The very first moments in Shanghai would become an inevitable sign of how we were going to fare for the rest of our time in Chinatown: isolated from all intelligible communication and trapped in a maze of cryptic symbols. Of course this found us stranded with our luggage at the wrong Shaangxi Road (supposed to be the Shangxi with only one “a”—disastrous miscommunication; one of many since the names and streets seemed to blend together in a tapestry only decipherable with an eager pair of wooden chopsticks). However, the blossoming metropolis that is Shanghai would soon be awakened before our inexperienced and wide-open Western eyes. We arrived to find that we lived a short five-minute walk from the famous, overcrowded (shocking), and exciting Nanjing Road and two minutes further to the lively Bund that stretched around the snaking Huangpu River. The city is full of subway surfing and sightseeing—the latter being quite easy since Shanghai has the largest bus system in the entire world. Yes, even here, bigger is better. We stared at the skyline flaunted before us like an arts and crafts table where some kids got a little crazy with disco balls and cookie cutters.
We decided to brave the Jin Mao Tower and its 88 floors. From the observation deck, we stared out at Shanghai from its tallest building, and what did we see? None other than Shanghai’s true tallest building beaming down at us. Apparently, Summer had gotten her dimensions all wrong- a building mix up, you see- and as we gazed up from the shadows at the bottle opener top of the Shanghai World Financial Center, the clouds were mirrored back into our longing faces. Regardless, the views were stunning as we peered out at the impressive skyline and all the little dominions couched beneath her gaze like a popup book.
And this book is always being rewritten. Added onto, reworked, remade into the ever-changing flux of life it emulates and contains. Shanghai wowed us, folding us into its past and present while it is always looking ahead to its promised future. The days crept into nights, exposing us to a palette of colors. Natural pinks and oranges from the setting sun behind the buildings phased into the fluorescent magentas and yellows from their neon signs. If this is a day in the life, then color me Shanghai… anything but red.