Monday, June 13, 2016

Wow

Originally posted on July 31, 2015
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Well, my time in China is over.  I am currently sitting in Tokyo for a layover already missing the wonderful Chinese culture.  The past two days were surreal.  We ended our tour in Shanghai…..a city that amazed me in every way possible.  Even though its so often thought of as a futuristic city, which it is in many ways, it also has a rich history made up of many cultures and backgrounds.
Our first day in Shanghai was jam packed full of museum tours and shopping, both of which are always a good time.  The best part of the day, though, was visiting The Bund, the waterfront neighborhood in central Shanghai.  The view here is absolutely spectacular, especially at night.  Some of the other teachers and I spent about an hour just sitting and taking it all in.
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To top off the amazing view that appeared a few blocks from our hotel, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing view from my hotel room, so much so that I almost felt guilty since the view was better than everyone else’s…..
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Shanghai is truly a remarkable city.  It is so completely different from the rest of China, yet still has very Chinese cultural traditions.  I guess having more Western stores doesn’t necessarily mean you will live like a Westerner, evidenced by this public toilet I wandered upon which is set up in Chinese style.  It was a Neighborhood bathroom servicing all of the residents since plumbing was not run to their homes.  Also, keep in mind there are no doors on the stalls…..very Eastern
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I would compare the energy of Shanghai to that of New York City, only on a much larger scale.  At 27 million, Shanghai has the largest population of any city in China.  To be walking the streets in a sea of people is a remarkable experience.  The sidewalks couldn’t even contain everyone.
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Besides the energy of the people, there was also a strong sense of pride both in the locals and tourists.  Shanghai is an ultramodern city and continues to strive to retain that title.
On our second day, I really felt as though I accomplished a lot.  In the morning, we visited the Pearl Tower…the large purple building in the photo at the top of this post.  The views from here were incredible, especially when including the glass floor!
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After the Pearl Tower, we visited Yu Garden, which is an ornate traditional Chinese garden.  The garden was privately owned by a wealthy man who had designed it for his parents.  Unfortunately his parents passed away before they were able to use it.  The garden was absolutely beautiful and everything you would expect a Chinese garden to be.  We even stopped at a teahouse in the garden for a small private tea ceremony demonstration.
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After relaxing in the garden for a while, my former co-teacher, Katie, and I spent the remainder of our day navigating our way around the streets and subway lines, which we did with a lot of ease.  Our journey took us off the beaten path.  It was wonderful being to see what daily life in Shanghai is like for people living in the most expensive city in China.
To be honest the living conditions were mediocre at best.  The cost of living in Shanghai is extremely high.  Our tour guide lived in a 45 sq meter apartment and pays the equivalent of $500 American every month for rent.  A lot considering he only makes $1,000 a month between his two jobs.  The people were all happy, though.  They spent their nights in the streets with their friends and neighbors in order to stay out of the heat of their apartments.  There was a great sense of community throughout the city.  It was quite refreshing.
To finish our time in Shanghai, Katie and I went to one of the most bizarre theme restaurants I had ever experienced in my life.  It was called Modern Toilet….and was themed around everything bathroom!!  It was too bizarre to skip.  Our table, complete with toilets, certainly made me smile.
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The past month of my life has been packed solid with unforgettable experiences.  I was able to share my passion of teaching with professionals and students, eat foods I never thought possible, assimilate into a culture that is so different from life in the US, and even made some friends along the way.  To me, this summer seems to be one of those pivotal turning points in life.  An experience that opened my eyes to something new and exciting that will change my future.  At the end of the teaching program, I was invited back by SABEH and the Greentown School to instruct their teachers again next summer.  I accepted.  I will be returning to China next summer to do it all again and I cannot wait!  Until then, I will be shifting focus to my new teaching position as a second grade teacher, something I have been looking forward to for some time 😀
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