Here in the “Pearl of the Orient”, two elderly Chinese ladies sit in a western-style coffee shop, sipping on cappucinos. Their tonal language makes them appear to be singing as their small talk leads to deeper things.
The one begins to tell the other about her savior. She explains the concept of God as father – as one with whom a relationship is to be had. The idea is somewhat lost on her friend. Questions arise, to which confident answers are given, and as the language becomes more abstract, the meaning of their song’s lyrics begins to evade me.
Or is it that I have become lost in thought? I am thinking of the complexity of this moment. Shanghai is the convergence of two worlds. Since its inception as a city, it has had a large foreign presence, as can be seen in the architecture in much of downtown Puxi. It is the picture of globalization, and sometimes, both the good and bad things about that are made manifest before your very eyes.
We are surrounded in this Taiwanese-owned establishment, by the processed, sugar-filled pastries and sweets that are addicting China’s youth as they’ve already done in the States. So much of the native culture is gone that even many in the older generations have forsaken the tea house for the cafe. While it makes my life more comfortable, I find it sad, in a way. Some of the more beautiful things about Chinese culture that I enjoyed in Wuhan are hard to find here.
But a better trade-off is occurring. Jesus said that many would come from east and west and recline at the banquet table with him. This is being fulfilled all around me. And with the rise of globalization comes not only coffee and scones, but bread from heaven.
As I see the unbeliever marveling at the wild tale her friend is telling her, I notice the time and realize that I must get back to the classroom to await the students’ arrival. I quickly gather my things and step out onto the streets of an ever-changing Shanghai.