September 2nd, 2013. 8 days.
Wǔdǎo (dancing). 11pm. Tompkins Square Park Please excuse the quality of the video, but do enjoy!)
Having moved into the single-digit range in my countdown to Shanghai, I'm now in the midst of serious - real - preparations for my six-month Fulbright. While searching for a good phrasebook and pronunciation guide (I've now officially spent WAY too much time on Amazon.com), I came across PinPin - an app that teaches you how to pronounce the Pinyin "alphabet" (the "roman" spelling of the Chinese characters). Besides it being super useful already (although I'm not quite sure my version of the second and third tones sound any different - there are four total in Mandarin!), it really helps hit home how much "singing"is a part of the Chinese language. It's not a surprise then, that dancing seems to be so integral to their culture. Last night's quite common, lovely scene in my beloved park is testament to that. And as I've written about already, I love that this park welcomes - and even nurtures - this use. Ultimately, urban design is so much more than just the physical design of space - it's the people, its users, that imbue real meaning into it (more on that later this week). It's part of why I cannot wait to fully immerse myself in this culture, begin my "advanced people watching," join in on some wǔdǎo in the parks of Shanghai, and hopefully move beyond saying hello, thank you and no thank you in Mandarin (although, already with my new app and my couple of lessons, I can pronounce wǔdǎo!). In the meantime, looks like my father in law-to be has already gotten into the spirit - love the power of public spaces!