My last post was distracted by my new shiny birthday tattoo, but in addition to those celebrations, on the night of my birthday, a gang of us decided to scower Shanghai and see could we find something with a bit of sparkle (I use that term metaphorically, because as those of you who have visited Shanghai know, the abundance of LED lights on every damn surface means physical sparkle is hard to escape). We were searching for somewhere that may offer us a melody, rather than the usual din of Chinese DJs mixing their one track into (or rather over) English songs. This wonderful trick means you have ten seconds of bliss whilst you enjoy the nostalgia the inevitably outdated track brings, before this feeling is quickly replaced with disappointment and irritation as the DJ mixes what he considers to be a “fashion” (a word Chinese people often use to describe anything cool) beat.
On that note, I got it into my wee birthday girl heart that I wished to find somewhere I could bop to some old school hip hop (or something that would make me feel equally cool and down with the youth and distract me from considering whether 24 means I have finally hit my mid twenties). Ironically to be down with the Chinese youth I’d need to be listening to some heart warming ballads. Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (Titanic song) is a particular favourite amongst Chinese teenagers… culture shock wha?
I did some research online and discovered that my hip hop dreams wouldn’t be fulfilled this time, due to the hip hop kids apparently making their appearances on Wednesday nights, and this year my birthday was to be a Monday (“Monday’s child is fair of face”… which according to my internet search means attractive, so it’s not all downhill at 24 lads). Further research found that there was to be a salsa night held on the Monday, so since none of us have a rhythm in our hips to shake between us, we thought we’d give it a go, although I wasn’t gonna use any birthday wishes hoping for it to be any good. In a country where the men are perhaps even worse movers than Irish ones (who have seen pull out all sorts of moves, including fist pumping); Salsa and China seemed like a combination doomed to fail.
Despite that, as we descended the stairs into the smoky basement and were met halfway by the sound of a live banging drum, accompanied by guitar, keyboard and unidentifiable South American instrument, I felt a dramatic surge in hormones. The place was packed, which in a country of one billion is likely enough. But the next sight was far less likely in China- people were dancing, rhythmically, effortlessly (and quite erotically I might add). I felt a slight lump rise in my throat and my brain began matching scenes from Dirty Dancing; and there I was, a bashful pre cosmetic surgery Jennifer Grey, wondering why I didn’t have a watermelon.
Before long a middle aged South American man with a beer belly approached one of our gang and was keen to teach her some basic steps. The rest of us watched eagerly, wishing we too could have a dance lesson. Beer belly or not, this man had rhythm, something none of us could afford to pass up. The rest of us watched the band with odd jealous glance towards the lucky one who was still being flung around by man in the wife beater.