As we landed in the Pudong Airport, I was overwhelmed by the number of older Asian women who nearly knocked me over. They looked so cute from afar...until their boney elbows found their way into my rib cage. The last time I felt this violated was when I had the brilliant idea to venture out on a day after Thanksgiving sale at 4am. Elbows flying, bodies being shoved out of the way, people stepping over others just to get closer to the Wii aisle at Wal-Mart. The scene at the United Airlines terminal this afternoon was identical to that horrific day. Of a few things I am sure -- pushing isn't a crime in this city and personal space seems to be nonexistent.
The hotel, however, is everything that a Westerner could ask for - running water, western toilets and a room so clean that you don't feel like you have to walk around in your shoes. The view out my window is a cross between the streets of Chicago or New York and quaint villas that seem extremely out of place given the modern skyscrapers that tower their every side.
After a walk through the hutong (older courtyards and alleys surrounded by adjoined residences) adjacent to our hotel, we found a convenient market with shops, street vendors, food and guess what...Shanghai STARBUCKS!! It was as if I hadn't left home at all...until I realized that I couldn't order my iced grande nonfat no whip white chocolate mocha, and that my barista, Teresa, was replaced with a Chinese girl. But who needs coffee? I just got off of a 13 hour flight and it was only 2pm. My eye will stop twitching later, I'm sure.
Gordon took the 2nd crew to a local eatery just past Starbucks (you can see the corner of it on the left side of the Starbucks picture) which the 1st crew had eaten at the night before. Looking around the restaurant, every table was filled with at least 3 generations of family members: grandparents, parents and kids. It didn't seem like a special occasion that they had all gathered together for, but instead, like a routine Sunday dinner with the entire family. As I guzzled down the cashew chicken I had ordered, I was envious of the family life that seemed so engrained into the local people around me. Kids weren't texting on their cell phones, spouses were actually talking to each other rather than playing the silent game, and it seemed as if even the dishes that rotated in the center of the table were meant to be a bonding experience. It was fascinating and made me wish that life back home could be as simple as Shanghai after noon.