The final [Shanghai] countdown

After three years of life and lunacy in Shanghai, I am leaving for the wild urban jungle that is Hong Kong. This is the M.O. of a single international teacher; we love ’em and leave ’em because we can without anyone but ourselves to call shotgun on the highway to adventure.

I have been done with teaching (but not learning) for about a week and a half now, and while I never officially made a Shanghai Bucket List (my bucket list is useless – I keep adding and subtracting from it), I’ve committed myself to doing a few things I haven’t been able to do yet. This actually requires gumption and energy, which I didn’t have much of after the rush to finish up the school year, pack up my apartment, ship my things, and also prepare for my final summer of graduate school in Bangkok.

We’re in the middle of the “plum rain” season in Shanghai, which means rain, rain, downpour, drizzle, downpour, thunder, lightning, downpour, rain, rain … you get the picture. It rained ridiculously hard for three days, which meant you may as well wear your bathing suit for how effective umbrellas and ponchos are. Taxis are almost nonexistent, so it’s hard to do anything outside of a small walking radius.

Thankfully, though, the rains cleared for about three days this weekend, allowing me to help some friends move apartment, to do a walking tour and spend time with friends who are also leaving Shanghai, and to take a cooking class.

The walking tour was a self-guided one using a locally-published book. I decided to explore the Art Deco era of Shanghai, which was pretty much its heyday in the 1920s & 1930s.

Little pockets of the old Shanghai still exist, and it’s worth seeing them now, before they’re either knocked down or all the original Art Deco work is paved over for marble and other fancy things.

Also in Shanghai, there are plenty of cooking classes to take, if you’re interested. I’ve taken a course on dim sum dishes – fried dumplings, soup dumplings, stir-fried spinach with garlic, and kung pao chicken – but this time around, I wanted to learn how to make la mien – hand pulled noodles – and the traditional favorite, baozi – a steamed bun with a variety of fillings.

It was a fun class – with only four of us there, it was nice to have some more one-on-one teaching, especially for the noodle-making. One guy had been in China since 1995, for the most part; another guy was from Switzerland working in China for an engineering firm; and a girl from the UK was here visiting her aunt and uncle. We were a great crew, but I don’t think we’ll be opening a noodle cart any time soon!

The rains are back now, as they probably will be until I leave for Thailand. I’m hoping for a clear day soon so that I might at least head to North Suzhou Creek area and then to the back streets behind the magnificent Bund to do a little more exploring of my city-away-from-home.

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