TELEVISION Of course, one of these lives on display could be mine, too, as I live in one of these towers where there is no need to hide. I used to live in a lilong, though,which taught me to understand that this whole city is mine, and that we all form it, create it and make it breathe together. [ + ]
Of course, one of these lives on display could be mine, too, as I live in one of these towers where there is no need to hide. I used to live in a lilong, though,which taught me to understand that this whole city is mine, and that we all form it, create it and make it breathe together. No need to hide. My window becomes the best possible TV, a screen showing what is happening here and now. At home, I just want to watch the city passing by my eyes.
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CIGARETTES Being a smoker in Shanghai is fun. You’re allowed to smoke almost everywhere, and the best part is being able to smoke in the taxi back home. [ + ]
Being a smoker in Shanghai is fun. You’re allowed to smoke almost everywhere, and the best part is being able to smoke in the taxi back home. This custom is comparable to the traditions surrounding food. In particular, it is bad manners to eat everything on your plate, as this signifies that you are still hungry and consequently want and need more food in order to be satisfied. The plates on the table will be endlessly refilled, until you finally give up your Western ways and leave some food to be thrown away. With cigarettes, it’s kind of the same: sometimes you will still be smoking a cigarette and your Chinese friend will offer you another one. In this case, you should simply put out the one in your mouth and take the new one your friend is offering; later, it will be your turn to do the same. And, believe it or not, it is actually normal to eat while smoking. In a taxi, sometimes you can simply ask the taxi driver if he wants a cigarette, and hey presto, there you are in a mobile living room or smoking lounge. Not accepting cigarettes is like not accepting food: it’s not good manners. However, they will accept a refusal, if you are truly a non-smoker. Just make sure they understand that it’s not an unfriendly gesture, but simply because… well… you’ll need a good excuse for this one! Personally, I don’t know of one…
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COLD MEAT 3 I got on the train, and began to wander through the train corridors. Suddenly, I had the feeling that it would be a longer trip than I had imagined. [ + ]
COLD MEAT 3
I got on the train, and began to wander through the train corridors. Suddenly, I had the feeling that it would be a longer trip than I had imagined. Whole families were filling the gaps between seats. Walking through the train, I discovered three-storey compartments and row after row of bunk beds. I arrived at my seat. The man beside me saw my face (which must have betrayed the fact that my stomach wasn’t quite feeling up to such a long trip, alone), and offered me the window seat. We were seated four face to face with another four passengers, 50 cm away from other eight, and so on. A small fan moved its blades, but no wind seemed to follow its instructions. The train was now in motion, and, as if following an order, everyone took something out from their bags. A piece of… what was it? Now, I understood : dried meat. Dried meat in diverse forms: diced, in ribbons, and in flat rectangles of all sizes. However the treats didn’t stop there. There were also chicken feet, available in white and black versions. Oh yes! They would eat the meat, gnawing off the flesh until they arrived at the bone, and then the fun would really begin. They would break the bones and suck out the insides in order to extract every last morsel. I was kindly asked, many times, if I wanted to eat some of these bones, probably because of my gaze, which was too inquisitive, and possibly interpreted as linked to a stomach that was craving some of this train food. I opened the cola, and started forgetting that I had a sense of smell; I just wanted to forget everything. However, I had brought some dried soup with me, and there was a place on the train where you could get hot water. So, the next morning, I would be able to reconstitute the noodles and fit in with my travel companions, by slurping on hot soup. I was shown that, throughout this long journey, I was never alone, I would be taken care of, and our differences were not categorical differences. Later on, I wondered how a whole culture could derive so much satisfaction from sucking bones and gnawing away at dry meat. The answer made me love this culture even more than I could ever imagine. The answer was the love that parents give to their children. In the past, Parents would tell their children that the bones were the most delicious part of the animal, in order to justify why they, the parents, were not eating the precious meat, which would be reserved for the children’s plates. In this way, several generations grew up believing that bones were more precious than meat, as they were never given them to eat. I understood more closely the feeling of “community spirit” and “neighbourliness ” in the lilongs during those unforgettable 18 hours of travel. I became a temporary part of a tight-knit community. Even without trying the bones. Yet they understood that I wouldn’t have the skills to enjoy this food, made for the road, for the transition from one story to another.
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SHARING FOOD A dear friend came to Shanghai to visit me. Over the previous couple of months, I had been seeing such fast development, not just in terms of buildings going up and coming down, but also in the choice of restaurants available. [ + ]
A dear friend came to Shanghai to visit me. Over the previous couple of months, I had been seeing such fast development, not just in terms of buildings going up and coming down, but also in the choice of restaurants available. Not only were international restaurants starting to appear but, more importantly, Chinese cuisine was becoming more prominent in restaurants. This made my life in Shanghai even richer. Although food unifies this country, the variety of options available in China is endless. Different food customs are passed down through the generations, whether regional cuisine or food associated with certain rituals. For every ritual and custom, there is something to be eaten at a specific time and in a specific place. In particular, there are daily rituals – the familiar rituals of day-to-day life. Sharing food, sharing the same food from the same plates at the same table, for instance. The moment when Chinese people eat together is a moment of joy. The Chinese will hold meetings with business partners around a dining table. The difference in the West is that we would often rather go somewhere for a drink. The Chinese, on the other hand, go somewhere to eat. Of course, you can drink while eating. But the importance of the restaurant must not be ignored.
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GUESS WHO IS RIDING THE BICYCLE Shanghai and China historically have an impressive record in terms of the number of citizens who ride bicycles. It is not by chance that the bestselling model of bicycle in the world is Chinese. [ + ]
GUESS WHO IS RIDING THE BICYCLE
Shanghai and China historically have an impressive record in terms of the number of citizens who ride bicycles. It is not by chance that the bestselling model of bicycle in the world is Chinese. Flying Pigeon one of the most popular vehicles sold anywhere. The Chinese have always made great use of bicycles, and they are good at it. They use them as trucks, mobile shops (selling products ranging from gardening items to food), whole-family transport, and as a means of crossing the entire city on a daily basis. In one particular lilong, I get to meet a man who used the pedal of his bike to set in motion a sharpener he had attached to the wheel in order to file and sharpen all kinds of kitchen utensils. However, the Shanghainese are not in agreement on certain issues, such as: – Using bicycle lights at night and/or cycle helmets. – Riding straight, like a Western cyclist. It is hard to shake the feeling that riding in a straight line might actually be more dangerous than navigating the city streets in a more winding, haphazard way… perhaps there is a secret to this? – Using hand signals to indicate you are about to turn. In this case, there is just one thing that matters: keeping your arms safe, and using your head, eyes and ears, as the rules of the road in this city are quite different… And… doing any of the above will immediately mark you out as… a foreigner.
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