Sunday, June 6, 2010

Happy Tianniversary

June 4th, 1989. Tiananmen Square massacre. And no, there wasn't a whisper of remembrance in the local foreign media. We know better than that.

This week I had a health check, sailed a catamaran and suffered my first Chinese highway break down. Here's the skinny:

On Tuesday I went out to the special hospital where every foreigner who wants to live in Shanghai has to go to get poked and prodded. Go in, fill out paperwork, take top and bra off, put on gray tunic, shuffle between half a dozen rooms for litany of tests. That's how it goes.

The first room was blood sample. I don't know about you, but I like my hospitals to be super sterile. This one wasn't. There were scuffs on the wall, and the chairs in the blood sample room looked like they could use a good scrubbing down. I oscillated between not wanting to look at the needle and wanting to see whether or not the nurse was following hygienic procedure. I watched her change gloves before I sat down, but I'm pretty sure she touched her pen with the glove before giving me the needle. eeeh....

"Make face! Make face!" She told me.

I am making a face, I thought, don't I look uncomfortable enough for you?

"Make a fist." the guy in the chair beside me translated. We had a laugh over that one.

Next was the women's examination room. The name seemed ominous: please, please don't make me take my panties off ... I didn't have to: Tunic off, lay down - lady with a stethoscope listened to my heart and felt up my organs.

Tunic back on to wait in line for an x-ray, a middle-aged Australian guy who works in textile sales struck up a conversation. When I told him I live in Jing'An, he said he knows the manager at the Swissotel nearby. Late twenties. American. Good looking. I must've given him a look that said, "are you seriously trying to set me up with the Swissotel manager while I'm sitting here in a tunic outside the x-ray?" Because the next thing he said was "I'm not trying to set you up or anything."

After that there was an ekg. Top off again. Quite a day for exposure... And then an ultrasound. Like a pregnant lady. The technician spread goo over my tummy and rubbed her wand over it, which made me laugh because it tickled. I tried to get a load of my organs on the screen. But I couldn't tell what she was looking at.

And that was the end of that. Top and bra back on, and back to work.

After a busy week, I went out to a lake nearby Shanghai to go sailing. I wrote an article on one of the local sailing clubs recently, so they invited me out. This German architect took me out on his little catamaran. They're exciting. We got it up on one hull and I got to hook in and lean out over the water for leverage, like this. I got to tend the jib and the spinnaker. My family sailed when I was a kid, I took classes in college. Somehow, my sailing skills haven't progressed beyond minding the line and heeding, " let it let it out."

We came in, cleaned up the boat, had a burger at the yacht club and hit the road back for Shanghai. Halfway there we heard a pop and pulled over. His radiator burst, water was draining on to the highway. Trucks screaming by. German popped the hood.

"Can you keep an eye for me?" He asked.

"On what?"

"To make sure no Chinese are using the emergency lane to drive in, you know like they do." He said it as if it should be obvious.

This is something Chinese people do, more so than Angelenos, actually. But we were on a bridge. So should an airhead driver be inappropriately using the lane we had a choice of jumping two stories down or jumping into traffic.

"Then what?"

"Then I can jump over."

"Jump over where?"

A tow truck rolled up as German's sailing buddies pulled alongside us. From German's friends I learned this was the third time German's Jeep had broken down between the lake and the city. The tow truck guys pulled the jeep off the bridge. Then they said they had a friend nearby who could come look at the car to see if could be fixed quickly. It took "friend" half an hour to arrive. This was enough time for tow truck guys to tell me all about the voodoo Chinese medicine I should take to cure my allergies.

Then tow truck guy's friend pulled the Jeep to his garage, which was not very close by, but was located behind a huge trash heap near the Hongqiao Airport. It was getting on near midnight, but I envisioned tow truck guys' friend telling his mechanics to throw open the doors - here comes money, boys!

In the garage, tow truck guys' friend quoted German something outrageous to replace the broken part. To me it seemed obvious: Call his bluff by making as if we're going to tow the Jeep somewhere else. That'll bring him down. But I wasn't asked for an opinion. And German has a real job and a catamaran. So his impetus not to get ripped off is probably much smaller than mine. German's sailor friends drove him to an atm. Then we drove him back to the garage, which wasn't very hard to find again, we just had to look for the special trash heap...

By then it was after midnight. German gave me a kiss on either cheek (after three months in Shanghai, this is no longer weird, it's just European) and told me he couldn't wait to see what SmartShanghai wrote about this ... Yep, he got the name of my publication wrong, which I'm not usually sensitive about, but at an auto body shop on a Saturday somewhere around midnight - I was annoyed.

And I'm not writing anything about it, save for what goes right here.

That's all the news you can use. My first Shanghai guests arrive tomorrow. Hurray!

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