Friday, July 07, 2006

Lawyers, Dancers, Accountants and Ginger Clams

It's 6:30 AM in Shanghai...I am in the hotel lobby and outside I can now affirm that it is monsoon season - it is pouring, which makes walking outside walking into a sauna. The heat hugs you while sucking your breath.

Ten of us from ACT were on the same flight from SF; when we arrived at 10 PM, we took three taxis down to The Bund (term for a muddy Venice, it has sunk many meters and the Venetian threat of sinking remains despite their efforts) - anyway, it is the symbolic mile of Shanghai with its high rises and financial activity, it is China's Wall Street. Driving over the hill in the taxi brought gasps from all of us, looking down at its Vegas-like glory. While on the walkway, one side is a view across the water to the space-age buildings, and on the street side, Neo-classical New York architecture (got that from the Lonely Planet).

Yesterday was a day that unfolded a slow drama. We knew by the time we arrived at our hotel, there would be 40 ACT members who had flown in from all over the US. We were told to wear our nametags; I recognized my first "person" in Seattle...a Cheeto-eating vegetarian writer for Starbucks named Merrilee (she had to take gifts out of her suitcase to make room for her favorite snack.) Then in SF, slowly ACT members found their way to us. "Hi, what's your name? Where are you from? Where are you teaching? How did you get involved in this? Did you think this was a hoax, too..? Yes, but I checked the flight and knew it was going to take me to China..."

A few profiles: Greg is a saxaphone playing criminal defense lawyer from SF looking for a career change. He knows some Mandarin because he was in Beijing IN 1989! in Tiannamen Square (he whispered this). He is planning to stay in China for a year. I made sure I was in his taxi because he knows what he is doing, and because he takes his sax everywhere, hoping to play. Last night he took us to the oldest hotel in Shanghai, the Peace Hotel, where about seven drowning jazz musicians played and he was looking for an opportunity to join in when the group decided to go for midnight noodles (more on that later). Anyway, there is a French teacher from DC, a 4th grade teacher from the upper East Side of NY, a recent college grad (English) whose brother is going to the UW to become a Spanish speaking doctor after being inspired by The Motorcylcle Diaries, a dancer and a representative for McCormick spices.

There will be 70 of us in all; 75% teachers, 2/3 women. I will meet everyone this morning at orientation.

Anyway, a word about the food. We walked the streets for a while, asking for a good place to eat. One Chinese girl, I am not kidding, said "McDonald's"! We looked where she was pointing and saw a packed McD' to it was a restaurant with three red lanterns and only two occupied lazy -susaned tables. Good enough. We sat down and three women became our food advisors, and OH MY the food was amazing! Ginger clams, fried salted shrimp (heads intact of course), braised eggplant, scallion bread, dumpling soup...the ten of us from the plane just hmmmmmed with happiness at everything that she brought out and toasted our trip with Chinese beer. Needless to say, any hesitations I had melted away; it seems to be a great group.

I will try to send pictures of our night later, but for now I need to get ready for orientation, and this keyboard is difficult to use!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your glob entry, Marj. The group sounds interesting and your description of the food makes me hungry.

We're going to spend Saturday with Brian and Kristi. That seems pretty tame compared to exploring China.


Brian Bowker said...

I'm glad to hear that you made it to China safely. At least if ACT turns out to be a concubine service you'll have interesting people to be in concubinage with.

Mom and Dad are coming up tomorrow and the house isn't clean yet. Maybe we should have traveled to China...