14 Jul 7,000 miles out of my comfort zone
They told me Shanghai was “the New York of China.” They failed to mention that because China is so much more populated than the United States, Shanghai is respectively more populated than New York. I guess I’d never fully understood how comfortable my comfort zone was until I left it 14 hours behind in Chicago. However, the schema people generally have about being outside their comfort zone is associated with negative connotations; I’m here to reverse that perspective. Although the cuisine, transportation, language, neighborhoods, and environment is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, this incredible metropolis is feeling more like home the longer I’m here. Don’t get me wrong, I think about my home in Ames and Minneapolis and the incredible friends I have that will welcome me upon my arrival next month, and I do sincerely miss them. However, how many 19 year olds can say they wrote a blog from the 91st floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center? Let me tell you, life has given me a basket of lemons, and this lemonade tastes delicious.
It’s incredible being a foreigner in Shanghai. I feel very blessed with how friendly and patient all the locals have been with me, mostly because of my lack of knowledge of the Chinese language. Whether it’s walking through the fake markets (my personal favorite, so far), restaurants, grocery stores, the office, and even in some shopping malls during my lunch break, I feel so fortunate with how easy and fun it is to practice Chinese. Especially because many of the other Absolute interns speak Chinese, it’s great to listen in to their conversations with locals. Many of the restaurant and bar managers love having foreigners and expatriates traffic through their venues because of the popularity it brings with locals, which makes for a lot of fantastic deals. I’ll reiterate, I’m sitting in the highest-class restaurant I’ve ever seen on the 91st floor overlooking the Pearl Tower. Absolute Internship has given me some phenomenal opportunities.
Now let’s talk about the food here in Shanghai. I now fully understand the meaning of the saying “variety is the spice of life.” Who knew how tasty frog, duck, tofu, potato balls, Singapore chicken, spiced eggplant, pig hooves, and deep fried beef with mayonnaise (hello, calories!) could be?
I’d like to mention that I’m writing this blog within my first week here in Shanghai, imagine how much more there is to discover! I’ve been learning the Chinese language for about a year now so I felt a little cocky and wanted to try going to an authentic Shanghai restaurant and ordering in Chinese. I may have accidentally ordered two things I’ve never tried before, hairtail, which apparently is a fish, and crab cakes, but I walked away not only with a satisfied stomach, but also a new experience. That’s the incredible thing you can encounter stepping outside your comfort zone and having the confidence to try new things. I ended up having a delicious, original Shanghai meal on the top floor of a beautiful shopping center a block away from my workplace.
My favorite experience so far, much dissimilar to what I expected, was the tea ceremony that was hosted at a unique and beautiful Confucius temple. Prior to my arrival in Shanghai, I’d never tried tea before in my life. I know, I’ve been stuck in my Midwest American shell for far too long. I thought it’d be a drag of an experience, but it was something I’ll hopefully never forget. Who knew how refreshing a burning-hot drink could be? We tried oolong, chamomile, and various others that I don’t know how to pronounce. While we were there, we also got to see what I think was a prayer ceremony to Confucius which was a culturally enlightening experience.
It’s a little disheartening that this month-long experience is going by so quickly, but I guess that translates to what a great time I’m having. Bottom line: I think now I’m either obsessed with travel or this new city. Regardless, it’s safe to say this isn’t the last time I’ll be in Shanghai. I mean who wouldn’t want to come back to a city where multiple bathrooms have bidets built into the toilet?