Sunday, 13 October 2013

The grass ain't greener, but the sky is!

So, after a week in Shanghai, oughtn't I have learnt something? Oughtn't I have done something remarkable?

Well to tell the truth, in between my social life and my Mandarin classes I've had precious little time (maybe this is why my blog entry is late this week) to do very much except complain about not having enough sleep. Most of what I've seen is the amazing night life here in Shanghai. Some of the best bars and clubs in the world are just 20 minutes away from me. Taxis cost a maximum of £4 and the tube is 30p a journey. Having said that I have spent a fortune since arriving. I'm going to learn to cook food like the Chinese do, because a lot of western vegetables are missing from Tesco's (yes there is a Tesco's here). My first attempt was a disgrace but it was a cheap disgrace. If I did decide to eat out everyday for every meal, I could manage that with about £3 in my pocket per day but I suspect that cooking would be even cheaper.

It is a place of subtle differences and it is remarkable how little culture shock I've experienced. If only I could speak Mandarin fluently I'm not sure I'd have any difficulty at all (apart from of course the squatty potty). Some of the food is fairly strange and my veganism has collapsed in on itself under the combined weight of being unable to communicate and wishing to try every single thing I see. It has been replaced with a partial drinking embargo in lieu of the fact that my heart is not beating like it should after a night out. I figure out of the two, alcohol will kill me much quicker.

The best part about living with a group of people in this way, all within a short walking distance from you, all with a shared goal and all with a shared isolation from the rest of the world is that very quickly you become a family. You develop intimate friendships very quickly and I can see that a few that are growing within me and I already have an invitation to a wedding in India. This city is constantly growing and I feel like I am too. It's ushering me along as it races ahead. It's a city that really is ripe with opportunity. It's a melting pot that's just getting started. Even though, or perhaps because the population is 95% Chinese, when you do meet a kinsman you have an immediate spark and connection beyond what you are likely to find in England, surrounded by English speaking, English thinking people.

The more of the world I see, the more clearly I see the 'Green Grass Fallacy'. The dream about thee grass always being greener on the other side. The grass here is by no means greener (although thanks to the pollution, the sky may be) and the sugar is no sweeter... but the food is better and I think there is more room for growth. Whether I stay after my 3 months remains to be seen, whether I enjoy my time here tomorrow the same way that I did yesterday remains to be seen. I'm keeping my eyes peeled and hoping to find some more answers. Or maybe just some more questions.

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