This is how I know Mr. Understanding truly loves me: he took me shopping on my first day in China, and on a holiday weekend, to boot. He hates to shop. He hates crowds. He hates people coming up to him every 5 minutes asking if he´d like to buy a watch. But he did it all for me! I managed to buy at least half of my children´s Leaving Brasil & Moving to China gifts in a few short hours. We had a yummy lunch of chicken and cashews, braised celery, steamed dumplings, and some weird little ribs.
Jet lag prevented me from remembering a cardinal rule of foreign travel: bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper. My thighs haven´t had such a good workout since my Mexico days. Really, you´d think I´d learn. This scene repeated itself yesterday when I went to Decathlon, a French sporting goods store, to check out a few things. I encountered my first in the ground toilet and learned lesson #2: in my handbag, I will now have to carry plastic booties to preserve my shoes from possible backsplash. Footwear has never been so disposable! I might have to buy an entire Chinese footwear collection for everyday use because I truly cannot bear the thought of incinerating all my precious Brazilian sandalias. For this princess, the throne room is looking most unattractive.
On Saturday night we took a taxi to for a 9:00 dinner reservation. When we entered the under-the-river tunnel, I pointed out to Mr. U that perhaps we had not communicated to the driver properly our destination. Even I knew that we weren´t supposed to be crossing the river. Mr. U promptly called the hotel concierge to have them call the restaurant to say we would be late for our reservation. The hotel concierge called back 3 minutes later to tell us that the restaurant closed at 10:00. This was a first for the both of us: a restaurant that closes at 10 on a Saturday night in one of the world´s busiest cities. Ai Lin later told me that dinner is eaten generally between the hours of 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Karaoke starts after that.
On Sunday, we went to the DVD store and stocked up. There are no Blockbusters in China. (Think about it). Then we had the driver, who supposedly speaks English, take us to an antique furniture warehouse I had read about in a book called Born to Shop by Suzy Gershman. We crossed over the river and this was when I first perceived I was in over my head. Mile after mile of gigantic apartment complexes, more or less aesthetically pleasing and relatively new, stood as far as the eye could see, laundry flapping out of almost every single window. The van we have has a DVD player with little screens in the back of the headrests. We watched an entire movie as we tried valiantly to find the warehouse, which we never did. Maybe it went the way of the rest of Shanghai – torn to the ground, a skyscraper to be put in its place.