Some days ago I was wearing black billowy clothes - this Issey Miyake Haat coat over a floor-length black linen dress - that would look appropriate while flying on a broomstick. It's too bad such magic doesn't exist so I took a short neon orange bike instead at a cost of US$0.20 a ride, thanks to a thriving bike-sharing system in Shanghai. Though the bikes are clunky and hardly considered efficient, they do get one across short distances rather well. So there I was, cycling along absent-mindedly when I spotted the traffic police stopping an unsuspecting rider on an electric bike. That was when I realised I am on a no bike road. In a split second I took the decision to make a very ungraceful U-turn to escape the dreaded fine. As I cursed and panted to avoid getting caught, the incongruence between my clumsy exertions and elegant clothes were hilarious to say the least.
It's been ten months since I first moved to Shanghai. Despite being ethnically Chinese and knowing how to speak the language to a certain extent, immersing oneself in this city has not been a walk in the park. Implicit rules are more important than explicit ones, so one needs to learn how to navigate through them like the locals do. Every small victory achieved here feels like big accomplishments elsewhere, such as negotiating on the amount of my traffic fine (yes I was caught once!), or negotiating, reading and signing rent contract in Chinese; this after looking at more than ten flats which gave me a glimpse into how Shanghainese shape their homes. It's been a steep learning curve with a long way to go, but there's no better place to grow than in a foreign land outside of one's comfort zone.