Our first day of class was pretty relaxed. We were introduced to the material in both classes and I can’t formulate much of an opinion yet but I’m positive our “China’s International Relations” will be a challenge for me. Overlooking the syllabus I can’t believe that it’s structured for one month, given the amount of work. But we’ll see how that goes!
After class we had lunch on campus and prepared for the Amazing Race, a scavenger hunt of landmarks around Shanghai. When we first landed in Shanghai the fifteen of us were split into three groups. I volunteered to be a group leader (I get a local cellphone, yay!) and my group includes Tiffany, Deshawn, Saba, and Omer. After lunch we were given five places to visit and were instructed to meet back at Zhongshan Park at 5pm. On the worksheet we were given all the titles of places to visit, but they were all in Chinese, forcing us to reach out to strangers for directions.
Maggie and Heather (both the girls who speak Chinese) were also group leaders, so they kinda had an advantage over our group who could not speak Chinese. We also decided not to look up any of the locations at the hotel before leaving, like the other groups. So with a paper map of Shanghai (I don’t even use paper maps at home), and our metro card we were off! The first woman we stopped to ask for directions spoke English really well, however she gave us the wrong direction to our first stop. Our group dynamic was great, though. Every time we completed a direction we were SO positive that we were on the right path…and even though seven different times we had to turn around and try again just to reach our first destination we all kept our spirits high and optimistic. With more disadvantages than advantages than the other groups, I was just happy to experience Shanghai as it presented itself randomly. I was also super impressed at our navigation around the subway. We had the potential to get extremely lost. We eventually made it to the Shanghai Museum and tried to walk to the Pearl Tower next. However, we ran out of time and had to head back to Zhongshan Park, our final stop, to meet our entire group for the Shanghai Acrobatic Show.
The acrobatic show was nothing short of anxiety inducing. They fit eight motorcycles in one iron caged sphere, a girl balancing only on a man’s flexed foot as he held onto ribbons spinning around the auditorium. It was incredible! But by the end of the show, everyone hit a wall and we were ready for bed!
On Thursday, during class with Mark, we learned about Chinese cosmogony which was a review for me since I took his Introduction to Daoism class. However, if I were to relearn the information from any class I’m very glad it is Mark’s. After our international studies class, a group of us got noodles from a place recommended from students who went on this trip last year. I only paid 8 yuan (~$1.30) for a gigantic bowl of noodles and beef. On Thursday, after lunch, we visited the Shanghai Urban Planning Center and what stuck out to me the most was a mini replica of Shanghai on the fourth floor. It took up SO much space, almost the entire floor, with mini replicas of all the skyscrapers I’d been admiring for the past few days. And it was only a representation of 1/16th of Shanghai! It even lit up. After the museum we were given an option to head back to campus or explore more of downtown Shanghai.
Clearly our adventurous spirit had not been dampened by our action-packed yesterday, and Elyssa, Saba, Omer, Deshawn, and I all set off to find some of the dress and art stores that we had to quickly pass on our way to the Pearl Tower yesterday. Unfortunately we didn’t have much success finding things around downtown, but it was quite a treat exploring the underground markets near the subway! All of us ending up finding something to remember this day, and I bought a dress that reminded me of Alicia Silverstone’s attire in the movie Clueless. Initially we set out to find a market that was notorious for selling knockoff designer things, but the underground markets were so vast that our energy drained around 6:00PM and we headed back to campus. Just like the day before, the five of us were hopping subways like it was nobody’s business and I’m so surprised at how comfortable I feel navigating my way around a city with a size I can’t even fully comprehend. Hopefully I stay as confident in the subways, I don’t trust myself taking the buses completely void of English signs.
We all got street pancakes for dinner and headed back to the hotel. I was completely exhausted from the past two days and passed out almost immediately. As I write, it’s Friday morning at 7:30AM. Today we’re going to visit the Shanghai Film Museum!!!
I’ll admit, I was experiencing some pretty extreme culture shock my first two days here. However, as I become more familiar with my surroundings and the language I’m becoming more comfortable. I’m also really thankful for the group of students I’m with. I appreciate that all of our different skills are being put to use and that we all are open to any new experiences. On the subway Saba turned to me and said, “You’ve had a permanent smile on this whole trip! Like a resting smile face.” I didn’t even realize I was smiling so much, but I have every reason to. 🙂