Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jan 11 2012 - a couple more days in Shanghai

Happened to walk by this restaurant. My friend says it's better
translated as The Capital of Taste, which is a huge improvement.
They should've seeked guidance before making the signs.
Although our office building is the centerpiece of China's new financial district, it could've conceivably been planned better, in particular the elevator. To get to our floor, you have to first take an express elevator to the 30th floor. Then you get off, walk around the corner, and there's another bank of elevators that will take you to the upper floors. It seems ridiculous, but that's not what I'm here to write about today. The crazy thing is there's a guy whose job it is to stand at the corner between the two elevators, wait for people to arrive, usher them around the corner to the other elevator, and press the button while they are walking over. This is mind blowing to me. Every single time.

I wonder what the trade-off was during the architecting process - we could save 1 million RMB in elevator construction costs but we'll have to employ a full-time usher for the life of the building. Sold!

I had a chance to walk around the old neighborhood (French Concession) because I signed up for a yoga class there. Walking around for 30 minutes got me so nostalgic, remembering my first trip to China, friendless, unable to get a taxicab, stuck drudging through the unprecedented snow -- good times! Every visit to China should include an extended stay in the French Concession.

The yoga class was taught by my friend Adele. We did a work project together in 2010 but this was the first time I've seen her in action as a yogi. Adele teaches her classes bilingually in a way that the words flow from her with ease, instructing you in one language and relaxing you in the other. She says sometimes a student will ask if they can record audio of the class because the sound of her voice in English - although they don't understand a word of it - is soothing to them. Whenever Adele would give the instruction in Chinese first, I could see people setting up the pose and then reinforce it with the English instruction - this worked the best for me.

After class, I mentioned that I had never tried "hot yoga" before, it was a first. You should see her reaction! Adele says it wasn't hot yoga, but for some reason the company insists on keeping the studio at 45 degrees. I must've misheard her, or maybe she was joking, because I looked it up later and 45 degrees is CRAZY HOT. Like surface of the Sun hot. Hot yoga usually maxes out at 40 degrees.

Photo taken at 9am. I had to take a few photos before I
got one that showed the sun popping through the smog.
We shared tuna tartare on avocado and stories of travelling and food poisoning. We were out pretty late and the subway had closed, so I had to take a taxi from the old neighborhood to the new neighborhood. The taxi driver got pretty lost near the end, he kept circling the area. I had a paper the hotel gives you to show to taxi drivers, it says "TAXI driver can take you to us easily with the Address in Chinese". Well that turned out not to be the case. I kept pointing "over there" but he refused to believe me. In the end I had to hoof if about half a mile - I'm starting to know Shanghai better than local taxi drivers.

China isn't known for its air quality. Well, I guess it is, but not in a good way. The US, and particularly the city of Los Angeles, have worked tirelessly for decades in order to keep smog at bay. That's what it takes. If China started then, the US would be taking advice from Beijing. Instead, it's the other way around. The US Embassy in Beijing has kept a Twitter feed since 2008 with hourly reports on the air quality as measured at their doorstep (irony note: Twitter is blocked in China). On days when the US reports air quality as "Very Unhealthy" or "Hazardous", the Chinese gov't air quality report has often listed it as a "Blue Sky Day". This came to a head this week when the air quality literally went off the scale at 534 micrograms per cubic meter - there is no name for this level of pollution, so the feed just shows it as "Beyond Index". Beijing announced it as yet another Blue Sky Day. Apparently they were only reporting on particulates 10 microns and smaller, where the US was monitoring for particles smaller than 2.5 microns, which is the accepted standard. Held up to scrutiny, China blinked and they are adopting the 2.5 standard over the next two weeks. Hopefully next they'll be taking corrective measures to reduce pollution. One can hope!

Note: this has been covered equally well in Chinese government-run and foreign newspapers, so you have to at least give them credit for that.

Passed yet another skyscraper under construction, the sign on the lot said "The Respiratory Financial Centre" - it doesn't seem to be a medical center or even a biotech center - I think maybe they were going for something like "a breath of fresh air in the financial centre" or even "breathing new life into the financial centre".

For dinner I caught up with a guy we met on the scuba diving boat in Australia. He gave me the full tour of his office (Google). He couldn't talk much about the Google/China situation, but it's clearly on their minds. I guess I'm taking a page from Olga's book of making friends while traveling and then meeting them in their home countries. It definitely gives you more authentic flavor/texture when you walk the streets with a local. Although he's not originally from Shanghai, but from a coastal town in the Southeast corner of the country. Maybe that's why he liked the dinner at Lost Heaven restaurant - most of my Shanghai coworkers find it too "spicy", which I think means it has too many interesting spices. I've seen them eat "hot" foods like Hunan and Szechuan, but balk at Yunnan cuisine, which I don't find particularly piquant.


The other Olga said...

I like the name "Wish doing" :) It makes it sound like magic is going to happen inside!

When did you finally decide to get out of the taxi cab?

Dave Grenetz said...

When I saw the neighborhood get closer and further and closer and further, I got out the next time it got closer :)