Tonight was one of those nights when it feels great to be in Shanghai.
The weather has cooled down a bit from scorching to simply warm, the humidity easing up, making for great patio weather. I really respond to good weather and have noticed what a difference it makes in my enjoyment level. Up until now, evenings were the only bearable time of day to be outside at all, but now I can explore during the day if I wish without wilting and passing out and then enjoy a refreshingly cool evening as well.
Our first friends in Shanghai, Kellie and Gregg, are great companions for such evenings out, exploring new found eateries or watering holes. David met these two before I arrived, when they approached him on the street to ask advice about where to live. They have told me since that they "profiled" him: white guy who looks like he lives here. It's funny to think how this one small chance meeting made all the difference in the world to my life here. When I moved here, we all met for dinner and it just clicked. The guys are similar and the girls are similar. We're all easy going. Kellie is a journalist, so we go to a writer's group here fairly often and talk about writing in general. The guys are really into studying Chinese (cough...nerds...) among other common interests. We all like hiking and camping, having a drink, making new friends, etc. It is also great to have friends who are going through the same stages as you are, so you don't feel too alone in this big ol' town.
I always know it's a great thing when I can hang out with a couple and not feel awkward at all. When David is here, we all get together and get along so well, and it doesn't change a bit when I fly solo. Nights out with Kellie and Gregg are a really fun time. (Now, I know they might read this at some point and think, Damn! We are awesome! All I can say is, don't let it go to your heads. I can very easily tell the "We Got Scammed" story!) Evil grin....
So Kellie is finishing up an article on wine bars in Shanghai and we've been helping her "research."
"Another glass? Why yes, I believe I will..." Homework has never been so sweet.
I've been to a couple of these test visits and it's been a great way to see some different areas. Wine is somewhat new in Shanghai, popular for ages in the expatriate circles for sure, but the Chinese are just starting to catch on. At least with very few wine specific bars in existence, it narrows the search and we don't have to become winos to get the story right.
This evening was projected to be the last outing for the article, and we ended up at Globus Wine in the northwest corner of the former French Concession, the same district David and I, and Kellie and Gregg, live in, although on the opposite end. An acquaintance of theirs, Yan, from France, who also brought a friend along, met us for the evening as well. His friend had a French name that only the French can pronounce, so I decided not to slaughter it, and therefore cannot remember it. But they were very nice folks and the friend picked out the wine for us to share, so it felt more authentic having been picked by a Frenchman. Plus, there was cheese involved. It just felt like the good life. Wine, cheese, friends, sitting outside in the cool night air. Just lovely.
After a couple hours of great conversation, we parted ways, at first in the apparent way of Americans, i.e. the handshake, but then a retry with the French double cheek kiss when we suddenly felt too formal. Ah, culture clash. If there had been a Chinese person present, we would have been in a real pickle, because they don't even shake hands goodbye. Heck, they barely even wave!
I shared a cab back with Gregg and Kellie as my bike was at their apartment. Cabs are very cheap here, but they are even cheaper when you share one and boy was I glad I did on this particular evening. Halfway home, I noticed some music and asked if it was coming from us, as in, from our cab. The three of us agreed that it was indeed coming from the car stereo and that it was, in fact, Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" song. (For those not into the rap/hip hop scene, this is a pretty well known singer/rapper. I am definitely not cool enough to know much about this genre, but I know enough to recognize Snoop Dog when I hear it. Word to the wise: don't look up the lyrics.) Now, cab drivers here are pretty straightforward and all business, at least in my experience, and any music I have ever heard on the radio has been Chinese pop or some type of music that requires only that the lyrics be sappy. So this WAS a change!
We all got the biggest kick out of this and started laughing and dancing in our seats. This got the cab driver excited, so he cranked up the volume! Here we are, cruising down some busy street in Shanghai, blasting hip hop. That, my friends, is living. It made absolutely no sense, and was quite the juxtaposition to the first part of the evening, but that's why I loved it. Start with cheese and wine and end up bustin' a move in the back of a cab. You just never know what this city is going to throw at you!