Thursday, May 10, 2007

If this is May it can't be Dublin

This morning was glorious - cool, dry, bright blue sky - unusual for urban Shanghai. You could actually sense the closeness of the sea in the air. I hit the street for an easy walk in the park pretty early – across Ya’an Xilu at 6AM. The park was not yet fully kicked into gear, the first time I’ve seen so few people involved in their daily activities.

One of the blue clad street cleaners was cleaning the marble insets in the sidewalks with a rag mop. “Mopping the park”, certainly fodder for some sort of future idiom. The ubiquitous White-vented Bulbuls, normally busy at their day were mostly sitting on bushes preening. Even they were not yet up to speed.

I followed the path among all the regular folks, up and across the Sky Mountain in the center of the park. It dawned on me at that moment that the landscape architect had done an interesting thing here, planting shorter trees and evergreens on this little urban bump to depict the flora expected at a high altitude. Interesting little twist that I had never noticed on any of my prior walks.

Went around once passing the caged bird field. My friend The Man in Black was there but did not see me. He was gathering things together with what might have been his grandson, a young boy in a school uniform. Perhaps he was taking a break from visiting with his friends to deliver the boy to school.

Having spent a grand total of 20 minutes, I decided to make a second pass, this time heading in the opposite direction of the walkers. A Brown Shrike bobbed in the long grass looking for breakfast.

With 30 minutes now having passed, I headed out and back to the hotel to prepare for work. A nice jaunt with nothing more spectacular than life going along its daily course.



After a normal day at work we headed out for dinner. Keeping in the spirit of our culinary trip around the world – Monday = Italian, Tuesday = Fusion, Wednesday = American – tonight it was on to Irish.

We had enough people for two cabs which presented a bit of a problem since none of us really knew where we were going. And it’s never good to not know where you’re going. But we went off anyway. Arriving, the others were not in sight and the streets didn’t match the map which didn’t matter since I didn’t know what street the place was on in any event. Last we’d heard, it was down at the end of a 1-way so given the choice of two of them we choice the second. A block or two later and it was clear that was not the correct one. My Blackberry chuckled and the other team had arrived. Using advanced SMS messaging technology, we cautiously headed back in the correct direction. But it still didn’t make sense so I turned around and looked at a young westerner woman who was clearly following us and said, “English?” She uncorked the earbuds from her ears and said, “What?”, I repeated myself, “English?” and she said, “No, I’m not English.” Realizing we were speaking the same tongue I asked directions and we both had a good laugh about that extraterrestrial encounter.

O’Malley’s is a classic – outside picnic tables and a cricket patch in the center of a big u-shaped building. Inside is an authentic pub that was clearly packed up and shipped over. The only thing not from the Fair Isle was the staff.

A cool, dry evening, beers, fish and chips and the entertainment – an expat trivia tournament – made for a nice night out.

We walked part way back along neighborhood streets lined with fruit stands, plumbing shops, wet markets featuring frogs and an interesting night club called the Party Palace that simultaneously beckoned and repelled. For some reason there was a giant red plastic apple in the foyer? Adam and Eve? New York City? Who knows what metaphor they were channeling?

The ride home was typical aside from an opportunity to exercise my new phrase (kindly taught to me by Ling) “xiang qian kai” – drive further. This one is necessary because the cabbies insist on delivering us to the Sheraton Grand instead of driving the extra block to our hotel.

This driver knew one English word – “okay” so we had a riotous, laughing exchange of “xiang qian kai, okay, xiang, qian kai, okay, xiang qian kai” for two blocks until he dropped us at the front door. I love the Chinese!














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