Before The Monsoon: My Second Home – Mumbai » »

 

 

Taken from my xanga entry posted on August 5th, 2004. I was 17 years old then.

Press play. And then start reading. 

 

Setup: Every good movie should skillfully balance its situations and resolutions. 

Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” for example, brilliantly captures that balance when two strangers find themselves living in a totally unfamiliar place.

 

lost-in-translation-poster

 

Play: Coldplay – “The Scientist.”

.Staying in Shanghai felt like a movie.

 

The Sports Hotel (tower on the right): Where I lived for 3 months

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Xujiahui Tower Shopping Center

 

There was the unfamiliar place and there were the strangers. However, there was none of that balance . . . it got skewed early on during the trip when more resolutions than situations started happening.

But it still felt like a good movie . . . you know, that ultimate feel-good movie that constantly makes you want to keep watching; ”Lost in Translation” with a healthy dose of positive “drama.”

And there was family . . .

 

Me and my brother Linus

Me with my late 92 year old great grandmother at the time

From left to right: My cousin, my uncle, my late father, my brother, and me

 

As this movie ends and my departure begins for home in beloved Manhattan, I want to thank you, you, and you, and you too, for granting me the opportunity to have a fucking awesome time.

 

Me and my masseuses

 

I’m deciding whether it was the expected reasons for coming here — the personal swim training, learning Chinese, playing better piano . . .

– or the unexpected serendipities – paintball, wushu kung-fu, handing out fliers, hip hop dancing classes, group massages, coaching little kids how to swim, watching sunrises with friends, unexpected dinners with strangers who become future best friends, dinners with amazing company in amazing heights, becoming a teacher’s assistant for a preschool summer class, movie trips, background commentaries, impromptu daytime hangouts, late night internet cafes . . .

 

 

. . . and the clubbing 4 days a week every week . . .

 

 

. . . or the unexpected serendipities . . . yes, those will be what I will define my time in Shanghai, and what I will never forget when I look back on a most interesting 3 months.

 

 

And as the end credits roll, I also want to entirely thank all the rest . . . the best all-star cast and crew one could ever ask for in making my more uplifting remake of “Lost in Translation.”

 

 

All of you are none short of amazing. I came to Shanghai with blind naiveté and an empty cell phone address book. I came out . . . a little more worldly, having befriended many phenomenal people from both sides of the world. Who could ask for more?

 

 

. . . My flight is only in a few hours. I have more to say, but I’ll save it for the DVD extras. This Coldplay song and the lovely person who gave it to me beckons me home. So as I leave:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a wrap.

 

 

Thank you Shanghai, I’ll see you soon. New York, even sooner.

p.s. Oh, and if there’s anything I can’t forget about Shanghai . . . it’s that all the locals here have a problem whenever I walk down the street smiling for no reason. It was as if I was the happiest person in Shanghai . . . haha, actually, I was.

 

 

But I can’t leave without sharing one final story. . . .

 

I initially thought of writing this entry early August of 2004. I eventually got around to it December of 2004. I never made it public due to obvious circumstances at the time with certain people.

I guess now I have nothing to hide.

When I was living in China for 2 months, I met a girl from the suburbs, about one year older than me. She was a waitress working at the restaurant in the hotel in which I was living. She worked for dirt low pay and sent most of her money to her family back in AnHui. She would always greet me as I came to the restaurant everyday to have breakfast. We had around one to two harmless conversations about ourselves where we would sit down and chat as I had my morning meals.

One night I found her sitting on the steps near the hotel. It was three o’ clock in the morning and she was staring up at the stars. and I joined her. It was just the two of us there, not saying a word. And we sat together, staring upwards, two strangers from different worlds sharing this common ground under the secrets of our night sky. We clicked, but maybe not so much in the romantic sense. More like a quiet acknowledgement of our attachment in a world that was witness to our disparate circumstances. 

In my broken Chinese, I tried to relate to her that I was feeling some sort of common understanding that I didn’t know I could find in a stranger brought up so differently from me. But I didn’t even get to finish my explanation when she told me in sparkling Mandarin that she felt the same way. I learned that she had no interest to ever see the U.S., making her able to see beyond her curiosity in me as another American traveler. We stayed there together for who knew how long. Ironically, I felt a kind of intimacy I could only share with a total stranger.

Two days later I left to return to the United States, and she surprised me by showing up at my hotel room at 6AM in the morning. She wanted to send me to the airport. I spent eight weeks in China; to add up the time we spent together, it would be only a mere 4-5 hours.

and she was crying as she hugged me goodbye. I discovered she was due to go back to her home in AnHui within the year and that she had no means of contact given her available means and finances.

We probably won’t ever see each other again. As I walked towards the airline gate, I turned around only to see her look at me one last time and run away. And on the plane, I remember wishing that I could have gotten to know her sooner than that night. But then I realized there’s nothing I could do about it. We shared a moment not captured by cameras or text, making it the ever purer.

but two months later on my birthday, she sent me a card. There was no return address.

 

– At time of posting in Shanghai, China, it was 84.2 °F
Humidity: 85% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny