Impressions of Shanghai: Twenty-three million people

Shanghai is a large city of about twenty-three million people. Though it’s the most westernized city in China, the vast majority of those twenty-three million people are…wait for it….Chinese! White or black people are the obvious exceptions in the sea of Asian faces.

In preparing to visit China I was told to expect people to stare at me, a non-Asian, in public. About all I have in common physically with the Chinese are my dark eyes. My silvery hair used to be dark brown, but no longer. I certainly would never be mistaken for an Asian. I’m an introvert and do not enjoy being stared at, but as a larger woman close to 6 feet tall, I have rarely managed to engage stealth mode and slip in and out of a group unnoticed. Even so, I was still not looking forward to being stared at every time I went out into public

Then had an interesting idea. Instead of letting all that staring make me uncomfortable, I decided I would simply smile at everyone I noticed staring at me. Guess what? Most everyone smiled back! Some shyly, some warmly, and some with a broad grin as if to say, “Aha! You caught me looking!”

I’m not a xenophobe, and my guess is that many people from other cultures are not either. But be honest, don’t we tend to do a double take when we notice someone very different from us? Those glances are often simply borne out of curiosity or an awareness of something different.

There was one thing, however, that made me jumpy and particularly concerned about getting around in Shanghai, the possibility of being targeted by pickpockets in crowded places. I was warned by several people to be aware of pickpockets who often work in pairs and follow foreigners or get especially close to potential targets in public places. Great. So be aware of anyone getting particularly close to me in public places.

Have you ever observed Asians in crowded places? They have a different cultural norm for respecting personal space, so close crowding and jostling are perfectly acceptable to them. How was I supposed to sort out pickpockets from the non-threatening Chinese shopper? What if someone stole my passport? My credit card? My camera? Several of my new acquaintances regaled me with their stories of being pickpocketed or targeted for pickpocketing. I was so nervous about the possibility of being pickpocketed that I wouldn’t even take my cross-body purse or my camera out with me the first few days we were in Shanghai. (And my husband would tell you that my purse is surgically attached to me so that I am never without it.)

As we prepared to visit some famous sites of Shanghai I realized I was being ridiculous. Yes, take precautions. And yes, be vigilant. But stop being overly imaginative and take both camera and purse and enjoy observing a new culture.

On our whirlwind tour of Shanghai, we stopped at Yu Garden, wandering through the shopping area first, then stepping outside to learn about some of the amazing ancient Chinese buildings. My husband exercised his excellent bargaining skills to purchase some gifts and mementos. He drove such a hard bargain that one of the shopkeepers grumbled and said, “You make me poverty!” as he closed the deal and wrapped up the parcel, a broad grin on his face.

One of my favorite things to do in a new location is to find a place to sit, observe, and absorb the atmosphere of a place. I love to look through my camera lens and snap images of things that impress me. An interesting architectural feature – click. Busy intersection – click. Sun-dappled flower- click. Fascinating people – click.

While perched on a low wall outside of Yu Garden I used my camera to capture snippets of the busyness of the place. An older Chinese gentleman sat down near me and, after observing me quietly for a minute, greeted me in excellent English. We went on to have a conversation about Canada and oil and economics. He stood up and said, “It was nice talking with you.” Yes, I thought, it WAS very nice to chat with this stranger in a city of 23 million people.

Near the City God Temple we stopped to take some pictures when three older Chinese people accosted us. They crowded close to us grinning broadly and loudly repeated, “Heh-low!” Were these some of the infamous pickpockets we had been warned about? Cautiously we replied, “Hello” which produced even broader grins and more enthusiastic “Heh-lows.”

My lovely daughter-in-law speaks Mandarin quite well. She learned these three were from another province in China and were tourists in Shanghai just like we were. They asked my daughter-in-law if they could have a picture with my husband, and then with my husband and me. She told us they vigorously debated among themselves whether my husband was 2 meters tall or not. They practiced their one English word, “Heh-low!” over and over with us, and delightedly thumped my husband on the back and pumped his hand in thanks for the photo. They tried saying “Canada” and we tried to say the Mandarin word for thank you. It was a fun cultural exchange, with no pickpocketing involved!

We learned from our son that the Chinese are gift-giving people. Before flying to Shanghai we had consulted our family about appropriate gifts to take for the special Chinese people who have blessed and befriended our loved ones in China. We wanted to thank them for their help and kindnesses to our son and his family over the years. Instead we found that we were blessed and honored that so many regaled us with special gifts and meals during our stay.

While in Shanghai I was treated with great kindness, even by strangers. My fibromyalgia and arthritis sometimes prevent me from walking very far so we used taxis to get around. Some of the cabs were a tight fit for me and I would have to maneuver my leg carefully to get seated. Several times a cabbie or worker where we were staying would see me struggling to get my sore leg in and would run over and help lift my leg into the taxi. I was really touched by those gestures of kindness.

The Chinese are like any other people group. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are beautiful, some more ordinary looking. Some are short and some a little taller. From our observations, they seem to love their children and respect their elders. Like in any large metropolitan area, a small criminal element exists, but many people we interacted with were kind and thoughtful. Our encounters with people in Shanghai were mostly positive and provided us with good memories of this city of twenty-three million people.

Heh-low!

Heh-low!

City God Temple

City God Temple

Near Yu Garden

Near Yu Garden

 

Fresh fruit treats at Yu Garden

Fresh fruit treats at Yu Garden

Tea House

Tea House by Yu Garden

Wall of flowers by the Bund

Wall of flowers by the Bund

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Friday’s Fave Five #76

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends. And yes, I realize I am once again posting this on Saturday. 🙂

Break in the weather After a couple of very cold weeks, we’ve enjoyed a week of unseasonably warm weather. A lovely break for Albertans in January!

Christmas banquet in January Our church’s Christmas banquet was held last Saturday. (Yes, we know it’s after Christmas, but people are not as busy in mid-January as they generally are in December.) Several ladies in our church did the catering this time and the result was fantastic! It was the best catered meal we’ve ever had at the church.

Word with Friends all time high score for one word – crimples – which crossed both a triple and a double word tile with the ‘m’ on a triple letter tile. I was trying to clear my letter tray and rearranged the letters until I saw the word. I tried to play it, unsure if it was even a word, but it is!! It means to crimp, curl, or wave, but can also mean to wrinkle or crumple. The score for that one word? 191 points. That will likely stand as my high score forever!

 Finishing a big project I have the majority of the work done on a research and writing project I have had on my ‘to do’ list on for several months. It needs only final editing to be complete. Yay!

Answer to prayer A friend had brain surgery last July to remove a tumor behind her ear. She has recovered well, but had the ongoing side effect of double vision. Many have been praying that God would resolve that problem and this week he did just that!

I haven’t done much with photography or cards the past few weeks. Here are a few fun pictures with friends and family from our trip to Shanghai last month.

Jade figure in store window

Jade figure in store window

Future chef

Future chef

My favorite Minnie Mouse

My favorite Minnie Mouse

Fetching the wheelchair for Granny

Fetching the wheelchair for Granny

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Happy baby

 

My very own Mad Hatter

My very own Mad Hatter

Shanghai sycamores

Shanghai sycamores

Friday’s Fave Five #75

fff winter buttonIt’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

We had the joy of traveling to China to visit our son and his family for Christmas. This is my first FFF in a month so my blessings this week are compiled from the past few weeks. I’m writing specifically about our Shanghai experiences on my blog, PurpleGrandma.com, so check them out if you are interested in my Impressions of Shanghai series.

Good trip Because of my health issues, traveling can sometimes cause problems. Our trip to China produced only minor issues, both concerning mobility and food sensitivities. I was treated like royalty by family and the wonderful people we met along the way.

Family For me the highlight of our trip was spending time with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. It was a joy to meet the newest member of the family and spend some granny time with him.

New friends Meeting and spending time with the team of teachers my son works with was fabulous. What a wonderful group of dedicated teachers these folks all are!

Cultural experiences Visiting and spending time in a new culture was so interesting! I enjoyed observing and taking pictures of life in Shanghai. Next time I won’t be so skittish about the possibility of being pickpocketed and will carry my camera with me everywhere.

No place like home This week we had some bitterly cold temperatures. A well-insulated warm house is a great blessing on these winter days.

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Newest member of the family

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At Shanghai Disney

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Fruit on a stick

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East meets west – Chinese and English signs

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The Bund

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Family, teachers, and students at Christmas

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A perfectly normal family Christmas picture

Friday’s Fave Five #32

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

1. No crying Emma made it back safely to Shanghai. Through my husband’s counsel, and God’s help, I did not send her off with a weeping mother at the door.

March Goodbye Emma

2. Refreshing conference My husband was able to attend a preaching conference this past week. He works hard regularly expositing the Scriptures for his students and congregation. I’m grateful that he can be on the receiving end for even a short time and sit under godly, encouraging preaching this week.

3. Time with a child I got to ‘make cards’ with my adopted granddaughter this week. A three-year-old’s perspective of what is nice and what is beautiful is charming. She made a birthday card for a friend and confidently told me, “I bet she’ll really like this card!”

4. God’s provision I wanted to buy a new cutter / trimmer for my card making. I broke one trimmer and was concerned that my second one was getting wobbly. Not only did I find a new trimmer, God laid it on the heart of a friend to give it to me. Her kindness was such a blessing to me.

5. Encouraging chat Today I had a very encouraging Skype chat with my sister-in-law. My husband and I and his sister and her husband were married in a double wedding almost 36 years ago. She remains one of my dearest friends, though we live thousands of miles apart. I am grateful for the technology that allows us to have face-to-face conversations.

Friday’s Fave Five #31

fff winter button

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

My daughter’s surprise visit is almost over. Early Monday she heads back to Shanghai and nursing school. Barring any other surprises, we won’t see her again until 11 months from now.

Sometimes I wish I was not such an emotional creature. I am not fond of goodbyes and am not looking forward to that aspect of Monday morning. Anticipating this goodbye is a reminder to me to focus on the time we have been able to spend together with our youngest these past 5 weeks. We dedicated each of our children to the Lord when they were born, not to do our will but to follow His will. Our blessing now is that our children do love the Lord and are following what He has set before them to do, even when that takes them far from us and the comforts of home.

1. Our kids are a blessing to us All of our kids have been, and continue to be, a big help to us in multiple ways. Having Emma staying with us these past few weeks meant she willingly took care of some of the physical stuff that I still need help with after my surgery. That has been a blessing. Thanks, Em!

2. Good report from the surgeon Last Thursday I saw my orthopedic surgeon again. The hip joint has healed well and I don’t need to see him again until October. My muscles are still slow in getting back to normal due to a flare of fibromyalgia. I just need to be patient, listen to my body, and slowly return my physiotherapy exercises as my flare subsides. I hope to be able to retire my cane by the summer!

3. ‘No charge!’There is construction all around our area. This week when Emma was driving she picked up a small bolt in one of the tires. Our local Fountain Tire repaired it without charge, which was an unexpected blessing.

4. Fun with my kids The murder mystery event was lots of fun! It took me a while to ‘get’ my character and to ask the right questions of the other participants, but I eventually caught on. It was nice to meet some new people and spend time with family and friends. (No, I wasn’t the bad guy. They had to kill my character off so I could go home early!!)

5. Thoughtful husband Several times a month my husband surprises me by bringing home a Starbucks’ green tea latte fixed just the way I like it. I love that he does this without me asking, just because he knows I like them.

Oh, I’m going to throw in a lagniappe blessing this week. While shopping this past week I came across a $5 rack and was able to buy a spring coat in my new size for just $5!  Though it may not be the favorite coat I’ve ever owned, it will carry me through the spring and hopefully into an even smaller size in the fall!

 

Quotes From Chloe…and Didi

Here are the latest funnies from my grandkids.  My son and his wife live and teach in Shanghai, China.  Chloe will be five in July and has some imaginative musings on life.  Many of her observations involve her almost three-year-old sibling Paul, also called DiDi, which is Chinese for little brother.  Dave has given me permission to share these quotes. Enjoy!

Once there was a little girl…???????????????????????????????

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Chloe: Hey, Daddy! I’m going to tell you a story, OK? Once, there was a little girl. And she was flopping on her bed. [illustrative flopping] And then, she fell down. And then, she got a BIG BOO-BOO! And then, her mommy gave her a band-aid. And then, her mommy gave her a BIG, HUGE cake, too. And some candy. And all she did was eat cake and candy ALL THE TIME. [exaggerate scarfing motions and sound effects]
Me: Hmm, I think you’re telling the story wrong.
Chloe: Huh?
Me: Yeah, because her mommy didn’t give her a big huge cake. Actually, she gave her a big …
Chloe: WHAT?
Me: Huge …
Chloe: WHAT?!
Me: Spanking!
Chloe: No, no, no. Because she was a good girl, and she never did anything wrong.
Me: But everyone does wrong things sometimes.
Chloe [triumphantly]: Nope! Because her name was GIRL JESUS!

I’m just like Batman!

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The kids and I are playing Batman.

Chloe: Hey …. hey, Daddy. I think that Batman is … um … actually just a daddy.
Me: A daddy?
Chloe: Yeah. He’s not a monster. He’s just a daddy because I see’d his chin. He’s just wearing a mask.
Me: Riiiiight. Nothing gets past you, huh?
Chloe: Daddy, what’s Batman’s human being name?
Me: Bruce Wayne.
Chloe: Can Batman speak Chinese?
Me: Uh, I don’t know. Probably. I think so.
Chloe: Just Chinese, right? Not English.
Me: No, he can definitely speak English.
::there’s a pause while this sinks in::
Chloe (with dawning delight): Hey, Daddy! I’m just like Batman! I can speak Chinese and English and Batman can speak Chinese and English! Batman and me are just the same!
Me: Just the same. For sure.

Wake up, Daddy!

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[At 5:30 on a Saturday]
Chloe: WAKE UP, DADDY!
Me: Mrghf.
Chloe: Daddy! Don’t you want to wake up? Look! It’s light outside!
Me: Goway.
Chloe [scornfully]: Daddy! Are you nocturnal or something?

I have to go to the office

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DiDi: Daddy! Will you lay on the bed so I can jump on you?!
Me: Sorry, buddy — I have to go to the office.
DiDi: *I* want to go to the office *too!*
Me: Well, the office is just for boring stupid people like me.
DiDi: I *AM* a boring stupid people! I’m going too!

The perils of Spiderman

DiDi2-3-14

The family and I are eating out, waiting for the food to come. DiDi is playing with a Spiderman coloring book and has gotten hold of a Spiderman sticker, with which he is gesturing dramatically.

Chloe: I’m thirsty!
DiDi: [deep gravelly Spiderman voice] You’re not thirsty. I’m Spiderman.
Chloe: I’m really thirsty!
DiDi: [continuing gravelly voice] Do you like me? If you like me I will give you a drink. And NOWWWWW ::accidentally slaps sticker against table:: [Still gravelly] Oh. I’m stuck.

This apple is good!

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DiDi: Mmm, this apple is good!
Me: Is it? Good! We should thank God for these delicious apples.
DiDi: [hollering at the ceiling] God, this is REALLY good!