Best of Shanghai

It took me three full days at home to finally unpack my two huge suitcases, but after four months abroad in a city I unexpectedly fell in love with, there’s something symbolic about unpacking that could have accounted for the delay.

Unpacking is one sign of settling in, whether it’s in a place you’ve never been before—or, in my case, at home after four amazing months. Maybe a part of me didn’t want to settle back in, despite all the comforts of being home. One thing’s for sure: a part of me knew that once I settled in, there would be a point in this rather uneventful future of a summer where I would begin to feel bored and long for the nonstop, often-exciting life of Shanghai—or any city, really.

Posing with my supervisor

Enjoying my brief break with my marketing supervisor while working City Weekend’s Readers’ Choice Awards at the 7th Floor.

The very act of finishing unpacking signals accepting the fact that I am back. I, a college student who turned 21 while in a country where a legal drinking age doesn’t exist. I, a college student who rarely partied, drank, or went to clubs before Shanghai. I, a suburban adult who has experienced so much more than ever expected. I, a forever-shy girl—no matter how often I like to think that I have become more extroverted, will always remain who I have been for 21 years.

Sure, it’s easy to think that people change after being immersed in an environment such as Shanghai’s. And no doubt, I have so many more stories I can now share. But the truth is, for the most part, I’m still who I was four months ago. Despite returning with a new haircut I initially didn’t like, a gel manicure I would never get in the States, new (fake) Ray Bans prescription glasses for which I proudly bargained, two tailor-made jackets (also bargained), I am still the same person underneath all the physical changes.

I still…

  • Find chilling alone in a café (my current status) with my laptop or a book thoroughly enjoyable
  • Blog daily and love it
  • Would rather not drink alcohol but will now make the exception to enjoy further a night with friends
  • Can’t really dance
  • Can’t rid my latte addiction, despite only having one latte in four months
  • Take pictures of my food and drinks, even if I don’t plan on posting it anywhere online
  • …Talk about food and drinks too often
  • Don’t drink enough water
  • Often rely on my mom’s home-cooked meals
  • Don’t exercise often enough or eat too healthily
  • Tend to be an unnecessarily frugal weirdo. For example, my sister told me that while they were waiting for me to come out of the gate at the JFK Airport, my mom bet that I wouldn’t have paid the $5 to get a cart for my three large pieces of luggage. I came out somehow carrying all three without a cart. I mean, there was definitely no chance I was going to waste $5 on a cart I didn’t need. I know—I’m such a cheapskate.

And I could go on, but to think that I haven’t changed in so many ways is not exactly good, either.

Now, I…

  • Can understand a heck of a lot more Mandarin (though speaking-wise, I could still use improvement/confidence)
  • Appreciate the fun in going out to bars and clubs, despite my poor dancing skills
  • Generally appreciate so much more in life, such as Internet speed, browsing the web without dealing with China’s censors, fresh air, and the things I mention in this article under things I won’t miss about China
  • Have watched and analyzed about 10 films in Chinese, thanks to taking a Chinese film class
  • Understand modern China better, especially through knowing more about Shanghai history
  • Know so many people in Shanghai and can keep in touch with them via WeChat (my new favorite app. Just ask me all the ways I love WeChat). A few examples: the manager of Loonfung House, the manager of a yoga studio where I took an aerial yoga class, promoters of clubs in Shanghai, my two supervisors at Shanghai Expat, a Shanghai Daily intern, and several Shanghainese I’ve met through Shanghai Expat’s weekly networking events
  • Am forever grateful for everything I’ve experienced and everyone I’ve met while in Shanghai, and
  • Will add Shanghai to my list of possible cities to live and work in after graduating (in case you’re wondering, other cities are New York and Hong Kong).

Again, I could go on, but I should get to the main reason for this post—highlight my favorite posts out of about 120 from Shanghai. I hope you’ll go on this journey of reflection with me :)

Bucket listFINALLY—The Day Before Departure: This post included a semi-jokingly made bucket list of items that I didn’t really intend to accomplish but ended up doing so anyway. I somehow accomplished everything in one way or another, except for impersonating an Asian pop star, sending my friend a postcard, or going on the Maglev and eating a green tea Kit-Kat (I’ve actually done those before this semester).

 

Walmart in Shanghai

Day 41: Orientation: It’s interesting to go back and read my initial reactions to Shanghai, especially one dominated by my impressions of Walmart.

 

 

Kusama Yayoi art

Day 45: Valentine’s Day: I will never forget this exhibition full of art by Kusama Yayoi that I actually loved. It was also interesting to see Chinese people celebrating Valentine’s Day but I certainly did not enjoy the crazy crowds everywhere.

 

McDonald's lunch

Day 49: McDelivery: Even after such an amazing discovery, I actually never used McDelivery again. I loved the experience, though.

 

 

 

Shanghai noon trafficDay 53: Saturday Traffic: Several differences I noticed early on in the semester.

 

 

 

Ringier's awards

Day 57: First Day: Despite a shaky start to the day, I had a pretty great first day at my internship.

 

 

BU Chinese classroomWhat Is Work?: Although not part of my 365 day photo project, this post reflected how many of us felt getting back into the routine of classes and work after such a long winter break.

 

 

Lint

Day 70: Epitome of Life: Bruno Mars. Enough said. Read it.

 

 

 

Wondering In The Garden Nautilus Fair

Day 81: Vintage Market: One of the funnier experiences speaking in Chinese with someone.

 

 

Mutianyu Great WallDay 95: ‘Arting’ On The Great Wall: I climbed the Great Wall and tobogganed down it for the second time. Never gets old.

 

 

The Glamour Bar ShanghaiDay 115: The Lucky Ones: My meal at the M on the Bund restaurant was not only the best I’ve ever had, but also free. I can’t appreciate having worked at Shanghai Expat enough.

 

HuangshanDay 123: Hiking Huangshan: Who knew I could climb 10km in one day? And we even climbed more the next morning in the rain.

 

 

Hangzhou West LakeDay 143: Hangzhou: Hands down, this was my best weekend ever while in Shanghai.

 

 

What do you think? Any posts that you enjoyed reading? :)

Day 157: America

Despite going to bed at 4 a.m. and getting up at 6 a.m., I ended up only getting about an hour of sleep because I couldn’t fall asleep the first hour. Don’t get me wrong—I was exhausted but I guess knowing it was the last night in Shanghai kept me up.

When we were all awake again, it was a blur of packing, cleaning, and tossing things out by leaving them by the door.

Soon enough, we gathered by the bus at the front gate of Tonghe and said our initial goodbyes. Most of us spent the 30-minute ride to the Pudong airport asleep, and it gave me some satisfaction knowing that others also got either very little sleep or none at all.

Airport dropoff

Unloading our luggage from the bus at the Pudong airport.

Now about that 15-hour flight…ugh. What is there to say other than how extremely uncomfortable any flight beyond three hours is? I slept through most of it, with too many instances of waking up feeling sore.

But those last 30 minutes observing the beautiful, sunny landscape full of green trees breathing in clean, fresh air made me feel incredibly happy. When we finally landed, I immediately pulled out my iPhone. I had been thinking of the perfect Facebook status to describe being back in America. I was ready for that LTE lightening speed Internet.

That, and reuniting with my family, of course :)

Family reunion

So happy to be reunited with the family :)

Family reunion

Love ya, sis :)

You could say my transition back to America was a slow one…

Fei Long Supermarket

This random Asian supermarket in Brooklyn WOULD be our first stop, after having spent four months in China.

Fei Long Supermarket beef

Did I ever leave China?

Fei Long Supermarket coconut juice

At least I know what this delicious drink is.

East Harbor Seafood Palace

And my first meal would be Chinese. At least the food was great and it was with my family :)

I slept some more on the three-hour drive back home, where I was greeted by an ecstatic and adorable B!

Pomeranian

SO MUCH HAPPINESS!!

I hope to write one final blog post about Shanghai—including some of my favorite posts. But first, I should probably start unpacking…

Day 156: Last Day in Shanghai

I spent most of my last full day in Shanghai enjoying the city with my roommate. For lunch, we tried a Cantonese-style restaurant at the food mall in Wujiaochang.

Shrimp wonton noodles

Starting off our day out with yummy shrimp wonton noodles.

Red bean-filled pumpkin dessert

A weird but good red bean-filled pumpkin dessert.

We then headed to Muji, where we each got paper and envelopes to write thank-you cards/letters to some people. The store certainly exudes a simplistic, modern vibe but sometimes I just don’t get how they can charge so much for so little. This wallet, for example…

Muji wallet

For a wallet in a cardboard box, this seems a tad expensive.

We met up with another friend for our last gel manicure and then dinner at Whisk, a highly recommended Max Brenner-like restaurant. I hadn’t heard of it before and therefore didn’t have as high of expectations as my friends, so I thoroughly enjoyed it, whereas they just thought it was great but not amazing.

Whisk Shanghai

Enjoying amazingly chocolate-y desserts after our yummy pasta dishes at Whisk, the Max Brenner in Shanghai.

Before heading home from the long day out, we enjoyed some drinks and nachos at Shanghai Brewery with my roommate’s supervisor. I had hoped that I could also see and say goodbye to my supervisor but she couldn’t make it.

Shanghai Brewery nachos

Despite a satisfying dinner, we still enjoyed a plate of nachos at Shanghai Brewery afterward.

Unfortunately, none of us had finished (or, for my roommate, started) packing by the time we got home around midnight. As a result, we stayed up until 4 a.m. on our last night in Shanghai packing and writing letters. We had thought about clubbing all night but procrastination can be a bitch. Still, I enjoyed the final night bonding with my roommate and reflecting on my AMAZING time in Shanghai.

Day 155: Farewell Dinner

Despite feeling really self-conscious about letting my hair down post-haircut, I’m actually thankful for my Chinese professor taking away my hair tie before taking our Chinese oral exams.

For the rest of the day, which included a last-minute trip to the fake market on West Nanjing Road for souvenirs, I didn’t tie my hair back up. Of course, I still complained a lot and couldn’t stop touching my bangs but it takes time!

We had our farewell dinner tonight with all the Chinese teachers and some Fudan SSDPP folks. The food was absolutely delicious. Oh, and it was at the Really Good Seafood Restaurant—the one we all thought we ate at on one of our first days here.

BU Study Abroad Spring 2014

Zhao Yue’s LC211 and LC212 students :)

Really Good Seafood Restaurant

A yummy bowl of rice with Japanese-style fish toppings that few of the students actually liked. Despite being so full at this point, I still ate most of it :)

Day 154: Bangs

After taking my Chinese written exam, I went to get my haircut by my Chinese teacher’s hairstylist. Every time I need to get my biannual haircut (the laziness of having long hair), I think about doing something drastic but usually never do anything more than a trim or just a few extra inches off.

For years, I’ve also wanted bangs but would always be persuaded not to. Given that I was left alone this time and felt more adventurous than usual, I decided to go for what the hairstylist recommended. While I was getting my hair washed, he looked up some examples of Asian girls with bangs on his iPad.

And the rest is history.

Bangs

Didn’t feel comfortable enough my first day with bangs to let my hair down.

Day 153: VPN Discovery

I’ve always just assumed that China blocked WordPress. Despite having access to Shanghai Expat’s own WordPress-powered blog without VPN, I also assumed that you needed to download something on your blog to access it without VPN. It wasn’t until today, four months later, that I discovered my assumptions were wrong—that I actually can access my Dashboard and even upload posts, just not see them.

I made the fascinating discovery while making my addictive checks on my blog while procrastinating, only to realize I hadn’t been connected to VPN.

Knowing this would have saved so much heartache trying to connect to VPN in Beijing and failing, resulting in stressfully catching up upon returning.

In other news, these past few days in Shanghai have been too gloomy. I suppose it suits how we are all feeling during our last week here, spent on final exams and papers.

Gloomy Shanghai day

Another gloomy Shanghai day. :/

Day 152: Noodles

Study break: Make-your-own noodles.

There’s a shop like this that I passed by every time I went to work, and there would always be long lines during lunchtime but I never tried it.

Finally, my friends raved about one that’s about a five-minute walk from our apartments, so I joined them tonight for dinner. Can’t believe I waited this long to try it. It’s delicious.

Make-your-own noodles

Finally tried what seems to be so popular in Shanghai—make-your-own noodle soup!

Day 151: Final Week

It’s unfortunate that our final week in Shanghai will be spent mostly studying for exams and writing papers. The only free day we have before leaving this Saturday is Friday, part of which will probably be spent packing up and moving out (and maybe recovering from one last night out on Thursday).

Rain and work consumed my day, making for a very bland, uneventful last Sunday.

I cleaned out some of the semester’s paper (it’s amazing how much one can accumulate) but still have large stacks of paper for reference on my history essay.

Just the essay and the Chinese written and oral exams remain. Almost there.

Stack of only a fraction of the semester's reading

This is only a fraction of all the paper I received throughout the semester.

Day 150: Food Day

Get ready: Today’s photos are all about food.

For the last full Saturday we are here in Shanghai, a few of us made a long-awaited trip to Din Tai Fung mainly to try its famous xiaolongbao.

And boy, were we impressed.

Din Tai Fung Shanghai

Of course, we had to try the zongzi, too, with it being the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend.

Din Tai Fung zongzi

Delicious Din Tai Fung zongzi.

Anyway, once our xiaolongbao arrived, we all immediately took out our smartphones to snap a photo (or two).

Din Tai Fung xiaolongbao

20 perfect pieces of Din Tai Fung xiaolongbao with pork.

Din Tai Fung xiaolongbao

I didn’t manage to get my two friends on the side but we all were taking photos at the same time. #canthelpit

Afterward, a friend led us to Awfully Chocolate to split a decadent, warm brownie crumble.

Awfully Chocolate

Necessary post-lunch brownie from Awfully Chocolate.

That night, my roommate and I met up with our internship supervisors for another great meal.

Alice's house-warming party

My roommate’s supervisor welcomes us interns and my marketing supervisor to a lovely meal at her new apartment.

Day 149: Goodbye, Ringier

My editorial supervisor framed one of my first articles for Shanghai Expat as a farewell gift.

In return for a fantastic internship, before going into the office today, I stopped by a bakery to buy some pastries and buns for the Shanghai Expat team. In an unfortunate coincidence, only two people showed up to work on my last day.

Nevertheless, Joe offered to treat me out to lunch sometime during my last week—after my final exams and papers (I just want them to be over with already…).

Shanghai Expat framed article

One of my very first articles framed :)

Ringier break room

The intern table in the break room.

Ringier reception

I’ll even miss the Ringier reception.