China caters to my three biggest current addictions – lychees, pork dumplings, and cheap booze. Moldy cheeses, nude lipstick, Edith Piaf, and button-down shirts have been bumped down three places, but this list is comparable to rankings in women’s tennis, where no one/nothing holds the top seed for more than two weeks (I consider the conundrum of how Safina ever got to number 2 to be one of life’s greatest mysteries). Actually, the Federer – no – Nadal – no – Sampras of my addictions list might just have to be blueberry pierogi – they will always be on top regardless of trivial numbers. I think I need to add tennis to the addictions list. ANYWAY.
It’s nice to be in a place where all these guilty pleasures are readily available everywhere, all day every day. The only equivalents I can think of – being in China with a lychee addiction is like a pasta addict in Italy or a sex addict in Bangkok’s red light district, or any red light district for that matter. It’s becoming quite a problem actually – I did not predict that this much of my budget would go towards lychees.
I think that that’s Shanghai’s biggest problem. Anything you could ever want or need is absolutely no effort to obtain. Everything’s around the corner, whether it’s street food, a good bar, or a toilet. If I’m craving fries, I can just go downstairs and buy a plate for two bucks. It shouldn’t be this easy. Many people speak english, enough to make my exchanges with them disinteresting. The phone booths have wifi. The metro is an underground city in itself with everything and anything in it, with the exception of sunlight – it probably shelters as many people as Shanghai’s streets do at any given moment. One can purchase sex toys by the register in Family Mart, a convenience store that has mushroomed all over the city. You become spoiled when you don’t have to work for anything, not to mention curious about Chinese supply and demand economics when checking out in Family Mart. You become a jaded person with a lightened wallet. Shanghai is either a shopoholic’s dream or nightmare, depending if they want to get better or not. Not bad for a ‘communist’ country.
All in all, it’s a cool city with a cool vibe, with nice boys who write on my notebook inquiring about my current relationship status. I had to ask a hostel employee what they wrote and then the whole staff laughed. So I like Shanghai, but it’s a city for people with money and a talent for acquiring things, and I subscribe to neither category. As per my short term bucket list, the second I get home I’m selling everything I own, save some quality clothes, my Pablo Neruda watermelon poster, and my current favorite read, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, a book that I admittedly stole from a hostel in Nanjing but would say it was one of my smarter decisions, and I’m moving on with my life, prepared for one without Shanghai’s obsession with trading in paper for useless things that I wouldn’t think twice about within the hour.
I got used to not knowing what kind of animal or body part I was eating, and now I miss that. On to rural China, a place that will probably make me regret saying that last sentence.