolutely nothing compared to what many, many people in the world endure. So it is with some embarrassment that I admit to having a Scarlett O'Hara moment: As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again. I don't think anyone in the Metro store has ever seen a shopping cart filled with as much food as I had piled into it. Including a 2.2 kilogram slab of Australian beef...

Fourth Stop: Gate-crashing a Neighborhood Party
Our neighborhood has a clubhouse, opening date TBD. Truly, it is the favorite topic of discussion among our neighbors. So when the family across the street informed us that there was a party tonight at the clubhouse, we felt like such losers; we hadn't been invited. But Frank slid us an invitation.

I'm glad he did. Along with an amazing spread, they had performance after performance: dancers, acrobats, martial artists, puppeteers. The famous Cheng E--a famous goddess of Chinese folktales--even made an appearance.
All the elaborate costumes were breathtaking--and were perfect as research for my next novel. Yet again, I'm sure I embarrassed my kids when I sprinted after the dance troupe, calling to them: "Dang yi huar!" (Wait a moment!) Even I was slightly embarrassed when a security guard barked something at me. Oh, well! I got the picture I needed.


Sherry said...

I just finished reading Miss E's copy of North of Beautiful. I really enjoyed it. E and I had fun discussing it late into the night ;-)
After I read it, I searched for another Young Adult book to read, which I never do as it is not my favorite genre, so that is saying something! Way to go, Justina - cheering it's coming release!

Georgia said...

I am LOVING reading your adventures in China :)


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