Sunday, July 22, 2007


Unsure if peace and quiet is a valid request around here, I’ve been shushing the combative conversationalists seated at the table to my left. I’ve brought my computer over to Thumb Plaza, a shopping center close to the Cirque site that offers a nice locale for an aspiring writer and relief from the sweltering heat in the form of an enormous, air-conditioned Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. (And why am I drinking hot coffee on a day when a cactus would wilt? I am sorely addicted, and I don’t mind a bit.) While I may be escaping the unbearable weather, I cannot, it seems, get away from incredibly loud and pugnacious dialogue that assaults my ears at every turn. I’m coming to realize (or trying to convince myself) that people are not perpetually apoplectic, but that it’s merely my interpretation of the tone of Shanghaiese. I have to laugh, really, to look around this café and see pairs of men engaged in fiery discourse in between sips of their froufrou iced Frappacinos.

Maybe I should invest in some earplugs, though they would do little to solve the inevitable and disturbing dispute that I encounter almost daily with Shanghai taxi drivers. For every jolly driver I get (and there are some out there), I find myself facing irate old men who all but refuse to take me where I want to go. I’ve begun to employ the hotel concierge to explain my destination, and let the two of them duke it out, but it’s still not the kind of thing that inspires confidence in customers. Usually I am told by the concierge, “I’m sorry, but this driver does not know his way around, so I will tell him.” Uh-oh.

On a positive note, I am here now, having made it to my destination intact, which is something I should remember to be thankful for.

After prodding from yours truly, Andy has enrolled in Mandarin lessons through Google. I’m so proud of him for tackling such a daunting language with its counter-intuitive intonations and incredibly difficult pronunciation. The only thing is, when he visits in August, I have doubts about how far his Mandarin will take him in Shanghai. The city really does have an accent all its own, so strong a departure from Beiing Mandarin that it verges on a separate dialect called Shanghaihua. Maybe it’s somewhere along the lines of Alabama drawl vs. Scottish brogue.