Friday, October 21, 2005

Shanghai Trip - Day 1

So before I start recapping my trip, in nauseating detail, I think I should just warn everyone that there will be a lot of talk about poop. The thing is, poop is a perfectly acceptable subject of conversation for my ENTIRE family. During the trip, I could actually give a daily report of everyone's poop status - frequency, consistency, even COLOR. Gross. I know. In fact, talking about poop is practically a greeting in my family - "Good morning, did you sleep well? Have you pooped yet? Was it good poop?" Or equally often, the status of one's poop is volunteered as in, "Try the bacon, it's great - by the way, I had terrible poop today." Also heard frequently:

"Hurry up, I have to poop!"
"So we'll have the driver meet us at 10:00 a.m., that way it'll give us all half an hour to poop after breakfast."
"Why is my poop SO green?"
"False alarm!"
"Ugh - bad poop again."

I'm opening the recap with this discussion on poop as it seemed to figure prominently in own personal experience with the city of Shanghai and its CUISINE. More on that later. (yay! right?)

Anyway, my trip started Thursday morning Oct. 13. I had a very long day ahead of me. First Max dropped me off at the airport two hours before my morning flight. I had a one hour flight to San Francisco, followed by a 2 hour layover, and then roughly a 12 hour flight to PuDong.

An ironic thing happened to me during horrid 20 some hour process. I've decided it's blog worthy, since I'm easy, and set low standards. I shall describe it as "The Story of Mrs. Lai."

While I was sitting at LAX, wearing my University of Michigan sweatshirt, a middle-aged Chinese woman came over to me and began to chat with me about how her son goes to Michigan. Of course, I politely chatted back, and before long I soon knew about her entire family, her two sons R and D (using initials only in case google causes me embarassment some day) and their careers, and everything about her trip. This is in some ways unusual and in some ways very normal. I find that middle-aged to older Chinese women, on a whole, tend to be rather uninterested and wary of strangers. Then again, there is that group of rather chatty Chinese women, who latch on to anyone who comes along and soon they've gone over their entire family tree and the health/marriage/career status of each limb of the tree. My grandma, incidentally, belongs in the latter group. I can't tell you how many Shanghainese shopkeepers know that I'm her granddaughter from the U.S., and my mother's her oldest daughter of five, (and isn't she so fortunate to have five daughters to take care of her in her old age?) who also lives in the States, and here's her second daughter - she lives in Hong Kong and has a son who goes to school in England...

Anyway, apparently this woman was meeting her sister in San Francisco, and then they were on their way to Shanghai. She introduced herself as Mrs. Lai. We parted ways when we got on the plane, although I did see her again at the San Francisco Airport. She had called one of her sons, who works in the same industry I do, and was anxious to get my info on his behalf. So, when I ran into her again, we exchanged info, and that was that. I didn't see her again and didn't really think much of it either.

So I got on the big 747 jet plane to Pudong. I had an aisle seat off the center block of seats. I sat next to a friendly looking Chinese woman and her husband. She was polite and left me alone, but began to chat with me during the meal service. She had noticed my sweatshirt and remarked "My nephew goes to Michigan." I said, "How funny, I just met a woman whose son goes to Michigan." She said, "Well, maybe it's my sister!" I thought she was joking, and I laughed but then after a beat, I asked her, "Well, is your sister's last name Lai?"

And she said "Yes, that's my sister!!!"

Nearly 600 passengers on the plane, and my seat was next to Mrs. Lai's sister. Ironic, huh?


Anyway, after being subjected to Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants on the plane, I finally got to Pudong at around 7 p.m. Friday local time. It took another hour and a half for me to get my luggage and make it through customs. When I first walked out of the immigration area and saw the HUNDRED of faces waiting to pick up people, I figured I was doomed. There was no way I could possibly find my mom. The thing is, in the U.S. we stick out, since we're Chinese and have dark hair and dark eyes. We're noticeable. We're NOT noticeable in China where even I think that damn, Chinese people look alike. I wandered out slowly, following the other passengers, and just hoped that she would find me and shout my name. And she did. I suddenly heard my name and looked up to find my mom smiling and waving from the second floor of the airport. She had wisely decided that it was easier to spot from above, than from the sea of people below. Incidentally, this reminded me a lot of my college graduation, when somehow my mom had spotted me entering the stadium with all the thousands of other graduates, from the very top of the Big House. I have no idea how she spotted me, but she did.

Anyway, I waved back and was quite confused to find a whole bunch of other people standing next to her, waving and calling my name too. People that I didn't recognize. Turns out they were my mom's friends who had come to pick us up from the airport. The taxi line was well over two hours, so it was a good thing they were willing to come get us. My grandparents and my Aunt June who had arrived in the morning from Hong Kong with my mom had already left the airport for our hotel, but my mom had decided to wait 5 HOURS AT THE PUDONG AIRPORT, in order to meet up with me. Awww...how sweet is my mom?

After we got in their car, my mom's friend Tina (who I will refer to as Mrs. Carrier Monkey as she was sick with the flu - which I immediately caught - which is why I've been sick for over a week) took us to the restaurant she had recently opened. It was quite nice - sort of like a fancy lunch coffee shop place and I enjoyed my first hot meal in Shanghai.

Afterwards Mrs. Carrier Monkey and her family dropped us off at our hotel. It was really more of a service apartment. It had 3 bedrooms and was perfect for what we needed. I shared a room with my mom, and quickly passed out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey sis, just in case no one believe you, I can verify that poop is a very popular topic in our family. But don't forget the ever so popular conversation:

person1: "I'm not feeling good today."
person2: "have you pooped yet?"

8:59 AM  
Blogger Rebecca the Writer said...

Ah, now I realize how you are so comfortable with Pig's bowel movements.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

poop and how well their children have excelled in life=how Chinese women chatter their lives away.

Oh yeah. And shopping. They love shopping in giggly herds.


3:18 PM  
Blogger kate said...

i totally remember that graduation thing. All of a sudden you looked up and your whole family is lined up by the rim of the stadium, all tiny in the distance, waving.

9:32 AM  

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