We were eating lunch at The 3rd on The Bund when our server asked us where we were from. When we told her Atlanta I heard a voice behind me say:
"No kidding, what part of Atlanta?"
It turns out that he lives just four miles from our house in Atlanta. Unbelievable! We have traveled over eight thousand miles to a city of eighteen million people and we sit two feet away from a guy that lives in our neighborhood. What are the chances?
Earlier today we spent some time walking through the People's Park and window shopping as we made our way to The Bund. But after an hour and a half we discovered we had only walked halfway to the Bund.
Time for a taxi.
We were eating at The New Heights, an open air restaurant on the 7th floor of The 3rd on the Bund. The New Heights serves overpriced food to foreigners who can't bear to eat noodles and rice at the shops below. For example, I paid 85 yen (about $13) for eggs benedict. Outrageous! I paid $7 for Qingdao beer here but it's just $2 elsewhere. We were paying for the view and atmosphere. Flags on the buildings adjacent ours danced in the gentle breeze and we watched ships float by on the river below. We sipped beer and ate cheese bread while we enjoyed a nice selection of jazz piped to our rooftop table. We reasoned that we deserved this after our five mile walk to the Bund. Maybe.
The Bund is a promenade skirting a waterway that streams through the center of Shanghai. Since today was Sunday, the promenade was especially full of folks walking, eating, and flying kites. Vendors swarmed us like bees collecting pollen in an attempt to collect some money from us foreigners. Maite bought 10 postcards for a dollar. Tim got his shoes shined for just a buck forty..
The overcast haze that shrouded Shanghai when we started out on our journey this morning burned off and it became a warm 70 degree afternoon. Our plans? Meet a friend here that used to live in Atlanta. We arranged to meet at a shopping mall in Shanghai. Tim, Maite and Ruth shopped for a tea set while I nodded off on one of the nearby benches.
We were able to meet up with our friends and see their new apartment. The furniture is provided by the landlord and it is exquisite. Intricate wood carved rosewood chairs, tables and display shelves covered in black lacquer finishes add class and beauty while their solid wood floor adds warmth and charm to the interior.
I've been the designated copilot for our forays into Shanghai. I hop in the passenger's seat and tell the driver where we want to go in broken Chinese. After some map pointing he slaps the timer to the dash and injects us into a vein of pulsating cars, buses, and mopeds that keep Shanghai commercially alive. My pulse rises as our corpuscle of a car streams through the traffic in search of our destination.
Our highlight was spending some time with a group of friends and learning more Chinese. The rule was that we had to tell our stories using as much Chinese as we knew. But I spent most of my evening with a young student laughing and teaching him English idioms.
"So" he said, "I fly by the seat of my pants, shoot from the hip, and wing it when I'm not prepared? Right?"
"By George, I think you've got it. "
It is not down in any map; true places never are. ~Herman Melville
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