For the first time on this trip, I felt culture shock. Japan was quite the modernized country and, though the ancient temples gave a real sense of it’s traditional values, I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign country so much. Shanghai is a different story.
As with every port, I slept out on the deck last night to watch as we arrived. At first glance I saw all of the normal industrial aspects of a port city: cranes, other ships, some factories at their work at all hours. And as I looked out over the city this morning I was expecting it to be like most others I’ve seen – like Kobe. This wasn’t an unreasonable thought since the section of Shanghai I saw from the ship was pretty modern with bright colors, modern and even ultra-modern buildings, and bilboards all over the place for typically Western products. However, as I stepped off of the gangway and headed into the city I saw the real Shanghai. There are people everywhere! Most people are on bikes, scooters, cars, or scurrying about on foot. If you thought any major US city hustled and bustled, you haven’t seen anything yet! I wandered down towards the downtown area but felt the urge to head down a side “street” to see what life was really like. So, I dared to cross the street – Comm. Ave. in Boston during rush hour is easy compared to what I crossed – and after dodging a few cars and a bus or two I made it to the other side. I made my way down what was more of an alley than a street that was filled with little shops and carts selling everything from food to machine parts to clothes to DVD’s for $1 – which I wouldn’t be able to bring into the US anyway. It was a small neighborhood on one block where everyone seemed to take care of everyone’s children and keep an eye out for anything suspicious that might be afoot – like some random American students just passing through. The clothes hanging from lines across the street, railings, and window sills was remeniscent of what you see in pictures of immigrant areas of NYC from the early part of the 20th century. It was then that I truly felt that I was in a foreign country and this trip felt the most real in that moment.
Some sad news, we have senior adult passengers traveling with us who sit in on classes, act as adoptive grandparents, and just enjoy the time with us. Last night at 2200 one of them, Barry, passed away. He and his wife Mae have been on something like 18 SAS trips together over the years and have been a blessing to have aboard. He had said that he was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do, and having a great time. On a happier note, one of the professors and his fiancee will be getting married onboard in Hong Kong. The executive dean will be officiating along with the captain and the professor’s kids will be standing by to celebrate with them. What a joy!
Tomorrow is our last day in Shanghai. About 500 of the 600 students, along with 35 sets of parents and some of the faculty and staff will be traveling to Beijing and will meet up with the rest of us in Hong Kong sometime next week. I will be taking a “Taste of the Everyday Life of a Shanghai Citizen” tomorrow. I, along with a number of other students, will be meeting up with a family, heading to a market, and picking out, preparing, and eating a meal together. We will, I’m sure have a wonderful time and get to have an amazing experience. I will then return to the ship to sail south down the South China Sea into Hong Kong. It will take us about 2 days and, thankfully, there will be no classes because the majority of the community will be somewhere in the middle of China. The break will be welcome, offering time for rest and catch up with any reading that I’ve slacked off on. I am tired, which only can mean that I’m having a great time and I’m enjoying myself.
What a time I’m having! There is still tons more to see and do, and it can only get better along the way!