A couple of days ago, for the first time in thirty years, a typhoon made landfall in the economic region that includes Shanghai and Nanjing — a massive typhoon. I was weirdly oblivious that it was happening. With the teaching intensity of my gig and my limited access to media, it wasn’t until Chinese class yesterday when our teacher opened class by teaching us the word “tai pheng” (typhoon), along with an accompanying explanation, that I learned that our rainstorm was more than a rainstorm. Indeed, at the very same time as Nan was explaining that 2 million people had been evacuated, and that Shanghai had moved its ships up the Yangtze to Nanjing to protect them, and that homes in the lower lying areas around Nanjing had been destroyed, doors in the teaching building were crashing and windows were breaking.

We’re all completely safe, but it was a good two days of tree breaking, umbrella crushing winds, and of rains that quickly overtaxed the city’s nearly non-existent storm sewers. I got to and from work in a plastic bag, wearing flip flops so that after the slippery 20 minute walk through warm rainwater that came halfway up my shins, I wouldn’t be stuck in wet shoes all day.

Last night, we had a date with some friends to go for Hunan food and then play a few rounds at a local ping pong parlour. (Yeah, baby! We’re playing ping pong in China. I even know how to say it in Chinese — Women da ping pong! How cool is that?!) We weren’t going to let a typhoon stop us. We spent 15 minutes in gale force winds and horizontal sheets of rain trying to hail a cab — a near impossibility even in clement weather — and then gave up and, heads down, burrowed our way through the weather to the hall. We weren’t the only ones. The hall was lively with men in shorts and running shoes playing dazzingly fast, athletic ping pong. We were less dazzling. We showed up soaked to the bone from the storm and left, laughing and worn out, soaked anew with sweat.

Afterwards in our hotel room, the lights flickered but miraculously never went out. Outside the wind howled and the rain pounded.

Today, all day, even as the storm continued, crews were already busy cleaning up the broken trees and felled branches. Older men with no safety equipment climbed tall bamboo ladders leaning against tree trunks and cut dangling branches down with hand tools. On the ground, others used chain saws on whole trees. The rain kept pouring; the wind kept blowing.

And then, at last, it more or less abated.

Tonight, for a treat, we went for cocktails on the 78th floor of the 5th tallest building in the world. It’s just a littler shorter than the CN Tower and a little taller than the Empire State Building, but cocktails are affordable — about $10 each. And, there’s no age of majority in China so the Kid had a Mai Tai! We sat and looked out over the misty, rainy city. As we watched, someone set off a fireworks display in the distance. This happens all the time here. They set off fireworks for no particular reason at all. One of the waiters told us that during the typhoon they could see the chandeliers swinging the building was swaying so much!

After drinks, we and friends went to Nanjing’s one and only French restaurant. We had red wine and salads and mushroom soup and pate and assorted steaks, fish, vegetarian dishes, followed by espresso and whiskey and chocolate mousse, lemon tart, profiteroles… Such a huge luxury after six weeks of beer, stir fries, rice and chopsticks! A great way to celebrate the end of the typhoon.

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