Shanghai state of mind: The battle for total recall

Shanghai street names are starting to evade my memory

“I can’t remember our address!”, I told my friend in a panic the other day.


I had completed a familiar roll call of the Shanghai knowledge in my mind.


Everything was present and correct except the address details we used to give taxi drivers for the last apartment block we shared.


Like someone with Alzheimer’s in the family I find myself testing my Shanghai memory to check nothing is escaping my recall.


My fear is that the day I can’t remember the pin number of my Chinese bank card or my Chinese mobile number, my reality living abroad will have died.


If you can’t remember the road junctions of the places you lived, you’ve probably moved onto another juncture in your life, but I’m not ready to forget.


Six months after leaving I find myself struggling to remember the names of all my Chinese colleagues and chatting to one in Mandarin last week, the words I used to have at my disposal have been disposed of, mothballed.


When my friends tell me of places they’ve been recently I rack my brains. Is Changle Lu near Changde Lu? Did I ever know that at the time?


Of course, it worked the other way too. I remember freaking out when I was living ┬áin Shanghai talking about London and couldn’t remember what changes I would need to make to get to Marble Arch on the underground. Bus numbers were familiar friends whose names I had temporarily forgotten.


I also felt like a geriatric once when confronted with my first ticket turnstile at the Heathrow underground. Did you take the ticket out before you walked? The difference was I knew I would reclaim my London knowledge one day. My Shanghai knowledge could remain in Lost Property.


But just for the record, Zhenning Lu, Dongzhuanbang Lu. Phew.