We arrived in Shanghai and met Dawson. He met us at the airport and we drove back on a bus to his apartment. We tried and failed to hail a taxi to take us from the bus to the apartment, so we just walked.
The first day there we went to the Yu Yuan Gardens and the marketplace that surrounded them. The gardens were beautiful, with interesting rock formations built out of lots of smaller stones, fountains, pools, and lovely trees and flowers.
Outside of the gardens we wandered through the marketplace, which was incredibly crowded in places, people crammed in until you just had to push along slowly to the outside to escape. In other places it was less crowded and you could look around. At first bartering was very awkward, but I got the hang of it. I was trying to figure it out though, talking with one lady, and Josh and Dawson walked off, so I turned to leave too and she grabbed my arm. Later on I had 5 little finger bruises from her. After that I was a lot more low ball in my bartering.
There were a lot of people walking through the market that would approach you as well. “Hi! Friend! Want to buy a watch? Bag?” They would walk up to you and lean on you and show you a picture of their watches and bags.
I bought a few presents at the market, then we met a few of Dawson’s friends who were teaching ESL and were in Shanghai to visit the doctor. We had dinner together, then Dawson, Josh and I went to see Wolverine. There are theaters that play the movie in English with subtitles, and there are theaters that play the movie overdubbed. We saw the English one, obviously. I thought it was funny that when there was a joke, we were the only ones in the theater that laughed. I guess the joke just didn’t translate. Haha. But anyway, Wolverine was awesome, just too short.
That first day in Shanghai was a lot of fun, and it was beautiful and sunny. I really liked Shanghai that first day. After that day though, the smog came in and it was smoggy the rest of the days in Shanghai.
We spent several days in Shanghai, but we also wanted to get out of Dawson’s hair, since he had to study for a test. Seems like all those financial careers you have to take these extra tests that cover a ridiculously large amount of information, a lot of which is not applicable to the actual work done, but somehow allow those who pass to make more money from their companies. Go figure.
We spent five days in Shanghai at the beginning of our China stop. After the Yu Yuan Garden day, the next day we explored a little bit more. We visited a place that is somewhat hidden in an apartment complex. It was the Chinese Propaganda Museum. The museum contained a lot of posters from the Revolution time period. Some of them were very interesting to us as Americans… in some posters the US and Britain were villianized. We were portrayed as war-mongerers, greedy, or just weak. It was interesting and I became very curious about what was going on politically during that time period.
We also went to the Modern Art Museum. There were a couple of interesting pieces there. Mostly I hate Modern Art though. I wouldn’t have gone myself, but we were with Dawson’s friends, and they wanted to go there. I don’t hate all modern art, but I get really annoyed when artists waste their talents by creating art (and get paid ridiculous amounts of money for) that requires no talent to create. A canvas with paint thrown at it, or a crumpled up piece of paper in a corner. This is trash. Then, any pieces that are actually objective are depressing and confusing, symptomatic of our modern culture, which is also depressing to think about. Alright, rant finished. I love 18th and 19th century art.
We went to the International Church on Sunday. It is an English speaking church service geared towards foreigners who are visiting or living in Shanghai. The funny thing was that the pastor who spoke that Sunday was from… Tulsa, Oklahoma. Go half-way around the world, or right around the corner, your choice. There were a lot of people there, and Dawson said that usually it is even more full. There were a lot of people there who were Chinese, too, but who knows how much they could understand of an English service. There were not a lot of people we came across who spoke English.
We visited a building where they have Christian services in Chinese, too. I can’t tell you whether they preach a watered down version of the gospel or not, but the church was decorated with the stages of the cross, and that tells quite a story in itself. Dawson was explaining to us that a lot of the reason that the government even interferes is if something is causing trouble or a commotion. When you are trying to keep 1.3 billion people in peace and order, different laws have to be made. I will be honest and say that there are Christians who believe in some very radical things, that in a population the size of China’s could do a lot of harm. Dawson said that a lot of the oppression is done to create a fear, but not that comes to fruition very often. Some of the arrests would be done for personal reasons, if you are a trouble to the person in power, or his wife, or some official’s friend. I don’t know a lot about the government’s actions… but there were several stories regarding that I would like to tell.
We rode the subways all the time in China. We also rode them in Europe and in our other travels. Subways are always dirty–covered in graffiti and grime. But they were not in China. I saw was very little graffiti in China, and none in the subway. I was amazed. There were 10 million people in the subway at times, and you have to fight to get on and off the train at times, but no graffiti.
Another interesting thing was that we witnessed a fight between two guys at the entrance of the subway. They were wrestling and yelling. The interesting thing was that there were several police officers standing right there watching. They were yelling at the guys to stop fighting, but they didn’t intervene. It was the weirdest thing. In America, both guys would be in handcuffs in seconds, the police would just break them apart. Other than that, we saw no police action at all. If you would even call that police action.
We ate a lot of different foods while we were there. Some Chinese: dumplings (dim sum) were a favorite, lotus, pigeon, and then the usual foods like noodles, soups, chicken and pork and beef in various forms. We also ate at a lot of international restaurants like Greek, Indian, and our favorite, American.
We watched Star Trek with Dawson as well. When I first saw it I got a little annoyed because I thought that all of the seasons and series were now nullified, but I came to grips with the fact that really, it is next consecutively because Spock was from the future reality that the other shows are from. I liked it, although the directing can make you dizzy occasionally.
As a final salute to our first few days in Shanghai, I will offer you some lovely English phrases found on local signs:
“Eating the world wide delicious food”
“Here we have food preparing for foreigners. Foreign cakes provding for Chinese people”
“Do not stampede”
“Most enjoy, least annoy”
Observe the position of the massage technique for 159 Yuen… that girl must be strong!
And my personal favorite, I will include the entire sign for your viewing pleasure.
“No admittance for anyone who is drunk, insane and not properly dressed.” Gotta love it.