At first it seemed challenging to merely adjust to all the various variables in Shanghai. New smells, speeding mopeds and various sounds invade one’s private space constantly, challenging any assumption of normality and predictability. However, lately I have discovered that if the unpredictability is expected, it is no longer unpredictable, as obvious as that sounds. This realization has afforded me some type of constant in my life of variables in China. The stability I rely on begins in my living situation, the Grand Pujian.
The Grand Pujian is a hideous pinkish building, which is united by a broad base with another brownish tower. From afar, the Grand Pujian looks like any other beaten building in Shanghai; leaking AC’s hanging on top of each other, drying clothes and a dirty exterior. However, the brave souls that venture closer discover a very different sight. On the inside the Grand Pujian is like any 3-4 star hotel, it has a lobby with some chairs, a patio and even a free coffee and water machine. On the other side of the building, a Family Mart (China’s own 7-Eleven) opened just a couple weeks ago and a new sign promises a dunkin’ donuts coming soon. On that same side, four floors up, there is a private gym which overlooks the congested and usually polluted Pujian Road in which the building stands. Seventeen floors up on the west side stands suite 1706, my Shanghai home. It’s a modernly decorated three bedroom suite with all the amenities one might need, a washer, a dryer, a kitchen, a TV, a living room and two bathrooms. In suite 1706 is where I spend most of my time.
The Grand Pujian provided me with all the tools for stability and routine. In the morning I wake up and usually either cook some eggs or have some cereal. However, when I run out things are not easily replaceable. The Family Mart downstairs is obviously tailored to the Chinese consumer, who doesn’t usually have western-style cereal and who likes eggs in various different forms (many undesirable for me). To find such things one must go to the city’s western market, city shop, where all non-threatening products live. After breakfast I go downstairs and catch the 9:00 AM bus NYU kindly procures for Grand Pujian residents to avoid the horrible 20-25 minute walk to campus, no human being should go through that. Once classes are over, and if there is a bus back, I tend to go the gym.
This particular gym is a hidden gem that just opened about two months ago and it’s called Seven Gym. Going to the gym here is very interesting. What particularly stroke me first was the strong smell of cigarettes at the entrance. However, this is just until you realize that we are in China and you can basically smoke wherever you please. Another surprising factor was that regardless of how humid it is, they will not turn the AC on. One has to point repeatedly at the AC machines and make other signs (such as a fan-waving motion) for them to finally start it. After the gym my night usually ends with watching one of the six non-chinese channels on the TV (CNN included) and prepare to take the NYU Shuttle in the morning.