It was just a three-day sail from Kobe, Japan to Shanghai, China. After the numerous and varied adventures enjoyed by many of the students, as well as the faculty and life long learners, shifting gears to focus on classes was not easy.
To top it off, now that had gotten a little comfortable with a few Japanese words, it was time to learn some Chinese! We needed to learn how to say “ma” with five different tones so you didn’t end up calling your mother a horse. Fortunately, there were some Chinese phrases that I was able to pull out from the recesses of my brain: ne hoa ma…hao…xie xie... My friend Henrietta must have taught them to me in architecture school. Thank you, Henrietta.
As I mentioned, Harumi was our Interport Lecturer prior to our arrival in Japan. Our next Interport Lecturer, William Saito came on board in Japan and gave quite a memorable talk. He is a first generation Japanese American entrepreneur who currently serves as a personal advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan. His work is well worth looking into. One of the memorable quotes from his talk was: “The opposite of success is not failure. It is doing nothing.”
Our approach to Shanghai would be through the mouth of the Yangtze River. Apparently, the pilot would meet our ship at midnight, and then it would take another nine hours to navigate through the narrow and undulating river to finally arrive at our dock at the International Cruise Terminal in Shanghai.
Well, for some reason I woke up in the middle of the night. It didn’t look like we were moving, and I opened my computer to see that there was message stating that our pilot had not met our ship at the designated time and location, and so our arrival, which was scheduled for 9am, would be delayed by several hours.
I was disappointed, as this delay would undoubtedly affect the plans I had made to meet up with Ron, a friend and colleague who had left New York City to run the Shanghai office full time. I had not see him in ten years, and was hoping to catch up – as much as we could catch up on ten years in a few hours.
At breakfast time, we were still standing still. Though we didn’t know it at the time, it turned out that there was a miscommunication with the Chinese pilot and by the time it was cleared up, we had lost the tide. We would not actually arrive in Singapore until 6:30pm that night – the last day of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Though the end of the Lunar New Year holiday marks the “Spring” season, it was overcast and rainy and cold. With no classes scheduled, the majority of the ship’s passengers had what some people called a “river day”, as opposed to a “snow day”. The photographs that follow illustrate what many of us spent our day doing – going out into the cold to catch any glimpse of life on our cameras, and then ducking back into the lounge to get warm.
As we started to glimpse the lights of Shanghai’s skyline, obscured by mist and mystery, excitement increased. After we finally docked, it took another two hours for the ship to clear. In those two hours, Ron and I communicated, not very effectively, by email. Then we tried texting, and finally connected by phone. He would pick us up by taxi and take us to a place in the Bund that would be quiet and have a view - somewhere we could talk over a latte and beer, and maybe have some light fare.
This was my first visit to Mainland China. The weather was less than agreeable. But somehow, perhaps because we had Ron to give us a resident’s perspective (if there is one thing that is still pleasantly affordable in Shanghai, it’s the taxis! A taxi ride to the Bund cost less than the latte I ordered) and we chatted on the roof terrace of the old Roosevelt Hotel while he pointed out all the architects who had a hand in changing the skyline of Shanghai over the last 10 years, I was satisfied. When I turned to Gary, I noticed he had a puzzled look on his face and could tell he was thinking, “these buildings sure had some odd names…”
Tomorrow we were going to be on a flight to Guilin….the land of karst towers that inspired ephemeral watercolor landscapes…a geologist’s dream.