Farewell China : Couplings & Partings
Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 172 of 268 › view all entries
āYu Yuan Gardens?ā¦ ah, that way? Xie xie.ā.
āYu Yuan Gardens?ā¦ oh right, that way? Xie xieā.
āPlease, Yu Yuan Gardens?! Oh I see, that wayā¦ just therā¦ Yes, yes. Xie xieā.
Nope. No luck. No Yu Yuan Gardens. Ah well. Who cares. Not this weary traveller. Not much anyways. Iāve had any number of these moments in China. It would be hilarious if it wasnāt so darned fruā¦ no, it is hilarious. I have made my way to the Yu Yuan district of Shanghai. The signs all about have Yu Yuan upon them. Here is Yu Yuan Market. I have the name of my proposed destination (Yu Yuan Gardens if ya hadnāt clocked that) written kindly for me in Chinese in my notebook by my Hangzhou angel Jingjing for the infinite locals I ask to read clearly and understandā¦ but can they successfully direct me there.
Last day in Shanghai and this morning I foolhardily returned the LP āBest of Shanghaiā guidebook and maps Iād borrowed from my hostel. Actually that doesnāt frickinā matter. The number of times Iāve used maps with Chinese place names upon them, or shown bus and train tickets printed entirely in Chinese and still received blank stares or misinformation is quite phenomenal. So I give up. And it doesnāt matter. āCos Chinaās at an end for me now. For now. And Iām happy just to drift. To leave some loose ends. Some things undone. All part of my āReasons to Returnā policy. For I shall return. But maybe more of that feeling later.
My last two days in Shanghai are just all about taking it slow, slow, slow. No plan. No goals. No tourism tick box list. Thereās probably a whole bunch of stuff to see and do although the stock response of backpackers is āUgh, Shanghai, whatās there to do there?!ā. Thereās a potential daytrip to Souzhou which sounds very beautiful but Iām gonna respect Jingjingās observation that āreally if you want to get a lot out of Souzhou you should learn a little about the art of Chinese gardens before you goā. And I dig that.
Nope, Iām just super happy and content to walk and walk and walk around and about Shanghai. My feet are less happy with this decision. They are now a tattered mass of blisters and broken skin and are counting down the hours until motion will finally cease.
I stroll around the tree-lined streets of the French Concession. I spend some time walking, sitting and people watching in the lovely Fuxing Park. One of Chinaās little arboreal, flower manicured community oases that can sometimes be found improbably hidden behind the high rise and beneath the muggy skies. A final, wonderful demonstration of the richness and strength and colour of Chinaās community life. Its family life. The two being inseparable. āSo you said you had an older brother and a younger sister? Do they still live at home?ā. āOh no no, they are not really my brother and sister. I am of course an only child. But everybody in China is a 'brother' and a 'sister' ā Jingjing had explained to me.
A beautiful rose garden and box-cut bushes. Large, vociferous gatherings of the older generations crowd together in chattering gaggles. People are singing. Gracefully greyed men and women populate the quieter pathways performing Tai Chi exercises with great gentility and barely perceptible body movements. A soft arcing, sweeping and wafting of the hands as the body sways. They look as if they are attempting to quietly conjure forth the spirits or faeries that inhabit the plants and bushes here about; Come Peaseblossom, Moth, Cobweb and Mustard Seed āBe kind and courteous to this gentleman; Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes,ā *
More vigorous are the guys whom I believe to be trying to learn some form of martial art.
I visit the Shanghai Art Gallery (20RMB / $3).
And I would return to Pudong again, to the Riverside Promenade for the third night in succession - for I love being there that much - but my feet will not allow it now. I had been there again yesterday from about half an hour ahead of sundown and beyond. The most wonderful place for avid people watchers. Life observers. A harmonious bustle of people of all ages. People dancing to swing. Sat by water features.
This is one recurrent observation during my time in China. The final observation I wish to note before I go for itās one I like a lot. It seems to be an extremely affectionate country. By that I mean, the affections between couples, lovers and friends. āCos I donāt know why but I bet thatās not the first thing that some people would think of when they think of China, or expect it to be a great exponent of.
Everywhere you go in China you will see young couples arm in arm, hand in hand, twined together one way or another. Everywhere. Much more prevalently I feel than other countries Iāve seen. My own country. The whole nation just seems so naturally to pair off. Boy girl boy girl boy girl boy girl and forever onwards. They seem to be great at āfindingā one another. Finding that one person they wanna give their heart and attentions to. And they seem to stick together. I remember all those symbolic padlocks chained to the heights of Huangshan.
This is something I had long observed in my 10 years in Birmingham, a period of time over which the standing Chinese student population absolutely mushroomed in size. And they would always be coupled off. Almost with seemingly perfect statistical symmetry. Boy girl boy girl boy girl boy girl. Everywhere I would see them. Arm in arm. Arms about waists, hand in hand. And I thought, well maybe this is just a sweet inevitability of being so far from home. Pairing off for comfort and protection. In need of familiar company. Familiar forms of loveā¦ āand our parents are 8,000 kilometres away, woo-hoo, letās go Baby!ā. I Jest. But they are just as close here back home.
I dunno? Itās something I canāt stop musing on.
One upshot of this arguably very necessary, and debatably once very poorly administered cornerstone of population control policy in China is a notable imbalance in the sex determination at birth ratios in modern China.
Maybe itās a superfluous, spurious observation? Speculations of an envious bachelorās eyes? The sun falls one final time for me down through the China skies. I kill sometime back at the hostel. Late flight tonight. Rain gently starts to fall as I lug my all to the Metro to get to the bus to get to the airport to get to my plane. But rain, rain itās all in vain. For Iām off to Cyprus tonight so clouds Iām afraid you missed me again. The Sunshine Kid has long since plotted his escape to the heat and light.
Farewell China. Itās been fun. Iām thinking now itās kinda like a good, rich sauce. To make it taste just right and worth its while you have to let it simmer down. Be patient. Give it time. Give your thoughts, feelings and responses time to settle down. Let the flavours of your ingredient rich experience fuse and start to compliment each other. Without realising it, thankfully, this is what Iāve been doing in my time in Shanghai. Simmering down. All the excess water of my cumulative experiences in this mind-boggling country evaporating away.
Yes ladies and gents, in Shanghai, Stevie is mugged for the first time in his life. Creeping up behind him and pouncing on him at the eleventh hour Stevieās been mugged by China. How did I not see it coming?! Itās pretty big after all! Damn. āIt got me!ā. And I know, balls to bone deep, strangely more so than possibly any other country Iāve been to so far - even those Iāve considered ānicerā, āprettierā, 'friendlier', more āenjoyableā - I will be returning to China and its challenges.
Itās 2.00am gone now. The babyās not wailing anymore. āPhewf!ā. One more hour ātil take off. Until I bid farewell to China. Iām signing off. āPhase Oneā of the Great Journey is officially over. I thank you for joining me on it people. I thank you very much indeed. This blog is somehow, miraculously once more officially up to date at the time of writing. Itās getting late here in Shanghai. Time to take to the skies. You have been listening once again to The Midnight Scrawler. āGood night World, wherever you are.
* āA Midsummer Nights Dreamā - William Shakespeare
** China Population Demographics - www.wikipedia.org
'One Child Policy' a brief clarification - projected to remain in place for another decade or so the 'one family one child' law of the Peoples' Republic of China only truly applies to the Han Chinese majority population. And even then, primarily to those residing in urban areas. Inducements and 'punishments' primarily take the form of financial rewards and preferential housing arrangements and penalties/ higher taxation respectively. Non-Han ethnicities may have up to 2 children in an urban context and 3-4 in a rural.