I recently returned from a business trip to Shanghai where I have not visited for the past two years. I have to admit that I had butterflies in my stomach over this once routine trip. However, once I landed, the familiarity of the airport and the stampede of the “masses” to the Immigration Security queue, had me feeling “normal” again as I elbowed my way to the front, knocking down women and children and pushing past the weak.
Perhaps it was this over-confidence that compelled me to “act like a local” and spend my time glued to my mobile phone as soon as I boarded the subway headed to my hotel thinking to myself, “I’m an ex-resident, a Shanghai Master, and know that it’s going to be multiple stops on Subway Line 2 from the airport stop to the Lujiazui stop.” And so, head down, I connected to the subway WIFI and started checking emails and surfing instead of paying attention to the subway stops.
After about 3 stops, I casually glanced up to check which stop we were at — “ChuanSha Zhan”… Ok, lots more stops to go. Head down again… 20 minutes later, I peered back up and heard the stop announcement, “ChuanSha Zhan”. What!! How could we be back at this stop? In my haste to appear to be a local, I had not paid attention that the subway train that I was on had a terminal stop that went only 8 stops on Line 2 before returning back to the airport. I had missed the transfer at the terminal station and was heading back towards the airport! And at that very moment, I declared to myself, “You just had an Evelin moment (Evelin is my dear sister who, let’s just say does not have the Gift of Directions).”
Four years ago, when we visited Shanghai the one immediate difference that we observed was the taxi cab industry had transformed during our absence. Our 8+ years of living in Shanghai had resulted in the mastery of the “hailing a taxi gesture”. For those of you unfamiliar with the “Shanghai Hail”, it’s not the typical NYC taxi hail where you energetically wave your arms to get the attention of the driver. The “Shanghai Hail” is a lazy hail — start with you arm parallel to the ground and then just so slightly bend your fingers down to the ground no further than 35 degrees, then back up to parallel to the ground and repeat. It’s a flutter hail that is very effective for hailing down taxis. Well with the advent of “DiDi” (Chinese Uber) and other ride sharing apps, the art of hailing a taxi has been lost and this was the largest change that we witnessed four years ago.
This time — OFO and Mobike – or bike sharing has caused the extinction of the self-owned bike. Yes it’s true, nobody has their own bicycle anymore in Shanghai. On every street and on every corner, these bright yellow and bright blue bicycles are available to rent and have replaced self-owned bicycles. Amazing to see such a transformational change in such a short time (and we’re wondering what our Ayi did with the bicycle we left her).
Of course, one of the highlights of the trip was reconnecting with old friends and visiting with family. I got a chance to spend some quality time with Evelin and my favorite niece named Ana as well as having dinner with Elijah and Earl. I was able to connect with old friends who reminded me of the great friendship that we developed during our time in Shanghai.
So yes, we miss our dear friends from Shanghai, a crazy period of time where fate brought all of us together and we survived and then blossomed together. What a special time!
And besides the friends and massages that I dearly miss (haven’t figured out which one I miss more) I have to admit that I also miss the Chinese experience of getting your hair cut. The American Great Clip experience just isn’t doing it for me and I didn’t realize how much I missed the Chinese haircut experience…
I will admit it — Getting your hair washed while sitting up is pretty cool. The fact that not a sud of shampoo or an ounce of water ever hits the floor should really be considered a modern day miracle.
And then there’s the shoulder massages…
I’ve decided to time the rest of my China business trips on when I need a haircut. All this for 13 kuai!
I’m hoping to make another trip to Shanghai in September after the oppressive heat recedes. And this time, I’ll take a taxi from the airport instead of risking another subway debacle!
再见 for now…