Wednesday, 29 December 2010

China Moll you’re my Doll (Dec 7, 2010)

I am typing this rather gingerly fresh as I am from the nail salon and sporting some rather well groomed upper extremities (dark blood/square nails). I passed the little salon of which there are hundreds in Shanghai as I walked from Sun Yat Sen’s former residence in the French Quarter. For 5 pounds sterling, this lovely young woman shaped my nails, trimmed my cuticles, massaged my hands and expertly painted my nails at speed and with great precision. Our verbal conversation was limited to (me) “ni hao” and “xiexie” (hello and thank you) and (her) “manicure?” and “be careful” (nothing sinister: my nail polish wasn’t completely dry by the time I left). I think I’ll go back tomorrow for a spot of waxing – their extensive menu includes “full face” and “The Hollywood” (me too, I had to look that last one up on Wikipedia – they have some rather graphic photos - and apparently it’s the same as a Brazilian.) Not sure what or who the full face is for (they have both male and female clientele) but I think I’ll settle for a nice tidy-up. And they even played me a film with Brooke Shields and that fellow who played Tarzan who ends up rather sadistically tormented by a bunch of local wildlife intent on foiling his plans for a housing development. It was subtitled in Mandarin and rather hysterically funny relative to watching paint (or in my case nail polish) dry.

I am still loving Shanghai. It’s the most amazing place. I love the old bits, I love the new bits, the glitzy bits, the tatty bits, even the tourist trap bits. Food, taxis, metro and manicures are dirt cheap – everything else is eye-wateringly pricey. I don’t care – I’m in my element.

This morning I paid a visit to the Shanghai Museum. I’m going to sound like a broken record but you have to get yourself over here and experience the place for yourself. They have a superb collection of Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture, calligraphy, jade, porcelain, painting etc... These people were carving exquisite shapes out of jade when we were still knocking flintstones together. And in spite of our colonial ancestors’ best efforts to convince us otherwise, I don’t think we’re ever caught up – or ever will. It’s no big deal but as I prefer jade to flint, I’m planning to learn the lingo and move here – eventually. In the meantime, here’s a little factual interlude to dazzle with at the office Christmas party: Ming era furniture is made of simple pure lines, very modern looking. Qing is ornate over the top with jade and ivory inlays and carvings.

Where was I? Oh yes, it’s a fantastic place and having walked about a fair bit over the last four days I’ve finally found my bearings and can navigate without a map in the centre of town. It’s a big place though: a good 15 minute walk between Metro stops. I’ve even got used to the traffic turning on a red light business. It’s not chaos, there is a rule and this is what I think it is: traffic can turn on a red light even if it means cutting across 3 lines of traffic. Simples! Some motorcycles and bicycles appear to ignore red lights when riding in specially marked lanes. Some cycle on the pavement. (I still haven’t figured that one out.) Pedestrian crossings remain a dicey business for me (and I’ve noticed for some locals too) but it no longer appears like a random dance with death – more like playing those old video games with the frog trying to cross the road. Crossing: tick! Manicure: tick! Yoga classes at the hotel: tick!

And finally - and I’m fully aware that this is going to sound both shallow and pretentious but... bite me! - I seem to attract a lot of admiring looks here. I don’t know what it is: my eyes, my skin tone, my Tintin hair style, my oversized Paul Smith glasses... I really don’t what it is but they like me here!

One more reason to move.

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