Hello again! Sorry for the hiatus.
Last weekend was our program’s spring break. After some disastrous attempts planning with some of the nicest (but most indecisive) guys I’ve ever met, Grace and I decided just make our own way to Shanghai. So Wednesday night we made our way to the Beijing train station, and took a 13-hour, overnight sleeper train.
I was slightly concerned, because even on short U.S. domestic flights I usually am completely unable to nap or sleep—too wound up. No such problem here. It was kind of like sleeping in a tree house. Each compartment housed six beds, stacked three-high. Grace and I bought the higher-bunk tickets, because we thought we’d feel safer. The other four bunks ended up being taking by two older couples, with whom we didn’t interact with too much, but were very nice.
Shanghai itself was kind of confusing. In many of the cities I love—D.C., Dallas, New York City, Reno—something about the city just makes you feel like you’re in the city. It has a kind of spirit that distinguishes it. Shanghai kind of felt like what would happen if you just told someone to throw together a city. It was beautiful and interesting, and has its requisite share of tourist attractions, but I didn’t really feel connected to it at all.
That observation aside, I really did enjoy being in Shanghai. It was nice to have the time again to get a little lost, wander, and discover a new place. As busy and hectic as everyday life in Beijing gets, it’s easy to forget on a daily basis, ‘Holy crap, I’m in China. This is really the coolest thing ever.’ Thankfully Shanghai slapped me out of it a little bit.
Some of the places we went:
We got off at the Jing’An subway station, and walked around for awhile looking for the temple. It looked like the rest of Shanghai (that we had seen), with lots of malls and shopping and crowded streets. We saw a bunch of shops built into the bottom of what looked like a very traditional larger building that could have been the temple, but I thought no, they couldn’t possibly have built shop fronts into the bottom of a landmark. Oh, but they did. Once we found the entrance to the temple (the inside is intact and has been renovated) was hard to enjoy with Burberry billboards looming in the background. Crazy, confused place.
Nanjing Lu and People’s Square
Our hostel was very close to Nanjing Lu, a very, very famous shopping street.
I don’t know the name of this set of particular set of alleyways, but there are many of these kinds of areas in Shanghai.
“We’re all in this together”
I don’t know if this is true of abroad in general, or particularly of being in China, but for whatever reason, I have gotten closer to my roommates and other friends in the immersion program at a freakishly rapid pace. This place leaves no room for anything else. From everyone’s regular “la duzi” episodes, (stomach troubles that come from just not being totally accustomed to the different bacteria and foods here) to the inevitable slight breakdowns that come from being cut off from your native language five days out of the week, I know things about these people, especially my roommates, that I don’t know or share with even some of my closest friends I’ve known for much longer. We figure it’s by necessity. At the very beginning of the semester, somehow the theme of our apartment was deemed “We’re all in this together,” (Yes, the high school musical song) which is both unfortunate, and also incredibly accurate. It’s a crazy, wonderful, weird, insane, fun place, and a truly crazy intense program, and we’re all in it together.
This weekend we went to Tea City in Beijing– the most perfect place in the world. There are small shops where you can buy tea, small multi-level shopping malls with just tea and tea sets and anything else concerning tea. You walk into any of the little shops, and you’re welcomed in to sit at a table with a full tea service. I thought I was tea-spoiled before, but now I’m really in trouble.
So this last week has just been trying to shift back into class/immersion mode. At this point there’s only about a month and a half until I make my way back to D.C. for graduation. I’m not by any means wishing away this experience, but when the time comes, I am definitely excited to make my way home to all the things that I miss.