Social contrasts

After dearth of social activities – except for coffee meetings with other expats – suddenly I have had lots to do this week. Carolyn arrived from Edinburgh playing violin with the international doctor’s orchestra. They had a hectic schedule, playing in Beijing last Sunday, then flying to Shanghai to play on Monday at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Theatre. They were booked on tours for Tuesday and Wednesday, but we managed to text enough to get-together for a great day on Thursday. Thanks C, and N, who put us in touch with each other!
I had been keeping a trip to SunYat Sen museum (20th century history and architecture) on hold so I could do it with congenial company, and I hope Carolyn enjoyed it as much as I did. As the museum is at one end of the French Concession area, and luckily the rain had stopped, after we ‘did’ it, we did a wander through to the Shanghai Art and Crafts museum. The varied architecture of the area was great, new, old, housing ‘lanes’, art deco, tree-lined streets etc. The streets there are varied also, from western style coffee bars to washing line across the footpath type streets.
I did not know beforehand that C was interested in sewing/embroidery, and that is one of the Art and Craft museum specialities, so we marvelled together at the skills, as well as wondering how much time it takes to create such things (and why? and how can it be valued? ….) Same wondering re the carved jade and ivory, miniscule flowers and leaves on the trees, carved into 3-dimensional palaces…
We also found a good noodle place for lunch, though discovered we were eating and chatting on western time-scale as about 2pm we were the only patrons left and the two serving girls lowered the lights and then stretched out on the bench seats under duvets and just went to sleep. Chinese nap time is not only for kids.
Other social events too: Donal’s birthday was Tuesday, he was off somewhere with the British Council, nothing to do with his birthday, so we had a meal out on a different day; Expat coffee group had a pre-Christmas get-together, so I enjoyed another meal out – at an Indian restaurant which is the first time I have had Indian in China – as well as good food, we all had a laugh at the toilet facilities, a totally unexpected superior electronic luxury cubicle. A said they must be expecting some messy b…..s here, it is funny because in all of China toilet facilities are everywhere, but hugely varied in style from squat-over-the-hole to nearly open-plan to western style. Smell and cleanliness varies too, in Shanghai usually very acceptable whatever the toilet style, but this is the first time I had no idea what button to press.
Next week, I am expecting a visit from Wang Shunqing and her son Ziyue who are my lodgers for next year in Edinburgh. Wang is co-director of the Confucius Institute in Edinburgh, comes from Shanghai, and is returning briefly for a conference. It is indeed a small world now!

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