When I was a kid, I remember that whenever my mom got mad at me or her patience was running thin she would say, “I’m going to China!” I never thought I would actually get there before she would, and much less for five weeks taking a journalism class where I got to meet, interview and spend time with such a fascinating people.
Mostly in and out of Shanghai since June 29, my fellow study abroad students and I also visited Beijing, Hong Kong and two smaller yet remarkable cities named Xi’an and Nanjing.
All of us, apart from the heavy jetlag we had for the first few days, went through various culture shocks. The most obvious was being unable to comprehend the language, though all street signs and metro stops were also labeled with English translations.
Also topping our list were the huge crowds we encountered almost everywhere we went, the recurring curious stares and photograph requests from several locals, the incredibly mastered spitting techniques and the paramount shock for the frenzied, crazy driving. We also had our fair share of edgy yet incredibly funny cab and bus rides including, at too many times, several near misses with several pedestrians and fellow motorists.
Thanks to our friend Cai Yan, a student at Shanghai International Students’ University, who ordered for us most of the time, we were able to go to many local restaurants and receive an invaluable first-hand cultural experience. However when we did venture out by ourselves, since most menus had no translations, we either tried to find a restaurant whose menu featured pictures of the food, had someone translate our order in Chinese characters for the waiter or opted for a McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or similar Western eateries.
At first some of our party (who shall remain nameless) were unaccustomed to using chopsticks kept dropping food everywhere, but everybody’s chopstick skills were definitely improved, if not acquired completely, by the end of the trip.
Another highlight, of course, was the magnanimous tourist sites. The Great Wall was much steeper than we originally thought, and there were at least hundreds if not a thousand people walking it. The Forbidden City in Beijing was also incredible, it being the largest palace complex in the world. The bay areas in Hong Kong and Shanghai, with their highrise modern buildings and flashing neon lights were majestic, as well as the coined “eighth wonder of the world”, the terra cotta army in Xi’an. The entire country is conducive to shopping-sprees, and by the end of the trip I felt our bartering skills could have negotiated peace treaties. Everything, and I mean everything, was really cheap, and on the trip home all of us were sweating as we tried to place our luggage on the airport scale.
For more information about the China trip, please go to www.com.miami.edu/china or contact Professor Bruce Garrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ricardo Herrera may be contacted at email@example.com.