1st Shanghai Stint

A Collection of Stories


Dr. Cook

During my first six months in Shanghai my university president visited my school. For lunch, he wanted some western food for a change. I took him to Pizza Hut. Over pizza we spoke about the future and then he threw me a curveball question, "Do you want to come back to the university to work full-time?" I had been in Shanghai for less than six months. Through prayer and counsel I felt that I needed to stay in Shanghai longer. I did however start my master's degree in educational leadership through my university's online degree program. 



During my first year in Shanghai I became friends with a girl named Kathy. My friend, Tim, introduced the two of us and at our first meeting, Tim had asked me to give Kathy a Bible (Tim was back in the U.S. at this point). Kathy, her husband, Jin, and I had a great first meal together. 

When Tim returned to Shanghai several months later, Kathy and her friend took Tim and me to a place call Real Love. It was one of Shanghai's many night clubs. Not being a regular night-clubber myself this was quite an experience.

Kathy's family invited me to their house for dinner. I believe I was the first Caucasian that they hosted in their home. Her mother had prepared some great food and her father was charged with keeping me refreshed. He insisted I try China's famous rice wine, Maotai. It has a 53% alcohol content, about four or five times stronger than wine. He also gave me an unopened bottle of Maotai to take home. I decided to take the bottle to South Africa on my next trip. Only problem: it leaked all over my suitcase. Nothing like strong alcohol smelling clothes. The evening at Kathy's parent's was enjoyable, giving me a glimpse into the life of a middle-class Chinese family.



I am writing these stories from a coffee shop in Jinqiao, Shanghai. It has become one of my favorite places to read and write. It was also a favorite of the late Micah Knapp. I remember, as if yesterday, meeting him here for a deep philosophical discussion back in 2005. Another experience with Mkcah was going with him and his two little boys to a Japanese sumo wrestling show in Shanghai. Both the big boys and little boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Micah, in 2006 at age 30, died within one year of leaving Shanghai from an unexpected illness. Within just one week of the onset of symptoms, he passed away. It was a great shock to family and friends. Micah is missed by many.

Photo taken on July 14, 2015, almost 10 years after Micah went home. Caedmon and Aidan, the giant toy fly is still there.

Saving Face

Back in 2005, a friend and I were on a Shanghai subway heading back home from dinner. As we are chatting we observed a man break another man's glasses. It was clearly an accident. However, the man with the now broken glasses was visible upset. He and his traveling buddy ganged up on the man who accidentally broke the glasses. A huge argument ensued, disturbing all the passengers on the subway car.

I looked at my friend and asked, "How much could it cost to fix those glasses?" "Not much I am guessing. They look cheapish." In an attempt to settle the dispute, we devised a quick plan ("quick" leading to our downfall). I pulled out a 100 RMB note, walked over, and gave it to the irate gentlemen. "Here you go. Use this to fix your glasses." A simple act of charity, right? Oh my, we totally amped up the conflict. 

The yelling and arguing got louder and more intense. At this point we had no idea what anyone was saying in Chinese. The man who broke the glasses lost face and tried to pay us back the 100 RMB. We wouldn't accept it and just wanted to remove ourselves from the situation. When he finally got off the train, the other two men followed him off and started running after him. My friend and I looked at each other, "Gee, what is going to happen to that guy?" All we could imagine was a huge physical fight occurring. We felt horrible.


After 18 months in Shanghai, I took up my college president's original offer to work full-time at the university. This would also give me the opportunity to complete my master's degree (and meet my future bride).