One of my favourite times of the day in Shanghai is in the early morning. The streets are quiet (relatively speaking!), and on a clear day the rising sun peeks through the buildings bringing a rosy glow to the city. In the months of autumn and spring there is a freshness in the air, a sense of lightness. Out in the gardens and parks and the streets, the “morning” people are awake and active.
In the narrow streets, the city has already woken up – the members of various households spill out into the streets – cleaning, washing, cooking – the smell of breakfast snacks fills the air. Small stalls and shops are opening up to attract the early morning trade.
The parks are filled with elderly men and women engaging in various forms of exercise – walking, practising tai chi, playing badminton, ballroom dancing. A few people are walking backwards (an acceptable alternative form of exercise), clapping hands and patting the bark of tree trunks (to get the circulation going). There are men sitting on small stools playing cards or mahjong, or just drinking tea and passing the time of day. Hanging in trees are cages containing small song birds that have been brought to the park to get some fresh air. There are a few joggers, most of them are of the younger generation.
In the gardens of the apartment complex in which we live, we have a few different “morning” people: there are moms with babies in prams – sometimes accompanied by doting grandmothers and grandfathers. Toddlers ride little tricycles and plastic motorbikes – getting in early practice for participating in the traffic in future years. Then there are the “walkers” – who set a brisk pace as they do circuits along the path between the buildings – usually two women and a man, but of late, they seem have cajoled a few others into joining them. Dog-owners are pulled along on leashes by various versions of poodles, terriers, Labradors, and pavement specials. There used to be a group of tai chi practitioners, but as winter draws closer, the group has dwindled to a single elderly lady who moves and glides in stillness. Gardeners are weeding the flower beds, sweeping up the increasing number of leaves out of the pond and walkways.
Today we are not just two foreigners who jog past and wave and smile in mutual greeting and recognition; today we belong to the community of “morning” people”…