01 Jul Making the Most out of Being “Lost” in a Big City
My first impression of Shanghai is that it is BIG. The city is heavily populated, and despite being spread out, people are just on top of each other in Shanghai.
I got my first taste, literally, of China Friday evening when Absolute Internship took us to a traditional Chinese wok. I was able to order beef/rice without sauce. Afterwards I was exhausted/jet lagging because I had been awake for over 48 hours. I walked back to the apartment with the other interns and headed straight to bed.
On Saturday morning, James (one of my roommates) and I went walking around the neighborhood. We got lost walking around the neighborhood so we ended up walking in a big loop. It’s hard reading the maps, and of course you stand out like a tourist when you pull the map out of your backpack. I was surprised to see so many people walking around the neighborhood at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning. Do the Chinese not sleep-in? Had I not been adjusting to the time zone, I would have been asleep! At 11:00 am, Absolute Internship held an orientation for all of the interns. The staff talked about the living arrangements, what to expect on our first day at our internship, and what to expect living in Shanghai. I was still jet lagging and on information overload at the end of the orientation.
After the orientation, James and I met a friend, Ellie. Ellie works in Shanghai (we have a mutual friend) so she showed James and I around the city. Trying to meet Ellie at the metro station was a challenge…metro station names sound so similar that Ellie was at Jiang’an Temple Station and James & I were at Jiangsu Road metro station. Since it was our first weekend in Shanghai, Ellie took us to the Bund. The Bund is the area along the Huangpi River. The river divides the Pudong Financial District with the rest of Shanghai. The Pudong Financial District skyline consists of the Oriental Pearl Tower (the tower with two balls), the World Financial Center (the Bottle Opener), and many other tall buildings. After walking up-and-down the Bund and enjoying the view, we went to Tianzifang Market via subway. It was fun to walk around the Chinese market, shop, and bargain. The market is so big and designed in a maze…they probably want you to get lost so you spend more money. I got some good deals…and I got some bad deals too. It’s hard to walk away when you really want the item. I expected the shop owners to chase after me and bargain back; they weren’t interested when I would start the bargaining process at 1/5 the asking price. I bought chopsticks and Chinese coasters for my apartment at Tianzifang Market. After shopping we went to dinner at Element Fresh. Element Fresh is considered a western restaurant; the food was really good but expensive. For a western restaurant, it was surprisingly difficult to order a gluten-free meal. I was completely lost trying to order from the menu. I learned to be patient and instead of asking if I can eat the item to just tell the manager what to prepare for me.
On Sunday, Absolute Internship planned a scavenger hunt through the city along with a bus tour. For the scavenger hunt we were supposed to split into groups of two. My partner was Carolina but we combined groups with Colton, Shelby, James, and Faye. We started the scavenger hunt in People’s Square. In People’s Park we walked through the marriage market. The parents of Chinese boys and girls post their son or daughter’s biography and picture on an umbrella to arrange for a date and eventually marriage. In People’s Park we also played badminton and basketball with the locals. There were also a few carnival type rides. Colton and Carolina rode the chair swing while Shelby and I rode the roller coaster. After walking around People’s Square for a few hours, we got on the City Bus Tour. We were provided with headphones so we could listen to the audio track in English. The facts about Shanghai were interesting; I learned that Shanghai is 6x larger than New York City!! We got off the City Bus Tour at the ferry station on The Bund. We took the ferry across the river to Pudong. The ferry was packed on Sunday; we managed to stand on the top deck along the outer edges so we could look at the view. When we arrived in Pudong it started to rain and we were hungry for lunch. The first restaurant we walked into only had a menu in Chinese so we walked out and went to a cafeteria style restaurant where we could point at food. I was amazed at how much I could order for lunch for so cheap – my lunch cost $4 AND I ordered a water (I pay $3 in the U.S. just for a bottle of water). Even though I am pointing at the food I want to eat, I still don’t always know what I am eating. One of the dishes I picked up from the cafeteria like tasted like sauerkraut when I thought it was rice noodles. The good part is that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what they were eating, so we just laugh about it together. After lunch we walked around Pudong and took pictures at the different sights. We tried to go up the Oriental Pearl Tower but they were closed for a private event. Around the Oriental Pearl Tower we took pictures with the blue alien cartoon statues. Pudong has many elevated sidewalks that connect the buildings and go above the street. We walked along the elevated sidewalk to take pictures on our way to the International Finance Centre Mall. We were beginning to get tired so we took the metro at Lujiazu Metro Station back to the hotel/apartment. We rested for a few hours before heading to dinner. And of course we got lost on our way to dinner. We were close to an hour late. The dinner was sponsored by Absolute Internship. I had chicken for dinner…it was hard to eat with chopsticks.
After dinner we headed home via metro…and of course got lost again! We had to make sure we were well rested for our first day of work on Monday.