The other day, we visited an elementary school within Shanghai to see what they were like firsthand. Upon arriving at the school, our teacher/friend/guide Ian told us that we were to teach a class of students a lesson we prepared for in advance. We all looked at each other. We had absolutely nothing prepared. We were split into three different groups to teach three different classes. “We’ll wing it and see how it goes,” we thought as we walked to our classroom. Any worries immediately melted away when we entered the class and we were all greeted in unison by the room of about fifty of the most adorable seven and eight-year-olds. They were all wearing little red neckerchiefs and were ecstatic to see us.
We taught them “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” the simple greeting, “Nice to meet you,” and we even were able to take them outside to teach them “Duck, Duck, Goose.” The highlight for me, however, was teaching them “Red Light, Green Light.” As you can imagine, when teaching a bunch of kids how to play a game, some rules can get lost somewhere in the middle, especially when there’s a language barrier. Can you guess which rule wasn’t followed? After calling, “Green light!” there was no stopping them. I stood alone on one end of the track as fifty-some kids converged like piranhas on their prey. I was hit by a massive wave of smiles and red neckerchiefs. They all tried to grab my arms and slowly pushed me up against a wall. I could not stop laughing. They were all bent on trying to win this game that to them had no rules except be the first to reach the caller. (Evan Beyer)
The following day we visited the Shanghai City God Temple with Professor Dennis. The temple itself was stunning. Most of the information within the temple was in Chinese, but we had Professor Dennis leading us through it sharing his knowledge of the time period and the various shrines people were praying on. The fact that Professor Dennis was giving us the history of all the items within the temple made the experience all the better. After that, we ate at dumpling restaurant next to the temple that is apparently only one of two in all of China that make authentic dumplings, called Nanxiang Xiaolongbao. There were several sections in the restaurant divided in categories ranging from moderate to VIP, which is odd when I think back on it. I wonder what kind of dumplings they were serving to the people in the lowest part of the restaurant. Anyway, we decided to splurge and sat down in the high end section of the restaurant. The dumplings were definitely worth every penny! They were absolutely amazing, Evan even tried a shark fin soup dumpling. By the time we left, the sun had set and the outdoor shopping center was bustling with people and sounds. As we walked around, we were constantly swarmed by street vendors selling all kinds of trinkets and items. At one point, we were surrounded by fifteen street vendors attempting to sell us skates to attach to our shoes. We literally could not move, and we ended up buying a pair each. We had to run away from that side of the market after we purchased the skates because other street vendors selling different items were beginning to approach us. As we continued to walk through the market, it became apparent that we would need to barter for any item we wanted because the prices vendors were charging for items were absolutely outrageous. We quickly realized that bartering was an art form that required specific tactics and timing. As time went on we got better at it, which was both a good and a bad thing. By the end of the night we were each carrying bags of little trinkets and interesting items that we bought simply on impulse. For example, we ended up buying this laser that is ridiculously powerful, the beam on it shines for miles, literally. All in all though, it was a great experience. We had such a good time there that we ended up returning to the market a few days later. (Dorian Gonzalez)
Arguably one of the best aspects of any study abroad experience is the exposure to a wide variety of new and interesting foods. Shanghai has certainly no disappointed, and our group has enjoyed exploring the strip of small, family-owned restaurants and street food carts just outside the campus. With the guidance of some ECNU students and the CIEE staff, we have slowly ventured outside of the school cafeteria. Some of our favorite discoveries have been pork dumplings, a bread, egg, and ham wrap, and rice and noodle stir fry from a street cart. However, the highlight of the food search has been a small hand-pulled noodle shop found at the end of an alleyway across the street from campus. While this shop offers a wide variety of delicious and cheap noodle dishes along with a menu conveniently translated into English, the main attraction is watching the workers create the noodles. From the tables you can watch the cook take a large pile of dough and pull and twist it many different times to create very thin hand-pulled noodles. These noodles are then topped with sauce and your choice of different meats and vegetables. A popular dish for our group is the beef and potato noodles. Through our food experiences we have observed some noticeable differences between Chinese and American food. At home, we are used to eating cold cereal and a cold sandwich for breakfast and lunch. Here, however, they enjoy eating boiling hot noodles, dumplings, etc. at all hours of the day. It also took our group some time to adjust to using only chopsticks every time we eat. After a week of trial and error resulting in a lot of spilled food we finally perfected the art. With less than a week to go, it goes without saying that we will be spending much of our time enjoying the last few days of delicious Shanghai food. (Erica Cappon)