Ayo!!!! My classmates having annoyed me this morning with their constant interruptions with mostly hairsplitting questions and unnecessary anecdotes, a neighbour massaging the piano (Fur Elise, seriously?) and another one shrugging with the trumpet (winding up my nerve fibres), the 17th floor´s still in their midst of remodelling (drilling the walls, if any have left, to some perverse extent now) I guess I´m nervous all of a sudden.
So, with noise creeping from all possible angles into my apartment, the only way towards mental insulation seems to be offered by poetry or wait, I know! why not just go and bury my head deep in the sand (ok, a glowing heap of cement) at a nearby construction site. Would not have to go far, since both Philip Larkin and half-ready high-rises are at arm´s reach. The afternoon siesta having thus absolved in this uninvited communal cacophony, I guess I´ll resume to my other favourite pastime activity, writing.
So, now that we (me and mini me) decided to let Larkin wait, I´ll fable about Suzhou instead, an ancient water town (I know) west of Shanghai, which I visited earlier this week with 3 friends on Ching Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day, the Chinese version of Day of the Dead minus Halloween).
To illustrate how fast some trains are going (or how congested traffic can get): it takes 2 hours by car but only 25 minutes by train. (Reaches 400 km/hour). The truth of the matter is, some people are not particularly fond of this 2,500-year old place, popularly called ¨Venice-of-the-East¨ (I know), which Marco Polo once described as one of the prettiest cities in China and 21st-century locals call one of the two heavenly cities around Shanghai (the other one´s Hangzhou), saying it´s too touristy. Funnily enough it´s all foreigners who voice this. Mwuhahaha.
Anyway, having the chance to leave the hive of 23 million behind and mingle with less than 6 million instead was already a big attraction so I´d already been biased before even getting there. The cultural revolution, obvio, had left its mark here with hideous residential buildings and destroyed many of its ancient relics and spots, there´s still a lot that can boost your romanticism and exhaust a few duracells in your digital.
Momi cafe was my favourite site during the 12-hour trip. Ok, my jaw also dropped big time at the Taoist Temple of Mystery and the Humble Administrator´s Garden, and was really moved to see my Chinese friends pray and throw/shake/drop the small, flat bamboo sticks to learn about their futures.
During the whole day, I was yet again amazed how polite our two Chinese friends were. Refined and thoughtful, from buying the train tickets for all of us in advance, giving us the menu first at the restaurant, always wanting to pay and look out how to make the long day as comfortable as possible to showing us as many exciting sights as possible.
Ok, Momi. Turns out it´s a chain and they also have a few outlets in Shanghai. They send out all kinds of snazzy postcards, even to the future. You can choose between the years of 2021, 2031, 2041. Bueno, the thing is, I was really tempted to write one for myself and dating it, let´s say, to 2041 maybe. (For the love of life, no? Yes). But quickly I got frustratingly mixed up as to what address I´d mail it to Gyöngyös? Budapest? Croydon? Madrid? Shanghai? Hong Kong? that the idea has plunged to its sudden death I´m afraid, then induced bit of an emotional tsunami of The question: where I belong really. Or rather where I would belong in 30 years time. Anyhoo, putting aside this sentimental palimpsest for the time being, still, come on, it would have been cool to receive a postcard from myself (when I still had teeth, gravity was not that merciless yet and wasn´t into knitting in parks that much), especially from a place I so much want to belong to now.
The narrow street in front of the shop that runs all along a small river, offered me some consolation though, since it was a delight to see middle-aged, local Suzhounese ladies dancing to Bollywood music, to listen to a solitary Al di Meola alter-ego a few metres away, to look into the tiny jade shops and just to walk in the evening light by the river. Charming!
The only travel tip, perhaps: take an inflatable scooter with you since, probably due to the holiday, though so on a normal day it should not be a problem, it was impossible to get a taxi all day, which made us walk quite impressive distances. Didn´t mind at all, helped me digest the Uyghur lunch we bumped into earlier, which again warmed my heart. Thanks for Summer, a sweet Shanghainese girl we met on a bus, for showing us around a bit.
5 pm now. Beauty sleep is back!