Sunday was the day that my wife and I questioned the wisdom of bringing children with us to China.
The day before, Saturday, the air had been crystal clear for our day trip west to Suzhou. Stephanie and I talked it over when we returned, deciding that if, when we woke up the next morning, the air was clear again we would head to the Shanghai World Financial Center (aka the “Bottle Opener”). A clear day would be the only day worth going to the top of the tallest building in China.
The next morning I looked out the window to a clear view of the Shanghai skyline.
The kids, however, were not in a cooperating mood.
Meredith ate her Cherrios but refused milk, only wanting peach juice, which we didn’t have. And she refused water.
Take one four-year-old, already in a fussy mood, crank up the heat outside, have her refuse to drink anything, and you have a recipe for a Class A meltdown. Which is what she had throughout various parts of the trip on the Metro to the Bottle Opener, at the Bottle Opener, and back on the Metro to the hotel.
I swear, there has got to be video of Meredith crying on the Metro on the Chinese Internet somewhere, under the label “the Crying Loawai.” A crying child often brings attention. A crying white child in China brings a lot of attention.
The foul mood spilled into Henry, who was already a little out of sorts over the heat. No matter how many times I tell the kids 1) that it isn’t going to get any cooler here and 2) that the heat is much easier to take when you drink plenty of water, they don’t listen. It must go back to what Bill Cosby said about children: they’re brain damaged.
The line I had expected to see coming out of the Observatory entrance on the side of the building was nonexistent. Here it was sunny and clear on a late Sunday morning and there was not a crowd. No crowd at a Chinese Tourist Attraction? Since when does that happen?
Henry complained that the fascinating multimedia presentation about the growth of Shanghai compared to Tokyo and New York City was boring. (Shanghai didn’t even start to develop into what we see today until about 20 years ago. Our friend Zhenmei had told us she remembers as small child having to take a ferry in order to cross the Huangpu, because there were no bridges over the river.) I told my son to hush, that we were in the tallest building in China which should be exciting enough.
It only got better.
We left the Skywalk on the 100th floor and went down to the gift shop on the 94th floor. The kids wanted to play in the children’s play area that was set up in the middle of the large room. But there was a fee for each child. Since both our children had been misbehaving, Stephanie and I refused to pay to let them play there. This made our kids much happier.
We are probably the only parents in the short history of the Bottle Opener to put their kids in timeouts in the 94th floor Gift Shop.
The gift shop is filled with over-priced, unappealing tchotchkes. Not even a decent coffee mug. Just expensive pens in the shape of the tower and glowing crystal models of the tower. And Chinese fans. And bendy pens. And key chains with the tower on it. So we didn’t buy anything other than a few postcards.
In the elevator ride down from the gift shop the kids fought over who had enough space to hold onto the railing, and we’re given a chewing out by me. Great, my wife and I were thinking, the first time these Chinese people see two American kids and they’re fighting and crying over holding onto an elevator railing. Lovely.
After we got off the elevator onto the third floor, they got a long stern lecture from my wife about how they were embarrassing us all in front of strangers. My wife is excellent at lecturing; she is a professor.
The elevator for the down trip from the Observatory put us in the food court, which covers floors B1 up to 3. I briefly checked out the menu for a restaurant called Element Fresh. One of the things they are known for is their American-style breakfasts (omelets, bacon, pancakes, etc.). But they don’t include the prices on their website….They’re lunch menu looked over-priced even for the U.S. $12 for a barbecue chicken sandwich? I’m a little homesick but after spending 450 Yuan ($75) for the four of us to go to the Observatory in the Bottle Opener, with two of us acting like brats, my wife and I were not in the mood to spend that kind of money on lunch or brunch.
Anyway, the views from the top were outstanding. We don’t get many clear days here in Shanghai. This is only the third one we’ve had since we arrived nearly three weeks ago.
Meredith was uninterested in the view. Henry liked it for awhile and then got scared of the glass portals on the floor. He’s afraid of heights.
I did get a few pictures of Meredith having her meltdown, which I’m saving for posterity. I’m going to bring them out when she has kids and they have meltdowns. I’ll be able to show her proof that she had a meltdown during the trip to the tallest building in China.
Three weeks in China and this many people on the Skydeck does not seem crowded to me. With so few people, you can easily elbow your way to the window for a view.
This one of the Jin Mao Tower might be my favorite because I like the building so much and it’s such a unique view.
Chinese Paparazzi Count: 6
Monday, yesterday, was spent inside all day. Two tired crabby kids and one fed up adult. Meredith actually napped for over two hours.
My wife, God bless her, gave me a break last night and took the kids with her to Huxingting Tea House. It’s the 200-year-old tea house on the Bridge of Nine Turnings in Nanshi (aka Shanghai Chinatown). I needed that break.
Having survived the last two gloomy days, my foul mood has lifted. And I’m now looking forward to our trip tonight to the Jin Mao Tower (guided by Stephanie’s TA Crystal) and our weekend trip to Nanjing, where we’ll meet up with our friends Bin and Zhenmei, and their son Oliver. Nanjing is Zhenmei’s hometown; she only spent a small part of her youth in Pudong.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Kids are kids. Not everything is going to go according to plan. The clothes dryers probably won’t work. The crowds might be huge. The cicadas might be louder than the traffic (more on that later). The taxi and scooter drivers might nearly kill us. At times the language barrier might be difficult to overcome….
We’re fortunate. We’re in China thanks to a unique opportunity, and there is still so much to see and do.