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Wanderlust Wendy

Shanghai Farewell

Today, a friend asked me to sum up my 5 years in Shanghai in a word. I haven’t had much time to reflect since time has been occupied by the massive task of minimizing all of our belongings down to two suitcases and two backpacks. 

I gave it a quick thought, and the word diverse came to mind.

When I arrived in 2012, my mission was to pay off debt and find a life partner. I was single and fought battles in the Shanghai dating minefield. Stories from those days alone are enough to have a blog of its own. For the last half of my time here, I’d achieved both of these goals. Coupled/married life has its own set of challenges, but while I’m proud to have earned the dating game badge of honor, I’m quite glad to be done with it.

Given the transient nature of a city like Shanghai, I also went through many different friendship circles. These last two weeks, as we said our rounds of goodbyes, we both agree that the one thing we will miss most is the community. As people come and go, those who have remained and stood the test of time are truly family. 

Beyond personal life, Shanghai life has changed a great deal. Gone are the days of ¥8 ($1.20) Coffee from 85 Cafe, hailing taxi, trips to grocery stores, paying with cash, and worrying that my bike may get stolen (I did experience this rite of passage). In are the swarth of hipster cafés, Didi (Uber alternative), same/next day delivery, ubiquitous of Alipay/WeChat mobile payment, and dock-less bike-share! The convenience of Shanghai life has spoiled us to no end, and it will certainly be an adjustment to be back to “regular life”. 

The changes didn’t stop at technology. The infamous Shanghai skyline has changed a great deal. Old neighborhoods have made way for skyscrapers. I took a serious interest in photography in an attempt to capture various vanishing neighborhoods. Many photos from my weekend wanders in the early days are now of places that no longer exist. To be a part of history is exhilarating, yet a tad bit wistful. 

The skyline of Shanghai on my first visit to the Bund in 2012.
The antique market on Dongtai Road that no longer exists today. Photo circa 2013.
Busy Saturday afternoon in the old neighbourhood of Laoximen. Circa 2012.
Jing’an, Shanghai. Old neighbourhood making way for skyscrapers. Circa 2013.
We captured this iconic Shanghai skyline as we celebrated our engagement. Circa 2017.

We made the final decision to leave Shanghai rather suddenly (only 6 weeks ago). We haven’t had time to realize how much of the city we have taken for granted. Yet it’s a city that has treated me splendidly well. It has opened my eyes to different ways of living (for better or worse), afforded me the opportunity to travel a great deal, and now the freedom to finally travel full-time.

The bold move in 2012 has paid off handsomely. I’m glad the days of going WAY out of my way to take the bus because it cost ¥2 (30 cents) instead of ¥14 ($2.5) are behind me. I couldn’t have imagined that I would have such a long stint in corporate life, but the more unimaginable is the fact that I would went on to learn to code. Life is full of surprises!

I am grateful for these last 2,261 days, and each individual who has contributed to this journey. Shanghai will forever remain an integral chapter of my life that has shaped me to the person I am. Thank you, Shanghai! 

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