It is currently monsoon season in China. The days are typically hot and steamy and the nights don't cool down much. It is just like home. The cicadas shrill all day and the louder they are the steamier it is outside. This steamy weather also brings beautiful rainstorms in the afternoons and days that just rain nonstop. I love the rain. In Darwin I called it "fun rain" as you could go outside in it and not freeze and it was so intense and heavy that it just made me giggle like a little kid. We have had a few days of rain and it serves as a welcome break from the sweaty, steamy heat in Shanghai. When the rain pours down, out come the umbrellas and people on the streets selling them. As the first drop of rain hits the pavement so do the umbrella sellers. One merchant in particular changes from selling granny knickers to umbrellas in a split second! I swear to you something happens to his cart and suddenly there are umbrellas and the over sized granny knickers are gone. The umbrellas are long, short, rainbow, tartan, frilly and cute ones with cartoon animals on them. They are about $3 - $6 depending on the style. You can have one for each day or to match each outfit and many ladies do match it to their outfit.
When the sun is out the umbrellas are also out. To have tanned skin in China and many other Asian countries means that you are a peasant or do a lowly job out in the sun. As much as possible people, especially women, cover up to ensure that not a ray of sunlight hits their skin. On scooters there is a glove-like accessory that is permanently attached to the handlebars so that the riders hands and forearms are always covered. Face masks double as sun protection, no matter the temperature, long sleeves and pants or skirts/ dresses are a part of every day attire or there is an umbrella over their heads.
Being 5'10 I am average height for the men of China. In fact, much to my ignorance the population is generally taller than I envisaged before coming here. I was, somewhat ignorantly, assuming they were all midgets and I was going to be some galloping giant. As far as females go, I am a galloping giant but I am roughly the average Chinese males height. My build, on the other hand is gargantuan in comparison. Greg is definitely a giant and when the two of us walk down the street we are often how shall I say... I like to think of it as being admired but the reality is that we are being stared at like meerkats in a zoo. The older generation in particular cannot take their eyes off of us. I always smile and they always snarl. It's just how it is. Anyway back to the umbrellas...
Not a day goes by that I don't gallop down the street and weave and duck in and out of the pedestrian traffic. I walk fast, I can't help it. The umbrellas cause me more than a little bit of angst. The ladies are so beautifully sauntering down the streets, ensuring that they do not break out in a single bead of sweat. They often walk arm in arm with each other taking up valuable space to pass. There is not much affection in Chinese culture. It is rare to hug your parents and this is a way for people to get their essential daily dose of human touch. Each holding an umbrella they walk slowly. They are not necessarily talking to each other, for the most part they are doing the smart phone prayer (looking at and playing on their phones having absolutely no idea what is happening around them) and as I bound up behind them there is no way around them. Throw in some road works, an antsy guy on a scooter on the footpath, me, rain and umbrellas and you have an interesting situation.
Take today for example. It was gently raining outside and I was on my way to the gym. As I walked up behind two ladies with their umbrellas pitched there was no way around them. They were having an interesting conversation and were not in the slightest bit interested in moving aside to let this galloping girl through. I walked out onto the street to get around only to be splashed by a passing car moving through a puddle. Great! Walking in wet sneakers is not a favourite past time of mine! The ladies have a little snicker to each other and I gallop on just a little bit annoyed.
As I get to the intersection the rain is subsiding and only spitting a little bit. A younger guy, in his early 20's, decides that it is time to put the brolly down and gives it a pump or two to get the water off it. The only thing was that he was facing me with the umbrella as he was pumping away. I have perfected my "you bastard look" over the past few weeks. I turned around and shot that look at him and he cowered into his fake oversized Guess jeans. Time to get my own back I thought. Childishness and immaturity was bursting out of me at this point.
Standing waiting for the little green man to beep on the traffic lights, I removed my rain jacket that had been freshly showered with Mr Fake Guess' umbrella residue. Standing taller than my fellow pedestrians I flung it up in the air and flapped it about as if I was shaking out a blanket. Yes, I showered everyone with my rain jacket, in particular Mr Fake Guess copped it. He shot me a look, not quite as perfect as the one I gave him, but I did not cower. I just smiled back at him and started across the road. My inner child was rejoicing. "Take that!" I immaturely thought and then realized that I had also showered about half a dozen other people who were not very happy. As I looked around and saw snarls that were more intense than usual I high tailed it across the road, quite literally galloping to get away. 5% concerned I might get an umbrella to the face and 95% pleased with my childish comeback.