Summer Over Shanghai Over

Andrei Marks · August 3, 2009

Well, my post-1L Shanghai Summer is winding down. I’ve finished a month long crash course in Chinese Law at the East China University of Politics and Law (imagine Civpro, Conlaw, Crim, Crimpro, IP, etc. crunched down into five hours each, haha), and I’m in the final stretch of an in-house corporate counsel internship at Owens Corning (China) (yay corporate America?).

It’s been both an eventful and uneventful summer, as I’ve been studying and working, but nearly all my downtime is spent preparing for the patent bar or brooding about wasting time not studying for it. However, I’ve still had plenty of time to ruminate on Shanghai, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Thoughts on Shanghai and China:

1. The first metropolis to become a megalopolis is going to be Shanghai. New York City’s skyscrapers are largely confined to Manhattan, and many other large cities feel hemmed in by their surroundings, but looking westward from Pudong, Shanghai’s skyscrapers already go on and on and on way out to the horizon. (Granted, there’s not much of a horizon to see.) And the city is just going to get taller and wider.

2. Shanghai’s subway system is awesome and efficient, not much else to say there. And the metropass integrated into the taxicabs is great, although that’s not really revolutionary. I just keep thinking about Beijing’s pre-Olympics paper subway tickets and human ticket-takers, haha.

3. Shanghai’s mosquitoes suck, and walking around Shanghai in the summer sucks. I can’t walk the 20 minutes from my apartment to work without arriving at the office drenched head to toe in sweat. This summer has made me realize I can’t live any closer to the equator than 35 north latitude or so. Any time spent below the northern temperate zones would just be time spent bearing the weather, rather than enjoying it. I guess I was just born a Northerner.

4. A while ago I joked with a Japanese friend about how Chinese people are a 盖楼族 (“a race of builders” more or less). That hasn’t changed. People complain about the annoyances of street noise in Manhattan, but until you can open your 56th floor window at ANYTIME during the day and still hear construction going on loud and clear, you’ve got nothing to complain about.

5. I can’t wait until mainland society recovers all the kindness-to-strangers manners that were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. Every time I come to China I have to relearn the “breathe-down-the-neck-of-the-person-in-front-of-you” method of standing in line, lest I get cut.

Thoughts About Cities and Me in General:

1. I am definitely a city-dweller at heart. Mass transportation, the crush of people, the keep-it-up pace of life, all of it. I find a good city skyline as aesthetically pleasing as some of the views that nature can dish out. Although, I will admit that cities are definitely a lot less pretty down on the human level. But I also think living in cities makes it easier for us to change who we are, not only as individuals, but as a species. It forces us to challenge our in-borne expectations and become something other than what we would be otherwise. It’s an exercise in contradiction. And at the very least it helps keep more nature pristine by keeping us out of it.

2. Skyscrapers will be the legacy of modern man. Back in college my friends and I would sometimes lament the lack of monuments that go up nowadays. Where are our Pyramids, our Angkor Wats, and our Great Walls? But now I am much more appreciative of the fact that if civilization comes crashing down around us, our skyscrapers are what our tribal descendants will be in awe of for a long time to come. Flying back from HK to NY once back before 2001, my plane flew past a fog-shrouded Manhattan where the only thing to be seen for miles around were the few top floors of the WTC 1 and 2 sticking out of the clouds. I still consider that one of the most breath-taking sights I’ve ever seen. It’s also why I think the people in charge of rebuilding WTC1 are crazy. 1,776 ft? What a silly, symbolic thing to do. It doesn’t even make sense in meters, and it’s such an artificial limitation. I would have built the two towers up again, and built them taller. I do miss that skyline.

3. I think living in Bloomington is messing with my perceptions, because I actually got people vertigo at the start of the summer. I was standing in the middle of a crosswalk surrounded by dozens upon dozens upon dozens of people, and suddenly felt claustrophobic and had to get out of there. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that before. Part of that might have been the standard second-week’s traveler’s diarrhea, yes, but still.

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