Seoul, Reggae and a Sunny Beach
Trip Start Apr 26, 2011
13Trip End Aug 02, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
But first, I want to tell you about my trip to Korea the week before. I made my first trip to Seoul in July, 2006. A stranger in a strange land meeting people for the first time that I had only known through email. I remember those hesitant first hellos at the airport 5 years ago, me hoping that I'd make a good impression and the Koreans hoping their English would be good enough to be understood
On the flight back to Shanghai I became rather reflective as I thought back to who I was on that first trip to Korea five years ago. At that time my only overseas business trip had been to a trade show in Germany the year before. That's it. One week of international business travel. Who ever thought that little Matty Powers from Nutley, NJ, would turn out to be a globetrotting promoter of fuel cell technology and pollution control?
A special shout-out to my parents for preparing me for such a life. Their constant encouragement to explore and read and learn taught me as a child that there was a lot more to the world than just Nutley
There were other trips and new cuisines to explore along the way. And a trip to Egypt when I was a junior in high school, financed in part by my wisely-invested communion money (fantastic interest rates on CDs back in the Reagan years!) and lead by by favorite educator of all time, my high school history teacher, Mr. Brian McGinley. If I had to name one teacher that had the most profound impact on my life, it would be him. A warm, wonderful person with an unmatched generosity of spirit that inspired me to learn about the ancient world. It was his passion for teaching us about Egypt in my freshman year, the way he brought the history to life, that made me want to go see the pyramids and the temples and leave my footprints in the sands of the Sahara. I was reminded of his lessons on our earliest ancestors when I visited Olduvai Gorge this past summer, and once again I thanked my lucky stars for bringing him into my life
It was the trip to Egypt that required me to get my first passport. I think I'm on my third since then and have needed to get extra pages added to each of them. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being such wonderful, indulgent parents and for giving me the tools that I would later use as I explored this wonderful world. And thank you to Corey for being such a good sport through it all. I'm sorry I chased you with frogs.
Going to Korea was a big step in my career, though it didn't necessarily feel like that at the time. It was a leap of faith into the unknown just to see what I would see. And because of Mr. Kwon and his colleagues, because of the warm welcome and a joke over dinner, the world was opened up to me. I gained the confidence to go anywhere in the world, meet strangers and develop a working relationship. Sometimes a friendship as well. Since that trip I have been to Africa (twice!), throughout Western Europe, India, the Middle East and all across Asia from Japan to Taiwan, Thailand to Singapore and even a day on Borneo Island in Malaysia, where I had a coconut on the beach to unwind after a long day. During a meeting in Thailand I looked out the conference room window and saw an elephant walking down the street. I have sung "Born in the USA" in Japanese karaoke bars and been treated to a night of "interesting and challenging" sushi
So, back in Shanghai on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. What the hell am I doing here, in China? I should be in Belmar. On my beach. Surrounded by friends and the previously mentioned bikini-clad girls. There was no way that I was going to let this weekend slip past. So I set out to find the familiar amongst the strange. As you'll see from the pictures, mission most definitely accomplished.
I invited my friends Frank and Edith to go see a reggae band at an outdoor bar in the French Concession, a Shanghai neighborhood whose streets are lined with stately trees and 1920s-era villas. The band, Lions of Puxi, was good and had members from Maritius and Romania, though I don't think there was a single Jamaican among them. They played some Bob Marley and a few other reggae classics as well as a hauntingly beautiful song in French that may have come from Haiti. It was fun exposing my Chinese friends to this music, and I felt a little closer to home as I listened to "summer music" under the stars.
OK, Shanghai has a lot of bars and a lot of expats so maybe finding live reggae wasn't such a stretch
I got there early and settled onto a lounge chair with a view of the Pudong skyscrapers against a beautiful blue sky. I watched the people stream past for a while and as I closed my eyes and listened to the music I could have been on the 18th Avenue beach, if D'Jais had outdoor speakers. But it was when I heard a girl say "anyways" that I knew I had found a bit of Jersey here in China.
The final item on my list was ribs. It is NOT Memorial Day weekend until I get my ribs. I got some decent Memphis-style dry-rub ribs at Bubba's Texas BBQ, a perfect end to beautiful day. I still longed to be with my friends and family, but I had found a way to connect with them across the distance, living my life the way it was meant to be lived.