Shanghai – A City in Perpetual Haze

Yesterday dawned as any other day in Shanghai – slightly dark, the haze permeating the air.  According to several Internet resources, although the haze disappears for about half an hour after it rains, there rarely is a day free from it.  Since it has a tendency to cause adverse effects, much of the activity in Shanghai has been driven indoors or in high alleyways.

Our first stop yesterday was the area of the French commission – a series of alleys that were once residential, but have been turned into an upscale line of shops and restaurants.  This area is one of the most beautiful in Shanghai* the alleyways are relatively slim and the buildings are high, so it´s free from the haze* also, the architecture is in the elegant French style.

Once we were given time to explore, I decided to visit an American grill and subsequently indulged in a fruit and yogurt parfait, along with some English breakfast tea.  As a side note on another difference between Beijing and the City of Haze, the street vendors are very different.  In Beijing, they carry their wares on their shoulders, forcing them into the would-be customers’ faces and shouting the names of their different products.  Shanghai´s vendors, true to the city´s industrial style, generally all own their own shops and have people standing outside of them advertising.  While still forceful by American standards, they are much less pushy than those in Beijing.  Nowhere was this clearer than in the other main section we visited after the Yu Gardens.  This (I sadly have forgotten the Chinese name) was a series of tight alleyways lined with shops and restaurants, packed with people, in a layout almost or even as confusing as London´s system of underground railways.  It´s as crowded as an elevator, and less fluid.  It´s worth commenting that the buildings were even higher than in the French commission, and so the haze was relatively absent (although a few traces were still visible). I did, however, find my way back to a musical instrument shop that had caught my eye.

After producing wild bird style screeching noises on an erhu (a Chinese violin, played similarly to a cello), a Chinese flute, and a pan pipe, I almost bought a harmonica, but stopped myself when I realized that I could buy one anywhere in America.  And so it happened that I bought a gong.  It was worth it when I returned to the large square in the alleys that was our meeting place – every single person, not only YOSA, jumped.  At the same time, I learned that the gong, in China, generally meant that a show was about to start.  Not having brought my tap shoes, I quickly stowed it.  The time to leave came, and one person was still missing.  We shouted (in unison) this person´s name, then began a chant of YO-SA, YO-SA.  We saw one curious police officer, then Mr. Peters informed us that we were surrounded by eight or more.  Happily the person arrived and we departed once more into the haze.

Michael Vybiral

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2 Responses to “Shanghai – A City in Perpetual Haze”

  1. Laura Dylla Says:

    Michael, your posts are very enlightening and descriptive. Thanks. And yes, you don’t make scenes in China, unless you are American Teenagers…lol

  2. Marian wagner Says:

    TAP SHOES, no less! Buddy, you’re a stitch!

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