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04

Mar

Despite the dreadful Shanghai weather, my roommate and I decided it was time to venture out of our heated apartment and explore an area of Shanghai other than our comfortable college town. Bagged grapes and camera in hand, we boarded the newly renovated metro about 2 min from our apartment and rode it about 20 minutes towards the center of Shanghai to an area called Qipu Lu, aka Cheap Street. 

While attempting to navigate our way out of the metro station, we stumbled into a Chinese flea market where an army of unrelenting salesmen, all trying to sell the same variety of poorly knocked-off Gucci and Prada handbags greeted us (or just my whiteness) with open arms. Li Qian, my Chinese roommate warned us to refrain from speaking English during our Qipu Lu adventures, but news flash, I’m pretty sure speaking Chinese won’t convince anyone that I’m a local. About a hundred bu yaos later and we finally escaped the maze of endless knock offs and emerged into what I would consider your stereotypical image of China.

Though I’ve been in this country for a few weeks now, I haven’t really felt the true China vibes I was anticipating until now. Vibrant red lanterns lined the streets that could really be described with only one word: chaos. Sorry, China, but there is nothing I hate more than navigating the crowded streets of Shanghai. In a city of 22 million, I guess it’s understandable that people walk through the streets as if they are trying to escape a burning building. But come on, a little common courtesy would be nice. Something to get used to, I suppose. 

After a sampling of some delicious street food (Sophie nommed on grilled octopus legs while I took the safer route of watermelon), we decided to walk aimlessly and explore the area. Mesmerized by our surroundings, we unknowingly stumbled into a lively food market where locals haggled in loud Shanghainese over foods I never knew were actually edible. We passed pools of live fish, turtles, and crustaceans that were sure to be on someones dinner table that night. After eyeing all of my options, I opted for a one kuai fried eggplant skewer dripping with spicy sauce, lo mein noodles, and some random pastry thing. There are no words for Chinese street food. It’s just too good. 

After wandering the market, we turned a corner where we entered the local hutong, or just your average Chinese slum. We wandered the narrow, antiquated alleys for a bit when we encountered a horrible stench that signified the public toilet. We then turned the next corner and instantly traveled 20 years into the future where we approached a brand new skyscraper. That’s China for ya. 

Exhausted from the combination of yuck weather, fullness, and hours of walking, we finally found our way back to the metro. Lessons of the day: Chinese street food is my weakness. Survival of the fittest when walking the streets of Shanghai. Always carry an umbrella. 

Considering its 2:30 am, it’s time to check out. Bai frayndz.

28

Feb

now for the “study” in study abroad…

After some very poor haggling, I finally got my leopard print (obviously) umbrella down to 20 kuai. Not too bad considering it was pouring on my way to class. It was a pretty straightforward lesson in supply and demand as I headed off to my second class today in the dreary 40 degree weather this morning. Despite the weather, today was the second day of classes at Fudan University, and the nerd in me is very excited.

Studying at Fudan is like holding a seat at the United Nations. In both of my classes so far, I was surrounded by students from literally all over the world. There really is nothing like learning about international business in a truly international setting. In my classes, I’ve met people from Mexico, Singapore, France, Germany, Spain, the list goes on. I’ll let you know how group projects work out, however…

On another note, add breaks to that list of things I’ll miss about the US. Breaks don’t exactly exist over here in China. The schooling system is actually kind of cruel in the way that they’ll tell you that you have a break, but make you come back over the weekend to make up the classes that were cancelled. So, if you’re wondering where I’ll be heading for spring break, just..don’t. Sore subject. 

Before I could get any wise ideas, I also learned that 3 absences over here equates to a failure in that class. True. Wish me luck.

27

Feb

Engrish at its finest. Apparently, yesterday’s foot massage was only 50 kuai for 60 nubytes. Pretty good deal if you ask me…

Engrish at its finest. Apparently, yesterday’s foot massage was only 50 kuai for 60 nubytes. Pretty good deal if you ask me…

23

Feb

livin’ the shangHIGH life…

Take any preconception of Chinese standards of living and chuck them out the window. My street, Daxue Lu (University Road) looks nothing like your nearest Chinatown. If anything, it resembles a cleaner version of the Upper Westside, complete with stylish boutiques, an array of coffee shops, and of course, a Mexican restaurant. All the essentials, right?

My apartment is a 3 bed/two bath image from an Ikea catalogue. Tiffany and I live in the smaller bedroom, while our other two roommates share the “master” bedroom. We’d like to say we prefer the coziness of our humble box, but I think we all know who got the better end of the deal. Regardless, the best part about the other bedroom is the sick jacuzzi/shower, and we all agreed we would be friendly sharers in that respect. 

The best part about our apartment, however, is our adorable Chinese roommate, Li Qian who is literally a cartoon character. It’s physically impossible to be upset in her presence. She’s like an adult version of Lily from Modern Family, but more Chinese and more talkative. She is perfection. Though Li Qian does speak a good amount of English, we mostly speak Chinese with each other which is awesome for my language skills.

Because we just got wifi in our apartment, I’ve been out of blog commission for a while. So, for the rest of this post, I’ll just tell you about random noteworthy things that have happened since we arrived in Shanghai in true ADD fashion. Here we go…

-My friend, Doug goes to pee in the bathroom at this club called Banana Bar. Out of nowhere, a man proceeds to put a hot towel and Doug’s neck and gives him a back massage, while he’s peeing. Chinese culture or gay bar? I’ll keep you posted…

-Typical Sami moment…The other night, Li Qian and her Chinese clique invited us out to dinner at a local Hunan (SPICYYYY) restaurant. After lighting my mouth on fire with various Hunan dishes, I stupidly went to scratch my eyelid. BIG MISTAKE. In effort to avoid making a scene, I sat quietly in agony with my eye half shut for the rest of the meal. Typical…

-Never spending more than $10 on a massage again. Tiff and I went across the street where we got hour-long Chinese massages for literally $10. My lady was maybe 80 pounds but had the strongest hands I’ve ever seen. Can’t say it felt that soothing, but definitely got the job done.

-Wednesday nights are ladies’ nights in Shanghai, and they’re actually amazing. Last night, two of my roommates and I went to a club called Phebe where we paid literally $0 and got unlimited drinks. As we walked in, a Gwen Stefani groupie look-a-like was spinning records as dancers were going nuts on various stages. SNL’s Stefon couldn’t have come up with a crazier atmosphere. To add to the night’s perfection, the DJ played not one, but THREE Adele remixes. It was beautiful. The night ended wonderfully when the nicest taxi driver ever drove us home. All in all, great night, Shanghai.

A lot more has happened, but I can’t really think of anything right now as I sip my tea and slowly drift off. Good night and stay tuned…

Sami

18

Feb

Brrrrjing

Toilets, heat, and napkins. Despite my passion for China and all things Chinese culture, no amount of adorable Asian babies could make me miss these things any less. Throughout my travels, I’ve definitely used a fair share of “squatties,” but let’s just say I’ve gotten really good at holding my bladder during my stay in Beijing. Now, onto the weather… Blistering couldn’t even begin to describe the type of cold that exists in Beijing. Despite the countless times I saw the freezing temperatures on weather.com before coming here, NOTHING could have prepared me for what we’ve endured. I’m pretty sure I was on the brink of frostbite during an early morning tai chi sesh, but more on that later. 

Okay, done with the negativity. Other than that, Beijing has been a blast. Tiffany, my phi friend from Maryland and I are staying in a beautiful room at the Courtyard Marriott, not too far from the airport. This hotel has EVERYTHING, but most importantly it has the most incredible breakfast buffet. Whoever said I’d lose weight in China was gravely mistaken. For some reason, this country just makes me hungrier by the second. Our first night here, Seth, a boy from Maryland who has been in China for the past 5 months took a group of us out to a few bars in downtown Beijing. Go outs in China are NUTS. At one bar we were able to get twelve shots for 100 kuai (about 15 bucks). The night nearly ended on a sour note, however, when our taxi driver deliberately ignored our attempts at communication and drove us in circles around our hotel until he dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. Clearly, we got back okay, but it wasn’t an ideal situation.

The next morning, we had our orientation meeting where we got our local cellphones (nokia pimpin’), apartment assignments, and internship assignments. I don’t know what was so appareling about my mediocre resume, but I got placed at a global HR firm called Adecco where I’ll be doing marketing and PR. Seems pretty legit, but we shall see… After the orientation we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Other than my friend Jelani’s getting swarmed by Chinese adolescences, intrigued by his black skin, the highlight of the day was the Beijing duck dinner we had at a legit hole in the wall called Li Qun. Apparently Anthony Bourdain went there on one of the China episodes of No Reservations. It was actually incredible. By the time the third duck came around, I was floating somewhere in food heaven, unconcerned with any triviality thrown my way. Of course, we ended the evening in a food coma and passed out promptly at 8 pm, only to wake up at 3:30 am ready to hit the town. Jet lag problems. 

Luckily, we weren’t waiting around too long because we were scheduled to have an early tai chi lesson in a local park. Other than the severe frostbite that almost claimed all ten toes hostage, it was a really interesting morning. Our instructor is apparently a tai chi master and is studying to get his Phd in martial arts. Later that day, we visited a hutong, or neighborhood, where we rode rickshaws and had lunch in a local home. The food, again, was delicious, and the woman who cooked it couldn’t have been happier to have us there. She told us all about life in the hutong and the consequences of China’s rapid industrialization, but I’ll spare you the details.

That night, we stayed in a really small hotel in legit the middle of nowhere. I had never seen stars so bright in my entire life. The sky looked like a planetarium, and it was absolutely incredible. At 5 am, we all woke up (in 15 degree weather, mind you) to hike the Great Wall of China, just in time for sunrise. Five layers on top, two pairs of pants, two socks (THANK YOU, GRANDEBRA!!), and a coat, scarf, and gloves later, and I was ready to hit the Wall. Tony, our guide, led us to a really secluded section of the Wall, free from tourists and eager salespeople. Despite the strenuous workout and frozen temperatures, it had to have been top five coolest experiences of my life. I’ll let you know how my body feels tomorrow, though…

Well, that’s pretty much it. Tonight’s our last night in Beijing, and then we head to Shanghai tomorrow where the real fun begins…

tata for now, 

Sami

14

Feb

slurrrrrrp

Ni hao y’all!

It’s morning over here in Chinaland, and I write to you as I finish my first meal: noodles, tofu, steamed buns… I can get used to this. The only thing I was definitely not prepared for is the cacophony of slurping sounds that take over the restaurant (and every other eating establishment for that matter.) For those of you who know me well, the one sound that is worse to me than nails on a chalkboard is the sound of eating. But, when you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Uh…we’ll see.

As you can see, I made it! 17 hours in flight time, an hour at customs, and twenty minutes of cab issues later, and I’m finally in the comfort of the Marriott Courtyard in Beijing. Clearly, I’m experiencing Chinese culture at its purest. My flight wasn’t horrible. Again, for those of you who know me well, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I slept like a baby for, I’d say, 90% of the flight. A talent, I suppose. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure that the woman sitting next to me thought I was dead. 

Well-rested and (kinda?) adjusted to the time zone, I sit here anxiously awaiting the arrival of my azn companions. This week, we’ll be sightseeing, workshopping, and adjusting to our new Chinese lives before we jet off, yet again, to Shanghai. Now that I’ve successfully broken through the Great Firewall of China, I’ll be muploading and status-updating galore. So that’s pretty much it guys… No traumatic experiences thus far. Stay tuned, frayndz.

Sami

06

Feb

1 WEEK.

Officially one week until the long-awaited 20 hour flight and my room couldn’t look more like a disaster. No matter how many times I decisively sift through my closet, I know I will never feel fully satisfied with my clothing selection. The woes of living out of two duffles I suppose… Regardless of my level of preparation, I’m about to embark on the most incredible experience of my life and I couldn’t be more excited. 

For those of you who don’t know, Shanghai will be my home for next five months. From living in the loveshack (shout out stonehau5!) in the quaint college town of Gainesville, to becoming just one little foreigner among 22 MILLION (yes, million) Chinese people in the metropolis that is Shanghai, my life is definitely about to take an interesting turn. So here it is, my official farewell to the First Amendment, Urban Outfitters, clean air, driving, and most importantly, to my amazing friends who I will miss terribly as I attempt to “Ni Hao” my way across China. Love and miss you all already! 

See you all on the other side of the Intl. Date Line,

Sami