That was really the only thing I knew how to say when I arrived in Shanghai. “Coffee please.” Well, that, and, “I’m sorry, I do not speak Mandarin.”
Now, the trip to Shanghai was very comfortable — we were able to use miles to secure seats in Business class, and those lie-flat seats make all the difference on that 12 hour flight — but there’s something very disconcerting about being somewhere new and being completely illiterate. My dad has traveled enough at this point that I think he’s gotten used to being lost. I, on the other hand, have only ever been places where I had at least a slight grasp of the language and culture, or I was just too young to care about the stress of not knowing. This time was very different and I found myself pretty shell-shocked over the first couple of days. Everything was so fast-paced and completely unfamiliar, but I gradually found a way to relax and really appreciate my surroundings. Shanghai is really interesting because there’s a lot of really modern architecture mixed in with some clearly older, more dilapidated structures.
We spent a little bit of time at the Shanghai Zoo, but not a lot — it was WAY too hot!
We ate a ridiculous amount of food throughout the whole trip.
I did a lot of sight-seeing in Changzhou, Nanjing, and Shanghai.
I always find it interesting to just watch people and photograph them as they go about their business, hopefully without them noticing that I’m doing so. Maybe it’s all of the theatre stuff I’ve done, but I just can’t help but think about what their story is and try to figure out as much as I can about them before they’re out of sight.
Well, apparently in China, people were finding it interesting to watch me. In Shanghai and Nanjing, I encountered this less, but in Changzhou, people would just stare at me as I walked by. The difference being that Shanghai and Nanjing are far more accustomed to tourists than Changzhou, which is primarily businesses and families, and a lot of relatively new developments. The watchful eye of the locals was definitely off-putting at times, but never as startling as in one particular instance…
I was wandering around a park in Changzhou with my dad and his business partner, Steven, when this guy came up behind us. He said something in Chinese to Steven, who replied, and after some (completely incomprehensible) banter, Steven turned to me and said, “He wants to take your picture.” Apparently he had been following us for a bit and watching me take photos before deciding to actually approach us. Now, when he did, he didn’t actually have a camera in-hand. I assumed he would pull out a cell phone or a small camera, take a quick shot, and be on his way. Instead, he pulled that monstrous Canon out of his bag and started ushering me about the park, posing me, and taking rapid-fire shots until Steven finally told him we had to leave. For the life of me, I could not figure out his story, but I asked to take a few photos of him before we left. It was a strange moment, and definitely a story I’ll remember for a while.
All in all, the China trip was a success. Lots of memories, photos, and food was my goal, and I definitely achieved that. I wish I hadn’t been sick the entire time, but I still tried to make the best of it. Hopefully someday, I’ll make it back there, maybe when it isn’t so unbelievably warm. And maybe I’ll have expanded my vocabulary to be able to order tea as well as coffee.
The photos here are a mere fraction of the number I took during the trip. I will be uploading many more to my brand new facebook page! That’s right, now you can press a little ‘Like’ button as well as add me as a friend. Keep an eye on that page for more China photos and other updates!