Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21 2013: Sweltering Shanghai

On my eye-catching bike
I assume this means stop?

After a week of buffet breakfasts, I was dying to do something outdoorsy. Took the Metro to Century Park station (exit 1), bought a park entrance ticket, and found a bike rental place just inside Gate 7. I have read that there are not many parks in cities in China, certainly very few with green areas where people can picnic or spend the day lying on the grass. Century Park is often compared to New York's Central Park in its variety of activities: paddle boating, small amusement park rides, coy fish pond, and, yes, bike rental.

Everybody posing with the American celebrity

They have bikes for all sizes of group, from single person bikes up to 5 person pedal carts that are a cross between a golf cart and the Flintstone mobile. The single person bikes are a lean-back style where the handles are next to the seat. I don't know if it was the strangeness of the bike (I didn't see anybody else with less than a four-person cart), my foreign look with a hat, sunglasses, and a long goatee poking through (nobody else was wearing sunglasses!), or just the fact that I was by myself, or all of the above, but I seemed to be the life of the party! During a 90 minute bike ride (I went around the park about 3 times), I was smiled at, giggled at, guffawed at, or stopped at least 30 times. Those comfortable with English would try to talk with me or ask me to pose for a photo, and I would try to ascertain what was so amusing. The closest I got was one guy said the word "safety" before backing down in a fit of shyness. Maybe it was my sunglasses and hat... Maybe the bike looked a bit like a children's bike... Maybe I looked like a celebrity??  I just don't know!!

Weird staged photoshoot in Century Park of two
Chinese women dressed up like Japanese Geishas??
Nico with one of his funny shirts
"I don't understand Chinese (no
matter how slowly you speak)"

[ Note: I showed the bike photo to my coworker and she gasped "Is it safe??" - that might explain a lot :) ]

One lady, who posed me for a series of photos, explained that the bike style is very interesting, and she wanted to know where she could rent one. Everyone at Century Park in Shanghai was my friend today, and on the way out I ran into a couple who seemed to know me "nice to see you again" - maybe they had been one of the couples laughing as I rode around. It turned out we were going the same way - to the metro and to almost the same stop. We chatted all the way across town, learning about each other piecemeal. First I learned they are students from Anji with a year left in their programs. What program? She is studying computers. Programming? No, networks. Microsoft? This took a bit more guessing until I learned that she is learning the OSI model. I don't know how they make a full 4-year program out of that, much less a career, but it's pretty cool :)

Retina texting, Colin pouring tea, at Retina Cafe

Found my way to Eco Village, an up-and-coming sustainable complex of shops. Bunny and Nico run The Squirrelz boutique which sells their own line of shoulder bags made from brand new but about-to-be-dumped hospital scrubs from a shuttering factory. They also have postcards and t-shirts with cool original designs - and sustainable wares from other designers / manufacturers - but you can tell their hearts are really in making and selling their own brand of stuff. Bought a cool t-shirt from the guys: Uncle Sam saying in Chinese "I want, I want you, I want your love" which is a line from a popular Chinese song.

"More than Toilet"

Nico was super sweet and showed me around the rest of the 'mall'. The roofdeck was a highlight, with a burgeoning urban garden for the neighborhood to use. He guided me over to Retina, a cafe run by camera and photography lovers Colin and Retina (Chinese can choose their own English name, why not name both yourself and your cafe after your favorite model Kodak camera?) Their own photography hangs on the walls, and while I enjoyed the tuna avocado pita with fresh squeezed Asian Pear juice, they were joyfully tinkering with their cameras and lenses and smartphones and laptops. Colin and Retina were sweet and it was relaxing to chill out for a bit and watch them tinker. They even gave me prints of a few of their photos to bring back home.

Sitting on my throne, ready to eat :)


Headed back to Tian Zi Fang, the gentrified former ancient ghetto. We had been rushed through after Thai dinner on Friday on the way to KTV, and I wanted to check it out at my own pace. It's a labyrinthian block of alleys, much wider and deeper than I originally gleaned. There were photo galleries, trinket shops, bars, restaurants, massage parlors, and ice cream stands - lots and lots of ice cream stands. At first I couldn't decide between gelato, froyo, "the original" frozen fruit bar, slushies... Walked though most on the alleys, half in search for a bathroom, even thought I'd found one, but actually I stumbled upon what I didn't even know I was looking for - a bathroom-themed restaurant called More than Toilet, featuring ice cream and coffees served out of little toilets!! After enjoying my poo-like ice cream out of a miniature potty, I made a suggestion to the manager that they hang up a roll of toilet paper at each table rather than having a napkin dispenser, but he didn't look amused. He insisted he understood my suggestion, but clearly didn't appreciate it. I think I know where he'd want me to write that comment...


The other Olga said...

What's the OSI model??

Dave Grenetz said...

It's a fundamental conceptual model for computer networks - there are 7 layers dividing network communication from the Application layer down to the Physical.

But what do you think about my crazy bike ride, instant celebrity, and poo ice cream? :)

Dave Grenetz said...

Just rediscovered this blogpost. Funny to see I met a student in Shanghai majoring in the OSI model!