Downtown Shanghai – Buddha, Bund, Bargain!

Hello mei guo ren men (aka Americans)!

We miss you all very much. Sorry we have neglected you for the past few days but we are in China for goodness sakes!!

Where to even begin! This weekend has been packed full with adventures in downtown Shanghai. We started Thursday night with a trip to a Chinese circus called “Era.” The show was UNBELIEVABLE, literally. It began with a contortionist who balanced on one arm while slowly folding her body into inhuman positions for about ten minutes straight. Next came a balancing/juggling act. This man somehow managed to flip about ten bowls from his foot onto his head while balancing on a board placed on a roller. Didn’t drop a single dish! Then came a group of acrobats who dove and jumped and flipped through moving hoops. After this a strong man juggled a huge vase…on his head! Gave me a headache just watching. The show continued on with more beautiful contortionists, acrobats being catapulted through the air, ribbon dancers, and the finale…eight motorcyclists riding together in the ball of death!! Needless to say, Allyson had heartburn by the end of this act from anxiety. We were certain someone was going to die but no one did. It’s no wonder the Chinese win the gold in gymnastics every year! Couldn’t take pictures of the show but he is the arena…

We kept it low-key Friday night but had two very long days on Saturday and Sunday. At 9am on Saturday, the whole group hopped on a bus and headed downtown to do some sightseeing. First we visited the Yu Yuan Garden. This ancient garden is filled with incredible architecture, rock formations with secret passages, ponds full of colorful orange and red koi, bamboo trees, and TONS OF TOURISTS! Though we have only been here a week, it was almost strange to see so many white faces in the crowds. We enjoyed listening to the Chinese tour guides speak spanish to the touring Spaniards. One of our friends commented that she understood more of what that tour guide was saying then she had understood from anyone else all week! I could definitely sympathize. This garden had originally been owned by one man who must have been very rich. I loved the detailing throughout the place. We all wished we could stay longer but the heat and humidity drove us back to the bus and to a nearby restaurant for lunch. I know it’s bad but I’m kind of sick of Chinese food already. Can I just get some pizza please?? After lunch we made our way through a nearby market full of some delicious and one particularly awful smell. That smell came from the chou dofu (literally means “smelly tofu”) being grilled by one of the many hot and sweaty vendors. I’ll be honest, it smells like poop. Elie bet Robin, the adopted Chinese daughter of one of our teacher’s, 30 kuai to eat a whole stick of the tofu. Robin tried it but didn’t have the stomach to eat all of it. I tried a small bite and it pretty much tastes like it smells. Like poop. Elie said he would tell me later how they make it but I think I would just rather not know.  Now every time I walk by a toilet, I think of chou dofu. Mmmmm!

So with our bellies full of poopfu, we shuffled back onto the blazing hot bus and drove a short ways to see the Jade Buddha. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside the temple but the Buddha was quite a sight to see. Bigger than an average person, this Buddha had been carved from one giant piece of jade. Legend has it that this Buddha had once been stolen from China by either the Vietnamese or another asian country. Years later,  a chinese monk discovered the whereabouts of the Buddha and managed to steal it. Supposedly he carried the statue alone all the back to China. Judging by the size of this statue, he must have been one beefed up guy. I loved the architecture at this temple too. Many Chinese worshipped as we walked around snapping pictures of the other Buddhists statues. Many beggers gathered outside the grounds, however, and Allyson and I felt pangs heartsickness as we walked by a man holding a boy with a large tumor on the back of his neck. I never know what to do in those situations, give or walk by. It’s hard to know if you are actually helping or hindering. I’m sure we will see a lot more of this over the coming months…

I’ll write about the rest of the weekend later today. Love you all!

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