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The Cosmos: It’s always about the people

July 25, 2011

Goodbyes are hard. As Rick and I prepare to leave Shanghai – our flight out of here is in five short days, the morning of Saturday July 30 – we have been saying goodbye to our favorite places, favorite foods, and favorite people. Of course, it’s the people that are the toughest to let go.

Rick and I have made some wonderful friends this year, primarily through Ricks’ soccer team, the Cosmos. I take full credit for this, as it was through my colleague Jon that we found the team.  I haven’t blogged about our adventures with the Cosmos, a serious omission as the people on the team have shaped our social lives here in Shanghai.

The soccer players, or as they call themselves “footballers,” on the Cosmos are mostly from the British commonwealth, with a smattering of Americans, Canadians, and other Europeans (one Greek, one Spaniard, and even one guy from Kazakhstan). Needless to say, their accents are all adorable.

Most of the Cosmos are in their late twenties, with the range being from 22 (Rick was the youngest player this year) to mid-50s. They are an extraordinarily good-humored group, very inclusive, and they just love to have a good time. The boys that have girlfriends usually bring them along, and the girlfriends are just as much part of the group as the boys (and can chug beer just as well, too).

The gang, which includes the players and their girlfriends, is led by the two lovable team managers, Jordan and Cartu. Jordan is a British redhead with a big ego who went to University with Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton– he actually co-hosted the royal wedding on Chinese national television, which was hilarious to watch.  Cartu is  a charismatic Canadian who always brings everyone into the fun and who loves to sing 90s hits very loudly when he’s drunk. Both men ironically work for alcohol companies, Bacardi and Duvel, respectively.

Together, the group of hooligans drinks so much that twice in our time with them, the restaurant ran out of beer. They can all drink like there’s no tomorrow, especially the Sean the Irishman.

I have always felt entirely welcome and fully included in all the social activities. These activities have ranged from an afternoon drinks at Jordan’s apartment to a five-hour long Indian buffet brunch, from an excursion to see a Chinese Polo match (yes, we did that) to the 2:30am showing of the World Cup at a sports bar (no, we did not do that, though Rick wanted to).

On Saturday, Rick had a going away gathering  a local bar, The Shed, that has agreed to sponsor the Cosmos next year. Two hours in, Cartu led a round of toasts to Rick (and me), and each member of the team said something kind about Rick, which was so touching and really quite sad. Then, Rick went around and said something about each of the guys.

When Rick was done, I added how grateful I was that the guys had always been so inclusive towards me, and I thanked them for making me feel like part of the team.

Later that night, Jon hosted a dinner for his birthday, where 25 of us ate an entire roast lamb! I said a few very sad goodbyes, especially when saying goodbye to Jon’s girlfriend Anna and Cartu’s girlfriend Marina, who had both been super nice to me. I never got to know them all that well, and I was very sad I wouldn’t get the chance. Rick and I were very quiet on the cab ride home, reflecting on our goodbyes.

It’s amazing how much being part of a social group can make a place feel like home. Who who know, who you spend time with, always shapes your experience of a place more than anything else. The Cosmos are largely to thank for making our year in Shanghai special. They were our community here, and was really hard to say goodbye. I could’t tell you half of their last names, but they really grew to feel like a family while we were here.

I’ll miss them very much, more than all my favorite restaurants combined.

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