Hello from Shanghai! Today is my last day here and then I’m heading to Hangzhou tonight (change of plans) and the Hangshan and the Yellow Mountains, because 1. I’m not ready to leave China 2. I need some nature in my life.
I’m currently cuddled in my bed, which consists of no mattress, just a piece of foam on top of plywood, but the sheets are at least pretty cozy, and I’ve got a bit of a cold and so I’m taking my time getting up. It completely does not surprise me that I’ve got a cold as there is a huge lack of what we would consider hygiene in the U.S. People spit EVERYWHERE here: inside, outside, subway stations, etc. Shanghai is s lot more modern and so I’ve seen it less here but it’s very gross and has taken some getting used to. The Chinese also don’t cover their mouths to sneeze or cough, and I’ve seen people even blow their noses into their hands and then shake it on the street. Since I can’t walk around not touching anything… I’m happy that I’ve only got a small cold at the moment. I tried researching the habits and it turns out that most people attribute it to either a growing third world country advancing faster than their population can be educated (country workers relocated to cities) or to Traditional Chinese Mecicine in which they encourage you that if something is uncomfortable or “doesn’t belong” that you expel it as quickly as possible. When the Olympics were in China I read that they were handing out flyers telling the Chinese not to spit in public and that anyone who did would be fined.
It’s been really interesting to observe without the ability to ask questions. There are people doing maintenance and cleaning everywhere, yet no garbage cans on city streets. People literally just throw their garbage outside and even in Shanghai there are posters urging people to not throw garbage from upstairs windows. Their are police on nearly every big street corner directing traffic, even though there are street lights, because everyone just crosses whenever regardless. Yesterday the police stopped a group of women and insisted they walk their bikes across the street, so Chinas government is definitely trying to modernize their culture and people.
On my first day here I went to the Tianzifang Artists District, which has tons of art, jewelry stores, clothing and boutiques and lots of food, music, and things to observe. The district is a heritage site which keeps the buildings preserved to their original state and where high rises are banned. I also went on an epic hunt for wine, and when I finally found it it was a “dry metlot” with no bottling date… but only $1.30 so I of course had to try it. It was less than stellar 🙂 beggars can’t be choosers.
Monday I went to Shanghai Disney! The happiest place on earth that is still slightly lonely when going alone. I had flashbacks to Paris Disney when I went solo as well! The park opened less than a year ago so it’s shiny new with amazing technology. The Pirates of the Caribbean Ride and the Tron Coaster were both insane. Tickets were $57 and way cheaper than Disneyland or Disney World in the U.S. I ate junk food all day because nothing healthy was really available: Hawaiian Rolls, Corn Dog, Pretzel, Garlic Bread. I might add that the only reason I got the pretzel is because I thought it came with cheese, and I MISS CHEESE but it turns out it was like yellow tartar sauce. The park was fun, but definitely exhausting and I’m really glad I decided to go, it’d been too long since I’d had some Disney in my life! Sadly some of the classic rides like It’s a Small World weren’t at the park, and the children’s area was pretty small compared to the other parks.
Yesterday I got a late start. My feet just hurt endlessly. I’ve been walking 10+ to upwards of 15 miles every day. Also carrying my pack has been challenging and worn me out a bit. I trekked to a market I’d read about called the Fish Bird Flower and Pet Market, and it was really interesting but super sad at the same time. Our pets definitely don’t know how lucky they are to be American pets. Puppies and kitties wanting attention locked in cages. thousands of crickets and grasshoppers (I need to read into this but you buy one for good luck?!) turtles, fish, tons of birds, there were so many unpleasant smells. And I wanted to buy all the puppies. Pet care is interesting here, animals as pets still have health issues, they’re usually skinny and mangy and even the pets walked on leashes aren’t in the best shape. But they all seem happy and don’t know any better, so it’s been an out of sight out of mind sort of thought process I’ve had to have with a lot of things I’ve seen.
I ran into a food market, and I will probably be a vegetarian until I leave unless I’m eating somewhere high end or store bought meats. I’m not going to get into it much more than that, we definitely take “food safety” too far in the U.S. bought I’m also not condoning smoking cigarettes over meat that’s sitting out in 75 degree weather either.
I also visited the RAM Rockbund Art Museum which had a collection by Sing Dong a Chinese Artist and Activist which was really profound. One piece he did was where he took a Chinese sentence and had something like 20 different people or agencies translate it to English. The sentence roughly translated to “if you don’t try then you have nothing to show for what you didn’t do”. The piece really made me realize why we view other cultures as so odd/different/strange/gross/wrong … even our languages don’t translate easily. It’s easy to see why acceptance and understanding are so difficult. Something I’ve had to really deal with this last week, otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d be so grossed out and miserable.
This morning I’m checking out and then going to walk to Old Shanghai Town and I’ll head to the train station a bit later. I’m not feeling great so I’m not looking forward to lugging my bags around and I’ve acquired a bunch of vitamin C and vitamins so I’m hoping that helps. Luckily though I haven’t had any issues with food or water causing stomach problems so for that I’m really thankful. However I would really like to find some cheese sometime soon 😉