Twenty-five-year-old Jimmy Tanner translated Chinese articles into English for the China Daily Newspaper. It wasn't much of a job, but it did pay the rent and it occasionally gave Jimmy the opportunity to publish an original story or two, for free.

On this balmy November morning, Jimmy woke up to the sounds of the morning market below. They were voices of sellers and buyers for goods sold in and around the neighbourhood. Clearly, he had overslept. He pushed himself up from the padded teak bench that served as his bed in the one room apartment.

After stretching the kinks from his neck, Jimmy grabbed the washbasin, threw a towel over his shoulder and headed for the shower, across the lane way from his living quarters. Although he was a new resident in China, Jimmy quickly became used to going to and from the facilities in his pajamas. As public baths go, this one was actually quite clean. This morning he was in a hurry, so he just filled his basin at the trough and wiped off yesterday's dust with his wet towel.

There was little time for breakfast. On the way to the office, he stopped to buy a mantou or Chinese steam bun, from his favourite little peddler. She really loved it when he spoke to her in bendihua local dialect.

"Huang Ma jiao." He would greet her every time.

"Chinese steam bun. Vewi hawt. Wun yuan fer thoo. Yummy Goot." She said with a giggle and a toothless grin.

Huang Ma was from the south. At her age, she shouldn't have to work at all; however her husband had died leaving her with no children. There was no one except herself to rely on for retirement. Jimmy taught her a few English phrases that she could use to sell her product to foreigners. He was her special customer, so sometimes she would slip him an extra bun when business was good.

The buns were very hot to handle and Jimmy tossed them between his hands until it was cool enough to eat.

As he was crossing the park to his workplace, Jimmy was tucking his shirt into his trousers, just when his downstairs neighbor, Liu Man, waved for him over to come over. He was in the middle of a chess match with someone.

"Yao shang ban!" Jimmy waved back and gestured with a finger at his watch to indicate that he had no time to spare.

"Hao!" That's all he heard the older man yell back to acknowledge his understanding.

On weekends, Jimmy would play chess with Mr. Liu. He had helped Jimmy a lot with his translation work at the newspaper when he first arrived in Shanghai. Taking a semester of Mandarin back home was an asset, but he needed to keep up with his language skills if he was to continue working here.

When Jimmy graduated from college he had a hard time finding a job, at least in his hometown. There were really no opportunities for a journalism major in a small town along the Pacific coast. He didn't want to take just any job, so he packed up his belongings and decided to venture wherever the wind would take him. With what little money he had, he booked passage on a merchant vessel bound for Shanghai.

It was late summer by the time he arrived at the Chinese port, with little left but the shirt on his back. He had traded most of his possessions during the voyage for a better berth, far from the smells that resulted from two weeks journey in cramped crew quarters. The customs official thought it odd that Jimmy didn't have anything to declare until he explained his situation. The officer nodded him through and Jimmy was never so relieved to feel solid ground beneath his feet.

With the two hundred yuan advance allowance from his boss, Jimmy bought a grey cotton suit for work and rented the apartment he currently lived in.

The wall clock in China Daily's spacious office read half past eight. Jimmy was fifteen minutes late. He quickly sat down at his desk and proceeded to begin the first copy of the day, when he heard his name being called.

"Jai Mi." It was the best pronunciation that the Editor could master.

"You wanted to see me chief?" He looked up. It was the first time he saw Ivy Chen. She was standing in the editor's doorway.

"Miss Chen is on assignment for National Geographic to shoot a series of photos across China. She will be in Shanghai for the day. I want you to be her guide."

She extended a hand following the introductions. Her handshake was firm yet gentle.

Jimmy held the door open for Ivy in his gentlemanly fashion.

"You are staring. Do I have something stuck between my teeth?" Indeed, Jimmy was gazing at her intently and apologized.

"Where did you learn English? You speak it very well."

"I was born in the United States."

Something else about Ivy got Jimmy's attention though. Behind her friendly smile was he sensed a shadow of sadness.

There was the Customs House; its clock face forming the centerpiece of The Bund. Of all the Chinese cities, Ivy understood Shanghai the least. Looking up and down the street along The Bund, she saw nothing that reminded her of China. Upon first impression, Shanghai looked like any other large city that was influenced by old world colonialism. Although, the buildings that used to regulate shipping routes had a new purpose in this modern China, it was a quality that was unlike modern Chinese people like Ivy's parents. Making a living in the west, they adapted to the new culture in every possible way, except in how they wanted to raise their daughter. Despite allowing Ivy the freedom to choose her own friends, in the Chinese tradition, they wanted for her the best prospect for a happy future free of hardship. It was an odd combination of forward thinking steeped in backwards beliefs.

All the buildings along The Bund were symbols of old Shanghai, however, there was a new symbol over at Pudong, the tract of land across the Huangpu River. The two took to the underground passages and hopped onto a slow tram along the Sightseeing Tunnel. It was a popular mode of transit for tourists. Not only did it boast a dazzling array of psychedelic light shows, it was also a relatively cheap way for pedestrians to cross the Huangpu. They didn't spend much time in Pudong. It's where the wealthier Chinese lived and people with disposable income shopped. All there was to see was the Oriental Pearl, Shanghai's famous TV tower and a tourist attraction which was now synonymous with the city.

Ivy paused when she realized what a pair they made. Jimmy, the outsider, was showing her the national the sights of Shanghai. Without his noticing, she aimed her camera at Jimmy, to capture the moment.

They spent a short time on one of the observation decks, although there wasn't much to see from that elevation. Most of Shanghai at that time of day was obscured by smog.

The evening saw both sides of the Huangpu River lit up in neon and all manner of flood lights. It was truly the stuff of postcards. Jimmy never tired of this scene. He admired it with awe. An air of romance descended. By strange coincidence, one of the boats moored along the wharf began to set off the most exquisite fireworks. It made the scene that much more festive. Lovers, tourists, and locals of all sorts filled up every square inch of open space to take in the show.

Jimmy noticed Ivy taking his hand in hers and they were alone in the crowd.

To end the evening, Jimmy suggested they share a stick of bingtanghulu, the Chinese equivalent of candied apples. In actuality, they were hawthorne berries on a skewer, drenched in a sugar syrup. The sappy coating was still dripping when the peddler handed a stick to Jimmy. Everybody knew that you had to be very careful so as not to let any syrup land on your clothes. That was exactly what Jimmy intended to do, as he ducked to and fro underneath it to take the first bite of the semi-sweet, semi tart confection. His ridiculous antics drew snickers, jeers, and cheers from onlookers around them. Even Ivy laughed at his expense. He enjoyed her laugh.

They parted company at the Shanghai Mansion Hotel across from the French Consulate; Ivy thanked Jimmy for a lovely day.

A month later, Jimmy received a letter from Ivy.

Dear Jimmy,

As the only child of a traditional Chinese family, I was expected to marry whomever my parents chose. The day the matchmaker showed up at our door seemed like the worst of my life. Not liking to have this choice forced upon me, I took the photography assignment; in essence to run away.

During my time in Shanghai with you, I envied how you've embraced the culture much more easily than I ever could. It made me see my parents' position in a new light. If in a short time, we can become friends, perhaps my future husband will be someone I can call a friend….

Thank you for showing me your China.

Your friend,