It’s 40 degrees in Shanghai at the moment. Melty. We cowered indoors until 5pm this afternoon…even then, it was still 40 degrees but there wasn’t much direct sunlight which made it more manageable.
We decided to make like locals and get the metro somewhere. Taxis are extremely cheap but we’re too hipster for personal transport. Actually, it’s more that they’re a pretty dangerous way to transport a toddler. No seat belts, no rules, no safe. As we won’t have a car here, I obviously can’t avoid using taxis altogether but I’m going to try to limit it to times of true desperation (rainy days and Mondays?).
Our journey today (3 stops, 1 transfer) cost the princely sum of 40p per adult. It was clean, fast and efficient. It was far nicer than either the New York subway or the London Underground (which are both quite creaky and dingy really). It wasn’t quite as nice as the Singapore MRT but nothing ever is. Despite being the most ‘western’ city in China - it’s still very much a Chinese city and the majority of transactions still take place in either Mandarin or, alternatively, hand signals.
Luckily, I came prepared. I had looked up the word for transit card online in advance and so was able to stroll nonchalantly up to the ticket booth and say in my best Crouching Tiger accent “请给我两个交通 一卡通” － two of your finest and most ubiquitous transit cards please (at least, that was the sentiment). The result was not, as I had expected, two lovely transit cards. The response was a blitzkrieg of rapid fire Chinese the only part of which I picked up was ‘no money’. This is where the hand signals really came into their own. Turns out you have to pay for the card, which doesn’t have any money on it, and then add money separately. Thankfully, I’ve been doing baby sign language for several months now and it all worked out in the end.
During our early evening meander around Shanghai, having successfully negotiated public transport like total pros, we stumbled upon a group of Chinese tourists from out of town. We knew they were Chinese tourists because all thirty or so of them were wearing matching light blue t-shirts and taking photographs of lamp-posts, paving stones and other Shanghainese specialities. As we reached about midway through their ranks, the inevitable happened, and all hell broke loose.
The first one to sound the alarm was a well-coiffed, middle aged lady who up until that point had been gazing aimlessly around. Once she spotted the golden locks of our little cherub she wailed loudly to her nearby companions ‘xiao pengyou!’ which translates as ‘little friend’ which I thought was terribly cute. With that, the hordes descended upon Baby A as if he were Beyoncé. He responded accordingly, smiling, posing and high-fiving - also as if he were Beyoncé.
Eventually, it all got a little intense. There were grown men, men with grandchildren, men who might have been powerful CEO factory overlords snapping away at a blonde toddler in a pram with their high-spec giant SLR cameras as if he were a superstar (see photo above). He’s always been our superstar…and now, it seems, his fan base is growing. We’re going to have to start managing his diva tendencies. He’s already demanding raisins on his Weetabix…whatever next?