I’d like to begin this blog post with an apology. By now, I should have posted at least two blog posts, if not three, and one of them should have been before I was in Shanghai. As I am writing this from a dorm in Shanghai, it looks like I missed the mark by a little.
This is the first time I have had stable internet access since I arrived on Sunday (stable meaning lasting longer than maybe three seconds). While my room still lacks the ability to connect without cutting out, the room below me has been kind enough for me to quietly steal its Wi-Fi. It seems the second lesson I have learned here was “believe it or not, your are not physiologically dependent on Facebook.” I will do my best to remember that.
I say the lack of internet was second lesson learned because I learned my first moments after getting off the fifteen-hour plane ride from Chicago and looking out the window. That lesson was “while in Shanghai, do not expect to see the sun or sky at all.” No, seriously. I am unclear what the forecast would be for today, except for “cool with a one hundred percent chance of smog.” Yesterday’s forecast was “light rain with a one hundred percent chance of smog.” The rain flushed out enough pollution for us to go outside without wearing masks that look like first drafts of the wardrobe from The Dark Knight Rises, but not enough to offer us a glimpse of blue or
yellow. So, I turned my attention from staring at the sky for hours (which in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t really do anywhere) to what Shanghai had to offer.
Shanghai is a vibrant and exciting place. My experiences have ranged from astonishing to terrifying, and it seems like that will not end anytime soon. Mundane tasks like crossing the street have turned into games of “dodge the motorcyclist who seems to think the walk signal is a guideline, not a rule”. Last night I saw an acrobatic show which involved many feats of flexibility and strength, but also the strange display of five motorcycles driving inside a big metal cage, and jump roping on top of a ferris-wheel type device. Needless to say, I was impressed, but also a little concerned for the safety of the performers. Shanghai is also, as cliché as it may sound, a tremendous clash of East and West. Tiny Chinese restaurants sit next to the giant “Global Harbor Mall”. Tesco offers both Budweiser and bottles of wine filled with snakes, to help balance one’s qi. KFC offers fried chicken and the Colonel’s lesser known spinach, tomato, and rice porridge. Tomorrow I hope to head to the Bund and the Pudong, the area that boasts Shanghai’s futuristic skyline, which stand tall over the East China Sea. Shanghai’s literal meaning, “Above the Sea” makes the most sense there. Would I say that Shanghai is what I expected of China? I have been here three times, and my own upbringing taught me that China was far more than pagodas, kung-fu, or pandas, but Shanghai has once again astonished me with everything it has to display. I have to do some more exploring to give a more authentic and complete picture of this city, but for now, here is a little taste.