So long Shanghai

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Shanghai is such a wonderful city! I spent my seven days in Shanghai constantly bouncing around from place to place and absorbing every moment. I was warned that I would be exhausted after my seven days, and boy was that true. I visited so many fascinating places, some I had been to the last time I was in China and some brand-new wonderful places. The hotel was amazing, and it was so awesome to get to spend a week with new friends and explore Shanghai.

I returned to one of my favorite museums, the Shanghai museum, which had a new exhibition on "Shanghai modern art" which was a wonderful collection of artwork dedicated to the last several hundred years in Shanghai (not quite the kind of modern art we think of in the western context). The Shanghai museum has a beautiful collection of both historical and artistic works that detail the history of Shanghai and China throughout time. I especially enjoyed the exhibition on the cultural history of ethnic minorities in China through the display of traditional clothing. I visited the Shanghai Confucian Temple this week and got visit the old town portion of Shanghai which dates back many hundreds of years. It was so cool to walk around and explore the old part of Shanghai and visit a magnificent temple that integrates nature so well into its aesthetic. Definitely a great place to go and walk around and take in the beautiful atmosphere.

Exploring Shanghai was not just about sightseeing but also about food and people. I visited so many different small restaurants and enjoyed different cuisines while in China. From a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant to a Chongqing spicy hotpot restaurant to Franco-Chinese cuisine in French concession, I dove into many different foods, including the occasional McDonald's (because you can't come to China and not get the superior McDonald's of course).

I was amazed by how different COVID is in China. Of course, I read and see all the same information that everyone else can see, very few cases and strict government policies, but I had no idea what daily life would like in China until I actually got here. Most days it almost feels like there is no pandemic, which is insane. Mask culture in Shanghai was basically: everyone has a mask with them, and you wear it when you feel like you need to wear it. Basically, in crowded areas or perhaps on busy streets, but most people don't wear it all the time, which is not what I was expecting. I felt like I needed to wear a mask everywhere I went but I realized early on that most people don't wear masks in the city because the risk of exposure is so low in most settings, with the exception of major public (indoor) places. China operates with health QR codes on mobile phones which allows people to freely enter spaces and being relatively certain their safety when doing so. Perhaps one day I will do a whole post about health QR codes because they are so confusing and fascinating, but for now it is something that allows us to travel around in the city and feel as safe as possible during a pandemic knowing that there is a system in place to reduce the spread.

I was reminded this week why I do not like humid climates. Shanghai during the summer is definitely a two-shower-a-day kind of place and it is not ideal, especially as I walk around to sightsee. Regardless, I had a wonderful time in Shanghai, and I hope to return to Shanghai during my time here in China to visit more places. I'm so glad to have spent these past seven days exploring and meeting new people. I look forward to the next phase of my journey. Now that I have completed 14 days of hard quarantine and 7 days of medical observation in Shanghai, I am able to travel to Beijing, where I will have to do 7 more days of medical observation in a hotel before I am allowed to move into the campus and the college.