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Author and journalist

Year of the snakes and ladders

Life is beginning to turn right side up. The students are returning to our Fudan University campus from their spring festival visits to family. We got our Metro cards and submitted knapsacks to the security scanners that sit at every subway entrance and blessed whatever Chinese authority put English underneath the Mandarin signs.  At rush hour the subway cars are full but not crammed with young people texting or playing video games or listening to music as the car rolls along. One young man quietly turned his smartphone away from me, but I got a glimpse of fat little animated animals running up and down some kind of snakes and ladders jungle.

One of our first subway journeys was led by Fudan students, who helped us navigate the Bund and the former French Concession. If you don’t insert the word ‘former’ when describing this delightful old rabbit warren of shops and cafes, you can be charged under the Banish Colonialism Statute. (I made up the name but not the law.) We ordered Italian food in an empty mediterranean restaurant and watched the waitress and bartender leave the restaurant and bring back minestrone and pasta. We don’t know where it came from but it was tasty.

After dark Shanghai is a giant jewel box of coloured lights that was a marsh a generation ago. You know that already, but each traveller, from Toronto or France or anywhere else in the world looks at the skyline and thinks, I’m in China!Crossing this jagged footbridge downtown against hordes of others brings you good luck for the year.  I don't seem to agree.

Crossing this jagged footbridge downtown against hordes of others brings you good luck for the year. I am just trying to stay upright.

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