Waking up to China

August 21st, 2010

Location: Room 3821, Green Tree Inn, Wuzhong Rd, Shanghai, China.

Local time: 6:27

Early morning Shanghai is not the China of yesterday. This morning the diffused light drifts through my open window, weaving and bending its way around buildings. The air lightly clings to my skin, just warm enough for comfort and a couple of degrees shy before the ever-humming AC kicks on. There is little activity out on my street –some early morning travelers and an occasional bus. As of yet, not a single motorbike.

From where I sit, I can see a man lounging shirtless out on the stoop of the neighboring building. The light has not reached his position, but glints off the marble steps just inches from his seat. He has a drink in his hand and he looks utterly complacent – content to simply sit and watch the world at a standstill.

Traditional Chinese music trips into my window and the lilting flute completes the air of serenity. Every so often a horn blast punctuates the stillness, a promise that my yesterday’s China will soon wake-up.

That China is but one word: frenzied.

It is a city of constant and relentless movement. Taxis and bikes and SUVs and bikes and cars and bikes zip past, weave through lanes and pull up short. Getting across Wuzhong Road is like a game of frogger. Women in tiny shorts and teetering stilettos totter down the streets doing their best to shade their faces beneath their umbrellas. Bikes, motorized and pedal, single and double, covered and uncovered are everywhere – on the sidewalks, in the alleys, before me, behind me, beside me. The bleating horns, rumble of engines, din of people, and endless activity coalesce into a frenzied dance.

As of yet, I do not know which China I prefer, but right now, I am happy to be in this one.

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