I have been in Shanghai close to a week now. Every day is fairly different. I’ve eaten some amazing food and some not so amazing food. Everything that I don’t like I figure makes a good story.

Sunday I was pulled into helping in a Tea Ceremony. Myself and 5 other 外国人(Foreigners, something we hear frequently) performed the ceremony. I assisted. It was quite a cultural event. We wore red qipaos (some traditional Chinese dress) and performed on stage and quite a few people watched in the square. It seemed like a very big deal, I only followed the tea master and carried her tray of tea to the guests after she had properly prepared it. I was at the ceremony for nearly 3 hours waiting through other tea special type performances.

Monday I took my Chinese placement exam and did very poorly. You can imagine my disappointment in speaking so badly when I have studied for so long (A fragmented ten years). My knowledge is not exquisite, but I am excited that I was able to move up to the higher level today and feel comfortable. We take 4 hours of Chinese a day and study, plus the immersion of being in the country. Many people do not speak English.

One of our waitresses did speak English, however. After Monday night’s 火锅 (hot pot) and the lunch of unknowns yesterday afternoon our group of 11 UK students were ready for something we understood. Hot pot is a complicated dish which is cooked at the table. You have a pot with fire under it (火 means ‘fire’ interestingly enough trains are called “fire cars” when translated literally and you cook the raw foods on the table. I’m really not sure what I was cooking or what I was cooking it in that night. Tuesday’s lunch was complete with fish eyes… and the rest of the fish too.

Last night we ate at a pizza hut in the shopping square. The pizza hut was a fancy sit-down restaurant and fairly formal (they also served wine, rice, and a plethora of other items like waffle fries (which I passed on, six weeks away from CFA is six weeks away from CFA)). However, the pizza did taste like pizza. We were served pizza by Shanghai U that had corn and lychee on it. Lychee is a type of nut but it tastes like kiwi.

I had my first day of classes yesterday. 4 hours is a long time to spend on a subject, but I am excited that Chinese will be my only subject this term and it is the only thing I have to focus on (besides learning how to live in the city and the dorm). I am preparing to study Chinese and read my book for the summit I am taking part of on Appalachian and Chinese cultures.

Living in Shanghai I feel like I’m in a different world entirely. The removal from my first world was difficult and painful and dark. The settling in is filled with adventure and excitement. Crossing cultures is very much about this type of experience. There are lots of ups and downs. I am beginning to realize how hard it really must be for students to come to UK to study from China or another area. I am blessed with my program director and many other students from UK, and I am only here in SH for one month while many of our students come from much much longer, without the aid of a professor from home to come with them and figure things out and translate for them. If anything, this experience will help me be a better friend to International Students at UK.

Yesterday 5 of us took our first adventure in the city without Luo Laoshi. We decided to go to the French Quarter and see what we could find. We walked to the subway station on Yanchang rd and took the subway to the quarter. Most of the area appeared to be quite wealthy and the shopping there was expensive in some areas. One of the interesting things about China is that in some ways it reminds me very much of Bogota–perhaps it’s the constant layer of smog and the ill-conceived structures. Many of the buildings are very nice, and even futuristic looking. One road may be rich, but because Shanghai does not have zoning, the next street could be filled with alley ways, rusty bicycles, and knock-off brands, and the overall feel of being in a third world country.

Lots of the shopping reminds me of New York, there are little shops ALL OVER! And even more hole-in-the -wall restaurants with obvious lack of heath code (good food though). I could simply by hair bows forever and ever. I’ve already purchased a few. Those who see me often know I have a things for little hair flowers. Luo Laoshi says a few days ago “一天一花“ Everyday a flower. I spent about 100 元 yesterday. I began with 1100. Aproximately $150. I’m remaining with about 400.

Riding the subway is somewhat cheap: about 3-4 yuan. It becomes more expensive if you go through the gate for the wrong line. Which we did yesterday. 4 yuan to the French Quarter and 8 for the trip back because of our inability to read the subway signs haha. The subway works much like any other subway and dispenses a plastic card which you scan by simply setting it on the reader. I’ve seen many people hover their bag with their subway pass over it and walk through.

The other thing that cost me 12 yuan was drying my clothes today. The washer also takes a card. Just hover the card over the scanner. My washer card is only good for 3 washes and it’s 25 Y. The dryer is 30min for 6 yuan. I had a lot of laundry so I had to do two 30 min。 I don’t think my jeans will ever dry actually. This laundry experience reminds me of trying to dry things in Bogota… I had a near fit with that one night while I was there.

This afternoon we had taiji class. I felt like the Karate kid. Taiji is very classically Chinese and you can see old people doing it every morning in the grass at the University. It is a martial art form and used for fighting, but it is taught in that ultra peaceful slow way. I believe I will be sore tomorrow. Not to mention these beds are like sleeping on a rock.

Now I must study and read for classes tomorrow. I just found out that the 8 harry potter movies that I bought for like 8 Y ($1.27) are in English with Chinese subtitles and actually play haha. Now I have something to watch on the flight home. The way here I watched “The Vow” which I was afraid would make me cry, but it wasn’t so teary as I thought it may be (myself being quite sensitive at the time). I better study, I only have 28 1/2 more days here. Then I’ll be back at CFA (hopefully speaking more Spanish).

I’ll be home soon =)


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