SHANGHAI FAMILY REUNION
Jessica's putting me to shame by the amount of times she's blogged this month so I'm going to try to catch up.
Halley, a sister and third year student from my school, and I took a quick, five day trip to Shanghai last week. My oldest brother and his wife (Ashley and Jamie) were given an incredible opportunity to spend five days in Shanghai so Halley and I booked train and plane tickets there and back (excitement abounds here in Shiyan since the new advent of this incredible Internet based computer system which now allows us to book return tickets from the comfort of our own city rather than the archaic system of depending on friends or friends' friends who live in the particular city we need to return from to secure tickets for us). We left late Wednesday night after a torturous English corner experience and arrived in Wuhan with a pleasantly long layover in Hankou where we enjoyed an afternoon with Danielle and her friend Sunny.
Thursday night we arrived in Shanghai and made our way to a "hotel". I had looked for hostels semi-close to where Ashley and Jamie would be staying, and the cheapest one I found was 70 yuan a night. Halley, however, found a Chinese hotel especially suited for students on a tight budget. It wasn't really a hotel but a large apartment in which beds were rented out to travelers or new residents for a mere 17 yuan a night. It was a fairly nice place to stay, but neither Halley nor I felt comfortable taking showers there. Is it a bad sign when I can go five days without showering and hardly feel bothered by it? In China it's important to wash your feet before you go to bed so I made sure to comply to this cultural standard.
Friday Halley and I met up with Ashley and Jamie, and we spent the day walking and walking and walking some more. I have to be terribly honest and admit that Shanghai is not the most exciting city in China nor is it laid out well for tourists. However, I did really enjoy the architecture in the Yu Yuan Old Town, the parks which were quite lovely, and the famous Shanghai skyline that most definitely does not disappoint, particularly at night.
Saturday Ashley and Jamie did some souvenir shopping while Halley and I met her cousin and went to Fudang University. I didn't have anything of particular interest I wished to see, and Halley was quite excited about visiting this university which, to her, was the equivalent of touring Harvard. Later we met up with an old friend who has been working in Shanghai for a year. Janis tried to show us around a little but ended up proving that more often than not it's the locals who know the least about their city. Let me take this opportunity to segue into my challenge to anyone who is reading this: take time to discover the interesting things surrounding you!
Sunday Ashley and Jamie went to the Botanical Gardens which were quite a ways from where we were staying so Halley, Janis and I opted to visit Century Park. We spent the morning meandering about and even took an hour to ride a three person bike which was an interesting experience. Later that afternoon we were able to catch up with Ashley and Jamie and meet with the Family which was a totally rewarding way to spend a couple hours.
Halley and I left Sunday night after one last dinner hoorah with my family. Even though the Shanghai lifestyle pales in comparison to my Shiyan lifestyle, I was really glad to share a few China experiences with my brother and sister-in-law. I was especially grateful they could meet Halley and Janis because when all is said and done, China is best represented by its people, not its developed cities, not its pollution or crowds or even food (though the food does make for an enjoyable China experience), but by those individuals who represent the reason why I've chosen to come back yet another year.
Traveling with Halley was a great adventure in and of itself. She's so pure-hearted and good-natured. This trip represented a plethora of firsts for her: her first time to go to Wuhan, her first plane ride, her first time in Shanghai, her first subway ride, her first cappuccino, her first time to have a hard sleeper bed on the train, her first time to pray in English. She helped me remember the beauty of finding enjoyment in simple experiences.