Relearning Shanghai

9 Mar

I’m back.

Three weeks after my last post, I’m taking the plunge again to attempt to capture the joy and confusion and life that is living in China.  Thanks for staying tuned.

Looking at my stats during the time I was away – I have a remarkably loyal core readership – or by this point I’ve posted so much content that the search engines will guarantee a certain readership level even without posting anything new.  I’m not sure how to take it.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately – the entire month of February I was in my own bed for less than a week.  The posts at the beginning of the month were strategically scheduled to make you unaware of my whereabouts.  When I got back to China, my VPN was down, making scaling the Great Firewall impossible  – and I had all of those other “life” things I needed to take care of – food, clean clothes, making the apartment feel like mine again.

And Shanghai continues to change.  In my absence there felt like so many new elements layered on top of life – when in the day-to-day I may not notice, but coming back (especially after the US) they are front and center.

My walk to yoga is now past buildings that have been flattened (but were whole before Chinese New Year).  There is a new foreign supermarket in Times Square (two years after the old one closed) – that has a baking section with muffin cups and unbleached flour.  After reading a website, my husband has clued me in that within a ten minute walk are three of Shanghai’s most famous street food stands – not counting the one we discovered last year – Da Chang Mian.

The way to order a taxi has changed with a competition between two of the most powerful Chinese internet tycoons who are giving rides away for free, making hailing a cab much more challenging.  And my work schedule has shifted very nocturnally with lots and lots of conference calls after 9pm.  Re-entering Shanghai life has taken me a little time.

This past Friday, I met a vendor for lunch at a restaurant I have visited many times before – Din Tai Fung.  I’ve been to their flagship store in Taipei 101 and eaten at multiple locations across Shanghai.  This time, when I sat down, the waitress gave me this card.

This side has directions in Chinese, English and Korean - the reverse French and Japanese.  Eating soup dumplings can be tricky!

This side has directions in Chinese, English and Korean – the reverse French and Japanese. Eating soup dumplings can be tricky!

It details how to eat Xiao Long Bao (steamed soup dumplings) which is the dish the restaurant is the most famous for.  The two sides of the cards have multiple languages making sure whomever visits is clear.  It would have been very handy 7 years ago, but the effect now was it made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I had been in Shanghai a little too long.

My contact arrived and we ordered lunch and enjoyed the views of the Bund and I normalized, heading off to my next meeting and my massage that evening and a great dinner that my husband had prepared.  But I couldn’t get it out of my head – every single time I leave and come back I have to relearn this city.  Yes, my understanding grows deeper, but with that, I notice more changes.  I am no longer superficially connected to this place – it is in my psyche, my pace of living, my taste buds and internal soundtrack.


Come visit.  I promise – it won’t be boring!


10 Responses to “Relearning Shanghai”

  1. Every Day Adventures in Asia March 9, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    Welcome back!! I feel exactly the same way about Mumbai. 🙂

    At the moment I’m flying out of the new T2 International Terminal – my 1st real flight out of here. Funny how you get into a rhythm both at home and traveling. Change an element and need to learn anew!

    Enjoy being back and looking forward to being in YOUR city in a couple months!

    • gkm2011 March 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

      I know the point when I am not ready to accept change is when I need to go back home, but I have a sneaking suspicion it occurs everywhere, just not quite as obviously.

  2. simpletravelourway March 9, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    Welcome back! Everyone expects life on the road to be full of changes but not so your home base. We suppose living in Shanghai is ilike living anywhere else speeded up to a dizzying degree. Fasten your seat belt and hold on!

    • gkm2011 March 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

      True warp speed, I am ready and willing – now that I have my breath back. I think of Shanghainese friends who say they do not remember anything that still exists in their neighborhood – and they are in their 30s/early 40s. It is mind boggling.

  3. ladyofthecakes March 9, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Ah, there you are 🙂

    • gkm2011 March 9, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

      Yes, feeling like a very small piece of this very large city.

  4. Matt March 9, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear about the demolitions, although we both knew it was just a matter of time. I can’t believe it’s been 5 months since I visited: it feels like 5 weeks at most.

    While the instructional card looks pretty thorough, I think your personal Xiao Long Bao-eating directions were better. Man, those were great dumplings!

  5. CrazyChineseFamily March 10, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    It is amazing how fast Chinese cities are changing every year. I mean, I am from Germany, until a building project starts it can take easily 10 years for all the permits…I remember in my home city it took three years until the building management was allowed to remove a broken down wall

    • gkm2011 March 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      Very true – the skyline has completely changed in my time here which wouldn’t be possible most places!

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