Trying to find the Small Things in Shanghai

In 1. Greetings, The Art of Travel, Shanghai by KDLeave a Comment

This being my second time reading, “Why We Travel” and The Art of Travel: “On Anticipation” I reflected more on how this trip, to Shanghai, is so much different than my trip to Sydney. When I went to Australia, my feelings, thoughts, and ideas are all jumbled with excitement. However, as I packed for Shanghai and thought about going to school in China for a semester I was not phased. I almost packed as if I was going on a vacation for a few weeks, not realizing that I definitely needed more shorts than I packed. While I made Sydney home, I am struggling to make Shanghai home. My underpacking is just a glimpse into how unprepared I am for Shanghai. For example, I did not think the air quality would bother me buy after a week of bloodshot eyes, an itchy throat, and getting express delivery on masks, I regretted not thinking of it beforehand.

Personally, I connected with the Pico Iyer’s reading more. In fact, “Why We Travel” resonated with me on all levels of what I believe travel is and should be. I really enjoy the idea of the love affair and that “the best love affairs, never really end.” I find myself constantly mentioning my travels in Europe, Asia, or Australia like they are old loves I cannot let go. To me, meaningful travel sticks with you and changes how you view new places and experiences. I am that carrier pigeon for friends and family at home. Shanghai has really stood “everything [I] took for granted on its head.” Not speaking any Chinese yet looking Chinese really baffles people. It is a strange feeling when you and English are the minority yet look like the majority. Additionally, the ease of paying for things has gone right out the door. In the US it is easy to just swipe a card but here cards and sometimes cash are not taken – only WeChat. Learning how to use WeChat for basically ever sphere of my life has been a change.

To me, Shanghai lacks the charm of Boston (home) and the exciting diversity of New York City. Known as a modern city, I find it sterile in architecture (except for the Former French Concession and old Customs House). While I always enjoy exploring a new city’s Chinatown, I have come to realize Shanghai does not have a Chinatown, only China. I am already struggling with eating “Chinese” food almost every day for every meal. I love to aimlessly wandering in a new city but have come to realize that Shanghai is HUGE and hard to wander as much is it is residential. Similar to whenever one leaves one location and starts a new across the globe, I feel like I am missing out. My friends and family text me what they are doing in New York or Boston (or London as one of my close friends is abroad there) and I sometimes wish I could be there. Funny enough, they probably wish they could be here with me. Having one foot in each and trying to balance my place here and there has become a juggling act. I want to be present in both location, yet they are thousands of miles apart.

One of the main reasons I chose to attend New York University was to go abroad (and Gallatin’s lack of a language requirement). Being a senior I feel like I should have a better grasp on what my concentration is but I do not. When asked, I reply that I am interested in social policy, education, and childhood development. Additionally, I am minoring in child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. Ironically, I really wanted to go to Shanghai for their Culture and Parenting class along with a law class, as I am interested in law school. However, after reading the syllabi for these classes I decided to take a whole different route. Now I am taking many psychology classes along with Chinese culture classes. Besides academics, going to Shanghai holds a deeper meaning to me. Being adopted from China but raised in a western fashion, this semester I hope to explore my Chinese side and culture. I am here for me. I want to visit the panda capital Chengdu, hopefully, learn some Chinese, eat spicy food until my mouth explodes in Xian, and really make every second here worth it. Being interested in cultures and travel small things excite me and I am looking forward to making all the small things in Shanghai home.

(Image: Importance of WeChat in Shanghai; Source: Farfrom)

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