Over the weekend, one of my friends asked me what surprised me most about living in Shanghai.
The wanton spitting may be right near the top of my list. When you hear that telltale, explosive throat-rattling sound that old guys must have spent the better part of their lives perfecting, Hide Your Bare Toes. (Please notice that I have not taken any pictures of spitting.)
Then there are the toilets. On the evolutionary spectrum of toilet development, Japan ranks at the very top what with their fancy features: seat warmers, automatic lid closers, rear end washers... Let's just say that certain other countries are not quite as developmentally advanced. (Please notice that I have not taken any pictures of squat toilets.)
However. Nothing bums me out more than when I see tourists acting as, well, ugly Americans. You know the type: loud, demanding, intolerant, judgmental. The ones who make rude comments out loud, in public. As if everyone was in agreement. Imagine meeting someone who's lived in Asia for well over a decade who proudly declares that she hasn't yet learned the language. That her ayi--live-in help--"knows her place." That Chinese people aren't clean. (One does wonder if she is the only person in all of Shanghai who hasn't automatically assumed that I have lived here my entire life.)
Please. Everyone, now. Repeat after me: EWWWW.
(Okay, okay, I recognize the glaring irony here since I myself am now being LOUD, demanding, intolerant as well as judgmental about said person. However. EWWW. Right?)
And now for the YAYs!
YAY 1: I rewrote an entire chapter today after my 4-month writing hiatus. Anita Silvey--she of the amazing 100 Best Books for Children and former Horn Book editor--assured me that I'd be able to write again. While the words didn't exactly flow this morning, they at least trickled. And that, let me tell you, is a relief.
To be honest, I needed a break from writing and from the publishing world. Break time is officially over and I'm thrilled.
YAY 2: Chris Buckley, purveyor of Tibetan rugs, is going to let me interview him next week when he swings in from Beijing! I love how writing delivers unexpected, interesting people to me. I love how people have found their passions in areas that are completely foreign to me.
YAY 3: My new friend Yucca just delivered a red bean mooncake to me after I mentioned that I was craving one! Mooncakes are big business here in Shanghai.
From Haagen Dazs to Starbucks to mom and pop stores, everyone seems to be pushing their personal brand of these traditional desserts that are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrating the full, fat moon and reuniting families. (Yo, publishers who rejected my picture book of the Moon Festival years ago, you are missing out on a HUGE market.)
Of course, mooncakes are nothing but bundles of coronaries waiting to implode your body; you don't even want to know what they stuff in these delicacies. Acquired delicacies. One of my old boyfriends gagged on a mooncake that I lovingly gave him (it was a personal sacrifice to give him my beloved mooncakes). And what did he do? He looked at me accusingly: Are you trying to poison me?
Nah, that would have been with these delicacies which give raw food a whole new meaning.