Monday, September 20, 2010

Worlds Collide

The better part of four years as an international educator went by without intersecting realities. It wasn't until I was about to go back to Korea for the third and final time that I finally saw someone out of context, and seeing Dietrich in St. Louis hardly counts, since it was our common Missouri residence that drew us together in the first place. More than a year after that went by before it happened for real, with my mother coming to Korea, but it was not until I got to RAK that things really got interesting - I saw Evil first in Singapore (with Kit, even stranger!), then in India, and finally in the Emirates. I was with Socrates in Paris, and then London. You think this is no big deal, but it throws you for a loop, seeing someone in the wrong context. You lose your place in space and time.

I think Shanghai is going to be the most topsy-turvy place of all for these moments of displacement. Forget the fact that I've got three friends here from past lives - Shanghai is just perfectly placed to encourage these sort of encounters. Johnny V is a couple of hours away in Wuxi (there is a reunion in the works for next month), and the flight from Incheon to Shanghai is only a couple of hours long. And that is how Ange and Kat came to be here this weekend.

It's strange enough, seeing friends from one place in a completely different place. It's even weirder when you haven't spoken to them in about two years. And as the three of us walked down the streets of Pudong to the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, it gained an added dimension of oddness, as Shanghai has some marked similarities and yet, very subtle differences from Seoul...the river, the two sides of town, the subway, the tall, shiny buildings, but then you notice that the wash is hanging outside the windows, something a Korean would never do.

It was a nice visit, although I'm afraid I almost fell asleep every time I sat down (due to the fact that I only slept two hours the night before). We saw one of the world's worst tourist attractions - the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel - in all it's spacy, garish glory, as well as a kind of cool bronze mirror exhibit and a very lame aquarium. Took a walk along the Bund and looked out at the Dubai-esque upcropping of modern architecture on the other side of the Huangpu River, and grabbed a bite to eat at Shanghai Grandmother (decent food and not too expensive), before taking them to Yuyuan Gardens for a bit more traditional Chinese architecture. Most of these places were on the city tour my school took us on at the beginning of the year, but it was so bloody hot that I didn't enjoy it. Instead, I was now seeing them with friends on a fairly pleasant afternoon. Bonus. Unfortunately I sent them on to Nanjing Rd and People's Square alone - just a short trip up line 10 from Yuyuan - and went home to sleep the rest of the afternoon away with dreams of people in the wrong places at the wrong times (probably as much the result of the mind-altering Bund Sightseeing Tunnel as the visit of friends from Korea).

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