On her last day in Jakarta, she was suddenly told that her gigs in Shanghai had been cancelled because the Chinese authorities had closed down the comedy club. But her flights and her accommodation there were already booked…
I was not happy about my trip to Shanghai because I thought I had two nights performing comedy and now I was just visiting the largest city in the world to see sights I really did not care that much about.
Promoter Andy Curtain and his sidekick Mohammed were lovely and caring about the cancellation and had not only promised to guide me through the visit but to change plans so I went on to Beijing a bit earlier.
It took an hour to get from Shanghai Airport to the hotel, but I was immediately struck by the lack of congestion on the roads compared with Jakarta. There were lots and lots of high-rise apartment and office buildings all along the route. Everything looked clean and very modern compared to Indonesia.
The hotel was called Xiangyang Fandian. When we arrived the woman at the front desk took an instant dislike to me. Or seemed to. But she did not speak much English, so, really, we could not communicate.
The language was a mystery, not that many people speak English and I am not a good sightseer so I was very uncomfortable in the city.
However, Shanghai is interesting. There are lots of green spaces and, although it is huge, it does not feel crowded or congested. There are a lot of military around which is unsettling, but the police do not seem to bother anyone (or could it be they just didn’t bother ME?).
Andy helped me get on the Internet. China has blocked Google and Facebook and you have to pay for VPN to access these sites.
I got some work done on the computer and had lunch at a breakfast place called Egg, founded by woman from New Jersey who is very active in the restaurant scene in Shanghai.
Then I walked over to the park. Evidently people dance in the park all day but sadly, by the time I got there, there was only one man doing Tai Chi. I was amused to seeing so many men bring their babies to the park. I never think of men as doing that kind of thing, but – hey! – it’s a new world and a new way of thinking about life… or so I am told.
As I did not do a show, I felt very plain. I prefer to feel shimmery and amazing. I just don’t know how you ordinary people do it.
That night I took a walk to find an Italian restaurant and, on the way, I stumbled on a gorgeous and very expensive French bistro, Saleya on Changle Road. I ate in a vine-protected porch-like area with lots of rattan furniture. It was peaceful, relaxing meal: there was no piped-in music!!! The place was relatively empty but, over in corner, were two men with their very small elaborately coiffed poodles. Evidently dogs are fine in restaurants in China. And there is a gay scene in Shanghai.
Andy recommended a tour of the Jewish section of Shanghai that his friend Dvir Bar-Gal offers and I signed up for it.
I am aware of the migration of Jews to China when Hitler began his purge of the Jews and I know they lived in abject poverty crammed together like sardines in unheated, inadequate shelters with one toilet for many and often no toilet at all, but this tour really brought it all to life. It was a long tour, 4 hours, but not tiring. What I noticed most was the smell. There is a close gamey odour to the streets, particularly in the poor area where the Jewish ghetto was.
The people on the tour were aged 50 or more and one 73-year-old woman from Toronto, Katherine, befriended me which was nice. It was not a very friendly crowd other than Katherine and I am certain Dvir was a bit offended by my smart remarks. He asked us all what the motivator to the success of all Jews was and I said: “A Jewish Mother”. Silence.
It turns out that business is the foundation of all Jewish enterprise. Who knew?
When the tour was over, Katherine suggested I join Adrian, Shirley and her for dinner at M on the Bund a very fancy 7th floor restaurant.
The Bund is an area of modern skyscrapers along the western riverfront in the city and is filled with flowers and lots and lots of people. The dinner was really wonderful because of the conversation. It turned out that Adrian is a psychiatrist and Shirley collects exotic perfume bottles. Katherine is an investment guru. Katherine talked about how she had had four husbands and someone accused her of serial monogamy. I had only two husbands and no real childhood hardship. My biggest conflict was which cashmere sweater to wear with which skirt (and I always picked the wrong one, according to my mother).
After the meal, the three of them put me in a cab and this was the only really horrid experience I had while there.
The cab driver (like most of them) could not speak English.
He agreed to take me home for 60 yuan and I gave him my hotel key envelope with the address on it. But, when we got to the hotel, he wanted 80 yuan. I didn’t want to argue, but wanted the address ticket I had shown him because that was how I could show people who cannot speak English where I am staying. I simply couldn’t make myself understood, so he just grabbed the money and sped away AS I got out of the moving car.
I am convinced that I handled it badly, however.
He really did not know what I was asking him. I could have asked a passer-by to translate but you always think of these sensible solutions after the fact don’t you?
I finished off my computer stuff after that fiasco and went to bed, setting the alarm for 8:30am. Sadly my clock was having the same problem as my circadian rhythm and I overslept until 9:25am. But I managed to pack and get dressed in 10 minutes, found the driver Andy had scheduled, and off I went to the airport.
Next stop Beijing.
… CONTINUED HERE…