Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Better City, Better Life

This is the motto for the 2010 World Expo here in Shanghai, and while I haven't been to the expo (yet), I've got to say that I already agree. The last few days have been orientation for the school and the PYP, not the most exciting stuff but necessary. You can't expect to be paid for living a fab life in a foreign country without doing some work. But - as our new principal pointed out - work hard, play hard...and I don't think that's going to be hard here.

Don't get me wrong. Hongqiao is not the most exciting place in the world to live, but on the other hand, it's not without its charms...and I'm not talking about the Korean sauna a block away from my school. We've got the zoo, for one, and a charming little town called Qibao not too far away. But more to the point, it is IN Shanghai. We can go out on the weekend and the taxi's only going to cost four bucks either way. I took the subway clear across town to church on Sunday, and it was less than a dollar. It's a proper city. I love it.

And if Hongqiao isn't in the thick of it, so what? Last night (a week after landing) I decided to go to Carrefour and buy my bike. I've been thinking about getting one since arriving and finally caved after seeing two of my new colleagues pedal off from school on theirs yesterday. It cost me just a little more than a hundred dollars - it's black, an Athena, made by Giant. Yes, for those of you who know my love for Greek mythology, the name was one of the reasons I chose the bike I did...I was actually planning to buy the red Giant next to it until I realized that it was called Athena. Now, Athena is the goddess of wisdom, which may prove ironic since riding a bike in China can be a bit dicey, but I guess we'll see. I've never been one to wear a helmet and if I start now I'll get laughed off the road by the Chinese.

Okay, so back to the experience of buying my bike...when I got this impulse (shortly after receiving my reimbursement for my plane ticket, strangely enough) to drop a thousand kuai on an ongoing near-death experience (joking!), it was not, actually raining. By the time the taxi got to the Carrefour in Gubei, big fat drops of rain were falling. Hard. I sat down at Macca's and tried to wait it out with Jason Bourne (courtesy of my friend, the GlamWhore) while snarfing down fries and a coke (I've learned my lesson when it comes to the chicken sandwiches). It seemed to get lighter, finally, so I went up and picked out my bike and a bunch of accessories...helmets I may not do, but I'm not totally stupid: I got a basket, a light, and two locks, because I figured if I was the kind who steals bikes I'd go for the posh one with the gear shift and everything....which the very helpful sales clerk who spoke some English installed for me while I went upstairs to exchange my receipt for a fa piao invoice. Then, after I'd stalled as long as possible, I left Carrefour and rode out. Into a downpour. As it turns out, it is a LOT faster to cycle between Gubei and Hongqiao, but those raindrops are a lot more annoying when you're hitting them at 20 mph. And although you'd think once you were thoroughly drenched (after about 5 minutes, the way it was coming down) that it wouldn't matter if you got WETTER, trust me when I say that you still feel it. Not that it bothered me...I was having the time of my life. But I preferred it tonight when I didn't have to peel off my clothes and find a place for them to start dripping dry when I got back to the hotel. And it was my ride tonight when I came across the expo signs that proudly proclaimed, "Better City, Better Life." Hell, yeah, it is.