A Friendly Stranger

Our exciting plans to explore Shanghai last night evaporated when our 5pm rejuvenating nap became a 17 hour slumber. To make up for yesterday’s lost time, we decided to go out for the day, out into the big city. Unfortunately, when you don’t know the city at all, you don’t exactly know where to go.  My strategy for unknown city adventures is simple- take the subway/bus somewhere, get off, and explore. (This strategy actually worked quite well in Shenzhen.)

To begin our adventure, we had to first leave the Expo Village. As we passed through the security checkpoint, we were halted by an eager-to-practice-his-barely-basic-English guard with his excited “Remember me?” The correct response would have been “no, I don’t remember you” but we enthusiastically said “why yes, of course,” which unfortunately, was followed by a volley of questions. “Where are you going?” “What are you going to do today?” His big shining moment was when he decided to help us by giving us directions to the closet subway stop…and then repeated these same broken directions several times over, very, very slowly.

Luckily, his diatribe was interrupted by an African man passing by who offered to take us there. First off, the subway was definitely not “turn right, two red light down, left turn, let me repeat.” It was more of a “turn right, two red light down, left turn, then go down several blocks, turn right, go over a really steep bridge, turn right again, and then go underground at a very easily overlooked subway location.” But hey, same thing, we could’ve found it with the original directions….

The man’s name is Francois. He works at the Burundi stand in the African Joint-Pavilion. His English is pretty good, despite never having a teacher. He learned through TV and movies. His Chinese was good too. Why? Because he had lived in Shanghai for 3 years now. When asked why he came to China, he responded:

“Well, I had received a scholarship to study in France but then I was notified that my Chinese visa was ready. Turns out the government put me on the wrong list! But they were so quick, I had visa, a flight, and it was too late. So I come to China instead.”

So, despite being fluent in French, his native language, Francois hopped aboard a flight to foreign China, courtesy of a government goof-up, and learned  a new language.

Francois not only escorted us to the subway station, but also helped us purchase Metro cards. We then met his friend from Senegal, whom we ran into on the subway. After leaving Francois, Jillian’s (the formerly unnamed roommate) and my adventure became less exciting. The randomly picked subway stop proved to be not too exciting, so we hopped aboard a taxi to a touristy location, which was just as boring.

Although our mission to find other foreigners and befriend them failed, we did, however, find unused muscles in our legs and pollution. My facial pores still won’t talk to me after how I treated them today. Oh, and we found a Starbucks. I guess Americans do have an innate sense of direction when it really matters.

The Clear Blue Skies of Shanghai

2 thoughts on “A Friendly Stranger

  1. Your mission was not a total failure – you met Francois and his friend from Senegal. I think that counts as meeting other foreigners and befriending them! And I’m glad your random subway stop was just boring and not in a bad neighborhood. Why don’t you ask for suggestions next time from someone who knows Shanghai. Just a thought🙂 xoxoxoxo

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