University of Wisconsin–Madison

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Today we split into three groups to meet our host families for the day. In my group was Deshawn, Omer, Kyra, and Emily! We visited a family that was about a ten minute walk away. They lived in a really nice apartment on the 22nd floor, which is really expensive for Shanghai. Most people commute into the city because housing rates are so steep. Our host family consisted of a mom, dad, eight year old Nikki, and their other host daughter from Pennsylvania, Helen. When we first arrived, we blew up balloons and played with Nikki. She had two of her friends over and they thought it was funny to bombard Omer with balloons. We all played volleyball with the balloons for a while and got to know each other, and then we made dumplings! I loved making dumplings!! I also got a little creative with mine and tried to make them pretty. However, everyone made fun of me because the first dumpling I made I rolled into a ball, just because I thought it would look cute. Turns out by doing that I had made a baozi, not a dumpling. I followed directions after that!

Today was Children’s Day in Shanghai, so my host sister Nikki was free from extracurricular classes for the day. Although it was Saturday, and kids don’t have public school, they usually have extra classes everyday but Sunday. My host mom was explaining that for Nikki, since she is in the second grade, takes extra classes at a third grade level to keep her at par with her classmates who are also taking third grade extra classes. Nikki also played the pipa for us, which is a traditional Chinese guitar. She’s really talented and her English is amazing for an eight year old (granted her mother teaches English). For lunch we had our dumplings, but the family also made us fried chicken and french fries to make us feel more at home! After lunch we messed around with some stamps that Nikki had carved out of stone, but then left the house around 3:00PM. Even though we had only just met, it was really kind of the family to take five of us in, show us around their house and tell us about what it is like to live in Shanghai. 🙂

After hanging out with our host family we had our first “free” night to relax! I ended up resting for an hour and getting dinner with Tiffany at our favorite noodle place across campus. I think I’m finally considered a regular there since I eat there about every other day. I’m not sure what the staff are saying to me ever, but they smile and greet me warmly every time I arrive, and that’s enough for me!

On Monday, we had our first in-class presentation displaying an interaction between American and Chinese oil companies bidding for an oil field in Angola. I played the representative of the Angolan government, and although I would have liked to accept the bid from the American oil company because they cared more about the environment and public health, I chose the bid from China because it was more realistic. As much of a bummer as it is, generally developing countries aren’t as concerned for their environments. Also, China and Angola have had great business relations in the past. I’m started to appreciate my international studies class more. I’m definitely learning a lot!

After class we took an hour bus ride to visit the Volkswagen plant on the outskirts of Shanghai. It was a pretty short tour but we were able to watch the process of cars being made which was neat! When we all arrived back to campus we were given another opportunity for a cultural class (like the calligraphy class I took before). This specific class was to learn how to play the erhu, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument. I was the only person on the trip who was interested in learning how to play it but that was a benefit for me a one on one lesson with the teacher taught me a lot. And by a lot I mean that I learned how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and a traditional song called “Jasmine”. The erhu was extremely complicated to play at first. It has two strings that you play with a bow that is in-between the strings. So to play, you either pull or push the bow to play the notes on either string. It was difficult for me at first, but I eventually got a rhythm going. I was super proud of myself! I’ll be going to another class next week where I can hopefully perfect the Jasmine song.

On Tuesday after class it was pouring out, so our plans to visit the Pearl Tower were cancelled. Instead, we visited the Propaganda Poster Museum full of old posters of Shanghai ladies and Chairman Mao. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but I bought a few post cards of replicas! To be honest, I don’t know much about the cultural revolution that took place here, but after visiting the museum I’m extremely intrigued. All I can say is there was a ton of red in there. The funny thing about the museum is that is it privately owned and in the basement of an apartment building. It was set up really well, decade by decade, with information about the posters posted in English and French. The man who gave us a tour of the museum was even close friends with one of the artists that was heavily featured in the museum!

After the museum we had more time to relax at our dorms and hide from the rain. For dinner Ka, Elysa, and I went back to the gigantic Global Harbor and got Thai food and shopped around a little bit!