It turned out to be a fairly interesting week. I was supposed to fly out to Boise on Tuesday for work, but my trip was canceled so I am now trying to figure out to be a project manager while being located 14 time zones away from the people and projects I manage. Needless to say, that has quickly turned into some late nights for me and a fairly long week. I think it will be okay for my remaining five weeks in Shanghai but it is not ideal.
The good thing about not going to Boise is that I have more time to spend in Shanghai and with Andy before I move back permanently. Yesterday we were in a charity regatta put on for the Shanghai Boat Show this weekend benefitting autistic children. We went out to the lake early with our friend Hernan and his two boys, Hernancito and Bruno. It was good to get the boat in the water before everyone else showed up and crowded the loading dock and it also gave me some time to go on a run around the rowing lanes where Olympians practice, in the more-or-less clean air. What a treat! When I returned from my run, the race was about to start, so I quickly changed into my wetsuit and sailing gear and met Andy down at the boat. He had already been on the lake with Hernan and the kids and predicted a nice day of sailing.
There were a lot of boats in the regatta and especially a lot of monohulls, which is the category that Calypso, a Red Dragon, sails in. Immediately after we left the harbor, the wind died and it looked like it was going to be a slow day of sailing. Luckily about 30 minutes later, it picked up a bit and they started the Optimist boats (kids). Five minutes later, I was counting 5-4-3-2-1 as the monohulls started and we were off to a great start. Andy tried a new starting tactic that he had been hesistant to use in the past and it worked like a charm. We were in the lead. Usually when this happens we savor it while it lasts as it is pretty much a given that the experienced sailors like John Priestly or Keith will catch up and pass us soon.
John’s boat is much faster so he did eventually pass us, but Keith never did which felt really strange to us. With the unpredictable wind at Dianshan Hu (Lake), we have learned a lot of tips for light wind sailing including not to move around a lot, scoot forward in the boat so the boat is balanced, and so on. We were executing all of the tips and it was actually working. Keith’s borrowed Red Dragon was not passing us. To be fair, they also had a third person in their boat who was a pretty big guy so in light wind, this was a big disadvantage for them.
We were on the last leg of our second sausage (the shape of the course looks like two sausages) and we were still out in front of Keith and only a little ways behind John’s faster boat when Andy realized he wasn’t sure if he had to go straight though the finish line or round the mark and then finish. We asked Alan and John and they said to round the mark and to follow them. We did and it turned out to be incorrect so while we were rounding the mark another boat, a Wanderer, finished in front of us, putting us in third place. We were still amazed we beat Keith though.
The second race seemed to start well across the line until Andy made a tactical decision to tack right as the wind shifted and we were suddenly facing directly up wind and almost motionless in the water. I was kindly suggesting (aka back seat driving) that we change direction while Andy was trying to figure out what happened and meanwhile, everyone sailed away from us…even Chinese boats with drivers that didn’t know what they were doing. We quickly changed our direction and watched about 15 boats in front of us sailing toward the mark. Patiently, we continued to sail hoping we would be able to catch up. By the second half of the first sausage (the down-wind leg), we began to out-sail some of the Chinese boats and to pass them. The wind was so slow at this point that the committee boat waved the shortened course flag which meant that half way through the second sausage was the end of the race. We chose an awesome course with better wind on that last leg and somehow managed to pass almost everyone. It was so exciting.
The third race was not run since the wind was not blowing hard enough so we all went back into the harbor to see how everyone faired. We were not sure if our finish for the first race had counted since we had crossed the finish line backwards and the end of the second race happened so quickly that we didn’t know where we really stood. There were also handicaps that needed to be added in for various boat types and spinnaker usage. After an hour or so, they announced the awards and Andy and I received second place in the monohull category. I was SO thrilled and proud of Andy as this was the first time that his countless hours spent reading books on sailing, watching videos on sailing, having conversations on sailing and practicing sailing paid off! He did a really great job and it was fun that we had done it together.
We received a trophy cup which you can see in the photo above which a couple of other sailors who were, how do I say it nicely?…drunk, poured beer into to help Andy celebrate. Andy was less than thrilled but there was not too much he could do about it. So, the smell of victory, at least as it sits in our apartment today is a little bit like cheap Chinese beer.
Last night we went with a couple of friends down to a popular restaurant/bar on Hengshan Lu (the bar street). We had a nice Mexican meal and were hoping to do some dancing before going home early. Unfortunately nothing gets started in Shanghai until 11pm so we were pushing it wanting to get some dancing in before then. The boys had gone outside to get some fresh air and this Texan guy got the nerve up to come and talk to the group of us girls still inside waiting for some good music to dance to. The guy had just arrived to Shanghai on Tuesday and he would be staying at least nine months. Talking with him reminded me of all that we have learned living here and the naivety of a newbie. His business is commodities trading of some sort and his boss from Texas had sent him here because the China office was not meeting their deliverables and seemed to be disorganized. He has grand plans of getting things organized and fixed up in a few months while at the same time traveling extensively to Japan and India as well. I just looked at him and smiled and said, “good luck with that.” After that, he was talking to my friend Junie and he turned back to me and said, “you guys are depressing.” I asked why and he said that I had shot down his plans of doing well, rapidly at work and then Junie was explaining to him why you should not give money to children begging on the street. (Often, the parents will do cruel things to the kids to put them in a pathetic state in order to exploit them for money. Junie should know as she has spent countless hours volunteering at an orphanage that had kids without thumbs and eyes from parents doing just that. Also the kids on the street are not in school and by giving them money it encourages the cycle.) I quickly agreed with Junie and the guy looked genuinely depressed. I really had forgotten how much we have learned living here and it took a guy fresh off the boat and eager to succeed to remind me of all of the lessons learned.
Andy went out to the lake again today while I met my high school librarian and his wife for breakfast. I barely remember the librarian but he is a good friend of Kali Kurdy, my high school economics teacher and golf coach who incidentally lives one block from our house in Boise. Kali gave him my email address and we have been trying to hook up for months. We finally were able to this morning as he and his wife were visiting Shanghai from where they live and work in Hangzhou. It was nice meeting them and hearing their experiences living in China and working at an International school.
They had me meet them at the Element Fresh restaurant near the Portman (Ritz Carlton) Hotel. I knew basically where it was but had never been there. Come to find out, it is a wonderful little area with all of the necessities of a foreigner. After they left to catch their train back to Hangzhou, I wandered around that plaza and then up and down Nanjing Lu. In Mandarin there is a word/phrase called “guang jie” which directly translated means “window shopping” but I would like to think of it as so much more. I think of it as a combination of strolling, wandering, window shopping and just getting out and enjoying the day. I think that it is a word that really doesn’t exist in English as it probably isn’t need as most Americans do not just wander around the city all that much. Instead we get in our cars and drive to strip malls or real malls and buy what we need. Anyway, guang jie is one of my all time favorite things to do and I am ashamed to say that it took me 1.5 years to get around to guang jie’ing on Nanjing Lu. I had heard of the famous shopping street before we moved here but I thought it was only a pedestrian street that I had been on before and was not all that impressed with. It turns out there is another part to the street that was so much fun to explore and included everything from very high-end luxury shopping to more affordable shops like Zara, a Spanish clothing store. I had always heard about the wealth in Shanghai but it was truly not obvious to me until I noticed that almost every woman who passed me had a zhen de (pronounced “jen da” meaning “real”) Louis Vuitton bag. It was crazy. I wandered into a mall where my favorite make up brand, Bobbi Brown was on display and one of their “artists” showed me how I should be using their product to rosy up my cheeks. I also found L’Occitane, my favorite lotion store and sampled various elixirs that promise to minimize the lines around my eyes as it has done for 83% of the people who have sampled it.
When I became hungry, I found my favorite French bakery PAUL and had a ham and cheese sandwich and coffee before asking the waitress to point me in the direction of the nearest subway stop. I understood her and wandered to the subway stop and managed to run down the stairs and get on the correct subway just as the doors were closing. Next I went to the Super Brand mall in search of year of the rat charms for my mother in-law and spent some time talking with the store clerks and picking out my last round of gifts for friends back home with recent or upcoming birthdays. My guang jie finished with a 30 minute walk home where I decided to walk through the swan lake area behind Building 3 in our apartment complex. Yesterday, Hernancito and Bruno had been telling me that the lake had tadpoles and toads last week so I wanted to see it for myself. I was amazed that less than five minutes from our apartment, there is a beautiful pond with real live black and white swans (no frogs or tadpoles though). It was so cool. As I was walking around the pond, I ran into Hernancito and Bruno who were also looking for the tadpoles and being adventurous boys. They showed my around the pond and then I continued my walk home.
I realize three things today. First, I have definitely figured out how to live in Shanghai and feel confident venturing out on my own to simply guang jie and second there are always new things to see and do in this city and after a year and a half we have only just scratched the surface. Third, I will miss living in Shanghai when I move back to Boise in May! While Boise and the United States have so much to offer, the reverse is true of Shanghai and China.
Meanwhile, Andy was out at the lake again today giving boat show participants rides on his boat. He said he gave rides to everyone from bratty sisters who fought the whole time to some Chinese people who it was their first time on a boat to other people interested in learning to sail. At one point during the day he lost his voice because he had been talking so much about sailing and the benefits of the Shanghai Boat and Yacht Club.
We ended the weekend going to our second favorite sushi restaurant here in Shanghai. We were really craving Superb Sushi in Boise, but the sushi restaurant in the Shangri-La had to suffice. It is probably 3X the cost and the rolls are not as good, but the sushi is amazing.
Tomorrow begins another week…only four more left for me. This is both exciting and sad…