Yesterday, I came the closest I’ve come to facing my own mortality since coming to China.
Strapped to the back of a scooter cab, clutching the overcoat of the 5’2″ shifu with one hand and my glittery cell-phone case with the other (in case I needed to call my parents one last time), I closed my eyes tightly and held on for dear life as we ran through red lights, weaved against the flow of traffic, and generally disobeyed any and all Shanghai traffic law. And yes, while I did get home in 7 minutes flat (remarkable!) instead of what would have been at least an 18 minute cab ride (you know, in a real car, with wheels and a transmission), running red light after red light as the driver crossed four lanes of highway traffic on his tiny scooter may have been worth it, if only because I was trying to get back from Pudong.
Between traveling the past two weekends, and having one of those weeks where you’re glad that sleep deprivation and an ill-timed bout of food poisoning (is there ever a well-timed bout of food poisoning?) make you able to cancel all of your social engagements (except for 粥 dinner with friends who caught the food poisoning with you, naturally), I’ve been spending more time in my apartment, especially now that I’m working from home during the Chinese New Year holidays, still waking up at 7am more mornings than I should, in order to trudge across to the corner store to pick up a gallon of drinking water (and a six-pack of bananas), because there is no potable water in Shanghai, and because I want breakfast.
This time makes it hard to recover a sense of normalcy, a sense of a routine, or a sense of what I am supposed to be doing. Since I have started my new job in Shanghai, people have been so prying about what I do. I have had more dinners than I’ve wanted where I am asked to justify my job, turning from drinks into impromptu working events as I am cajoled into telling others about the importance (or the unimportance) of our start-up and our mission in Shanghai. Personally, I like what I do. I believe in what I do. When why do others want me to convince them as well?
My thoughts a little all over the place right now. When the weather hit 50ºF this week, I was at first perplexed (are we done with the 37ºF mornings, or is this temporary?), then confused about whether to keep my heater on (absolutely because I am constantly cold, even in the midst of Ojai summers back home), then upset that sweater weather is imminently over. But now I’m excited, bracing myself for the change. In this time, I am being reminded of Spring Break in New Haven, the one I so reluctantly chose to spend there to finish my thesis, the long bike rides and the the first scent of Spring in the air. Although in Shanghai it may as well be smog, I’m feeling the city (and myself) reawaken.