Sep 26: The Filling of Back Home
I suggested that one should arrive in Hong Kong at night -- but one should definitely leave China in the morning. At 5:30 AM as I left my hotel in Shanghai, the streets were empty of cars, but people were starting to stir. It was blissfully quiet as I trudged down the street with my suitcase.
A taxi driver who had just parked his car and was rummaging through his trunk, called out to me with a smile, "Pudong Airport?" I said yes. His question had the tone of just making conversation, but still I motioned with my hands to ask if he wanted to take me. He motioned back that he was off for the night, and then walked with me across the street to a sidewalk dumpling. . . well, what do you call a family who sets up a wok of hot oil in front of their house and serves breakfast? -- a cafe? an eatery? a shop? a stand?
I bought some food for breakfast and the taxi driver again said "Pudong?" I said Pudong back, and then made a hop with my hands to indicate my next stop after that and said "And then, America." "America," he said, just to roll it around on his tongue. He was still repeating the word as I waved goodbye and caught a cab.
My memories of my last trip to China five years ago include so many interactions like this -- very helpful and friendly people, and an ability to make yourself understood and to understand without too much trouble. There were plenty of experiences like that this time too, but there were a few more of the exasperation-with-foreigners-who-don't-speak-the-language and let's-see-how-much-we-can-charge-the-tourist occasions than last time.
Anytime I saw early morning, however, China was beautiful and stereotypically serene -- pristine, cool air, with just a few people around and none of the clogged streets that show up soon enough.
Now I am home. Slammed by the time change, but happily home with all the wonderful things that implies: my own shower, my own kitchen, my own language, my family, my friends . . . and my perfect last image of China.