The other day, there was a convention near Suzhou, a city about seventy-five kilometers from Shanghai. When some Israeli conventioneers asked Chabad if we could bring over some kosher food, we didn't wait for another invitation.

First thing in the morning, we went to the Chabad house in Shanghai and picked up enough kosher food to feed an army. Before you can say 'shalom' in Chinese (which is actually very hard if you are an American, but that's a whole 'nuther story), we were on our way.

Shanghai is a modern city…
Shanghai is a modern city…

Now, the trip from Shanghai to Suzhou is supposed to take around two hours, but we had a Chinese driver, and although I am digressing from the subject at hand, I should tell you something about Chinese drivers: You know how people say that New Yorker see the traffic laws as mere suggestions for beginners? Well, Chinese drivers don't see the traffic laws at all. There are no rules. Lane markings, traffic lights, crosswalks, sidewalks, all these things don't exist! In fact, a guy I met in the synagogue told me that he feels like reciting the hagomel (thanksgiving) prayer, every time he crosses the street.

Back to our story. We got into the car with our driver and tons of kosher food and headed out towards Suzhou.

The drive was very interesting. It was my first time leaving Shanghai, and the contrast was striking.

Shanghai is a very modern city (as long as you ignore the ground level and only look at the third story and higher). Everywhere you look, there are beautiful high-rise projects, impressive bridges, and awe-inspiring skyscrapers. In fact, right now they are in middle of building a skyscraper that will stand over three hundred floors high. (In contrast, the twin towers were only one hundred and ten floors high).

…as long as you ignore the ground level
…as long as you ignore the ground level

But as soon as you leave the city and get into the provincial areas, you travel about two thousand years into the past. I thought that I knew third world. After all, I've been to rural Poland. But this is different. I mean, at least in Poland, they had telegraph poles strung up, reminding you that there is something called technology!

Here, the sole indicator of progress is the occasional sparkling industrial park with a huge parking lot full of bikes. It was one of those industrial areas that we pulled into. Hey, I thought we were supposed to be delivering to a resort!

We were lost. Now the problem here is that no-one knows directions, since they have never been more than fifteen miles away from home. Finally, we asked a policeman who actually knew what he was talking about.

Fifteen minutes later, we got to the resort, a beautiful place on the Yangcheng Lake.

We immediately grabbed the boxes of food and started bringing them in. On the way, I felt that one of the boxes was damp, but I didn't pay attention to it. That is until I put the box down and noticed that my pants had helped themselves to some of the sauce from the meatballs (rather much of it). Basically, it wasn't very pretty.

I excused myself for a moment and went to the bathroom. When I came out, my pants were more or less black, but one of the towels was an interesting shade of red. I guess it will give the maid something to puzzle about.

Anyway, we stuck around a bit, helped some of the Jewish delegates put on Tefillin, and before long we were on our way home.