Friday, August 1, 2008

WYR is slowly disappearing

The typhoon winds are continuing to breeze through Shanghai, which alleviates the humidity a bit and makes it quite pleasant to go outside. Last night Kelly and I went to the Bund to see the lights- a sight I'm still not sick of after over 15 years of summers here. They tore down the winding road with the great view of the Bund back in February, and have replaced it with a walking bridge that connects both sides of the street (previously, you had to cross underneath). It was gorgeous, as always, but somehow the combination of a warm summer night and the lights on the Bund was made infinitely better by the breeze. Honestly, I found it just as relaxing as when I was on the top deck of the cruise ship on the Yangtze, watching the Three Gorges pass us by on both sides. One of those moments that you let sink in, while you just sit and appreciate the beauty in life. Well, the beauty in China at least; I haven't seen much else to make a proper comparison.

All that beauty-soaking made it all the more depressing when I arrived back at Wuyuan Road and it hit me, like it does every time I come back, how Western the neighborhood is becoming. I remember summers here when I was younger, the lane would always be bustling before the sun even rose with street sweepers and fresh vegetable peddlers. Now the entire block where the little family shops were are a mess of concrete, while staring from across the street are endless dress shops trying to appeal to the foreigners living in the area with what they perceive to be current fashions. You see those cliche pictures of rapid growth in Shanghai and it's some gigantic silver building shooting into the clouds and in the foreground is a pile of rubble? That's my neighborhood.

Every time I come back, the Western-ness increases...three weeks ago when I left for the States, there was a dress shop on the corner that just went out of business. Yesterday when I passed by it again, there was this suave new cafe being renovated out of that shop, it looks ready to open in a few days. One lane over from where I live is Club Bonbon and Huaihai Lu, so foreigners are always spotted walking those streets...yet on my street, you still mainly see the Chinese who've had these apartments for over half a century, like my family. We actually look like the minority here.

It's not comfortable, not by Western standards. One room encompasses bedroom, spare guest room, living room and dining room, with a communal kitchen and bathroom shared by all on our floor. However, the location of our place can't be beat- 3 subway stops from People's Square on Line 1; people would pay good money to live here save for the conditions. That's why I'm always terrified they'll decide to level the entire lane one day to make way for more Western establishments. They've been creeping in for the last few years, and now only one apartment, literally no more than 20 feet, separates that new cafe from the old neighborhood ladies who do tai chi at 8 am every morning.

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