Greetings from Shanghai

by francine Hardaway on November 21, 2005

Shanghai is definitely a first world city in a third world country. Coming from the airport, which is new and well-organized, into downtown, which is crowded and polluted, all you see is skyscrapers, and my friend Lindsey lives in one of them — a fairly new three-building complex with the washer in the kitchen, and the “dryer” out on the balcony. Her daughter goes to an international school, and she tells me there are over 100,000 expatriates in a city of 15 million.

Lindsey is part of a new, global generation. Her husband owns a business in Shanghai, and she moved here from Bali, where she lived last year. She is taking Chinese language lessons, and her daughter speaks English, Chinese, and some words of Balinese. She has a wireless network in her home — although the Internet is censored here. In fact, she tells me, when CNN talks about Taiwan, the screen goes black.

This morning, walking along the big shopping street to the “knock-off” market, we pass bicycles, taxis, busses, cars, and motorbikes. We get to the market, and are literally accosted by people with Louis Vuitton catalogues, and pictures of Rolex watches, although no Vuitton or Prada appears openly in the market. Because of the crackdown on pirated intellectual property, vendors don’t present their merchandise openly, but it’s still there for sale if you just stand there and look western.

As a blonde, I was overrun with people trying to sell me things. You can bargain endlessly, but you have to have the stomach for it.

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