On Thursday, we had our last class with Mark and each of us got to share our favorite memories of the trip! It was really fun reliving memories with everyone and we all went over what made an impression on us here in Shanghai. For me, I am surprised at how comfortable I ended up being here. I can navigate the subways and buses. I can use cabs and communicate fairly well, either using broken Chinese or gesturing. A main reason I feel so comfortable, though, is because there are signs in English everywhere and a good amount of people speak English. Shanghai is really catered to foreigners and I know I wouldn’t be able to function here if it weren’t for the privileges knowing English provides me. I think it would even be difficult to be a foreigner (like a European) who may only speak English as a second language because they are translating 24/7. Our group was really fortunate that even though we didn’t speak Chinese our native tongue was widely used here. Studying abroad has definitely strengthened my empathy for foreigners who come to the United States without knowing English. And unfortunately, I feel that Americans aren’t as eager to help foreigners who are lost or confused, whereas here in China I’ve lost track of how many kind strangers were willing to point me in the right direction, or who dealt with me patiently while I was trying to communicate with them. I’m so thankful for English being so widespread in Shanghai, but I’m also aware that this is a privilege that most foreigners in America (and probably elsewhere) do not experience.
On Thursday, we visited the Martial Arts Museum where we learned about the history of Chinese martial arts! It was a really interesting experience, but my favorite part was the interactive games downstairs that tested your ability in qualities encouraged by martial arts. There was a game that you had to step on a circle once it lit up, but the circles we so tiny that you really had to balance well! There was another game where you tested your reaction time by hitting circles that light up, and another where you had to guess where certain sounds were coming from. It was really fun! After that Saba, Ka, Kyra, Maggie and I all went to the Fake Market (for the last time 🙂 ) and bought some souvenirs and I went home to meditate and rest before getting dinner at the noodle place with Elysa.
On Friday, because we didn’t have Mark’s class, Ka and I got breakfast outside of the front gates. We got these egg burrito things. First the man laid down pancake batter, and as that was baking on a flat grill he cracked an egg on top of it and then added onions and chives and a mystery sauce. He then rolled it up and it was only 3.5 yuan! I also got coconut juice and Ka visited a new smoothie place that just announced it’s grand opening. Because it had just opened, they had a deal of “buy one get one free” and Ka gave me her extra strawberry smoothie! It was a really great breakfast, but then we had to head back to campus to attend our last International Relations course. We learned about potential futures of Sino-US relations. After class everyone went to the noodle place, but I stayed back in the library (which had solid wifi) to contact my bank to figure out why my credit card was eaten. As it turns out, someone actually stole my credit card information after we left for this trip and between May 28th and May 29th someone spent almost all of my savings on video games in Luxembourg. I was originally planning to meet up with people at the noodle place, but after becoming enlightened to that whole mess I ended up spending all lunch talking with different people from my bank. Luckily I will get all my money back!
After “lunch”, we took a bus to the tea market! The tea market was definitely in my Top 5 favorite things we’ve done in Shanghai so far. At my table was Mark, Omer, Maggie, Deshawn, Emily and Adam. At the table the women who worked at the tea store prepared five different kinds of tea for us to try: Tie Guanyin Oolong, a white tea, a red tea (also referred to as black tea), a jasmine blossoming flower tea, and a pu’er tea. A fun fact that I learned is that there isn’t a difference in tea leaves between green/oolong/red tea, the only difference is how the leaves are prepared. For green tea they are only lightly toasted, oolong they are let to lightly ferment, and with red tea they are heavily fermented. My favorite tea was the Tie Guanyin tea and I bought 50 g of that and another oolong tea to bring back home. Maggie and I were even lucky enough to learn how to prepare tea. We learned how to clean all the glasses, how to clean the tea, and how to steep and pour it for everyone. It’s a multi-step process and also really challenging because while pouring the tea from one container to another I was slightly burned. But I’m alright! At the market I also bought a mini tea set so I can show off the tea preparation skills I learned :). It was really funny when the woman preparing our tea told us you could get “drunk off tea” and I was really confused at first, thinking maybe the fermentation of the leaves would create an alcohol but then Mark explained that the caffeine buzz from green tea is often considered to be “drunk off tea”. After not having caffeine practically all month I definitely felt the caffeine buzz!
After the tea market we went to a Beijing Duck restaurant for our program farewell dinner (wah 🙂 ). The dinner was amazing and family style and Steve Chao, Arber, Shao Laoshi, Mao Laoshi, Zhai Laoshi, and Mark all attended. Not only was the dinner and company amazing but CIEE gave us a farewell gift of our own personal stamp with our name on it carved out of stone and a little photo album highlighting all the memories we’ve made in Shanghai this past month. Dinner was SO close to getting emotional for me, but I held back happy tears knowing I still had two more days with everyone, even though this was the last time we were seeing most of our mentors and professor. After dinner we went on a boat cruise of the Bund area to see the skyline lit up at night! It was absolutely beautiful and we had plenty of photoshoots on the top deck of the boat, throwing up the “W”. 🙂 After the boat cruise a few of us hung out at a pavilion on campus just reminiscing and enjoying each other’s company.