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Edition 21: Stairwell by Ron Riekki

 For a Westerner, the culture of China can be hard to fully appreciate. To become immersed in it, you must do more than just watch. Ron Riekki brings us a dash of fantasy from the misunderstandings of a Westerner in urban Shanghai. SY


I sat watching the girls walk by. This was my second week in Shanghai, my first time in Asia. The girls looked like they were heading to funerals. Their expressions, their clothing, their entire demeanor screamed death to me. In Montréal, where I had come from, there was an equal affinity for black, but the vibe was catwalk. Montréal was runway; Shanghai felt like runaway.

Maybe it was simply because I didn’t understand the culture. I was thoroughly Canadian. I grew up in Sudbury, which got me used to air pollution, the way that the sky can look like artistic renditions of lung cancer, beautiful gray carcinoma mornings.

The boss told me to get out of the office. He said my hyperactivity would scare the clients. That I didn’t know how to shut up. The Chinese like silence. First person to talk loses. He told me to roam the streets.

A Chinese coworker warned me of “the three hands.”

“The three hands? What’s that?”

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