上海 Blog #5
Monday May 25th, 2015
Local Time: 20:10 Shanghai Time
I’m overstimulated. I am also quite tired after having not slept in over 24 hours, but that’s beside the point. Shanghai is so incredibly…. Different. Everybody at school told me, “oh, it’s so modern and Americanized it’s almost like you don’t even leave the states.” Uh no…. nuh uh, not even close.
I’ll begin with landing. We were greeted with a big old sign off the plane signaling where the 外国人 should go. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been considered a foreigner. It’s an odd feeling. Customs really wasn’t as difficult or as scary as I’d been told it could be. Although, I must say I had a miniature heart attack when an angry administrator approached the young guy processing my papers and had a curt yet cutting conversation with him – something about my name, but I didn’t catch much more than that. I took a bit longer than the others, but he let me through without penalty.
Thankfully, my luggage wasn’t lost, I exchanged $20 USD for 58 RMB (AKA Yuan/Kuai) and we all hiked ourselves onward to be bombarded by a tunnel of locals offering taxi services before being flagged by our CIEE program coordinator. 他 叫 Zhai 老师 (Her name is Zhai teacher) and I’d give you the character for her 姓 (family name) but she didn’t give it to me and I didn’t ask because I was too busy focusing on fumbling my way through a tiny conversation with her. “我叫Heather Brevard. 我中文名字是包海莉。认识你我很高兴。 (My name is Heather Brevard. My Chinese name is Bao HaiLi. I’m pleased to meet you.)
It took us over an hour to get from the airport to 华东师范大学(East China Normal University) Campus by bus. The traffic was about as bad as you would expect from rush hour in Chicago. Let me tell you right off the bat, the architecture of the buildings is way different. How they construct buildings is way different. You’ll have skyscrapers next to agricultural plots. The foliage seems different. We saw an airliner next to a field next to a forty floor apartment. People hang their clothes outside of their windows to dry. Sometimes they’re even as high up as the twentieth floor, and I kept half expecting them to fall. The highway was a bridge the entire way into and through the city. Planters full of flowers and grasses line all of the major roads. There is way more nature in the city than I expected.
The campus is absolutely beautiful. Complete with a postcard picture perfect river with ornate bridge, ECNU is tucked away behind massive arched gates. We’re staying in the international “hotel” on a far corner of campus. Three to a room. The room itself is decent. The power and internet situations are a bit tricky. The bathroom is tiny. I mean literally, the shower head is practically on the toilet right by the sink. It’s a phone booth, not a bathroom. The other problem is a nob on the sink determines whether the shower or the sink produces water. My three roommates and I took showers to banish the post travel grime. Unfortunately, I later went back to wash my hands for dinner only to find the shower turned on instead of the sink. So, in short, I changed my doused clothes before heading out for our welcome dinner.
We dined at some really fancy restaurant down town. In China, when dining upscale, it is common to order several dishes which are served family style on a giant lazy-susan which covers the whole table. I was instantly grateful my mother had taught me from a young age to use chopsticks. There were about 9 of us to a table and roughly 15 dishes served. This was no panda express. I pretty much still don’t know exactly what all I ate, but I tried everything from the tofu concoctions to the green tea rice cakes to the purple potatoes to the egg mush to the corn sticky rice.
At one point during the meal, a Chinese man passed by our tables and subtly snapped a photo of us with his cellphone. Being a foreigner for the first time in my life is so weird. We got a lot of looks in that restaurant and even more as we walked around the shopping mall with its intensely bright, white lights.
Thank God they gave us a couple of bottles of water with which to head to bed (you’re welcome for rewriting that sentence so I it didn’t end with a preposition). Grammar aside, we can’t drink tap water here and because of the humidity, one dehydrates incredibly fast. At least I have some stock for now.
Orientation begins tomorrow. I’m so exhausted. 我在上海。现在晚上八点半。 我现在想睡觉。晚安！ （I am in Shanghai. It’s 8:30pm. I’m going to sleep now. Good night!）