Saturday, November 15, 2014

Off the map

It invariably amuses people when I pull out my big all-Chinese Shanghai map: each leaf is the size of a letter, so it involves a lot of unfolding and I probably disappear briefly behind it in the process. Isn't 百度地图, like google maps on the cellphone, infinitely more practical? Maybe, but I like to see where places are in relation to each other, and it's nice to have a record, too. You can see that I've mainly been in the four leaves at middle right (the Fudan neighborhood is the upper right corner of the second leaf down on the right) but Shanghai stretches out in all directions. The map, which continues on the other side into Pudong, includes a lot - even Jinze - something it accomplishes through a kind of fish-eye perspective: dimensions at the periphery are compressed. And today I fell off the edge of it.

I was going to meet some anthropologists of religion near the new campus of East China Normal University, which is at the bottom of the third leaf on the bottom. I took the subway - line 5, my first time - to the nearest stop and looked for a bus along the main road eastward 剑川路. Down there, though, the buses don't have numbers but names and I hadn't noted which one I should take. Still, I assumed that most of the buses would be continuing on that main road, right? No such luck! When a bus finally pulled up to a stop I got in only to find it turn right and then on to the elevated highway south! Next stop ten minutes later in a sleepy country town! Thankfully a young man who spoke English helped me find a taxi - another ten minutes - and I was able to return to the charted world. I was relieved; the anthropologists were amused.

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