Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shanghai days, Shanghai nights: Sept 9 2010

Yesterday on the plane, I sat next to a woman whose husband had just relocated to China, and she was checking it out herself. He is a commercial airplane pilot, hired by a new Chinese charter vacation airline. Apparently they are looking for experienced pilots from the US, Germany, and Jamaica (yes I believe that's what she said) to command planes and also demonstrate leadership to the young, inexperienced flight crews. she knew little about China (she was asking where to go to see the statues of those men) and I shared a few tourist-helpful tips I have collected.

Shanghai has become my home away from home. This is my second of three scheduled visits for this year, which is more than I have visited family, friends, in-laws -- any other person or place in 2010. Shanghai is like the kids of my childhood friends - growing and maturing between visits. You are so much taller and hotter (it is late summer after all) than last I visited. You drive like a maniac... and when did you start drinking wine???

Tonight I walked around an area recommended by a business partner. It was mostly shopping, a few cute little shops with girly trinkets (infinite permutations on Hello Kitty and Paul Frank kind of stuff). Eventually I realized I was feeling a bit sluggish. I have a cure for jetlag, so it couldn't be that - I must either be hungry or dehydrated. I quickly stopped in the first friendly restaurant I saw, not minding that it's a French bistro. There was a mix of people speaking French and English (no Chinese dialects that I noticed). Shortly after I sat down, a young lady sat at the next seat and started speaking Spanish with the staff. It turns out she arrived in Shanghai from Madrid 3 days ago to study high-level Chinese, length of stay indefinite.

A young waiter asked what I'm doing in the country, and after hearing that I work in IT, he perked up (from his already very perky self) and started asking me how to access Facebook from China. The Spanish linguist at the next table added that the waiter had openly made derogatory comments about the government and was longing for Chinese democracy -- I don't think he was referring to the Guns'N'Roses album. She continued that this is very rare and he is a special person. The waiter and I exchanged email addresses, and I promised to try to answer his many questions. I wonder if his curiosity and openness are consistent of this current generation of kids in China.

When I was well into my main course, the inquisitive waiter motioned to ask if he could take away my complimentary bread basket, and I obliged. Moments later, he returned with two mostly empty entree plates and proceeded to pile the leftover bread and the two partial plates of food together while hovering over my table. I was supremely curious to see what was happening. Finally I saw him take the combined plate out to the street and give it to an elderly woman. There should be more of that in this world. In the US, when you're told to finish your plate because there are starving people in China, here it actually makes sense to not finish your plate.

**BREAKING NEWS** See comment section for an update on this random act of kindness.


Dave said...

I just received this email from my new waiter friend: "grief and sorrow
I was dismissed by the franch boss.
Because I took the guest leftovers to give a begging people".
His act was really touching - I wonder if I should go to the bistro and say something.

The other Olga said...

Sounds like this waiter is really special, but I can't help being scared for him