Day 227: Buckets of Rain

Coming down in buckets

Coming down in buckets

Shanghai is experiencing the coolest and wettest summer in 14 years; we had a week of 95 F with 80% humidity (and 106 degree heat index) and that was enough for me, I’ll take wet and (relatively) cool (80 F). One thing about dealing with the rain in Shanghai you not only need an umbrella for outside, but in many buildings you need buckets for the inside. Waterproof building practices don’t seem to be a priority here in China and many new buildings, those with fancy architectural flourishes, seem to struggle with keeping the rain out. Extensive use of glass makes the buildings look modern, but upon closer inspection you are likely to notice significant water damage to areas around the glass walls and ceilings. Repairing the faulty seals isn’t really a priority either judging by the buckets and ‘Slippery when Wet’ signs I see repeatedly deployed in the same locations. In our building, nit only is their water damage to the lobby ceiling, but the exterior glass canopy appears to be sloped incorrectly and the water floods off one section, thus the bucket–outside in the rain–to catch the “excess” water. Remind me to never get on a Chinese submarine.

Day 226: Scooters

Scooters are a popular form of transportation in Shanghai.

Scooters are a popular form of transportation in Shanghai.

In a country where an automobile costs,on average, 2X what it costs in the USA and in a city where license plates sell for $12,000 USD (and up to 4X that on the “secondary” market),inexpensive electric scooters are the go to vehicle. These bikes cruise the city by the millions,ignoring most traffic laws: riding on sidewalks and driving against traffic the two that are most dangerous to pedestrians (look both ways before stepping off a curb, these things run silent and you can’t hear them approaching).

Day 225: Entrepreneurial

Curbside recycling center, Pudong

Curbside recycling center, Pudong

The people in China are the most entrepreneurial folks I’ve ever met; whether creating a restaurant from a wok, a steam table and 4 plastic stools, or setting up a shoe repair / key-making operation with pirated electricity from an overhead escalator, or starting a recycling business on a busy downtown street corner with a scale, some shrink wrap and a hand cart, Chinese citizens are willing to work long hours under less than ideal conditions in order to earn a living. As in any country, the people willing to do these jobs are often migrants, shut-off from other avenues of employment, who, of necessity, strike out on the path of self-employment and freelance work.

Day 224: Do Not Enter

Security guard watches over  a parking garage exit.

Security guard watches over a parking garage exit.

I don’t know what the official numbers are, but based on my 10-month long, unofficial observation the two most common jobs in urban China are street sweepers and security guards, with the latter being the most plentiful. Security guards are everywhere, whether they are necessary, or not; Lilong entrances, parking lot entrances–even the ones with automatic gates–apartment compounds (our compound has three guards at each entry a doorman at each building and a desk attendant in every lobby), construction sites,fake markets, metro stations, park entries, office buildings, ferry stations, bus stations, train stations, churches and malls. Usually in pairs and often sleeping.

Day 223: For Sale

Construction worker riding home on his bicycle when real estate agents hawk apartments on the street corner.

Construction worker riding home on his bicycle when real estate agents hawk apartments on the street corner.

The real estate market in Shanghai is cooling off: sales have declined for multiple consecutive weeks and it has resulted in an increase in the number of agents hawking apartments outside luxury apartment compounds. A trip to the grocery store requires you to run the gauntlet of real estate agents assaulting you with listing flyers. One woman was banging on the window of cars stopped at the traffic light, shouting at the passenger to lower the window. Be careful out there.

Day 221: Bamboo

Worker delivers bamboo for construction of a scaffold. (Former French Concession, Shanghai, PRC)

Worker delivers bamboo for construction of a scaffold. (Former French Concession, Shanghai, PRC)

On a Sunday walk through the Former French Concession we passed this man maneuvering his load of bamboo through traffic. Although the larger construction projects use steel, many of the smaller scale projects (4-6 story) do use bamboo to construct scaffolding.