Posts/March, 2009/

One Shanghai Morning, in Minutes

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

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My weekday morning in Shanghai, China, has settled into a temporary routine. I’m no longer waking before sunrise and have finally graduated to an alarm. As before, most mornings have been rainy. Locals say the rains will stop, but I’m not so sure. In the meantime, it’s a soggy march through the French Concession to get to work. As soon as the rain stops, I plan on taking some photos of the walk. Until then, here’s a written account of today.

7:30 – Beep, bop, boop! The alarm wakes me. It’s time for an AM BM and a steaming shower.

8:00 – Breakfast is made/consumed. Solids: fresh fruit, yogurt, and muesli. Liquids: brewed coffee with milk.

8:30 – I say goodbye to lady, head out the door, down the long elevator ride, and out the main doors to the apartment. After exchanging smiles with the doorman, the umbrella is popped open and I begin the walking commute. The main street outside the apartment is massive and in disarray due to subway construction. The ground rumbles and booms periodically.

8:35 – Wait for light change near the construction wall and temporary crew dorm in the middle of the street. When the light changes, the pedestrians let a sea of bikes and scooters run interference before crossing. Meanwhile, turning cars from two directions are shuffling themselves through the people on the crosswalk. Safely on the other side, I strut up the lane, avoiding other umbrellas and people on my right and bikes on my left. Rain drips from the buildings, low hanging awnings and ACs clank against the tip of my umbrella. Everyone on two wheels is wearing colorful parkas that are specially designed to drape over the handle bars of a bike. These keep their arms and legs dry too. Most of the pedestrians carry umbrellas. The sidewalks feel very cluttered on rainy days, and it slows walking speed.

8:45 – A scooter passes by. The passenger in back wears a bucket entirely over his/her head and is carrying two other buckets in his/her hands. The scooter is driving on the sidewalk and weaving between people while honking its horn.

8:55 – The tiniest and meanest looking mole of an old woman waddles by. She’s wearing all wool, and carries a bag of eggs in one hand and an umbrella in the other. I give her a slight smile and she looks me in the eye without expression.

9:10 – Traffic is in disarray at another major intersection. Cars are backed up in all directions, and despite the traffic lights, everyone is slowly going through the intersection. Scooters honk and weave through. Pedestrians wait and cross with caution and gusto. An ambulance van with flashing blue lights is making no progress.

9:13 – There is a flurry of activity outside what I think is a covered produce market. Old ladies wander in and out with bags of vegetables. Renegade carts try to steal business by selling ginger and greens on the street. A large, muddy area near the bicycle parking is getting replanted with trees.

9:15 – A massive old apartment from a bygone era is on my left. It looks like a wealthy French family would have lived there. Now it’s run down and slightly sinister looking. On the other side of the street, a row of abandoned storefronts are waiting demolition.

9:25 – I pass by a security guard dressed in a green uniform. He’s guarding the Iranian Embassy. Turning the corner, I’m on the street that leads to work. On the left are various stands selling quick hot foods for breakfast. There are some appetizing stuffed bread options and less appetizing gruel.

9:30 – Walk into the office building, press a button, and ride the elevator. Time for a quick second breakfast and coffee before firing up the computer.

Outside the window it rains. Sirens and horns blare all day long. The bustling city is out there, waiting. But inside this warm building, I sit, work, and try not to worry about my teeth.

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