April 1, 2014: The Dashan Effect

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Using Pudong's ever-changing skyline as a backdrop, The Bund is Shanghai's popular location for wedding photography 


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Traffic that is bewildering at best


"Wherever you go in the world, you just have to say you're Canadian and people laugh." – John Candy 


Who is our most famous countryman or countrywoman according to the 24+ million citizens of Shanghai? Some of you must be thinking that Dr. Norman Bethune tops the list. Although lionized in official teachings as a bonafide hero of the Revolution, in 2014, he’s as passé as a Mao suit in a Giorgio Armani boutique on swanky Nanjing Road West. 



It's a dog's life, with a Shanghai twist


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A people-watcher's paradise


Chris Hadfield? Wayne Gretzky? Joni Mitchell? Margaret Atwood? Guess again. Justin Bieber or Rob Ford? No way, and emphatically not! The hands-down winner is Mark Henry Rowswell, aka Dashan. Imagine Dan Aykroyd, Dave Broadfoot, David Steinberg and André-Philippe Gagnon rolled into one Mandarin-speaking super comedian! His talent is the stuff of legends. Back at home we are self-effacing, but in China’s largest city, because of Dashan’s aura, the spotlight shines brightly on all Canadians.



Joie de vivre that shines through thick and thin


My sister-in-law has taken it upon herself to show me a side of this sprawling metropolis that even foreigners who work and live here are unlikely to see. We’ve transferred subways several times and finally surfaced at one of the huge, commercial facilities where fruit is distributed to supermarkets and smaller vendors. This is where trucks from as far away as Thailand jostle for space with tricycles that navigate aisles overflowing with kumquats, lychees, pomelos and, of course, the foul-smelling but prized durian. 




A work ethic that is second to none


Everyone is curious about me and asks where I’m from. “Canada” is invariably met with big smiles, an enthusiastic chorus of “Dashan,” followed by “Welcome to China.” And welcome is how I feel in this community of labourers and entrepreneurs who generously share their camaraderie with a stranger from across the Pacific. 

Before we leave, my sister-in-law negotiates the purchase of two durians. They are cut into quarters and tightly sealed in one plastic bag which is then resealed within another plastic bag. We board the subway back to her apartment, and as we sit on the train, the pungent odour of the King of Fruit escapes and wafts through the car. Commuters look up and down, searching for the perpetrator who dared to take durian into the crowded space. This Canadian, with the slightly bulging camera bag, is above suspicion! 


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Taking a breather alongside the Huangpu River


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I am checking my email daily, and will be back in Canada on April 7. Orders for Carey Management Philanthropy Photos will be filled at that time.  


Looking foward to your comments.

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