My First Visit to Shanghai's Art District and a Bad Day (by the way, that's two separate days - there's no connection between the two events)
03/18/2012 - 03/26/2012 61 °F
Sorry I haven't sent these pictures out earlier. I actually visited the art district in mid-March, but I've been having problems using travellerspoint on my home computer and don't usually have time to work on this blog at work, so that's why you're getting this blog a week and a half after I started it.
I decided that it was time to finally visit the art district - just like the 1933 building and the Jewish Refugee Museum, I've known about the art district for awhile, but never found (made) the time to visit. It's actually not too far from my apartment, (but farther than I wanted to walk) so I grabbed a taxi and headed there one Sunday afternoon. Not all of the galleries and shops were open on a Sunday afternoon, but since I wasn't planning on buying anything, that was fine by me. (The only art I wanted to buy was by an artist named Qiu Shengxian and after a search on the internet, it seems that his paintings sell for around $5000-$12,000!!! I won't be buying one of them anytime soon!) Most of the galleries that were open don't allow visitors to take any pictures inside, so I stayed outside with my camera for the most part. Again, I have to apologize for the pictures you're about to see - even though they're the best ones I took from that afternoon, they aren't as good as I'd like them to be. If you want to see some examples of the art and environment there, I suppose they'll do. But if you're looking for art itself here, you should probably look elsewhere.
A detailing on one of the buildings, looking back to the main road
Street signs and a very tall man - taller than Yao Ming!
Ah, scale! The average Chinese woman would be around the same height as the pottend plant on the right side of the picture
The side of one of the buildings - I wonder how long it took to paint it?
Looking up at the center of the street sign sculpture
A non, nondescript door (why can't we call it a "descript" door?)
Another locked door
I didn't see any "no pictures allowed" signs (in English or Chinese!) so I snapped this picture. It shows the work in one of the galleries. They looked like large photos that had been deliberately aged
Looks like the main strip here, but not many people out and about on a Sunday afternoon
Looking up at a design studio's sign
On to the long graffiti wall
An Asian superman
You tell me which is the work of art here - the graffiti or the Porsche?
Is this art or did someone take a break from hauling around all those chairs?
Now for the sad news. This past Monday, I experienced a part of "everyday life" in Shanghai that I've somehow managed to avoid in the last three and a half years of living here. While on the bus, my phone was stolen. No, let me be more specific - my new iPhone was stolen! And in the last couple of minutes of my ride, too! Now that I've had a few days to reflect on it (make that "stew over it"), I can see how I wasn't vigilant enough - normally, I'm very aware of things. Actually, I was very aware of things on Monday as well, I was just aware of the wrong things. Let me explain:
A friend and I both bought new cameras last year and we've made plans a few times to get together and practice taking pictures. Even though we've made plans more than once, we've never actually met up to take pictures due to scheduling conflicts or bad weather. So Monday arrived and it was BEAUTIFUL! We've had a very rainy February and March, but it seems like the rain's finally finished for now. We decided to meet in a very picturesque part of Shanghai, in the French Concession area near her apartment. I could have taken the taxi, but I rarely take them since they're more expensive, so I decided to take the bus instead. When I first got on the bus, it was a little crowded which meant I had to stand, but still had some breathing room around me. After the next stop, though, I was able to get a seat near the back door. I enjoyed it while I could since I was carrying all my camera equipment and had another bag hanging from my shoulders, so I pulled out my phone and proceeded to read my iBook. At the next stop (or perhaps the one after that, I'm not sure), a couple of older women got on the bus. I stood up to give them my seat and one of the women told me that I could stay seated. I assured her that I was okay since I was getting off at the next stop. In hindsight, that's one of the worst things you can say out loud when a pickpocket is standing next to you.
Since only one woman got to sit down, the other was standing next to me. As the bus had stopped at a light, she took the opportunity to use both hands to put a face mask on. Because I'm so "aware," I knew that as soon as the bus started moving again, she'd lose her balance and possibly fall, so I put my book/phone in the left pocket of my trench coat, held on to the bar with my left hand and kept my right hand free to grab her as soon as the bus started. Just as I'd predicted, the bus started up again and she stumbled a bit, but I was ready to help (if I was a man, I'd be the quintessential gentleman!) - I grabbed her arm with my right hand and she said "thank you, thank you, thank you." I smiled at her, happy to be the helpful foreigner. Within two more minutes, the bus stopped at my destination, so I quickly got off, ready to meet my friend and get some pictures. As soon as I was on the sidewalk and the bus doors had closed (only one or two other people got off with me, so it didn't need to stop for long), I reached in my pocket for the phone so I could send my friend a message and tell her I'd arrived... but there was no phone to send a message from!
I can't really describe the sense of panic I felt then - I said "damn" a couple of times, but nothing worse than that. I know I shouldn't have even said that. The bus was already moving away, but I didn't even run after it. You see, one of my pockets has a hole in it, so at that point I wasn't even sure if the phone had really been stolen, or if it had fallen from the pocket into the lining of my coat. I should have run after the bus, though, because I searched and searched my pockets and sure enough, there was no phone. Turns out the hole is in the right pocket but the phone had been in the left pocket. Then in addition to panic, I felt like crying, screaming and throwing up. I genuinely felt physically sick!
As I said, I've had a few days to dwell over my lost phone and by now, I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened. The woman who was standing on my left was probably 55 to 60 years old, and I'm 99% sure it was her (no, not one of the older women I was being so nice to - they were both over 70 because the transportation cards they swiped on the bus said "Lao Ren Ka," which literally means "old person card." You can't get one of those until you're 70). Anyway, the other woman heard me say I was getting off the bus soon and realized she had a chance to take my phone without being caught. She also noticed that I was basically distracted while providing a seat to one woman and helping to keep the other woman steady on her feet. Actually, I did look over at her at one point (I must have felt something on my left side, but to be honest, I don't even remember why I looked at her). I thought it was a bit odd that she had her right arm wrapped around her body while her left arm was holding on to one of the seats, but unfortunately didn't think too much about it. Now of course, I know that she was shielding the phone from my sight and putting it in the blue bag she had hanging from her left arm.
I have to admit, I assumed pickpockets would be young men or women - perhaps in their early 20s. And I always assumed they'd steal an iPhone because they want an iPhone. But I NEVER thought a middle-aged woman would be involved in something like that. Even worse, the two other women may have been accomplices. Since I was reading my book when they got on the bus, I don't know if they all got on at the same time, but I've heard that pickpockets often work in pairs or groups. At least one of them provides a distraction while the another one steals. Again, I find it hard to believe that little old ladies would be involved, but some of my local friends here say it doesn't really surprise them.
So that's the first part of my long, awful story. What's ironic (and makes a bad situation even worse) is that I've had to teach a class several times this week that's called "Talking About Awful Experiences." In that class, we look at the 3rd conditional structure and see how we can use it to talk about regrets. I've had no problems providing real-life examples for my students:
- "If only I'd taken a taxi, my phone wouldn't have been stolen."
- "If only I'd put the phone in my jeans pocket, the thief wouldn't have stolen it."
And on and on it goes...
Anyway, I say this is a part of "everyday life" because when I've told this story to my Chinese friends, almost all of them respond by telling me their own stories of the time(s) their phone was stolen. In fact, one of the girls who took the "Talking About Awful Experiences" class told me that she's had cell phones stolen SEVEN TIMES! She says that she now refuses to buy expensive phones. Since she's made that decision, her phone's been untouched.
I want to make the same decision, but once you've used an iPhone, it's hard to go back to anything else. When I told my mom about the phone being stolen, she said "just buy another one." I should point out that I didn't buy this one - a friend's husband upgraded from a 4 to 4S, so I told her I would buy his old phone. Long story (another one!) short, she wouldn't let me pay for it, so it was a free phone. But I had to tell my mom, "that's a $700-$800 phone!" and after a second of silence, she asked me "WHAT are you doing carrying around a $700-800 phone?!?" Good question. I don't know if I'll be doing THAT again!
Well, enough for now. I've had much better luck typing things up tonight so I probably shouldn't push my luck.