Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Perfect Europe

One thing that distinguishes Shanghai from any other city in China is that you can walk out of your apartment and venture to Europe for the day.

Shanghai’s position as a former treaty port meant it modernized while the rest of China was still struggling with the feudal system of landowner vs. peasant. Foreigners and Chinese lived side-by-side (despite the exaggeration of some history books that foreign concess
ions were off-limits to the Chinese), introducing Shanghai to a new lifestyle, new mannerisms, and different goods. Today you can walk around the French Concession and see it as either a bitter memory of Shanghai as a foreign stronghold or as a neighborhood that has become a part of Shanghai’s unique culture.

Today it was a blessing.

Ever since returning from vacation over the Golden Week, I realized how much Shanghai has to
offer and how I better start to take advantage of it seeing that time is already flying by. Yana and I have been on a mission to explore all the great cafés, finding it to be a great compromise between exploring the city and still getting work done (studying Chinese takes away the whole studying abroad and not doing any work thing). The location of our school/home in Shanghai is the real deal – that means we experience the crazy traffic, walk around the not-so-clean streets, and battle with the random “Hello girl!” yells we get because we’re foreigners. So taking a break for a couple hours on the weekends to explore an entirely different side of China is quite enjoyable. We’ve made it to five cafés over the past two weekends and are still on a mission to explore them all before the end of December.

But today’s combination was particularly perfect.

My day started by venturing out to the farmer’s market with two friends I met for the first time going out to salsa on Friday. Yes, salsa. Like I said, Shanghai is a bit different than other Chinese cities. Sure the once-a-month farmer’s market was tiny and naturally filled with foreigners, but it was cool to find the comfort of what I love at home in a country that completely contrasts my own.

You can hold hands under your glove - a farmer's market find

I stopped home to drop off my splurge-purchases to find my host mom excited as ever to tell me she found what I’ve been looking for with a flyer in hand to prove it: a gym/dance class studio around the corner for 200kuai/month ($30). This might sound like a small gain, but after running around random apartment building parking lots (fail), attempting to walk around the school’s field amidst mini-soccer games conveniently located on the track (fail), and trying to do yoga on a hardwood floor (fail), this was great news. Plus, my host mom has been so responsive and gets soo excited when she comes home with something looking-like I mentioned that this moment just adds to how nice she is…she’s certainly in the running against my host dad for most amusing person in my household. I will continue to recommend staying with a host family for the comfort of having a group of people who genuinely cares.
Little Italy --- Little France
(both surrounded by wine - now you know you're "not" in Shanghai)

After this bonding-moment, it was time for some café therapy. The café we ventured to today was in the historic district of Shanghai, reppin an Indi-hip, kind of Spanish theme. After, we traveled to Italy for pizza that came close to Pizza Paradiso/Paolo’s mixed with Chinese waiters – a long-awaited craving, and stopped in France at a bakery before making it home. Sure we spent way too much time chatting over dinner so that any work we caught up on today while at the café was quickly replaced with all the work we avoided tonight, but hell, it was worth it.

But at the end of the day, you know that you never really left...


  1. okay that looks like cheesecake!
    WHOOO! happy you found a gym...though I am jealous :P

  2. i loooove the gloves. please bring me home a pair... or do you only need one?

  3. Hahahaha ohhh, your host mom. cracking me up