Day 204: Crickets!

Cricket Market

Cricket Market

On a Lane just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of People’s Square, merchants hang strings of woven cages filled with crickets, the sound of which drowns out the noise from a nearby elevated roadway. Here, you see more bicycles than Mercedes.

Day 203: Beating the Heat

Playing cards to pass the time

Playing cards to pass the time

A group of men play cards while others stop to watch. Card playing (and gambling) is hugely popular here in China and a card game, on the street, or in the park, can quickly generate a crowd of observers. This group, on Jingyin Road, were coping with today’s heat index of 108 F (42 C) by playing a few hands in the shade. Jingyin Road is a Cricket Market with shops lining the street offering caged crickets, song birds, turtles (by the tub full!), tropical fish–mostly Koi and goldfish– and even the odd caged brown squirrel, or two.

Day 202: Income Inequality

A couple zip through the streets on an electric scooter

A couple zip through the streets on an electric scooter

Income inequality is something you hear about everyday, it is a real and growing problem around the globe, but it is not always something you think about when you think about China. Since the opening of China back in the 1980′s and it’s unique economic policies of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” income inequality has exploded. Yes, economic reforms have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but in a country of 1.5 billion people that still leaves hundreds of millions of citizens in poverty. I live in one of the highrise buildings in the background, the ones with the balconies, central air conditioning and tinted glass windows;they are inhabited by expats and rich Chinese living in 250 – 400 square meter apartments, with ayi’s and drivers, they workout in the health club and swim in the lap pool. They drive Range Rovers and Porsche’s.
In front of those buildings is a typical Chinese neighborhood, or “New Village” as it is often called, six-story blocks of apartments–40 – 80 square meters– with retail shops below and street vendors lining the streets, This is where the ayi’s, the retail store clerks, the shop owners and security guards live, they ride bicycles and electric scooters, they drive the expats around in mini-vans and care for their children. This is the every day China.

Day 201: Hot & Sticky

Two friends beat the heat under a fine mist

Two friends beat the heat under a fine mist

The rains are gone and the summer heat and humidity have arrived in Shanghai. Sunshine, (a low AQI meant blue skies) a temperature of 95 F (35C), and humidity of 71% equaled a heat index of 109 degrees, this afternoon. I went walking the local neighborhood hoping to find a place to buy a dog leash and collar, but had no luck (I did manage to get a pair of plastic slides for 15 RMB). A small shopping center just off Century Avenue and Weifang Xi Lu had a cooling zone with a fine mist spraying out over some benches and it was pretty popular, but stepping into air conditioned stores was more effective.

Day 200: Sunset at last!

Sun sets behind the Huangpu River

Sun sets behind the Huangpu River

For the last 7 months that we lived in Seattle we lived in a top floor apartment with a large outdoor deck that looked over Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains; there were spectacular sunsets almost every night, most of which I documented on my Facebook page. Conversely, during the almost 10 months we have been living in Shanghai, looking west over the Huangpu River and the Puxi side of town, there have been two sunsets, both this week. I am hopeful now that the plum rains have ended and the AQI seems to have cleared up a bit that there will be more to come.

Day 199: Summer Vacation

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower dominates the

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower dominates the Lujiazui area in the heart of the Pudong business district.

“The Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower is a TV tower in Shanghai, China. Its location at the tip of Lujiazui in the Pudong district by the side of Huangpu River, opposite The Bund, makes it a distinct landmark in the area,” and the heart of the tourist trade in Shanghai.

Day 198: Blue Sky, Sunny Day

The sky over Shanghai has finally lost its gray pall

The sky over Shanghai has finally lost its gray pall This is the Metro stop on line 2, Shanghai Science & Technology Museum

Finally! I’d begun to think that they sky would never clear, that I’d never see the yellow orb, the blue skies, or the varied texture of clouds floating past. When I arrived in Shanghai, first in early September 2013 and permanently that October, the AQI was mostly acceptable, or perhaps a bit unhealthy, but then winter arrived, the skies turned ashen and any appearances by the sun had the look of a sunset on Tatooine obscured by a gritty AQI.  And that dreary look persisted for most of the following months, until I returned to the USA in late April.  When I arrived back in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago the Plum Rains were in full force and it appeared that the the gloom would never lift. Today, that all came to an end!  Although it is 8 PM and the temperature is still 85 degrees (29 C) and the humidity sits at 83%, the sun was out today, the sky was blue and clouds floated past. Oh, and the AQI was a moderate 75! Let the summer begin!