My flight was about an hour and a half late arriving in Shanghai, so my ride from the airport graciously waited, which I greatly appreciate. At the hotel I met with the manager of the hockey arena that is putting on my goalie camp and we ate a late lunch of (don't judge me, it wasn't my choice) Papa John's Pizza. We had a nice talk about the differences and similarities both good and bad about hockey in Canada versus China. It's funny how the two countries could be at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of hockey's importance on the sports landscape and yet they share two of the same issues, scarcity of ice time and parental involvement. I told them some of my favourite 8 year old kid's parents being offered a car to play stories and they didn't seem shocked, in fact they said the same things happen here. On a happier note, we talked about Andong Song, who just a few days ago became the first Chinese player to be drafted to the NHL and started his hockey career at the Century Star arena in Beijing, which is related to the Century Star arena here in Shanghai, that I will be working out of. The hope for the hockey programs in China is that Andong can become a beacon for young Chinese players to look up to, as well as the government to see the potential that this huge population could have in hockey if it is taken seriously. This is a really exciting time for hockey in China.
After lunch I went back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit. This led to a kind of funny moment. I didn't know that I would be having a roommate on this part of the trip, so I had a nap and wasn't fully clothed when my roommate walked into the room, so I think he got an eyeful. Also, while the hotel we are staying at is beautiful and has every amenity you could ask for, the bathroom is not exactly conducive to roommates. I will take a picture tomorrow and show you all, but the wall that faces into the room itself is made of glass, so I think we will be showering and using the bathroom in shifts with the do not disturb sign on the room door.
After a swim and a quick workout, I decided to check out the city centre and hopefully get some pictures of Shanghai at night. Well, a few things conspired against me on that front. I took the metro down to the city centre. Warning: quick municipal politics tangent, which I will boldly italicize so you can skip it if you want, like a choose your own adventure book. Shanghai has huge, protected, beautiful bike lanes everywhere, and even though the drivers are crazy and erratic, it feels like the city really belongs to bikes and pedestrians. I think I will try to rent a bike while I am here. Also, the metro system is amazing. There are EIGHT different subway lines that crisscross the city and it cost me 80 cents CDN to get into the city. end of municipal politics tangent. I got off at East Nanjing road which is a huge pedestrian mall and had big plans to walk to the Bund, which runs along the Huangpu river that runs through Shanghai. However, Shanghai had different plans for me. Most of this story is not really appropriate, but it was so frustrating and hopefully hilarious to read that I will use a code word and tell it anyway. As soon as "big, tall, white guy" stepped into the public square an attractive young Chinese woman came up to me and started to make polite small talk, which turned into many, repeated, less polite offers to take me to the "pillow fight" (secret code) parlour. After repeatedly saying no, and bu (Mandarin for no), also I walked away, changing directions a few times, at which point a different woman offered to take me to a different "pillow fight" parlour, then a man walked with me for TEN MINUTES of crossing and recrossing the street and checking my phone which was dying, he then tagged in a new woman who continued the game of cat and mouse. This mouse got very turned around and confused and in the maze, it being a foggy day and all and the Oriental Pearl Tower being almost completely engulfed in <s>smog<s> fog. At some point whichever man/woman was escorting me back and forth along the pedestrian mall at the time informed me that the subway was closed now. This news coincided with my phone really breathing it's last blinking breaths before sleep and I began panicking. If I were to estimate it, I probably talked to 50% of the people in the area. Pillow fight pushing men and women who I had said no to earlier were greeting me like an old friend when I ran into them again. I somehow managed to find the Bund when the current woman I was saying no to, told me it's ok, she's going to get her friend who "just wants to practice her english, no pressure" I looked up, briefly saw the Oriental Pearl Tower, stepped into traffic as her friend was literally running towards me and got a taxi, which after a few loops of the inner ring road got me safe and sound back to my suburban hotel, where nobody has yet offered to "pillow fight" me. Although, as I write this in the lobby, because my roommate is asleep, a van full of drunk Chinese men and has just stumbled in "clown car like" looking ready to find some pillows.
So, Shanghai 1, Rob 0 so far. I am going over future strategies in my head, maybe I'll have a shirt made that says "No Pillow Fights" in Chinese, or one really drastic option which I call the Larry David scenario, where I hire a "pillow fighter" to walk me through the public squares at night, because I did notice that couples were being left alone. (Note to all reading this: I am not going to do this.) I will update you on my progress in this area as my trip continues.