Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Observations from Shanghai

- This is a much more westernized city then I expected. (Though I increasingly think global is a better word than Western to describe what I mean.) There is a Starbucks on every corner here as well. The consumerism might actually be more rampant here than in the US. To illustrate how far from communism China has moved to capitalism: In the downtown part of Shanghai there is a historic marker for where the first 11 communists meet to begin the “revolution”. It was Mao’s house. Today the majority of the property is a mall.

- Shanghai is a huge freakin’ city with lots of people. I mean 20 million people (if you include the constant flow of expats, tourists, and general travelers). Which means it is very crowded and loud. I really appreciate my neighborhood back in St. Francis. 10 years ago all these people where on bikes, but now they are driving cars. If you ever wonder how Volkswagen survives as a company, it is because they scored a deal with the Taxi service in Shanghai, they are all VW’s. There are still plenty of bikes and mopeds. What drives me nuts is that most of the mopeds have squeaky brakes that make you want to scream.

- Very international town. I have found a European style coffee house nearby where I like to sit and read most of the afternoon. There must have been four or five languages being spoken today in this small little shop.

- The greatest experience about this international presence by far has been church. Michelle and I attended Shanghai International Fellowship on Sunday. The church is an old Lutheran German style cathedral and the place was packed. We worshiped with around 350 people from 60 different countries. The closest experience to heaven I have had.

- Also need to dispel the myth about Christians being persecuted here. Maybe it is different in some rural areas, but at church on Sunday the President of the Chinese Council of Churches gave a report about the church in China. She spoke very critically of the “cultural revolution” and also explained all that has occurred since churches were reopened in 1980. She said that there are over 55,000 churches in China today. That is Church buildings. This is still small considering there are 1.5 Billion people living here. The church is censored though, but not persecuted. You might ask what the difference is, and I what say that no one is going to jail for being a Christian, or even for proselytizing. However, like all institutions the Church is under the ever watchful eye of the “party.” All people need to be careful not to speak too critically of the “party.” But even this is ever changing. I would say the church here is in greater danger of the same danger zone of consumerism that Americans are.

- People here are really really rude. I do not how many times I have been cut off, skipped in line, and stared in just over a week. Cars have no regard for traffic laws, I seriously risk my life every time I get in a cab. As our friend Andy says, “In America cars look out for people, in China people look out for cars.” Do not be surprised if at some point my blog entry is a story about me being hit by a car. Just the other day I had to slam on the back of Mercedes that was backing up on the sidewalk and was about to hit me. To illustrate my point: We live right by Haushan Hospital so a lot of ambulances come through the area. In America cars get out of the way. I realize it is the law, but I think they would even if there wasn’t a law. Yesterday I watched an ambulance have to wait at a red light, when all a taxi had to do was move over a few feet and the Ambulance could have passed. When the light turned no cars got out of the way; taxis even cut off the ambulance.

- The food is amazing. Asia just does food well (at least from my experiences in Thailand and now China). Always fresh, always tasty. Ironically the best has been an Indian place called Kaveen’s Kitchen. If you come to Shanghai it is located at the intersection of Yayuan Lu and Hushahn Lu (across from the Hilton.). I recommend the Daal, Chicken Tikka Masala, and the garlic Nan.

- I found a liquor that rivals my love for scotch. Bi jo (sp?) It is even stronger than scotch and has a slightly sweeter taste. Though it will give you a quick buzz so be careful.

- Greatest Irony: In Shanghai the US consulate is right next door to the Iranian consulate.

- Interesting history – Do you know where the verb Shanghaied comes from? Shanghai has a long history as a port town. At the turn of the century it was called the “Paris of the East”. Anyway it also had a reputation as a party town, opium houses, gambling, liquor, and burlesque houses. Sailors would port in Shanghai and not want to leave. So captains began drugging them and dragging them back to the ship and would set sail before they woke. The sailors had to sail, and were thus shanghaied.


mjonthemove said...

it is culturally ok to stare in china.

also, if I give you brand names and prescriptions, do you want to track down an optical facility and get me some disposable contacts?
- Matt Glatzel, the cheapskate

The Chad said...

*poke* I miss you guys

Jess(ica) said...

Hi Joe- It's been quite a long time since I've said hello (maybe a couple years?). I take it you and Michelle are living in Asia? Very cool. Your blog has been a nice way to catch up and keep me entertained at work. :) Tell Michelle I said hi (oh and I'm commenting on this post because I love that the US consulate is next to Iran's consulate. that's awesome.)