Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Directionally Challenged in Shanghai

Every so often, it's wise to take a good hard look at your strengths and weaknesses. To figure out what you know and what you don't. What you need to work on...what you won't.

For me, that statement would look something like this:

Baking, yes; Cooking, no. (There is a difference. One is science; the other, art.)
Yoga, yes; Basketball, no.
Geocaching, yes; Map-reading, no.

It is rather ironic that my next novel is about a mapmaker's daughter, given how directionally challenged I am. So yesterday, I interviewed the wonderful Tibetan rug designer, Chris Buckley of Torana House, over a lovely lunch at Just Grapes. We happened on the four (young, hip, gorgeous) owners having lunch at the same time.

Our conversation didn't stop. Afterwards, I decided, heck, I should attend his lecture tonight at the Royal Asian Society. Riding the subway by myself for the first time without my husband guide-dogging me was actually easy. It was getting OFF the subway that was the problem.

Do I head this way?

Or thataway? (Amazingly, someone from Hong Kong stopped to ask ME for directions. Now, talk about clueless. Ha!) A quick note about directions. In the U.S., we say NORTHwest, SOUTHeast. Here in China, we say WESTnorth. EASTsouth. This does not help me.

The street signs did not help either.
After much meandering and mapreading, I finally made it to the FLOR headquarters where the lecture was being held. I was so excited to recognize the cool FLOR product that I installed in our Seattle home. Chris' lecture was as fantastic and dynamic as tonight's surroundings. The information he shared gave me so many ideas for my new novel. MORE on Chris in a separate blog.

Anyway, my son and daughter experienced the same level of euphoria I did--not about Tibetan textiles. But because we learned that we did not have to have the rabies vaccination for our upcoming trip to Dunhuang.

We celebrated by taking the kiddos out to their first xican (Western) food since we moved to Shanghai: California Pizza Kitchen. This CPK virtually didn't share any resemblance to the CPKs of the U.S.--from its pricier menu to its swanky ambiance to the food itself. (Even the presentation was beautiful!)

As for me, I love getting lost in the French Concession (yes, the area of Shanghai where I wish we lived).

The thing is, when you're traveling around with a friend--as I was with my new buddy, Heather--you're only lost in conversation. Because how can you count yourselves really lost anyway when you find an adorable purse shop like this?

See? Don't you want to live in the French Concession, too? The purse shop, incidentally, is on Ferguson Lane.

And at last! To keep me from feeling lost in the kitchen, I have found a lovely woman to help me out a few days a week. Meet Su (the beloved one being hugged in the middle between me and Lisa, Ms. Connected in Shanghai who called me about Su). I am surrounded by angels who are working overtime to keep me on the right (write?) path.

I'm writing. I really am! I finished another chapter today. And that, folks, is a Big Yes.


m--e said...

I would recognize that stop anywhere - People's Square!! Yes, it is TOTALLY confusing. What is even more confusing is if you get off line 1 and are looking for an exit off line 2.

My story: Going to a Toastmaster's meeting (which I was supposed to lead) from my office was line 1. I had always taken line 2 from my home. It was very easy to get to the exit I needed, #8, from line 2. I thought somehow that I would see the sign for exit #8 wherever I came out at. Wrong. I spent about 45 minutes frantically trying to find exit #8. I never found it. I stumbled upon a 1930s town inside the subway! Finally I went up some random exit and walked in the opposite direction around the square. I arrive an hour late, sweaty and bawling my eyes out, sobbing "I've lived here 2 months; how can I get lost in the subway!?!"

Justina said...

Ohhhh...that such a good / sad story, Emily! I totally and completely empathize about getting lost INSIDE the subway station. Frantic pretty much summarizes my emotions when I got off the subway and realized...I had NO idea which way to head.

ingenuity said...

oh yeah, directionally challenged.

That's people's square and likewise the railway station and xiujiahui. Those exits! I cant forget, and that was 5yrs ago in shanghai.


Justina said...

Nat from Uganda! WOW! It is comforting to know other people remember the craziness of subways here. Thanks for visiting! How is Uganda, directionally speaking?

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