A Chance Meeting with Dr. Zhao
I was hoping to show a friend the beautiful Art Deco details in the interior of the former Astrid Apartments at the corner of Maoming and Nanchang Roads, waiting for someone to come out of a side door and open up the security gate.
We only had to wait 30 seconds before a bespectacled older man stepped out. As I held the gate open for him, he gave us a quick look and then said, “Vous parlez Francais, Messieurs?”
This was a first for me. In almost 20 years living in Shanghai’s former French Concession, I had never met a French-educated Chinese resident from the old days. After our initial surprise, my friend and I managed to reply, “Un petit peu, oui Monsieur!” Neither his eyesight nor his hearing were particularly good, but we managed to establish over the next few minutes that he was Dr. Zhao and had attended the medical school at l’Universite de l’Aurore (now Shanghai Second Medical University), just a few blocks away.
He wondered which apartment we occupied in the gorgeous Astrid Apartments, his home for many decades. We replied that we were just visiting, hoping to view the interior.
I handed him a card and asked him to ring me up if he ever wanted to have a chat. He wished us well, slowly turned and then sauntered down the road under the shade of les platanes, in the direction of the old Lycee Municipal.