Difficult to imbibe the spirit of a place when you’re staying at the best of hotels and roaming around in an upmarket catchment, far away from the ennui and drill of everyday life.
But I found my China.
In the Dumb Charades I had to resort to in trying to buy something as basic as water and the giggles that followed.. in the hotpot lunch we ended up mistakenly ordering at a DIY restaurant only to have our next seat neighbour tell us how to make it ..in pooh poohing the stories I had heard of Shanghai road discipline as I possibly corrupted a good number of roads in the company of a big Chinese huddle running across red zebra crossings :) Apparently, Jay Walking is a problem I’m not the one to have introduced there.
It rained. And I got to tick off an item sitting at the top of my bucket list. I walked. In the rain. Without an umbrella. This probably wouldn’t feature on anyone’s bucket list. It does on mine. I never walk if I can help it. The only times when I take to even trying it is pre monsoon and perhaps, autumn. For the breeze and the grey skies. Shanghai gave me that. In the middle of summer.
It gave me better than that. I got to do it with my son who’s growing up to be a young man now. In the years to come, as he moves on, these moments, this holiday will stay with me. I walked and he walked with me. He will realise one day I ticked an item off his bucket list too. :)
Holidays have never been about places for me. They belong to the people I meet or the solitude I earn. I met warm, generous, and quick to laugh at themselves people. People who became friends in a matter of seconds, over a mistake, a misunderstanding. Mostly, no understanding :)
I ate a cuisine I have lived with for as many decades as I’ve lived but only got introduced to now. Chinese that tasted nothing like Chilli Chicken, Manchurian and Hakka Noodles. Veggies, that tasted better than well, veggies. A mix and match that defied every rule of sweet and sour I had thought possible.
I met a girl half my age. She spoke the same language. Not English. Just the same thoughts from her mouth. We spoke about parents, beliefs, friends, love, marriage, dreams, ambition and imagination. My son told me, ‘she makes it sound so simple mom..’ I’m so glad he met her. Sometimes life’s simplest lessons and hardest learnings become more believable coming from distant shores. They turn out to be more credible than eager beaver mommies.
China loves. And, it laughs. And it really inspires.