Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Start of something new

Today is my last day in Shanghai. Most of my friends have moved into their apartments. Tomorrow - Nanjing, and then work begins. While everyone else is working today, I will be packing, going to a yoga class, and getting a massage.

This week, I took a cultural and historical journey in Shanghai and got a true foreigner experience. After a relaxing weekend, on Monday, I found the entrance to the Jing'An Temple, which is a thousand year old still functional Buddhist temple.It has a fountain and beautiful statues and a tall pillar out front with the dharma principles on it.
Outside Jing'An Temple
Jing'An Courtyard
From there, being a big kid, I went to the Children's Palace, which isn't really so much a palace as an educational facility for children. So I moved on to the meeting place of the first Congress of the Communist Party of China, which had pictures and artifacts from the first meeting 90 years ago. I also went to the former residence of Sun Yat-sen (the first president of the Republic of China after the revolution that ended the dynasty era). *Foreigner moment: A man pushed me into a picture with his mother.* It was the centennial of the revolution, so there were special exhibits on display. It was pretty neat. I couldn't tell you much about the differences in the dynasties in China, but I'm learning more about the modern history. 
Site of 1st meeting of the CPC
Former residence of Sun Yat-sen

Then Tuesday I took a day trip to Wuxi (pronounced Woo-zhee). That was an adventure in confusion and miscommunication. Based on my research of Wuxi, I thought it was going to be a littler town with a lake and a giant Buddha. Needless to say, I was shocked when the train dropped me off in a large industrial city with no Buddha in sight. Plus, the train station did not have an English map. A cab took me to a scenic area, where I took some pictures of Wuxi, saw the Dragon Pagoda (the symbol of the city), the Grand Canal which runs from Beijing, and some temples, plus a Buddhist ceremony with music, incense, and what I'm presuming was a sacrifice of some kind since they made a fire. *Foreigner moment: Many people said hello to me and laughed when I responded.* Then I decided I wanted to go to the lake. I got in a cab. My cab driver deserves a trophy for how patient and helpful he was. By the time we figured out where I wanted to go (with the help of his English speaking friend and my Chinese speaking friend on the phones), it was too late to buy tickets to see the touristy stuff, but I was still able to take pictures. It turns out that the stuff I wanted to see wasn't in Wuxi, but about 3 miles outside Wuxi (and the Buddha was hiding in the mountains). Again, my cab driver was awesome. He even took me to a little side scenic spot with the beginnings of a forest and bought me some water. Then he took me back to the train station. Lesson learned: Map out sights before traveling and have them translated into Chinese. And I am super spoiled with the amount of English spoken and ease of movement in Shanghai. 

Which brings me to my next topic: 10 Things to know about Shanghai/China:
1) People are really very nice. Except for when they are getting on the metro. Then they will push, stomp, elbow their way in or out. 
2) Know your exit when you are getting off the metro. They are huge, have multiple exits, and if you don't know which one to take, you could end up walking in big circles for an hour. 
3) Wear comfortable shoes in the metro. Metro stations are huge and you could end up walking a mile to switch trains. (Ok, a slight exaggeration, but see number 2 as well.)
4) Metro stations have security lines with those x-ray machines for your bags. You can push past these unless you have suitcases. 
5) Carry hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and bottled water. 
6) Forget your sense of personal space and germ-phobias. People spit in the street, don't cover their coughs or sneezes, and family style is a popular way to eat - which means other people's chopsticks will be in your food. 
7) Look both ways before, during, and after you cross the street. Cars, buses, and motorbikes will not stop for you.
8) Beware of motorbikes and bicycles running you over on the sidewalks. 
9) Many restaurants have picture menus, so don't be afraid to go in. 
10) Forget everything you think you know about China. It's big; it's small; it's modern; it's ancient; it's an experience.
My awesome cab driver
Giant Buddha - bigger than the saint statue in Frederick
Taihu Lake
Buddhist Ceremony
Dragon Pagoda
View of Wuxi

1 comment:

  1. So I think I only have one question...WHY do you have to bring toilet paper? Do the restrooms not have them??? Are you finding yourself in places where there is no restroom?? Im becoming concerned for you :)