Hello and salutations, hopefully this is the start of a series of interesting and thoughtful blogposts by yours truly.
That being said I have no idea what to write for this first post other than I'm in Shanghai, China, studying beginner Chinese language classes at Fudan U (as well as some other classes oriented around contemporary issues in China). I've been here approximately one month, but it only seemed like yesterday when I stepped off the plane and had no idea where I was.
Thankfully I'm a bit more oriented now.
My first impression of Shanghai, naturally, is one of size. The city is massive, huge, an estimated 6 million people ride the public transportation system every morning and each evening. To make a point: the entire population of Minnesota is an estimated 5, 344, 861. More people take this subway system than live in Minnesota every day.
The other big thing is development. The famous developmental boom in China has left Shanghai with a tall and proud skyline: the Pearl TV Tower and the World Financial Business Center ('that bottle-opener shaped building') on the east side of the river Pu and the old Bund on the west. Yet most of that eastern half of the city, the part that shows up on postcards and in travel books, did not exist in 1994.
Perhaps this just reflects my prejudices about history: when I usually think of a large city I assume that the area's been inhabited and built upon for many years. Shanghai constructed the major Pudong buildings and complexes within 20 years, with more planned. The eastern half of Shanghai now towers over the Bund, built by various European powers during China's 'Century of Sorrow'. It's not a coincidence that the view from the Bund lies directly in front of Shanghai's biggest and best face.
Aside from size and growth, Shanghai has proven to be pretty sweet. I've found that the biggest and most interesting question I encounter daily is what to eat. For the first few weeks, we went to a convenience store chain called Quan Jia (Family Mart for English speakers). There I lived pretty much off of baozi, steamed buns with meat, egg, or red bean inside.
Well, that wouldn't do forever, especially since my Chinese roommate Aidi (you can call him Eddie) told me he knew which restaurants were the best. I've mostly eaten at places right around Fudan or the local shopping center Wu Jiao Chang. We're eating cheap these days, the exchange rate may not be 8:1 anymore but 6:1 still means that the dollar gets some mileage. Our favorite so far is this place run by Chinese Muslims. 6 RMB for a full bowl of noodles and soup, that's under a dollar.
That's been a pretty apt depiction of my first few weeks: gaping at the buildings, trying to get food, and figuring out where everything is.