One interesting effect of dropping in and visiting friends in a different country is that you get to share a slice of their lives. Whether you are together for one hour or half a day, whether you meet at their homes or at outside venues, you would see the local life through your friends and could live vicariously through them as if you were have those adventures yourself.
The first days of this trip were serendipitous for me. First, one of my friends turned out to live just around the corner from me, so close that we could maybe even see each other’s building from each other’s window. In a vast city like Shanghai, that was an amazing coincident. And this morning, when I arrived at my other friends’ home, I felt goose bumps rising up on my arms. For the building they were living in, was the building that I had loved most in the entire Shanghai. It was an old 1920’s building* in a grand neo-classic architecture, fitting my perceived image of the old glory of Shanghai before WWII perfectly. They too liked the feel of the place, and had thought it would be wonderful to live there one day. Finally they managed to do it, largely due to the fact that in Shanghai rental price was in no way reflecting the market value of the real estate. Back in reality, the place had many shortcomings of what you would expect in an older building, such as heating and noise level. But nevertheless, since I had fantasized about living there, and that I could easily see myself there if we had made the same decision of going back to China to work, I felt that my friends were living out my fantasy for me. So I talked on without ends with my friends on this particular topic, complimenting them on their great taste like no tomorrow.
I then went yoga with my girlfriend N.P. I love doing yoga in English in a non-English speaking city. It is the best way to taste the expat’s local life. I also went to Tian Zi Fang, and was genuinely delighted by the place. Touristy for sure, but I still was happy that such a place exists.
Some info from Ms. Wikipedia on Tian Zi Fang
Tian Zi Fang (Chinese: 田子坊) is an arts and crafts enclave that has developed from a renovated residential area in the French Concession area of Shanghai, China. …. known for small craft stores, coffee shops, trendy art studios and narrow alleys. … is largely hidden from the neighboring streets … The neighborhood was originally built in the 1930s as a Shikumen residential district. It remained very local until about 2006 when it was slated for demolition to make way for redevelopment. Opposition among local business owners and residents, as well as a famous artist Chen Yifei who had a studio in Tianzifang… journalists, visitors and local residents began to visit the area and spread the word about a cosy little lane district that housed some interesting and creative businesses. Additional articles in both local and foreign media such as the New York Times helped increase awareness of this older and unusual community, that stood out among the more modern and commercial shopping areas of Shanghai. Today, Tianzifang has become a major tourist attraction … Despite all the businesses selling trendy foreign goods, the area does not have the look of having been overly beautified – electricity cables are still strung overhead, and air conditioning units are obvious on the outside of the buildings. … it has managed to preserve its residential feel, adding to its appeal.
* My best guess