nothing ventured, nothing gained

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Home Sweet Home

October 18th, 2008 · 3 Comments

48 hours in Tokyo. 72 in LA, Taipei. 84 in Beijing. 3 weeks in Seattle and I’m back in Shanghai.

Fun fact: I’ve landed at Tokyo Narita 9 times so far this year, but August was the first time I’ve ever been able to leave the airport to experience Japan (for 48 hours).

I live on the 10th floor of a building built in 1928.  My apartment number on the 10th floor is 910, which confuses the heck out of guests and Sherpa’s drivers.  There are 3 units on each floor. The common areas of my building are not well-maintained. Sometimes, the door of our 1 creaky elevator refuse to shut. Over the summer, someone with a stroke of ingenuity mounted a 1970s era fan on the elevator wall to keep it cool. The elevator ceiling sports fluorescent lightbulb fixtures mixed with empty cigarette packs. The floor is covered in spit, a moderately acceptable social practice I’ve been told is used to protect the lungs against pollution, and this leads me to giggle just a bit at the irony of seeing workers on the street cigarette in-hand, hocking up loogies.

About 30 days ago I noticed a disproportionately large number of people taking the elevator to the 11th floor. I figured someone was running a strange business out of one of the 3 units on the floor above me. On the 1st floor, there is a 3’x7’ room with a fluorescent light and a cot. This is where the building Ayis (housekeepers, sort-of) congregate and one will sleep overnight to guard the always-unlocked door (though I’ve never actually woken her up as I stumble in after a late night at the bar). When I have mailbills, an Ayi will chase me down and get my attention with a “Hey” in her local dialect – to experience this intriguing sound, try clearing your throat as loudly as possible while making the sound “Aaaaaa” (really, try it!).

1 week ago, I hear the “Aaaaaa” chasing after me, but there was no mail. Ayi pointed me to a sign in Chinese that I could not read, then explained to me in Chinese that I could understand that from tomorrow for 1 month the elevator would be out of commission while a new one is installed, and that I could use an entrance to another building around the corner instead. Then it clicked – the 11th floor! I was on my way out to Beijing at the time, but when I returned several days later, I went into the building around the corner and rode what was a shiny new elevator to their 11th floor. Sure enough, there was a cavernous, zigzaggy corridor across the 11th floor of 3 buildings.

This is the craziness that is Shanghai. Almost every day, I discover something new that piques my interest or boggles my mind – whether it be my secret passage on the 11th floor, window-washers repelling off of skyscrapers with rope instead of scaffolding (outside view), noises from next door each morning that for a month I thought was rough sex but turn out to be an 80 year old man slapping the skin on his body for exercise, or ladies in the park dancing to the Vengaboys.

In 90 minutes, my landlord’s workers will arrive to remove much of my rental furniture, and I will be couchless for the week in preparation for delivery of some European couches I found in a Chinese interior design magazine (Koppel special flashbacks, anyone?) and worked with 3 furniture consultants for 3 hours entirely in Mandarin Chinese to design a personalized combination of sections, fabrics, and prints. This milestone perhaps marks my officially having planted both feet in the ground in considering Shanghai “home”, such that if/when I leave China, I will be leaving with a cargo container in addition to the 2 suitcases that accompanied me here.

Tags: Miscellaneous

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Daniel - supercars // Nov 19, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Hey Adam, sounds like a nice ride in China – What are you doing there? Last year we talked about a startup you were doing with some buds, has that gone to China now?

  • 2 adam // Nov 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Hey Daniel, long time no talk (again)! The startup and I parted ways — a bit of a long story… and I suppose I’m long past overdue to write something about it. :)

    Let’s catch up again soon.. I’ll keep my eye out for ya on gtalk.

  • 3 forresty // Jan 28, 2009 at 2:15 am

    “such that if/when I leave China, I will be leaving with a cargo container in addition to the 2 suitcases that accompanied me here.”
    I love this ending ;-) 新年快乐!

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