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August 1, 2006 - Shanghai, China

The Heats of Shanghai

As soon as my eyes opened I could feel the heat this morning - it was 6 AM - and there was something different about it than other heats I had known. I saw it when I washed my face clean of a sheet of grime in the sink, I felt it as a slight scratch on the back of my throat and I smelled it as an acrid background to everything else. The dragon of Shanghai - heat.

Up at 6AM to grab the subway to Shanghai Railway Station. There at the main entrance was a bustling crowd, all milling and working their way through the x-ray machine. Large screens announced track numbers and waiting rooms for each ticket-holder. The waiting rooms were all situated off of a main hallway - reminding me of torpedo launch tubes. Each one was long - football field in length - with 6 or 8 continuous benches running lengthwise. Above each aisle was an LCD panel noting a specific train, 8 trains per waiting room. At the end of these aisles between the benches were gates that lead to the tracks.

We shot out of those gates half an hour before departure and scrabbled for luggage space. The ride was about 3 hours from Shanghai to Nanjing including a single stop. On the ride I glanced up from flashcards to see a solid wall of concrete beside the train - it continued - after finally pulling away and I realized it was the cooling tower for a nuclear plant. Massive.

Stepping off the train in Nanjing was another kind of heat - not dirty - just hot and muggy. 35° C. The cab ride gave a preview to the local traffic, not especially fast or furious but rather hectic. The idiom “Give em an inch…” felt apt. Cars came from every which direction, and each would execute their own dance in the middle of the street as if they we the lone car. Six inches was more than enough clearance to pull out from a side street or swing a U-turn.

A quick meeting of the English teachers here was slightly disconcerting - our more advanced vol would be bored senseless, the middle of the road vols would be fine, and I would be up the creek - I could barely understand their accent and quiet tones.

Walked back to the dorm and enjoyed a thunderous rain storm that rolled in without much warning - from our 8th floor balcony we got a real show of the lightning and thunder over and around Nanjing. The storm cut the heat like a charm and dinner was really nice.

Off to bed as language classes are full steam ahead at 8:30.

Tumbleweeds... and no comments. How 'bout livening things up?

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