Mar 7th, 2014
Alison Watts hosts the talk show Culture Matters ICS. You can catch it every Sunday at 7.30pm
This weekend couldn’t come quickly enough as it’s the first week back to work after a lovely Spring Festival trip to Cambodia paired with a slap in the face cold front and a busy filming schedule.
For those of you who haven’t already appeared on the show (just wait…we will track you down…), Culture Matters is a weekly cross-cultural talk show that explores a different topic each week from an “Eastern and Western perspective” through stories and opinions from guests with different cultural backgrounds. Last year, for example, we had racecar drivers, ballerinas, pipa players, Olympic medal winners, physical comedians and many more tell us about their projects. This week, we took a break from our perennially popular topics of "The Chinese Education System" and "Leftover Women" to talk about "Shakespeare" (because his 450th birthday is in April) and Siblings (because China loosened its one-child policy).
Filming days are actually a lot fun, and I’m consistently amazed by how many passionate and talkative people are willing to sacrifice a few hours of their afternoons to join the show. But the shows are also really exhausting, requiring more patience than the PVG customs queue and more cheer than those WOW fitness gurus on the taxi screens.
So since we’re filming shows on both Thursday and Friday this week, I’ll inevitably end up at the Dagu Lu Café des Stagiaires, which is located a little too conveniently near our office. Since the place opened last year, the ragtag Band of Waiguoren working at ICS finally found something in common. We usually meet up there at least a few times a week for happy hour, which has already claimed hours of my life and sizeable chunks of my salary. We’re trying to come up with a plan to somehow construct a zip line that would begin on the 16th floor of the STV Mansion, swoop through Top of the City and drop us off at Our Table with frosty La Chouffes waiting.
After that, I’ll probably meet up with some friends and maybe do the FFC circuit (YongKang Lu, Craft) or the Bund route (Bar Rouge, Cirque le Soir). No matter where I end up, I try to look at "going out" as "part of my job". You never know whom you’ll meet out and about in Shanghai, and guests and topics can emerge from the most surprising of places sometimes (like dancing on the table at the Monkey Bar, which led to a show on Shanghai Sevens/Rugby, or sharing a taxi with a stranger, which led to the show on Aviation.) There’s a fascinating variety of people and projects going on in Shanghai, so the next time anyone tells me Shanghai has no culture, they might find themselves kidnapped and locked in the STV Mansion, being force fed episodes of Culture Matters Clockwork Orange-style.
The rest of the weekend would be considered a success if it included a visit to MOCA’s Yayoi Kasuma exhibit, a browse at Fuzhou Lu’s Foreign Language Bookstore, the Snowball cocktail at el Coctel, a dinner at Sichuan Citizen or D.O.C..
Then of course, my Sunday pilgrimage to Hongkou District to visit my student I’ve been teaching English to for almost three years! Although waking up on Sundays is BRUTAL, the girl is adorable, the family is so lovely, and the visits are a nice taste of local life. Plus, her grandma makes the very best Chinese dishes I have ever tasted anywhere. My favorite Sunday evenings include ordering pizza and catching up on some DVDs before a new week begins.