Wanderlust Wendy

Shanghai: First Impression

First 24 hours in Shanghai was filled with a lot of walking around in a zombie state due to this jet-lag, and not having had a full night of sleep in nearly 3 days. Even still, it’s been pretty eye-opening. I spent the day mostly within the 1/2 mile radius around where I currently live, in the Jing’an district. It’s an old district turned city center, so it’s an interesting juxtaposition of the new and the old. The nuances of the Chinese culture also takes a little bit of getting used to. In this regard, being Taiwanese actually makes a difference.

The day began with me waking up at 5:30am due to jet-lag. I flipped through the channels on TV and came across this:

It’s some sort of exercise programming rocking out to Danza Kuduro, a song that I first head in Honduras and at every SIPA party thereafter last spring. It’s just… amazing.

The subsequent events throughout the day either reminded me of Taiwan, Cameroon, or even a bit of US & UK:

Taiwan

  • Taiwanese stores are all over the streets, as are your typical global chains. The 1/2 mile radius of Shanghai that I’ve seen thus far has been total food heaven. There is bakery/bubble tea on every corner the same way Starbucks is in New York.
85C Bakery on West Nanjing Road in Shanghai
  • The traffic lights are for suggestions only. Right of way for pedestrians is best not to be taken seriously if you want to avoid a trip to the hospital.
  • The Chinese school children are similar to those in Taiwan. I watched some programming this morning about kids in Shanghai/Beijing being sent to Olympic Math camps and some really nutty/expensive program that supposedly trains kids’ right brain. This reminds me of my childhood, though the after-school activities have gotten much more extreme since my time.
  • The variety of stores for all kinds of services that you cannot even think of. Example, there is a place to go wash your feet. No, not pedicure, but to wash your feet so men can also frequent. Labor is cheap here, and people will do just about anything to make some money.
  • Everything that is sold as “European” or “American” is unfamiliar to me, as someone who is an American and has lived in Europe.
  • Take really crappy American restaurants and turn it into a fancy place. Until today, I have never ever in my life see seating at a Papa John’s, ever.
Papa John's in West Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Cameroon

  • I love the alley ways in between old buildings. Today, I captured a man selling cigarettes and drinks in the alley, and watching TV while doing it. It really reminded me of Cameroon.
Shanghai Alleyway
  • Near dusk, the guys making things on a stick come out. This is like the Cameroonian borchettes but to a whole. new. level.
  • The concept of lining up for things is apparently not a common practice here, nor was it in Cameroon. I’ve been out of that zone for a while now, and it took a little while to get used to people rushing up to the window simultaneously when buying train ticket, and some lady cut right in front of me when buying food on sticks. I made the grave mistake of being polite and waiting for the vendor to acknowledge me. I need to get my aggressive bamiléké self back.
  • My temporary host family is a family friend that I’ve never met. They’ve been so incredibly helpful to me. Reminds me of my Chinese family in Cameroon. I really am so blessed to keep encountering such wonderful people. Both families are very Chinese (not white-washed like me), we have traditional Chinese food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and watch CCTV.
  • The Internet… is s..l..o..w…, which is rather surprisingly for Shanghai. But I most certainly cannot simultaneously gchat, facebook, tweet, spotify, and work with 10 browsers open any longer.

Taiwan & Cameroon

  • The ability to buy fresh produce all over the place. It’s so refreshing to see fresh food that isn’t overpriced while being labeled some fancy name.
  • Bargain about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. My bargaining mojo is out of practice. Not sure how effective I will ever be because I don’t really intending on learning Shanghainese, and I have the sad disadvantage of looking like everyone else.
  • Dialects (like patois in Cameroon) are common here. Like in Cameroon, while I speak the official language, I have no idea what is going on most of the time because people are going about in Shanghainese.
  • Motos are all over the city, weaving in and out of traffic. Unlike Cameroon, I can’t just hop on for 100CFA.
  • Merchants are strange about getting their pictures taken. I am not really sure why since it’s kind of free advertisement… Thank Steve Jobs for my iPhone to get these pics (somewhat) discretely.
  • People selling random household items on a cart. You see this sometimes in New York, but mostly for knock-off designer stuff for tourists.
Street Vendor in Shanghai

UK & US

  • Nothing culture-wise reminds me much of these two countries, but the massive globalization in shops is astounding. Within the 1/2 mile radius that I explored today, I saw Mickey D, KFC, Baskin Robbins, Subway, Sephora, Papa Johns, Starbucks, H&M, Zara, Gap, American Eagles Outfitter, Marks & Spencer’s, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Holland & Barrett, and more. I think the globalization in Shanghai is much more comprehensive than what I see in New York or elsewhere. No other international cities have all the US/UK stores on top of Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and who knows where else.

So far, Shanghai feels like home, one that is a combinations of all the homes I’ve had.

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