Into the Darkness for Dinner…….Memories of Shanghai

Original post: Saturday, October 25th, 2008, on a blog that no longer exists.

Last night we ate at a restaurant called “The Black Cafe” with our friends Andrea and Patrick. It is a restaurant geared towards allowing its patrons to step into the shoes of someone who is blind.

The first level is a bar called “The Visual Zone.” It has dim lighting, and is a comfy area to have a few drinks. It is also where you look at the menu, make your dinner selections, and stow your belongings in a locker, in anticipation of the mess you’re going to make eating in the dark. Once you have prepared yourself, you are led up a narrow and winding staircase to “The Dark Zone.”

When you arrive at the top of the stairs, you are introduced to your blind waiter or waitress, who leads you and your party choo-choo train style, through a dark curtain to your table. Each person is directed to their chair, and once all parties are seated, the waitress will tell you where each and every item on the table sits. Silverware, cups, water bottles, napkin. The meal is served as in every other restaurant, bread and drinks, salad, soup, main course, then dessert. Bill and Andrea had chosen the beef filet, Patrick and I, “the mystery meal.” Each course would be a surprise, but we were assured it consisted of items we had seen on the menu.

The evening consisted of plenty of feeling around the table and your plate. There was a water bottle and bread basket for Patrick and Andrea, and one for Bill and I. ” Is this our breadbasket?” “Where’s my beer?” “Oops, there wasn’t actually anything on my fork that time.” ” I’m trying to figure out if there is anything left on my plate.” “What are you handing me, Bill? Oh, another tomato…..I see that you can even sniff them out. No fooling you.”

The food was extremely tasty, and for those of you who are wondering, the mystery meal was the same as the others for the salad and soup, and the main course was a very pleasant surprise. Chicken, smoked ham, shrimp, beef filet with a convenient bone handle, veggies, and a potato. The only thing I couldn’t identify was in my salad, and may have been a mild piece of fish…….but I don’t want to know, nor think about it.

We adjusted to being in the dark, and even stayed around to chat after we finished our meal. Nothing was spilled, and they kindly supplied napkins that were much bigger than your average China napkin, which is usually a cocktail glass size, or tissue (literally). It was a great night, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. All in all, a great life experience!

Author’s note: Unfortunately, this restaurant has since closed for business.

 

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Crazy Lucky

I am crazy lucky.

I have three beautiful, smart, kind, loving, funny, and sometimes difficult,  children. They talk back, whine, fight, and complain. They give, share, hug, snuggle, teach, laugh, and smile. I wouldn’t change a bit of it. God has blessed me with, and trusted me to raise, three of His creations. I am crazy lucky.

I have a handsome, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, goofy, gentlemanly,  and sometimes frustrating, husband. There are times I think he must have ear plugs in. He is moderately forgetful, and definitely procrastinates. He opens my car door, holds my hand, including when we go to sleep at night, and spoils me rotten on my birthday. I’ll take it all. God has blessed me with the most amazing man. I am crazy lucky.

Thirteen years ago, I was severely ill, but I cheated death.  I never even thought death was possible, until the threat was over. Crohn’s disease, as I discussed in a post earlier this year, tried to kill me. It failed miserably. It may have taken a few physical parts of me, but it GAVE me lessons that were far more important. Appreciation. Love. Insight, to live happy, and grateful. In fact, it gave me life. Although I will always have it, I have been in remission ever since. God blessed me with the opportunity to make the most of my life, and I do. I have a love of life that I never would have had, if not for Crohn’s disease.  I am crazy lucky.

My family and I have been given opportunities that many are not. Adventures that I would have never taken advantage of, before my illness. We lived in, and travelled all over, China for four years. We’ve had family vacations in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau. My children took week-long school trips. Camped on, and hiked, unrestored sections of the Great Wall to see the sunrise. Excavated archaeological sites in Gansu province for dinosaur, and dinosaur-aged, fossils, and brought them home in handfuls, wrapped in paper towels.  Swim meets in Taiwan, and drama workshops in Manila. Finally, a girls’ weekend in South Korea. The DMZ, palaces, Korean BBQ, shopping, and a show. Thirty-six hours for a friend and I, before we moved back to the U.S. I have friends all over the world, literally. God blessed us with experiences, relationships, and memories that we could have never imagined. I am crazy lucky.

The kids and I returned from China six months before Bill, as I had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. It is a myeloproliferarive disorder, called Essential Thrombocythemia. It causes high platelets,  and requires that I take a chemo pill every day. It will always require treatment. It does not go away. It is fairly controllable though, and it is only a pill or two, along with frequent blood tests. The chances I will live a normal life span are fairly high. So, once again, God has blessed me. I am crazy lucky.

I am not alone. We all have ups and downs in life. Illness. Death. Job loss. Weddings, new babies, or an unexpected promotion. We have good days, and bad. It is how we choose to deal with those times, and what we take away from them, that matters. I choose to live my life with gratitude and happiness. I try to be the best I can be, and enjoy my time on Earth with every part of my being. I love my life. God has blessed me in many ways. I am crazy lucky!

 

Centipedes, Spiders, and Slugs…..Oh My!

Centipedes, Spiders, and Slugs….Oh My!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bill and I have been looking into moving to an apartment when our lease is up in February. We have been fairly happy with the house we have been in, but among a number of other minor reasons, we are trying to get away from some of the bugs. It is very humid in Shanghai,  which proves to be a marvelous breeding environment for mosquitos. Every time we open a door or window, a multitude fly in. If we move to an apartment above the 5th or 6th floor, we will reduce the number of mosquitos that get into our home. This last summer, we slept with mosquito nets on our beds, and Raid plug-ins in each room. Bill would actually use bug spray when he woke up in the morning, so that he wouldn’t get eaten alive in our STUDY. One night a mosquito, (or two, three, four..etc) got into Ethan’s net, and he was bitten 69 times (yes, he counted.)

We also frequently have REALLY LONG centipedes in the house. Although they seem really cool to look at in books, on TV, or in photos, I haven’t found them quite as intriguing when they are skittering across my kitchen floor. They actually, to put it mildly, complelely CREEP ME OUT! I’m generally the girl who sees a bug, grabs a tissue, paper towel, or shoe, and smashes them without blinking. With centipedes, I grab a paper towel AND make sure I have shoes on, before I drop the paper towel on top of them,  and SCREAM everytime I stomp down on it. This must be done very quickly though, as they are very speedy little creepers! I think the children, considering how quickly they jumped on my bed the other day, have the same opinion as me. There’s nothing quite as terrifying as thinking that there’s a dead centipede on your bedroom floor, and calling the kids in to see it, and then having it suddenly come back to life and scurry off. YIKES!

Then there are the slugs. I have seen a few almost “cute” slugs on the street, while waiting with the kids for the school bus in the morning. If you look closely, you can see their antenna, and I can picture them singing, like in the movie, “Flushed Away.” However, one evening, when our inside kitchen door was accidentally locked (we haven’t been able to find a key for it), Bill ran outside to go through the back door to unlock it. He didn’t take the time to put on shoes, and apparently, the slugs that visit our patio at night are of the extremely large, mutant, variety with an especially squishy, slide factor when stepped on. This makes for a very unhappy husband.

We also have a resident spider (not the spider pictured above). Her web is suspended between two bushes right outside our house, where the children wait for the bus. She hasn’t bothered us in any way, minding her own business and collecting all sorts of bugs in her giant web, but she is one of those large, white, spiders, much like the one who was in my car on my way home from my 20 week ultrasound wihile pregnant with Ethan. The one that I was pretty sure my very nasty ultrasound technician had morphed into, before she stationed herself above my head on the car’s window frame after I left the hospital (what else could it be? I had never seen a white spider before!) I noticed her, right after I turned onto the main road on my way home. I started frantically looking for a place to pull over, but before I did, I felt her drop onto my head. I made a quick turn into a condo complex, all but FELL out of the car, and proceeded to jump up and down, shaking my head and hair towards the ground, doing the ” There’s a spider in my hair dance” in front of a lawn maintenance crew. Good times. Good times.

Last week we did find an apartment we liked, and if everything goes well, we will be moving in February. We will be on the ninth floor, and are hoping to at least REDUCE the number of bugs and such in our living space here.

 

The Town That Time Forgot

……………And back to my beloved China.

The Time That Time Forgot

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today, on the way home from the Chinese New Year performances at the children’s school, Brennan referred to the village we pass through as “the town that time forgot.” I have written about this town before, how poor it is, and the contrast between it, and the high-tech American school down the street. This statement made me start thinking about other things in Shanghai, and how they compare to what we see in the United States.

The cargo trucks which we see on the streets of this city look like they drove right out of the 1960s. Whether they are that old or not, I do not know, but the design does not seem to have changed since then, and they all look very weathered. The taxis seem to be 80s style VW Santana. Run down and stinky. Painted in crazy colors like “Aquafresh” green and “Monk garb” yellow.

Most of the time, the locals here do not wear helmets when riding bikes, scooters, or motorcycles. If they do don headgear, it seems to have popped right out of a Godzilla movie, or maybe Hogan’s Heroes, and is usually not secured to their head. Here it is very common to see an entire family (usually one man, one woman, and a child, but sometimes more) riding around town on the same bike. Baby or child sandwiched between mom and dad, or a woman or child riding side-saddle on a board attached over the back wheel.

Outside the gates of our compound, they are building new housing. The crane they are using appears to be a hand-me-down, passed on from generation to generation for the last 40 years. Some of the materials they are using look like they have also seen better days. Rusted metal re-enforcing bar, broken bricks. These will all be concealed in a thick layer of cement. In China, the bricks go on the inside of the structure, never seen unless the building is going up, or coming down.

In Shanghai, there are no drive-thru restaurants. Take out, actually requires getting out of the car (unless you order Sherpas, like we do, and have it delivered to your door), and your food cannot be paid for with a credit card. Regulations on food, such as milk, eggs, and meat are just recently starting to catch up with western countries. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold off of the back of trucks and carts parked throughout the city. Many locals buy their food on a day-to-day basis, as not everyone has a refrigerator.

This “lost in time” feel can also be very charming, though. In China, you can walk around the corner from a five-star hotel, and feel like you have just travelled to a quaint 1940s Chinese village. A place where life is simplified. Far from the hustle and bustle of today’s world. Where neighbors sit and chat outside for hours at a time, while they shuck corn, or snap green beans. Above their heads, their laundry is hanging on a line to dry.

Shanghai is at the same time, very modern. The five-story science museum is like none I have ever seen before. There is a Maglev train. It is not uncommon to see Ferrari and Porsches. There are almost 100 Starbucks throughout the city. Five-star hotels, five-star restaurants, upscale malls, countless fancy, expat, housing compounds, international schools, and billion-dollar western companies. Disney is very close to a deal with the Chinese government to build its largest park in the world here (Shanghai Disney is now expected to open in 2016.)They have recently opened a cruise ship port. The soccer events for the 2008 Olympic games were held in Shanghai, and the World Expo will be held here in 2010.

I guess these things are what keep Shanghai so completely engaging to me. I never get tired of watching out the car window, as we travel the streets of the city. I will always see something I have never noticed before, or something I expect I will never see again.

 

Visions of China…….

This blog was written during our time in Shanghai, our second home, which I miss everyday.

Visions of China

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As I look out the window of the tour-style bus that I ride with the children on Tuesdays, I think about how my views of China have changed in the last 8 months. When we first arrived I noticed the extreme poverty that is prevelant in so many areas, and how it is so close in relation to areas of extreme wealth.

Right outside of the gates of over-priced, over-sized, ostentatious compund, is a gentleman who sells Chinese pottery. He has just recently chosen this spot to set up “shop.” A mere ten feet from his products, stands his tent. This is his home, not just shade for the day. Just 50 feet from his location, the migrant worker’s housing starts. This is a “neighborhood” built of tin shacks, where the men, and sometimes their families, who are building the new part of our compound live.

When we first arrived, I was greatly bothered by these sights, but they are common to me now. I still find it very sad, but it is no longer a shock to see. It is everywhere. Tucked into the corners of downtown Shanghai, next to five-star hotels and expensive shopping, and on the road which leads to Shanghai American School.

I have stopped looking at these things as upsetting, and begun to enjoy watching the people within them. I find these areas are one of my favorite parts of life in China. Of course this is from the outside looking in. I could never imagine living this way, but they handle it gracefully. It is all they have ever known.

On the road to the school, there is a small, poor, town. It is not a tin shack town, but a few steps higher on the housing ladder. People sit outside their homes eating breakfast, doing laundry, taking care of grandchildren. The “shops” consist of open stalls, selling whatever the locals may need. Everything looks old and dirty. Items we would probably never touch. The local school looks like a warehouse, or even an abandoned buiding. It took me a long time to realize it was the town school. I see the students occasionally, lined up to go inside.

A few hundred yards away, the gates to another expensive housing compound, and an international American school. Millions of dollars of materials and technology, just a short walk from poverty. We know which provides the better education. We know which kids are sure to have a full tummy at night. We know which children have a better chance of physical health.  I wonder how the souls of those children compare with mine. I’m sure they’re full of family, friends, and love, with no expectation of anything else.

 

 

Time-Travel in Shanghai

Although it’s more appropriate for a Throwback Thursday, today, I’m returning to one of my most memorable moments in Shanghai.  Where old and new, Asian and Western, and poverty and wealth collide.

Thursday Time-Travelers

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bill and I have spent the last few Thursday nights on the town, while the kids stay home with Ayi.  This past week, we had an errand to run before we went to dinner.

Bill is traveling to India in July, so we needed to turn in the documents for his visa. Once we arrive at the necessary office, they directed us to a side street across the road, so Bill could get the correct passport size photos taken. Mr. Tao parked the car, and he and Bill went to the “cubby hole”  which was the “photo shop.”

As I waited in the car, I watched the local activity, smacking myself for not having my camera with me. We were on a street that looked like we had teleported back in time to the 60s or 70s in China. Much farther in the States. We sat by an ancient two-story building, lined with doorway after doorway, only 10 feet apart. Older Chinese men and women, sitting in front of their homes, on bamboo chairs, sharing each other’s company, in the late afternoon sun. Beside one of the doorways, was a cabinet holding what appeared to be a number of family’s wares.  Next door, a gentleman closes up his “shop” for the day, putting away the homemade sign with a handsaw drawn on it. Taking down the worn kettles and pots that had hung on the wall. Upstairs, someone sits close to the open window, resting their elbows on the sill, and leaning out into the fresh air.

Two school boys walk up to the car, one staring in at the console. The other slapping him on the back and telling him, “Too expensive,” in Mandarin. They then walk to the back of the car, where I notice they are now looking at it from the rear. They are so entranced by the car that they have no idea I am watching from behind the tinted, rear windows. Our car is one of thousands of silver, Buick minivans which travel the streets of Shanghai everyday, but it would seem that none have ever been so close.

Once BIll and Mr. Tao return, we head to dinner, a mere five-minute drive from the small side street. The restaurant is one of about six or eight expensive, modern, and chic locations on the Huangpu River which runs through the city. They serve gourmet international cuisine and fine wine, with panoramic views of the cityscape. They spare no expense in dinnerware, furniture, or staff. It is a well-known and frequently visited location in the life of the wealthiest Chinese, and the expat community, but not one of the people on that side street that has endeared me today, could ever imagine.

Bill and I are early for our reservation, so we enjoy a glass of wine in the bar one floor below the restaurant, where we meet and chat with the owner of both.  She is Australian, and was the first to open a restaurant overlooking the river. She is directing her staff in rearranging the furniture. It’s early, so no other customers are there. Later, it will be packed.

Once we are seated on the terrace for our meal, we order a few starters of lobster and salad. When it is time to order our main course, I order “Veal Faggot with Sweetbreads.” I am initially deterred by the word “Faggot,” because I don’t know what it means, then decide it is probably just the way it is served, and veal sounds good, besides, “Sweet Bread” sounds delicious…..I like “sweet” bread. Bill goes with steak.

Before the meal arrives, Bill gets a “swimmer” in his wine, and we let the waitress know. I think she will get him a new glass, Bill thinks she will “fish” it out. BIll wins. She brings over a spoon, cloth napkin, and a new, empty, wine glass. She fishes it out, puts it on the napkin, tells him “good wine,” and asks him if he wants the clean glass. Meeting the owner already, I know she would not approve of this, but we let it go, chalking it up as one of the quirks of living in China. The waitress leaves, and Bill decides he doesn’t want the tainted wine after all, so I chug it down for him. The wait staff chuckle behind us at his facial expressions.

Our meal arrives and it is tasty, but mine has a funny texture, and where is the sweet bread?! I learn later, online, that the “faggot” was the giant meatball that was on my plate, and is made up of all the “extra” parts of the animal.  The other half of my dinner, which had a strange texture, but was fabulous, was the “sweetbread.” Not at all “bread,” but instead a dish made of glands from around the heart and neck. Who in their right mind would call this “sweetbread?!” Towards the end of our meal, fireworks start going off across the river, and the skyline is lit with the lights that make Shanghai, Shanghai.

Two different worlds, only minutes apart. Both scenes are beautiful. Both scenes forever engrained in my memory.

 

A Rainy Day in Shanghai

This is a throwback blog from our time in Shanghai. With all the rainy spring days we have had lately, it seemed appropriate. It was a second home to us, and I always love to reminisce about our China days.

Rainy Day…..

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yesterday was a rainy day. I sat by the second story window of our local Starbucks, drinking a non-fat latte, and watching the people on the streets below. With my indoor seat and warm beverage, I think that regardless of the rain, it is a beautiful day.

I watch the lady who sells Mylar children’s balloons on the sidewalk. She has them tied to the back of the bike she transported them on, and I wish I could have seen her trip from home. That would have been a great picture. She sells one each, to two young Chinese women, and as they walk off with their purchases, a man walks behind them, smirking at their childish fun.

Locals pass on their bikes. Their children sit in wire seats behind them. On motorized scooters, children stand behind the handle bars and their parents legs. Others have sandwiched a child between two adult riders on the seat. Age is of no concern. No helmets are worn. Some wear ponchos, some do not. It is not raining very hard yet, so no one is in a hurry.

The armored car arrives to service what has to be one of the most used money machines in Shanghai. Two security guards get out dressed in bullet proof vests, helmets, and carrying what look to me like machine guns, followed by two money handlers. They move into the building with one guard in front, and one in back. The one in back must feel pretty cool, as he has a swagger to his walk. I have been at the ATM when this entourage arrives. It is unnerving, to say the least.

When they are done, they return to the truck. The swaggering man ditches the machine gun and helmet, but leaves on the vest, and returns to the building. The other guard takes off his vest and helmet,  leaves the gun in the truck, and returns to the building in black street clothes. They come back out minutes later, nothing in hand. Must have been a bathroom break. I can tell they are young. This must feel like a very powerful job.

By the time I am ready for Mr. Tao to pick me up, it is pouring outside. There are several silver Buick minivans parked by the road, but it is a 25 meter walk across the courtyard to the street, and I have forgotten my umbrella. I call him to try to figure out which van is ours, but it is lost in translation. His English is limited. I see a police car in the area and I bet on the fact that he has seen it, and parked around the corner. They don’t like drivers to sit on this part of the street to wait. Luckily, if Mr. Tao doesn’t understand you when you call, he usually assumes he is needed at the pickup location.

A minivan pulls up, and I decide to run for it. There are literally thousands of silver Buick minivans driving around Shanghai everyday. It is the telltale sign of an expat. The windows are tinted so I can’t see in, and the license plate can’t be seen from the side of the car. It is raining too hard to try to get to a better angle to see it. The automatic door opens and I jump inside. Generally, your driver will open the door as you walk up, so I am betting it is him.  One day, I will get into a car, and it won’t be, but the rightful owners will be right behind me. The door being opened for them.

I never tire of watching everyday life here. I love experiencing a different culture. Some of it is mind-boggling, but much of it endearing. There is rarely a boring moment, when you live in Shanghai.

 

 

The Countdown

As Bill and I count down to our 25th anniversary trip, I am going to reflect on some earlier anniversary celebrations. The following blog entry is one of my mom’s favorites.

Bill and Beth Celebrate 18 Years…..

Sunday, April 6, 2008

On Saturday night, Bill and I went to a restaurant called “La Villa Rouge” to celebrate our anniversary.  It is set in quaint old house, which was once part of a recording company. A park has been created behind it, where the record factory once stood, and at this time of day is scattered with older women doing Tai Chi, and children volleying balls around. We had the place to ourselves, as we were having an early dinner, with a table by a large window facing the park. It was the kind of restaurant where kids are not commonly seen, and you get a little bit of very tasty food, at a very steep price.

We ordered a bottle of wine, with no worries about who would drink how much…..a benefit of having a driver, and the couple who hardly ever drinks, finished it off. That would be a first in 18 years. Now if you had been the waiter, or the other two gentlemen standing at the desk, you may have thought I was drunk on my way to the ladies room. This impression may have begun to develop when the American girl (that would be me) came down the stairs and missed a step at the bottom of the first landing. Our waiter, being the gentleman that he was, put his hands out to try to catch me if I continued to fall. He was, however, still a flight below me. I steadied myself as I walked across the landing and then promptly stumble down one…..”I’m fine”………two….”Whoops!”…….three……”Honestly, I’m not drunk!” …….more steps. All the while, our fine, young waiter is standing at the bottom with his arms out, trying to save my ass. Each time I stumble, he apologizes. “Oh, saury……saury…….oh, saury!” Just for the record, they were shallow steps, and the back of my heel kept catching on the last one. I was not drunk! Just very relaxed.

After dinner, we went to the beautiful Shanghai Oriental Arts Center to see a Yue Opera. We were two of what appeared to be five westerners in the whole place, and better dressed than all but the cast. Apparently dressing up is not what they do for the opera in China. They had screens with English translation to the sides of the stage, but you could get the basic story without them anyway. It was the story of an army general and his wife, and there were several other male characters in the show, however, in the tradition of the Yue Opera, every one of them was played by a female. It was a fun experience, and the costumes were gorgeous.

After a romantic, child-free evening together, we arrived home happy, relaxed, and in the mood, so we climbed into bed………….pulled out the fifth season of 24, and watched four episodes. Perfect. 18 years.

 

 

 

Running From the Law….in a Kayak

Last summer we vacationed in The Finger Lakes region of New York with our friends from Canada. This was our second trip with them, and we’re looking forward to our third this year. We have been friends since meeting in Shanghai, at the bus stop where our children stood every day waiting for the school bus. Nick and Brennan have been good friends ever since, and the same with Lin and I. We are especially lucky that after both of our families repatriated, we only live a few hours away from each other.

Last August, we rented a small house on Canandaigua Lake. The water was a mere 20 feet from the back of the house, it had a long dock for fishing, a couple of brand new kayaks, a blow-up boat-like raft, and a gorgeous view.  One afternoon, Bill and I, Lin, and her husband, Jiming, left the kids at home to go to a food festival, and a couple of local wineries. It was an overcast day, not great for being outside, so we expected that they would watch TV or play cards, maybe fish from the end of the dock…………..we underestimated their ambition.

While at one of the vineyards, I got a text from Brennan. It was vague, but suggested they had been out in the kayaks, that it had started to rain, and they had come in. Oh, and by the way, they had been stopped by the “lake po-po,” (his words, not mine) for not having life jackets. This, of course, peaked my interest, so I asked him for details. He said that they were following him, in a small boat, that did not appear to have official markings.  Or none that he could see from the front. He has always been a very cautious boy.  Constantly looking out for anything suspicious. This nondescript boat with two men in it, made him a little nervous. They called out to him, and he picked up speed. Heading for the hills. Or the dock. Certainly not towards them. They called out again, and tapped the throttle. He went faster still. In a KAYAK. Against a BOAT. With a MOTOR. As they floated up next to the vigorously paddling teen, they asked him to stop, blew a whistle, and turned on the siren for a second or two. He finally stopped. Appeased that they were not serial killers, kidnappers, or pirates. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he realized at that point, his efforts were futile.

This is how Brennan recounts the conversation. One of the officers asks  Brennan why he didn’t stop, and he responds that he didn’t see them. The officer scoffs and says, “You looked right at us.” Brennan: “Ummmmmm. Nope, I didn’t see you.”  They ask him if he has a life jacket, and Brennan says he does not. Po-Po: “Do you have one in the hull hatch?” Brennan……..”Where’s the hull hatch?” Po-po: “How are you using a kayak you know nothing about?” (Implication: Did you steal it?) Brennan: “It came with the cottage we’re renting.” At this time, Nick is passing by in the other kayak. He says, “Hello, sir” to the police, then turns to Brennan with……. “THE LOOK.” The one that says….you DON’T know me. DON’T tell them you KNOW me (in my matching kayak.)  They ask Brennan, “Do you know this person?” Brennan: “YUP!. He’s my friend.” They proceed to ask Nick if HE has a life jacket, to which Nick also says he does not. They then ask the boys where they live, and Brennan points in the general direction of a hundred other docks. Finally, the officers decide their fun is done, a warning is given, and they are “released.”

The boys pull away, relieved, and ready to go home. But first, they head out to rescue Nick’s older brother and Carleigh who have been endlessly circling in the water. A twenty-something and a ten-year old unable to get a productive stroke going to make progress. The first group to be approached by the “life vest patrol” (Carleigh was the only one in compliance).  It will be a childhood memory they joke about for years. Our children’s first interaction with the law. Let’s hope it their last.

Encounters with The Law

When we lived in Shanghai and something would happen that we thought was unique to our current location, we would say, “This is China.”  Below, I have posted an entry from my first blog discussing one of my favorite “This is China” moments.

My First Encounter with the Shanghai Police…..and My Second

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Everything was as usual on Thursday. I was trying to get things done, Carleigh was trying to make it as hard as possible…and I had a limited amount of time. Wednesday afternoon, Bill informed me that the next night we were going out to dinner with one of his superiors, and I had nothing to wear. Thursday afternoon, just hours before dinner, he informed me that it was my job to pick the restaurant… no pressure there. Nice.

So Carleigh and I headed to the mall, and after three hours, came out successful. Great, so far so good! I got home with a few hours to spare before dinner, and decided which of the new outfits I was going to wear. Good, step two done. Now, I needed to get our AYI, Yuan-Yuan, to iron the skirt. I would have done it, and tried, but she thought she was failing us if she didn’t do it. I got the voltage converter out of Brennan’s room, and got out our American iron, for the first time in Shanghai.

It’s a little appliance, so I didn’t think to check the wattage of the iron, with the wattage max on the converter. After AYI started ironing the skirt, I left the room. About two minutes later I heard a pop and a scream (from Carleigh) and the converter was smoking… piece of junk! I just bought that! My phone rang, and it was Bill.  I told him the story and, engineer that he is, he advised me that  irons draw quite a bit of current….hmmmm, what do you know… Iron: 1500w, converter max: 150w. Whoops, my mistake! I told Yuan-Yuan not to worry… in charade form… and moved on.

Then she tried to turn on a light… no power… no power ANYWHERE downstairs… oops! We must have flipped a breaker. She made a call to maintenance, as I never mess with that stuff in China, for fear of screwing something up. Maintenance came and flipped the switch back, and the house alarm started trilling. They shut it off…..no problem. Five minutes later, compound security showed up. Yuan-Yuan explained the situation. Actually, with the little bit of Chinese I know, I heard her RAT ME OUT!  “Tai Tai (wife) gave me the wrong converter!” Do they really have to know whose fault it was?!  Five minutes later, the police were at the door. She explained again, and then they looked to me, forcing me to feel the need to charade my explanation.  They smiled. I’m sure that was fun for them. Entertainment by Expat. I signed a piece of paper that they assured me was not a ticket, and they left. I then set AYI up with a larger converter, and she promptly  plugged the iron into the 220v instead of the 110v plug. Since the iron was from the States, it immediately started smoking. Good grief! Now the refrigerator was not working. Maintenance showed up again to fix the problem, and I thought to myself…..”Did you RAT YOURSELF OUT THIS TIME, AYI?!

During all this, I still had to find a restaurant which was suitable to take Bill’s boss to for dinner, and make a reservation. Mr. Tao was supposed to come pick me up at 5:30 and take me to Bill’s office, however, signals got crossed, and when I called him he was still sitting in the car under Bill’s office at 5:40 PM. By 6:00, I was on my way to pick up Bill and a coworker, cross the river to pick up his boss, and make it to a 7PM reservation on “The Bund, ” which lies on the old side of Shanghai, along the river. With rush hour traffic, it would take a miracle.

We actually made it by 7:15PM and the restaurant was fabulous, with a beautiful view. I figured, not much else could go wrong, so I stepped out of the box, for me, and picked the wine for the table. Luckily, it was a great choice. At least after the stress of the afternoon, things were going more smoothly. After dinner we walked along the river, which was bustling with tourists and vendors, and offered a gorgeous view of the cityscape on the newer side of Shanghai.

Eventually, we called Mr. Tao and set off to our pick up site. We linked arms to cross the busy Chinese street, and one of us, I won’t say who (but it wasn’t me), decided it was time to cross the street, illegally, in front of a police officer. Now for most of us in the group, we could just feign stupidity and language barrier, but we did have Wen, who was a Chinese Aussie, with us. It was her idea to pretend we didn’t know the language, which was funny because she is the only one who DID, and looked like she did. No surprise, we were stopped. She pretended she didn’t understand him and had never lived in China, and he didn’t even attempt with the rest of us. We were sent back to the other side. No worse for the wear. For me, on that day, it was par for the course.