Group trips give me a little bit of anxiety, different personalities, different travel styles and different objectives don’t always make for smooth sailing. Even if you know the people you are traveling with pretty well you never really know what it is going to be like until you go on the trip. I was a little nervous but everything came together and we had the best time! I loved Shanghai and the girls I was with. We (Michelle, Karli Arielle and I) had so many inside jokes that carried through the weekend and I was laughing until their tears in my eyes multiple times. Success.
My first impression of Shanghai vs. Korea was that Shanghai was so diverse. Korea is a fairly homogeneous country, the population is 95% Korean (made that up, but feels true), Korean is the only language you hear on the street, every corner in every town you can find a Paris Baguette, a Kimbap place a coffee shop, and a cell phone store. The cities are fairly similar. I love Korea, but a lot of it is the same.
Shanghai was bustling with people from all over the world. On the streets we heard Chinese, English, Spanish and what I think was Russian. We spent our days wandering the busy streets, relishing fresh Western food, exploring markets, taking in the futuristic skyline and dumpling sampling (my personal favorite). The buildings ranged from old brick, to stone, to ultra-modern towering sky scrapers, one of which we took in live music and overpriced cocktails on the 92nd story of. The third tallest one in the picture below.
The food in China was insane, we tasted so many different kinds of dumplings I thought I was going to turn into one. And I was so okay with that.
The language barrier was still a problem and I found that although the Korean I have acquired during the last several months is sparse it is definitely helpful, and starting completely over is tough. There was more English in Shanghai than in Daegu.
Highlights from our trip included a hot pot meal where we threw various meats, vegetables and several types of tofu in two different flavors or boiling broth. There was a make-your-own sauce bar and our waiter was hilarious and extremely patient with us. Although, when we asked for beef he said no and offered goose liver or “duck blood tof” as alternatives…I am still very unsure of what duck blood tof is but…when in China!
There was a lantern festival for the Chinese New Year which was a labyrinth of colored lights to celebrate the Year of the Monkey. That was an amazing part of the weekend and the time I felt the most that I really was in China.
We explored a street with tons of cute restaurants boasting outdoor seating. The street was filled with ex pats enjoying cold beers in the spring sun. It was super bowl Monday and people were outside tossing a football back and forth. This was the moment I felt the least like I was in China and would have believed you if you had told me I was in Austin or New York.
I got a massage (15 dollars for an hour!) where my masseuse showed me a picture of her baby and then showed me her C-section scar. She pointed at the picture of the baby and said “good!” then she pointed at her scar and said “no good”.It got real personal fast. She also asked me how much a horse cost in Chinese dollars and when I said I didn’t know she asked if it was 5 zeros or 6. When we left she told me to come back to China in a year but only to stay for 3 days. I love travel.
Before our getaway I was feeling anxious trying to figure out what my next step would be and wondering if I have been pushing myself hard enough and learning everything I can. When I came home I felt at peace because I realized I am living a life where I am teaching, swimming, and going to China for the weekend. And that is pretty damn good.