Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vogs through Shanghai I: Xu Jia Hui

I love my Fluevogs.  John Fluevog, that is.  The Canadian shoe designer, who makes sturdy shows that are also fun and stylish.  My sister Su introduced me to them--she who has a great eye for detail (God is in the details, she believes) and very good taste.  And so, I am fortunate to know about Vogs.  
This particular shoe is called Katia.  Fluevog designs for both sexes, and gives people names to all of his shoes, whether practical or gravity-defying.  And the special's heel sits upon a Fluevog pronouncement:  'Your love makes me sing,' it says, surrounded by musical notes.  Happy feet, in every way.  And most importantly, comfortable. 
So for my third excursion into the city, I'm Vogging it.  I will meet my teaching cohort, Deb, in her neighborhood called Xu Jia Hui. (BTW, in pinyin, the 'X' is pronounced 'Sh').  Deb is from Sydney, Australia and has taught at Lida for the past year and a half.  When I ask her what she misses about Sydney, she answers 'Fresh air.'  Touche.  We're gonna check out the ExPat show at the Shanghai Exhibition Center.  While at Xu Jia Hui, I'm thinking of getting a webcam, but even more importantly, a cell phone...lthough it's been quite the pure living without any interruption whatsoever.

So in my Vogs, I walk out of the gates and there, a pink bus is already stopped.  No wait.  And there are seats available.  I always think I'm gonna read on the bus, but it's so much more interesting to gaze out the window.  

There is Ye Xe, the small town the school is near, there is the lot of stone lions for sale to guard the gates of new constructions, there we cross the bridge over this part of the Huangpu river, there we're honking and speeding down the highway.  If you think about the high-flying Chinatown buses that get you from city to city in record time, well this is the ancestral ground and there is no speed limit or precaution whatsoever.  No time to fear, just hold on and go with it. I grab tight to the railing.  Folks around me are napping.

Xu Jian Hui is not as far as People's square:  only 6 stops from Lianhua Rd.  There is a very friendly recorded voice on the subway, but on this weekend I swear that the recorded voice is just a little lower, like she slept in or something.  Could that be?  A different, more relaxed voice for weekend passengers?  Maybe played at a different speed? Though she still says the most curious thing.  After explaining in Chinese whether to exit on the right or the left side of the train, she says in English the name of the stop and then 'Please 'lide' on the left (or right) side of the train.' I've heard it over and over, and whether weekday or weekend voice, it still always sounds like 'lide.'  Leave?  Ride?  Elide?  Don't matter.  No one really speaks English.

I get to Xu Jia Hui.  I'm to meet Deb at Exit 2.  The place is bubbling over with shoppers.  I see Exit 8 and 9 this way, 10-12, that way.  That's it.  I go to the ticket seller, I can say this in Chinese.  'Excuse me, where is Exit 2.'  'There's no more Exit 2.'  I'm adjusting, and check again.  'No more Exit 2.'  Hmmm.  I go to Exit 12, to maybe wait there, but it's the entrance to a ritzy department store.  I go back to 8-9 and decide to just go up to the street.  The whir increases, I look for Deb...there's just no way, without a cell phone.

I surface at the entrance of the Orient Shopping Centre.  I am greeted. 
Rock on with your bad self, Lion at the Gate of the Orient...
I figure if I stay in one place, maybe Deb might pass by.  I take in the sites.  I find the mall that's a ball that houses electronics stores.  I do need that phone and webcam, but I can't get myself to navigate.  I really just want to get my bearings.
The lion looks on so merrily.  Laughing at the fesitivities, or perhaps about to feast upon it.  Eyeing that ball, the toy that always teases the lion in how many New Year's dances.
It may be the Orient, but it certainly welcomes all the world.
Turns out it's a display for the Festival of Shopping.  Aha, it's a festival, alas.
At it's base, gleeful bubbles of prosperity.  How can I get a picture of this with me in it?
I start sussing out passersby.  Who isn't carrying bags.  Who has hands free.  Everyone's got stuff.  That's cool.  I've got all the time in the world and no plan.  A nice gentleman passes by. Hands free.  I approach.  He abides.  I pose.  He pushes the button.  The Vogs are in.  So is South Korea, Germany and Italy and all those gleeful bubbles of prosperity.  What a display.
I've got to get a shot with the lion.  This proves to be a bit more challenging.  It seems that every person I asked to take a photo doesn't quite get the most important instruction:  Please include the shoes in the photo.  Granted it is the kindness of strangers that even allows me to have a photo with the mighty lion.  Is it too much to include the Vogs?

After standing on ground level for 3  photos, each time thanking the person for granting me the favor and then flicking the camera switch to view the photo, lo and behold the whole of the lion is in, but the photo would crop at my ankles.  They were even pretty good poses, but none of the photographers could appreciate the Vogs enough to include them in.

Finally, I ask a gal if she might take a photo of me.  I don't mention the shoes, and this time leap up onto the pedestal with the lion.
Et voila.  Mission accomplished.  All the while, the popping sound of a tennis ball is constantly heard.  Just behind the lion is a coupla men taking turns hitting a ball attached to a piece of elastic, hitting out into the street, no net, no court, just this device to practice your swing.
The strange thing is that upon closer inspection, these rackets are badminton rackets and have nothing to do with tennis.  I try to get a photo with the ball in action, but my timing with my camera is off. The guy behind the rackets asks if he can help me.  As a matter of fact yes.  How do I get to the, not not museum...boy my Chinese is limited...that place on Yan'An Blvd, a big place where there's a...there's's at 1000 Yan'an Blvd...

I get my point's the Shanghai zhan lan zhong xin... zhan lan zhong xin...I don't have a pen to write it down... Can I walk?  The fellow looks at my's too far to walk.  How about subway?  Subway you have to change trains, it's complicated.  Better take a taxi.  Across the street.  

So how do you say it again?  He looks at me.  Sorry, I'm from the U.S. and my Chinese... Shanghai zhan lan zhong xin...zhan lan zhong xin, ...that's what I tell the taxi cab across the street...zhan lan zhong xin.  Yes, he says, suspiciously.  Something weird to him about a Chinese person who can't understand him so well, and can't remember how to say something as simple as zhan lan zhong xin.  I had that in Guangzhou too, when I was teaching there 23 years ago.  As if you're playing a joke or something. Part of the low trust of this culture.
I wonder if I should try at least to get a webcam to see my peeps back in the U.S....if I might venture into the great good mood that is this huge shopping district.  I'm not a big shopper, in fact I'm kind of averse to it.  It's not that I hate to shop, it's just that I never really want anything.  Not that I don't want anything but living the writing life, I've trained myself to not want what I cannot have (yo Sinead!), or at least cannot afford.  But when I need something, I'll go to where I need to get it--not really a browser.  Where to begin here in this Festival of shopping?  And I think you need your game and your Chinese to get the good deal.  Gosh, there's just too much to look at.  Can't do it in 20 minutes.  No webcam today.
I also decide to hold off the taxi to the ExPat show and checkout all of these huge gifts that continue to loom in, I guess, this Festival of Shopping.  The red above the happy gray cubeface is the flag, flagging indeed compared to the bright optimism of this set. 

And above the happy faces, towering bags with overflowing presents.  It looms even larger than the skyscraper.
It puts me in the mood for looking.  I go into one of the malls.  I walk inside and immediately get a sinking feeling.  I can't.  It's too overwhelming. The lights.  The music.  The crowds inside.  I see the taxi stand at the foot of the escalator and head down.  But not before I notice a string of Toshiba ads, with a familiar face, standing tall like a goddess from above.
It's the diving queen Guo Jingjing, Olympic gold medalist and China beauty, who makes 2 mil a year in endorsements. She's all set.  This one is for computers.  Feel Quality.  Feel Toshiba.

I feel dizzy from the air and stimulus.  I descend the stairs and grab a cab from the taxi stand. The Vogs are doing me right!  And I'm off to the Shanghai zhan lan zhong xin.

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