19 February 2019, 21:52
Now that I’m done adding the old stuff let’s get on to the new stuff. I started this blog several days ago and have been busy posting and backdating a bunch of writing from the past five months, starting with my arrival in Shanghai.
Oddly, I haven’t really explored this place. I spent much of my first semester here developing and holding to a routine. Wake up, shower, eat, read, journal. Go to work, teach, eat, teach, grade, plan. Come home, get changed, jog to the gym, lift weights, jog back. Shower, change, make dinner, eat. Watch something, play a game, read, or write. Sleep. Do it again.
All this order made it difficult to get out and do things. I’m not complaining; I like order. It’s comfortable, safe, and quiet. Then I went home for Christmas and saw my family. Highlight of my year. And in January, I left, alone, for southeast Asia: Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Kunming, Wuhan, Shanghai. 18 January to 16 February, almost a month on the road. I did not enjoy every minute, and I didn’t expect to. But the minutes of grandeur, sublimity, reflection, elevation—those are what made it all.
Walking a busy city with a pretty German girl. Bicycling around Angkor from sunrise to sunset. Jon Lott telling of hitchhiking and Forrest Fenn. Rousing at the butt crack of dawn to watch Super Bowl LIII at a pizza joint with my roommate. Pondering oaths cross-legged near a Buddhist temple. Getting a Thai massage. Eating 竹筒饭. Spending time with Emily in Wuhan; going with her to the cinema for The Wandering Earth. Missing my train and then finally unlocking the door to my apartment in Shanghai.
Now that it’s done and I can get into currency, I think I’d like to show you where I live. Outside my front door, and before you get in the elevator, there’s a nice northwestern view of a waterway, a vegetable patch, and the ever-hazy suburbs of Jiading.
Going down, to the left, and out to the front entrance, you’ll pass by a number of luxury vehicles. (In Shanghai, if you own a car, you have money; and because of the importance of giving and saving 面子—miànzi or “face”—many of the cars are new and quite spendy.)
Today is the Lantern Festival, which marks the final day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. In case you were wondering, it’s the Year of the Pig.
I went to my gym today, which is on the third floor of a hotel in the Jiading Industrial Center (I don’t know if that’s the proper name for this set of buildings). Typically, it’s about a ten-minute jog from door to door.
After my workout, some folks were setting up for an event that night, which would start in an hour. I jogged back to my apartment, showered, and boiled some 元宵 (yuanxiao), a stuffed, glutinous rice dumpling that had been recommended to me earlier by Jessie, my boss. Being stuffed with peanuts, I mixed them with peanut butter for added protein and flavor. Then I walked back to the event, camera in hand. As expected, lanterns and more food.