08 Feb The Shanghai Space Odyssey
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. These are the famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he took his first step from the Apollo Lunar Module onto the moon on 21 July 1969. With previous experience serving as an officer for the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and the Command Pilot of NASA’s Gemini 8 space program Armstrong was no stranger to stepping into new and diverse situations. Despite this breadth of experiences, I am willing to bet that nothing compares with spending two and a half hours walking around on the moon.
You may be asking yourself, what do Neil Armstrong’s space explorations and China have in common? Well, Neil may have seen the Great Wall of China while he was in space but perhaps that isn’t enough to justify my introduction. I have traveled to many places and I have seen many things but since taking my first step into Shanghai I have found it to be like nothing else I have experienced before.
Since touching down I have noticed that Shanghai is a city of contrast. One day I am at restaurants and bars feeling like a celebrity, eating exquisite food, listening to talented musicians and using washrooms made out of marble. Then the next day I am walking down alleyways, eating dumplings (unsure about what kinds of meat may be inside) from a cart in the street, surrounded by pungent smells and dead chickens hanging out with people’s washing.
I have also noticed that Shanghai is a city of ambition. The skyscrapers grow at an alarming rate with workers sleeping on site to ensure constant progress. The circus has acrobats jumping meters in the air through hoops and stuntmen racing seven motorcycles in a small cage.
So far I have found Shanghai to be the result of mixing the East with the West, communism with consumerism and the past with the present and future. I spent one morning walking through the Old City surrounded by traditional Chinese teahouses, markets and ancient fish. Later that evening I found myself in the French Concession surrounded by the latest fashion, sports cars and skyscrapers. This mixture and conflicting ideologies in Shanghai creates an environment truly out of this world.
Armstrong spent about two and half hours exploring the moon, the shortest exploration time of all of the Apollo missions to date. I only have one month in Shanghai, already a week has rocketed by and I barely noticed. When I reflect on my week I realise I have squeezed a lot in so far but with so many places and events on my wish list I feel as though time is running out. Houston we have a problem!
Scholarship recipient for Public Relations Internship in Shanghai, China