Hello there, all of my Dear Family & Friends!
So yes, I have been in Shanghai, China for a month now. And yes, this is my very first post. For this, I am quite sorry. Therefore, I will just have to attempt to make it extra good. Whether or not I succeed, I’m not promising anything!
I am a big fan of photos, capturing them, looking at them, being re-invited to that moment. There is just something about photos that I love. I also am a big fan of my friends. And a thoughtful email from one such friend gave me the space to reflect a bit on my trip so far with some good questions. So, this first post will be a combo photo recap and answering some of those good questions about this whole China Thing.
1. Biggest Change? Food.
Now, considering I am quite the un-picky eater, and while I was fully expecting the biggest change to be language, the biggest change has definitely been food. Mostly because it really is one thing a person truly cannot avoid. Granted, I could survive off of the multiple McDonald’s, KFC’s, Burger King’s, and Dairy Queen’s that we are surrounded by, but I’m in China, darn it, and that just does not seem okay with me. Thus, I eat lots of noodles, lots of rice. I’m not sure I have ever consumed such a massive amount of carbohydrates in my life. There have also been a few things eaten that I am not entirely certain what they were. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s okay to keep it that way.
2. Something beautiful? 虎丘, Tiger Hill.
I’m not really sure of the meaning behind it at all, but from what I gathered, it is basically just a really pretty hill on which are lots of old buildings, located in Suzhou, about eighty miles west of Shanghai. The biggest being the Pagoda of Yunan Temple, over 1,000 years old. Whoa. It was just such a good feeling to be out of the city for the first time since arriving in China and to get a chance to see a piece of China’s vast history. Walking down whatever path you pleased, finding another something beautiful to look at, simply enjoying just being in such an ancient place. The place was absolutely full of tourists, but considering the majority were Chinese, I’m going to go ahead and say it was a legit place.
3. Something surreal? Downtown Shanghai.
We spent one entire afternoon just walking the streets of downtown, and didn’t even make the half of it. The skyscrapers are just spectacular. They have most all been built in the past twenty years as a part of Shanghai’s urban planning, and so are all quite different, unique designs. Also, much more spread out than the downtown of Chicago, so you are able to have a fuller view of each one. Walking through them held a similar kind of awe as that of being surrounded by mountains, except, of course, a different material. One just feels so tiny in comparison to the vastness of standing next to the second tallest building in the world. I now have more pictures of buildings than I will ever need.
4. Something challenging? Listening.
I feel as though my speaking ability has much improved since first coming to China. I’m not thinking so much about saying the wrong thing when it’s the simple necessity of saying something at all. But my listening ability is just so horrible. I’m scared to speak with people not so much because I am unsure what/how to say something but rather because the chances of my understanding their reply is slim to none. Listening in our classes, we know what to listen for and the general context. And, if we really aren’t getting something, our teachers are perfectly fluent in English. Real listening, a different story. Virtually no context, no hints, and no English backup. Mostly, I just feel bad for not knowing the language of the people and country I am in. Bah, a frustrating feeling.
5. Something comical? Match Making Park.
Now, this may be a bit culturally critical to talk about, but there you have it. We were walking in People’s Square one day in the park area. Lots of stone pathways lined with full, beautiful green trees. We then found ourselves in a mass of people, all conversing with one another. People were sitting in chairs and at tables along the pathways, and each person had a little sign with information such as date of birth, hometown, and college major. One of the guys first said it was a place where people could meet and find others who spoke their same dying dialect. Come to find out, it’s actually a place for parents to find mates for their children who them deem as needing one. Definitely not something I have happened upon in a park before. Also, not quite as cool as the whole dialect story, but still a bit entertaining.
I hope this has not disappointed but has sufficed as a first post of my China travels. This will be happening much more often from now on. For realz. Sending my love to each of you!