A Woman Alone in Shanghai

Old Shanghai is a Disney-esque maze of shops with Ancient Chinese architectural facades. It’s a cacophony of bright colors, exotic and familiar tastes, enticing aromas, glaring sounds, inexpensive (cheap) gifts for the family back home, and high quality merchandise.

The sales people work hard to lure the tourist into their shops with tantalizing promises of bargains and beauty and to insure that she doesn’t leave empty-handed. 

I was looking for black pearl earrings to match the necklace I’d bought at the Summer Palace in Beijing last summer. I soon learned that the casual perusal of the jewelry counters was anything but casual. The pretty young women were ready with their calculators, offering one gem after another.

I gave up my quest for the black pearls when I realized that I could not determine if the pearls were authentic or if I were about to pay a fair price or an absurdly high price for fake pearls.

I decided that the one gift I wanted for myself would be wind chimes.

I looked in every likely shop. I asked in many shops … that was sometimes quite humorous as I attempted to mime the movement of the chimes and mimic the light airy melodies.

Thanks to a group of tourists from Germany, I found help from a nice woman who volunteers as a sort of guide in Old Shanghai. I breathed a deep sigh to find someone who understood me and could communicate with me.

She directed me across the street, into the gritty markets.

I admit that I was just a bit apprehensive because I was alone and obviously a tourist…my appearance screaming white senior citizen.

I kept my bag and camera close to my side as I pretended to know what I was doing. (Possibly my concerns were unnecessary.)

I walked up and down several streets, asking in one shop after another. A few shops sold wind chimes, but they were huge and absurdly expensive…the kind you’d hang in a Buddhist Temple, I thought.

Finally, just as the light mist turned to serious rain, I found my wind chimes deep inside the maze of shops. Of course, my casual inquiries about price produced a flurry of activity as this gentleman brought down one chime after another.

After at least 20 minutes of negotiating, I purchased the wind chimes. He tried hard to sell me more merchandise, telling me that this bell would bring good luck or that statue would attract money into my life. He seemed flattered when I asked to take his picture and posed for my camera.

A perfect ending to my afternoon alone in Old Shanghai.

As I sit at my computer back at home, this all seems surreal. Was I really there? Did I actually walk these streets by myself? Did I communicate with people even though neither of us spoke the other’s language. I must have. The pictures are stored on my computer and the wind chimes now hang on my patio, gifting me with light tinkling music when the breeze gently wafts across my patio and delighting me with a symphony during a storm.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

This quote by Billy Crystal says it all:

My granddaughter’s birth has made me want to create things she will love.

I hope that through my teaching, I can help to create a world in which she is safe. I hope that through the pictures I take, I can create memories for her.

I find it interesting that when I’m at home, I might go two weeks without seeing my son, daughter-in-law, and my GRANDDAUGHTER. However, here I am on the other side of the world with an ocean dividing us, and I am missing them horribly after only one week; I ache a bit to realize that I won’t see them for a little more than a month. It must be horribly painful for those in our military to leave their families for a year or so.

I took this shot last Saturday night, just a few hours before leaving the country.

Travels in China

Solo Tourist in China

“You have a lot of energy for a senior citizen” they told me. My students gave professional and job-related comments on my evaluations, but one after another complimented my work ethic, my energy level (oh if they only knew how drained of energy I really felt), and my courage for traveling and taking chances “at my age.” I chuckled each time they referred to me as a senior citizen, because, even though I regularly get invitations from AARP, my parents, in their early 80s, are “senior citizens.”  I learned that, in their culture, I would not be working except to watch my grandchild.

I spent more than five weeks this past summer in China; I toured, took pictures, and taught. I had been hired to work with three other teachers from my high school district in Feicheng, China (which is southwest of Beijing). We were contracted to work with 160 Chinese teachers of English. Their skills ranged from nearly proficient bi-lingual to learning the language (the teacher with the weakest English skills still puts me to shame in my understanding of Chinese).

Before the job itself began, I toured Beijing and Shanghai. My team had experienced Beijing before and wanted to see more of China; because this was my first trip, I wanted to see the sites of this ancient and modern city.  I took a chance with an English-speaking Beijing tour group I’d found on the Internet tour-beijing.com and was delighted with their service.

They arranged for my train passage from Shanghai to Beijing; a young lady picked me up from the train station, delivered me to my hotel, and four days later, made sure that I was safely on the train returning to my team in Shanghai. Each evening, my tour guide called my hotel with information about the next day’s activities. I was a little sorry that I had a different guide for each day and that I would be with a different group of people as I enjoyed the people I met the first day. However, it was also fun to meet new people.