For the last month, I have had nearly every moment of my day planned out for me. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was prepared for us, whether we were eating at the hotels, out with the group for lunch or dinner, or grabbing market food. I love to cook and hadn't done it in a month - I forgot what I liked to eat before I left the US and I hadn't had to do laundry in weeks. I hadn't had to clean a bathroom, sweep floors, buy cat food and kitty litter, or drive a car. All we had to do in China was show up - and it was awesome - but it has definitely been an adjustment.
I think the biggest differences in my day include normally portioned meals (no two hours of marathon eating around a lazy susan) and sleep. My first week back surprised me with a lot of excitement with seeing everyone that I still only got about 6 hours of sleep every night, but I had a chance to nap the afternoons or evenings away before going out again at night - whereas in China, there was just no time to be wasted on naps - except for those necessary few that we all had to take in Tianjin.
I've been surprised by my noticing more Asian inspired things when I'm out and about every day. One of my girls and I went to the pet store to get fish for her tanks in the house and I noticed so many Buddha statues to go in the fish tanks - and then we got home and I picked up a Beijing Restaurant menu off of the counter and noticed for the first time that the picture on the front of the menu is the Temple of Heaven.
I feel like life is just a constant state of adjustment, but it keeps things interesting. I'm glad to be home and I'm even more glad to be keeping in touch with some of the coolest people in the world that I got to do my trip to China with.
My month in China is one that I will never forget and it was filled with sights that are indescribable. I knew going into this trip that it would be one of epic proportions, though I had no idea of the effect that it would actually have on me. I've been trying to describe what it was like to climb the Great Wall, or stay on that little island, or notice the differences in the small towns like Suzhou and the huge cities like Shanghai - but it's impossible. Everything that we got to experience in the last month is just something that can't be understood unless you see it too. I keep telling everyone that they absolutely have to go to China if they ever get the chance. It was epic.
As much fun as I had, I was ready to come home and get back into a routine, play some music, and hang out with my friends and my kitty. And all I wanted was to get my bags back safely - which was a concern especially because I bought one at a Carrefour equivalent for about 180 yuan - which isn't much. As soon as I tried wheeling it around at the airport it was apparent that the bag was only gonna make it for this one trip and I just wanted to get it on the plane. Alex helped me put it back together and then after a quick run through with security it was good to go.
I was so tired that morning that I fell asleep on the runway before the plane even took off. By the time we were in the air and I no longer had any idea where we were, I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get to say my final goodbye to China. I guess I'm the kind of person that doesn't really do goodbyes anyway - I like "see ya later"(s). I really hope that I will have the opportunity to travel back and say hi to China again someday.
Our time in Shanghai brought us to the tallest observatory in the world as well as the World Expo, both of which were filled with people - which means lines. The tower that Joe took us up to was a series of different waiting areas that we experienced, and most people were patient and calmly waiting for most of the experience. I think that we waited in lines for about two or three hours throughout our tour of the observatory - and I'm not a person that likes to stand around - or feel trapped. I think most of us felt trapped up in that tower, just waiting for our turn to get in the elevator and get down and out of there. The view was incredible but the chaos of everyone trying to push their way through the lines to get out was enough to make me never want to stand in another line ever again. Lucky for me, we were going to the Expo the next day - and I was NOT looking forward to it.
As soon as we got off the bus the next day to get ourselves in yet another line - a line just to get through security - I noticed how many people were trying to sell us stools - not the standard little bags and chopsticks that I was used to. I didn't want to buy a stool - why would I want to buy a stool? As soon as we were in line again I reconsidered my decision not to buy one - especially since it was about 8:00 am and I was able to watch other people resting on their stools in line. At 9:00 the line got moving to get everyone through security and then we had to bolt to the USA pavilion to get in another line. The line at the USA building wasn't bad at all - we walked through most of it and made it inside in about ten or fifteen minutes.
By the time we got out of that building there were already so many people on the Expo grounds that I couldn't bear the thought of trying to get into any longer lines so Charlee and I went on a mission to see every building on that side of the park and to try and make our way over the river to the other part. I just couldn't believe how many people were willing to wait for hours and hours just to get into some of the buildings. Nick and Alex stopped to see how long the wait would be for Germany and the guy at the gate told them it would be about six hours. Six hours?! Yeah right - but the people were waiting very patiently - stools and all. I don't think that waits like that would go over very smoothly in America - I could definitely see fights or riots starting after about the second hour of the wait.
To experience the Expo was absolutely incredible and I'm glad that we did it - even after the tower fiasco the day before.
Wow, what an experience. A short novel could probably be written based on the memories I have of this place, but for now, a simple blog entry will have to suffice. I have learned so much; about a culture, about a way of life, and about myself. This trip has made me realize that there is more than one way to go about living my life, and that conventional thinking is not always the best way to look at things. I have been back in the U.S. for about a week, and almost every thought in my mind has been about China, the people that I met there, and the lessons they taught me. I went for a bike ride a couple of nights ago, trying to replicate a feeling I had while riding a bike with my student. Needless to say, it was not the same. As I pedaled down the placid, eerily quiet streets of my neighborhood, I found myself daydreaming that I was back, in the crowed, hectic streets of Tianjin, surrounded by people, having a casual conversation with the incredible person riding on the rear wheel. I don't care if it takes two weeks, two months, six months, or a year, I'm going back. Thank you to everyone who made this trip so memorable.
I am really glad that our group had the opportunity to experience the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Seeing all of the creative facades put together by countries from around the world was a truly amazing sight. The only complaint was that the lines were very long, upwards of six hours just to enter a single pavilion. Even though the waiting times were absurd, it is understandable given the population of Shanghai and the intense marketing campaign surrounding the expo. Having an unlimited access pass to that place would be one hell of a gift, but without one, it would probably take a month just to take in everything it has to offer. The theme of the expo, "better city, better life" was a hopeful and promising one, and many countries put together bright and optimistic exhibitions showcasing their dreams for the future. Hopefully these aspirations will be fulfilled.
Easily one of the most memorable times in my life thus far was the World Expo in Shanghai. I'm still amazed at how lucky we all were for choosing to study abroad in China and then discovering that the Expo was being hosted in Shanghai. The architecture of all the buildings were miraculous. It was extraordinary seeing all of the unique designs and ideas that were put into each and every building. In my opinion, I thought the most unique was Spain's pavilion which consisted of almost 600 woven baskets. Google it to see what I mean (for all those readers from back home). Very cool. Even though we studied only in China, I feel like experiencing the Expo gave me insight into many other cultures.
Today marks the end of what I can safely say one of the most incredible trips I have ever experienced. It's hard to even recollect half of the things I did on this trip, there was just so much. It's also hard to think about going home and readjusting to my own culture, after spending just a month here and doing everything to adjust to this one. I think what is so unique about this trip is the fact that it is so three dimensional and it lets the student experience the culture first hand, and not just lectured in a classroom. I don't think I have learned so much in such a short period of time about so many different things. I believe a class like this is necessary for any business student because it widens your perspective and shows you first hand how important cultural differences are.
Our last day in Shanghai we ended up going back to Nanjing road to do some last minute shopping. I wasn't looking for anything in particular but needed to find a few more gifts. Me and a couple others had an interesting experience with a young market lady. At first this lady just showed us her room full of fake stuff which is exactly what we were looking for, after some hard bargaining with her and what seemed to be her boss we started to walk out the door until she stopped us and started motioning to follow her. We really didn't have anything else to do so we figured why not. She led us down deeper into the alleyways into a real Shanghai house which was pretty cool. It looked like a normal Chinese household with a women cutting vegetables in the kitchen and cloths drying everywhere until she opened a door that was filled with fake shoes. It was funny to see how professional looking this room looked, it had one shoe for every model they had displayed nicely on racks with lights behind it. Basically something you would see on the wall of a footlocker or Nike store. This lady ended up dragging us around to 4 different shops until finally she gave up. It was quite entertaining.