Wow, I don’t even know where to begin, we did so much this week! Great, great time. Totally made up for the our Vietnam catastrophe. Apparently there is another typhoon headed for Nam as we speak. Crazy asian weather. What happened to good-old fashion sunshine? Guess not every place can be perfect like Colorado 🙂
So, after the fall through of our National Day plans on Wednesday, Allyson and I put our heads together and decided the best place to head towards during this crazy holiday season would be Shanghai. National Day is one of the few holidays recognized throughout the country. Everyone gets 3 weekdays off (so Saturday-Wednesday normally) and most Chinese people use this time to either head back to their hometowns or do some sight-seeing either in China, or if they’re lucky, outside of the country and away from the chaos. For those unlucky enough to have to work during this holiday week, the government requires every business to pay triple the salary for those days. Traveling is crazy during this time – expensive, crowded, and full of uncertainty. Fortunately for us, we got out of town before the masses and made it into Shanghai without any (more) problems. Allyson has been a great travel agent so far and hooking us up with some great hostels for the past few trips. Last time we visited Shanghai, we stayed in a very cute hostel right in People’s Square, which is prime location for seeing the city and, more importantly, for shopping! We usually book using hostels world.com, a website that allows you to search for hostels in any country around the world, check out reviews, find directions/maps/pictures, and book rooms ahead of time. We wanted to stay in People’s Square again but everything was full so we ended up with a room at the Soho hostel a little further from the center of town. This ended up being great though. We arrived the first night and immediately ventured out to find a cab so we could head to the French Concession to hit up an American restaurant called The Blue Frog. While trying to wave down a cabby, we ran into a kid named Robbie from California who had just arrived in Shanghai that week. Randomly, he studied at CU too, which is crazy because he’s about the 15th person we’ve met that has lived in Colorado at one point in their lives. Our state just breeds cool people apparently. Good choice on settling down there Mom and Dad (no offense Kansas). Seeing that he was going to have some convenience store Raman noodles (aka bowl of MSG) for dinner, we decided to invite him out with us. Though it may seem strange to strike up a conversation with a random person on the street, we have met so many great people in China by doing just that! All foreigners seem to be naturally bonded by our very foreignness in this country. It’s not that we all don’t want to meet Chinese people, we really do! But, in all honesty, it really is incredibly difficult to penetrate Chinese culture, or any foreign cultural for that matter. The language barriers combined with even the simplest cultural differences often make genuine friendships hard to come by. Sometimes I feel like I go through whole days without really being able to communicate on a deep level with anyone but Allyson. I think many ex-pats experience this same feeling of being an outsider. But this same feeling of exclusion from the dominant culture also seems to mean automatic initiation into this minority population of foreigners. When you go about you day in a sea of Chinese faces, the sight of any different type of face always catches your eye. Though you know nothing about this person, just the fact that this individual is in a foreign land says a lot about his/her character. It’s just another automatic bond ex-pats share. As much as Allyson and I want to meet Chinese people, we are equally as excited to meet other ex-pats like Robbie. Though we may have nothing in common, like us, these people are currently adventuring into the unknown and I feel like that automatically makes them worth getting to know.
So, Robbie joined us for dinner and drinks and we ended up chilling with him most of the week. As I said, Robbie just arrived in Shanghai this week. Like us he was headed to Soho to get a room. Like most foreigners though, he got lost en route but fortunately ran into a friendly Chinese guy named Paul who helped him find the hostel, get his room, and then invited him out to dinner. This young Chinese guy ended up offering to let Robbie crash on his couch. Paul is the most adorable Chinese guy! He is a huge American movie buff and works at a bank in customer service as the English translator. We hung out with both Robbie and Paul all week. Paul treated us to an amazing hot pot lunch at one of Shanghai’s best “spicy joints” (this is Paul’s favorite new phrase that Robbie taught him) and, in turn, we treated Paul to an American lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. AND he actually enjoyed the pizza! A lot of Chinese people don’t like cheese so I was relieved that Paul liked his Sicilian pizza. Going out to eat is handled very differently in China than it’s handled in the US. Most meals in China are family style where a bunch of dishes are ordered and everyone shares, and the host (the person who planned the meal) pays for all the food at the end. This is kind of uncomfortable for Americans and something we have had to get used to dealing with. In return, you usually just re-pay the host by taken him or her out to dinner another time. It’s really nice once you get used to it. I’ve really enjoyed all the dinners I’ve shared with my new Chinese friends like Paul.
I’m tired now but I’ll tell more later. Gotta go for a run because I’m getting fat from eating noodles and dumplings everyday. Awesome, just awesome ha ha