Where is Yu Yuan Garden?

By now I’m sure all of you have seen Rick Perry’s “brain collapse” at the debate on Wednesday night. This was excruciating for me to watch because it’s something I experience multiple times a week trying to use my Chinese. Fortunately for me it’s not broadcast on national tv.

And for me at least, it’s because I don’t know my stuff well enough yet and when I get in a stressful situation (which is any time I have to use it with people who speak it better than me–basically everyone!)–poof, it’s gone. I don’t want to get political, but I think there might be a correlation there. You can take from that what you will.

Anyway, have you ever had one of those experiences when you hear about something for the first time and then the subject just keeps popping up over and over again? That happened to me on Thursday.

At knitting on Thursday, someone was talking about Yu Yuan Garden and all the shops around it. I was being all dense and saying where is it and what’s it like, etc. and everyone was looking at my like I had 3 heads. Apparently this is the most famous tourist attraction in Shanghai, the place that everyone is taken to by their relocation guides (except ours apparently). It’s a huge 5 acre garden in the center of the Old City that was first created in 1559.

Then, Thursday night I’m at Chinese class, and we turn to the next chapter in the book and guess what the title is? “Where is Yu Yuan Garden?” Again I say, “Hey, I’ve never heard or been to this place, what is it?” And again, I get the look like I’ve got three heads.

SO, this Saturday, the weather was gorgeous, Meredith was busy with the play at school all day, Mark was still in the States and I thought I better high-tail it over to Yu Yuan Garden.

Where is Yu Yuan Garden? Why, it’s outside the Yu Yuan Garden exit of the #10 line of the subway. How convenient is that?

On the way to the subway, I saw something I hadn't seen before--a street cleaner washing the trash cans. He dipped water out of the big blue and white vehicle into the yellow construction hat, poured it over the trash can and scrubbed the cans with a brush.

When he ran out of water, he refilled the water truck at the fire hydrant.

This is the wire bicycle man. He often sits out on the sidewalk making and selling his little wire bicycles.

This is Changde Rd, the second of two streets we cross to get to the subway and that Mark crosses to get to work. As you can see it's a very large intersection. On a weekday it is much more congested with cars and people and bikes and scooters and I always think of Moses parting the Red Sea for the Israelites when I'm going across.

I stepped out of the subway at Yu Yuan Gardens and saw this sign. How exciting--I'm going to be going to the model area for the advanced state of human society!

And the first thing I see is the Chinese version of the dollar store!

This beautiful gate was positioned in a rather odd spot. It marked the end of a wide boulevard on its left, a natural crossing point for the street you see here, except there was no cross walk.

It is rare for the Chinese to cross the street without a crosswalk, or to cross on a red walk sign, but here the obviousness of crossing at this particular place took over and everyone was playing “frogger” and crossing the street where they weren’t supposed to.

Coming back home, on my way to the subway station, I noticed an interesting group dynamic. There was a big crowd of people standing, facing the other side of the street waiting to cross through the steady stream of cars, when a police car appeared in the stream. As if a switch had been flipped, the whole crowd turned all at once and began walking down the street like that had been their intention all along. As soon as the police car was out of sight, everyone turned back around and headed across the road!

These pictures don't quite capture the impressiveness of these buildings

Guess it was actually a little hazy out

Don't know why this non-Chinese style building is in this uber-Chinese area.

This is a Jewelry market. I decided I needed to check it out.

Impressive place with floor after floor of "bling"

Here's a lady buying a jade bracelet. She seems to be getting a hand massage with some cream after making her decision. Another woman in the store was given the same treatment.

After the massage the bargaining for the bracelet begins with the sales lady showing her her first price on the calculator. I was glad to see that they use a calculator with the Chinese too. I assumed they reserved that for foreigners who don't speak Chinese.

The lady reveals her counter offer

Here's the saleswoman's second offer

Here the sales lady was waving her arm around "no, no, no" to the woman's counter offer.

Interestingly the buyer has just pulled out a wad of cash. I'm not sure what the saleslady is counting on her fingers about.

Checking the price again

Suddenly everyone is pulling out wads of cash! Apparently they've reached an agreement!

Bracelet in hand, but she's still considering others.

No purchase is complete in Shanghai without the fancy bag.

Off they go, arm and arm. That negotiation took about 5 minutes. Mark's negotiation for our tv took about an hour! No doubt because it was considerably pricier. And because he drives a hard bargain!

I was still in search of the garden, but I came upon this first. It appeared to be a lot of very fancy buildings with shops.

These buildings have to have been built recently for the tourist trade.

There was a huge crowd outside one store. These white coated people were demonstrating a hair product.

This was the product. Your guess is as good as mine as to what it is actually supposed to do. Pictures underneath the boxes showed grey haired people turned black, but none of the customers had grey hair and the people on the box are too young to have grey hair. Then I thought it might be a hair straightener because they were demonstrating on some people with curly hair and it seemed to make people's hair stiff and therefore straighter.

See how stiff the guy's hair is in the yellow cape? But his hair looked to be pretty straight to begin with. Whatever, he seemed very satisfied with the results

This woman just seemed to be having all her hair yanked out by that green vibrating brush device, but she made nary a whimper or grimace. I don't know. It's a mystery.

Kid behavior is kind of universal. The one on the left was being a little ham for the camera, while the one on the right was refusing to pose and was frustrating his parents no end.

Do my eyes deceive me? That's an actual Dairy Queen. You hardly see them in the States any more and there was not one, but two of them here.

Some jade carvings (actually it's probably not jade, but that stone that looks like it)

One of the main shopping streets where you can buy:

Things you didn't know you needed

These apparently are snuff bottles. I admit, that at age 53, I have no idea what a snuff bottle is, nor had I ever heard of them before yesterday. But these are very prettily painted snuff bottles, aren't they?

There was also calligraphy done in wire

Chinese cut paper pictures. These are really beautiful and astounding. Personally I think this is really cool.

I turned a corner and saw masses of people and heard music and realized there was a performance going on. Standing up on my toes a bit and holding my camera above the crowd I managed to see these guys.

When the acrobats were finished I moved around to the front of the stage and managed to find a better spot where I could put my camera above the crowd. This looks so painful!

Some of these pictures will be a little blurry as I was just holding my camera up above people’s heads and clicking and I was being jostled a lot.

I see physical thereapy in their futures.

This lovely couple came out next. Again, really painful.

You can see that this was the daily performance of the Shanghai International Arts Festival. I felt really lucky to have just happened in to this free show.

I think you needed to be Chinese to understand this act. First these guys came out and shook hands with people in the audience. Then they danced in a rather aggressive manner to some war-like music. They would kind of jump up and down and position their arms in a "put up your dukes" like gesture.

I am not a scary masked man. I am a handsome young man who wants to date your daughter.

Next were dancing girls with long feathers on their heads.

As hard as I tried, when they shook their feathers at each other in this part, I couldn't stop thinking of a really funny Saturday Night Live skit that was just like this, and I just couldn't take it seriously.

These guys were my favorite act. They had so much life and stage presence; they were absolutely adorable. Can you guess what they did?

Juggling!

Ta da!

They juggled hats too.

Lots of different ways.

More of the gymnasts. I've got to work on my abs.

Yup, I'm definitely behind the curve on the ab work.

Next it was juggling clowns on stilts. These guys looked about 13 or 14, but they were probably older

Part of their act was to get an audience participant. I thought it was going to fall flat when they couldn't recruit anybody. Finally this guy agreed. He melded perfectly into the act. The kids were surprisingly good comedians and the audience loved them.

The last act was this magician and his pretty assistance. The poor guy was incredibly nervous. He dropped his baton as he came on stage and then one of his doves flew out into the audience after one of his tricks, so he couldn't do his next trick. I couldn't bear to watch any longer, so I left.

I finally found the garden but it costs 40 yuan ($6.50) to go into it and since I figured I'd be taking other people to see it soon and it was getting late, I decided to wait.

Instead I got caramelized crab apples on a stick for 5 yuan ($.80--I'm a cheap date!), easily one of my favorite things I've discovered here. I just wish I knew how to dispose of the seeds politely!

The last thing I wanted to do was to get dumplings at this place. There had been a long line outside it all day. By this time, at 4:15 it was 3 times as long. I didn't want to wait that long, but anyway, the outside menu was all in Chinese, and even though I attempted to figure it out, I knew I didn't have a prayer of ordering from it. So I went upstairs to the sit-down restaurant and had them there. Good thing I went early--there was a line there too by the time I left.

Everyone led me to believe that this area is a really big foreigner destination, but looking closely at the pictures of the crowds that I took, I could only pick out 10 Caucasians, including me. That doesn’t seem like a lot to me. Just saying.

In the evening I went to Rumors, the Fall play they put on at Concordia. Meredith was doing lighting for the show. This school certainly does have a lot of money to spend on “the arts”. The program was an 8 1/2″ by 11″ glossy print with big pictures of all the cast members. Meredith says there are 4 catwalks in the theatre compared to East’s one and the costume closet is more like a room, not a closet. But I think East still puts on a mighty fine show.

Welcome Home Mark! We missed you! 🙂

Elevator flowers

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About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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