One day a week is explicitly dedicated to the development of my PhD…and, from this week, it will be every Wednesday instead of Friday. So what happened last Friday? Obviously, anything but PhD. I was impressed with my serious attempts at work avoidance starting from 8am in the morning. I got up, showered, made a to-do list for the day and then headed out for breakfast. I thought, I won’t go out for long…I’ll grab a bite, go for a quick ride and come back to transcribe…this inevitably never happened as Shanghai is one big distraction. I knew what I wanted to eat…a Chinese breakfast pancake called a Jiān Bǐng 煎餅. I’d been craving one since I arrived in China last month. I found a great blog about Shanghai and its diverse street food culture called ‘Life on Nanchang Lu’ that explains more about it. Definitely worth a look if you want to see more of what this city has to offer. I got the pancake from one of the many street food sellers on Xiangyang Lu. It cost 3 kuai (30p) and tasted amazing…oh pancakes how I have missed you. I swear they are really not good for your heart though, so they are a real treat to have once in a while, perhaps always on PhD day to fuel my academic brain? Or on that Friday, to fuel my slow, non-starter brain that had gone on holiday to an unknown destination and forgotten to send a postcard. I’ll video the pancake being made next time as it is a real craft.
I took my pancake and a free copy of the Shanghai Daily, an English-Chinese newspaper, that I was given at the traffic lights when I was waiting on my bike to cross the street, to Xiangyang Park not far from my apartment. I found an empty park bench, made myself comfortable and settled in to a morning of eating, reading and people watching. PhD? Ummmm, what’s that? (Serious PhD guilt set in.) A teenage couple sat at the end of the bench quite obviously avoiding school. They were sitting virtually on top of each other drinking McDonald’s coffees, embracing, laughing, smiling. The park’s gardeners were meticulously picking up every fallen leaf only for more to come down from the Autumnal trees above…a continuous losing battle. Two older gentlemen began to write in water on the paving slabs at the park entrance. Courtesy of my basic knowledge of Mandarin, I have no idea what they were writing, but many people stopped to read what they had to say and talk to them. I wished I could…and I felt as though I was missing out. Finally, women engaged in morning exercise rituals of tai chi, martial arts and traditional Chinese scarf dancing…a video of the latter is shown below. I was silenced by everything that I saw that morning, mesmerised by (to me) cultural difference, cultural routine, China’s cultural and daily norm. It was time to get back to the office. This PhD certainly wasn’t going to write itself. By the time I got home it was after 12pm…how did that happen? I only went out for a pancake?! As I keep on saying ‘NaBloPoMo’ is hard to keep up with, I just keep on forgetting. Let’s see if I can keep on track this week…have a great week everyone!