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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bond...Father/daughter bond...

Shànghăi Children's Palace 少年宫

This paragraph has been removed by the author, who, now having vented through the printed word as well as with a couple of cocktails to go with his dinner, feels much better. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogpost currently in progress:

Yes, we have visitors in town: my brother-in-law, one of my sisters-in-law and a friend of my wife's. They're all nice people and I have no problem at all with playing host to guests from out of town (and country). As I wrote earlier, the four of them spent several days earlier this week in Huangshan 黄山, meaning it's been only Amber and me here. For the past few nights the two of us have gone out to eat dinner at various Western-type restaurants, like the Belgian place we went to yesterday...

...and our conversation topics have run the gamut from popular music and school to the games Amber likes to play online. It's been a great (though not inexpensive) opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with my daughter, and this afternoon has been no exception. With Pamela and the others having driven into central Shanghai 上海 (why?!), I thought it might be nice to take Amber to the Shanghai Children's Palace. Formerly known as Kadoorie's House, the building was once the home of Elly Kadoorie, one of the wealthiest men in prewar Shanghai. The mansion is now used as an activity center for kids, and there were a number of classes being held while we were there, including ballet and pottery-making. For me, it was a chance to see how of one of Shanghai's most influential Western residents lived. For my daughter, it wasn't so interesting. At one point, a woman approached us and asked Amber which class she was enrolled in. When my daughter replied that we were just having a look around, the woman seemed very surprised but didn't say anything more, and walked away.

It would've been nice to have seen the rooms presented as they would've been used when Kadoorie lived there; the house's current function as a workshop for children only hints at the former glories. In the China that emerged after 1949, however, the mansion would've been too bourgeois. Seeing the kids in their various classrooms this afternoon brought to mind parallels with Pyongyang's Mangyongdae Children's Palace, where talented tykes are nurtured to perform for the greatness of the state and its leaders. Shanghai's house of fun isn't quite as sinister, but it wasn't hard to imagine that at one time children were drilled on the correctness of Mao Zedong Thought, the successes of the revolution and of the necessity to serve the Party. It wasn't the 1920's mansion housing the Shanghai Children's Palace that felt anachronistic; it was the very idea of a "children's palace" in the first place that seemed out of place with the Shanghai that surrounds the building and its grounds today.

Amber found the simple pleasures of walking the streets of Shanghai with her father to be much more enjoyable, like stopping to look at Jìng'ān Temple 静安寺 from one side a pedestrian bridge...:

...and a landscaped garden area on the other side:

Lunch was had at a small hole-in-the-wall called Uncle Toast, which specialized in dànbǐng 蛋餅 (Taiwanese-style omelets) as well as sandwiches, noodles...and toast:

A pair of cats watches pedestrians go by on Fùmín Road 富民路:

I don't know if this building really dates from 1937, but we both thought it looked kind of cool:

Amber was much amused by the name of this small clothing shop on Wŭyuán Road 五原路:

She also liked the moniker of this establishment further down the same street:

The "Avocado lady" is a greengrocer on Urumqi Road 乌鲁木齐路. She carries a number of imported food items in addition to the usual fruits and veggies, and is popular with the area's resident expats. I don't know why so many were lined up outside as we walked by today, however:

Checking out some gourmet chocolates on Huáihăi Road 淮海路. Today was one of those days when I wished we lived in a neighborhood like those found in the French Concession 法租界, with its numerous cafes, restaurants and small shops. It's not even close to being indicative of modern-day Chinese lifestyles, but it would make living in a hectic metropolis like Shanghai much more bearable:

Back in our area this evening, we went to a place called Cosmo for dinner, where my daughter enjoyed a Shirley Temple while I downed a couple of Moscow Mules. I really needed them tonight:

Pamela and the relatives will be back later this evening, which is too bad, really. From going out to dinner and hurrying Amber to get ready for the school bus in the mornings, to taking her to the consulate's medical unit to have an ear infection treated and to discussing the finer points of Minecraft, these last few days have reminded me of just why being a father is probably the single greatest pleasure in life:

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