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The Shanghai Abacus

The patter of rain on the asphalt was incessant. #All the movement in the west side of the avenue had disappeared according to the galloping noise of the storm. #As he ran, the haze had obliterated the vessels to the point of almost tripping over the newly opened #Bund #Bull – an identical copy of the wild bull of #Wall #Street – but in #China’s most important financial district.

#My pants were completely soaked; he could no longer march faster. I hid behind a roof of the first building I found at the corner of #Fuzhou and #Zhongshan #Street, the street that overlooked the riverside view of the famous pedestrian crossing that divides – by the #Huang #Pu #River – a part of the city of #Shanghai.

A few meters away, was what appeared to be a room lit by a very dim light. #When the cold had already seeped into my bones, I crossed the sidewalk quickly, pushed the door as best I could and the green bronze wind chimes that hung from the ceiling of the living room, interrupted with their bells, the silence of that room with walls upholstered with phrases and images of #Mao.

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Then, he stared at me with a very unfriendly gaze …

… I already knew that I would study law. #Marcos, had decided in that #April of 1997, to enter the UNAM. #He was my best friend and I had never known anyone better than him for mathematics and much more for physics. #Being able to study with him at #Ciudad #Universitaria, motivated me and gave me confidence to get my pass.

#In the combi we always talked about the #Universe, #Einstein and his theories. #This is how time passed when we arrived at the #College of #Mathematical #Sciences on #Tenorios #Street to prepare for our entrance exam. #He would tell me about #Sagan and I would tell him about #Mao. #He wouldn’t let go of the #Baldor and I kept reading #Deng …

… I returned to concentrate on his gaze as he stroked his long white beard as a sign of analysis. A few seconds later, I said “#Ni hao” and he called me with his hand. #Quickly, a girl named #Sun got ready to bring hot water pumps, white socks and a red tunic to change in a small room behind the tables in the living room.

#He shared a hot brown drink waiting for me steaming: the famous #Puerh. I began to sip it and as the smoke took hold of my face, I noticed – and at the same time confused – by the teenagers sitting behind their laptops who were playing with algorithms, derivatives and functions, behind the waiting room the one I thought #It was a tea room.

#When he realized that he was no longer cold and was calmer -the man whom everyone called #Xi- left me with #Sun and returned to his activity: he lifted and showed an abacus to what seemed to be his students of all ages, while curiously they worked on spreadsheets from their laptops.

“Wèile shî jiéguô zhéngquè, shôuxiān yào kâolü tuīlî” they repeated the sentence drawn with chalk on the green board about twenty times and to confirm that what I had understood was correct, the voice of my digital translator replied: “so that the result be correct, reasoning matters first ”.

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#This was definitely not a tea room.

#Seeing how young people studied math with older adults made me even more confused. Then I turned my face towards the window that showed an advertisement -that in late afternoon- the name “#Shanghai #Mastery” appeared, one of the schools of the mathematics teaching network, awarded worldwide in the PISA tests, where #China, as in many other things, he took world leadership.

#Memories flooded my mind. 13 years earlier, in #Science #School, I solved my math deficiencies and that day I accidentally relived my #Coapa days in #Shanghai.

The rain suddenly stopped.

#So, I looked again at the luminous sign outside the room and it appeared in my mind, “9420911”, my account number that on #Sunday #August 17, 1997 I looked in the UNAM #Gazette with the word “accepted” and ran from the newsstand next to the #Church of #San #Agustín more than fifteen blocks, with the enormous excitement of starting my career in #Ciudad #Universitaria.

#With #Mr. #Xi and his #Shanghai abacus, I understood the transformative power of his words in my memory: to create the right result, you have to find the right method.

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##Shanghai ##Abacus


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