Singapore Adventure

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Birthday Presents
by venitha

Awake with the sunrise our last morning in Shanghai, I peeked hungrily out the window at the deserted streets and the spring weather: perfect running conditions. Given my way, we'd have been out there, jogging the broad paths of Fuxing Park and basking in the inner peace emanating from morning -ers. But running the streets of strange Asian cities is not an activity for a Caucasian woman alone, and this day of all days I would bow to Jim's wishes. It was his birthday, and his requested present was to sleep in.

"What, a Rolex isn't enough for you?" I'd teased at bedtime when he'd made this request. He wasn't the only one tired; we'd all wearily passed up our last chance for the requisite Shanghai sightseeing boat ride on the Huangpu River, opting instead to wave good-bye to the Bund's glittering lights from a distance. Jim had ignored my taunt, kissed my cheek, and wordlessly turned out the light.

Purchased at one of Shanghai's ubiquitous copy markets, Jim's "Rolex" cost $20, and bargaining for it provided at least that same amount in entertainment value. It's just as well it was cheap, for I suspect Jim views this grown-up watch as a depressing sign of the maturity seemingly inherent in his new age, and I won't be surprised if he reverts to his trusty Quisp watch, purchased years ago from the back of the cereal box, within the week.

The blocks surrounding Xiang Yang Market teemed with touts - "Hey, lady! What you want? Watch? Bag?" - who were annoyingly persistent and disappointingly overt. We weren't looking for a watch or for anything else, and we bargained happily and savagely over counterfeit items for which we could not have cared less.

Bowing under unrelenting US pressure, the Chinese government will shut down the Xiang Yang Market in June. What will these people do then? Move to a new location is my guess, for it's impossible to believe this lucrative and popular industry will end so abruptly. Regardless, I'm relieved to note that flasher is not a natural job transition, as the hawkers advertise their wares on laminated pages and not in well-stocked trenchcoats.

But flashers or no, it's still not a good idea to go running alone, and, too, the birthday boy should get at least one present he really wants. I checked Jim's Rolex, 6:10 am, and silently crawled back into bed.