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Always Smile When You Shove

August 12, 2011
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I am glad that my mother keeps track of when I come home every night. She has conveniently figured out that the wifi in my apartment picks up my phone once I am in its vicinity and automatically logs me into skype.  Its helpful because now I know that it was in fact around 5 am that I rolled in last night, and pretty much explains how my day went.  I talked to my mom when I woke up at around 10 am. and she asked me, “So it’s your last day in China, what are you going to do?”.

My last day in China.

It has taken me a few phases to accept this reality.  The first phase was telling myself that I still had a ton of time to explore (when in fact I only had 1 week).  The second phase was denial. “Of course I live here, I’m chinese”.  The third phase was faking sick.” If I have a fever, I am not getting on a fourteen hour flight”. And then finally, reality. Tomorrow I am getting on a fourteen hour flight, and arriving on american soil.

Frankly, I didn’t even know what to tell my mom.  I guess I could have told her that my denial phase really set me back on packing, Or I could have played the Ferris Bueller card and said “the question is what aren’t I going to do today?”.  But lack of sleep trumped my ability for humor and I answered honestly, “I don’t have a clue what I am doing today”

Then I realized, here I am frittering away my valued time in China trying to come up with some sort of plan?

So I opened the blinds to the streaming sun in the heat of the Shanghai day, pulled on the first thing I saw and headed outside. My only plan was tea with my favorite chinese people, Hunter and Angela at 1 pm.  I started walking, I walked around my neighborhood, said hello to my favorite street guys, sat and jotted a few notes down in my journal at an outside coffee shop with a big glass of iced tea, and thats when I saw it. The scallion egg lady whipping up a few egg omelettes for a chinese couple on their way to work.  There are a few types of street food in China that I haven’t really touched, mostly because it looks like deep fried carnival food. I know that is kind of a bad image, but I mean it in a delicious way, just not a particularly healthy way.  My chinese coworkers ate that stuff up: deep fried sesame buns filled with pumpkin, deep fried muslim bread, pieces of oily meat, and xiaolong bao up the whazzo.  And so I thought to myself, its my last day, why not have my own little street food festival? I’ll call it the taste of Shanghai. (get it Chicagoans?).  Anyway, I convinced the street people to give me tasters of their food each for one kuai. So worth it to save all that stuff for last! The deep fried pumpkin dumplings were particularly good.

Then I set about looking for a gift for my dad.  At first it was really hard to think of something. I mulled all kinds of things over in my head.  Then I remembered his love for cooking and his more recent addiction to canning and making his own alcohol. (no, he hasn’t converted to Mormonism yet). And after tea with Hunter, He helped me pick out some truly excellent things in the realm of my dad’s interests.

Not only have I not been looking forward to my departure from China, but also the end of blog writing.  I have really loved recording my adventure down in cyber space for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to all my readers, and those who commented, it helped me feel connected from the other side of the world.  As I looked through my past blogs, I saw that my experience in China was really just a platform that allowed me to contextualize learning life lessons. And why on earth do I need to stop writing just because I am no longer kickin it solo in China? I learned so much here, and China isn’t the end all be all.  People are confused by Confucius (or life in general) all over the globe.  So I think I am going to keep the blog.  College life has the potential to be just as interesting as a rush hour metro commute.  And so I give you my list of serious and non life lessons from China.

1. You can survive by yourself in a foreign country. It all comes down to finding things to eat and a place to sleep. If you can do that, you pretty much have all your bases covered, unless you do something stupid.

2. Its ok if you do something stupid. Keep a level head and deal with the consequences, fix the problem and do better next time.

3. If you meet an American college kid in a club, don’t think that you can “dance” with them and expect them to know no one you know. They know people you know. And sometimes, this is not a good thing. If this is ever you, please refer to life lesson number 2.  I don’t personally know from experience, Its just this friend of mine.

4.  Be flexible. It is a lot easier to survive in a foreign country once you learn that almost nothing goes according to the plan in your head.  Embrace no plans and grow from the unexpected experiences that you have.

5.  Talk to strangers. Yeah I have seen the movie taken, and yeah I was told not to talk to them either. But sometimes strangers have great stories to tell, and you can learn a lot from them.  Even in a different language there is so much to learn from conversing with strangers. Talk to strangers on the metro, talk to your cab driver, go ahead talk to the guy with bar service at bar rouge, and remember the conversations you have. It could really make a dent in your life.

6.  Smile when you shove people out of the way.  In China, there is no such thing as orderly lines.  You shove, you yell, you spit, but you do not line up.  My strategy: always shove to get what you want, but smile while you do it, because in the end, it is another person you are fighting for that last seat on the metro, and a smile is a universal way to show you care. But I’m still getting the seat buddy.

7.  Food poisoning should always be an afterthought when experiencing a new culture.  Weird food now and deal with the consequnces later. maybe it will surprise you without any repercussions.

8.  Bubble tea does strange things to a digestive system. don’t drink it on the fly

9.  Chicken hearts are fantastic when barbecued on a skewer

10.  Allow yourself to grow, don’t be confined to one idea or life plan.  You will miss out on the little opportunities or ideas that sometimes have strange ways of presenting themselves.

Time to get ready for my final final final night out in Shanghai. Over and out.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2011 11:49 am

    wow im going to research bubble tea!

  2. August 12, 2011 3:07 pm

    I found your blog through your father’s website and have enjoyed checking in to see how you were doing. I’m glad that you have had a safe and enjoyable experience in China and agree that you should keep the blog going. Why not, everyday is a new learning experience for all of us? Safe flight back and good luck with the culture shock of returning to life in the US (it will hit you in unusual and unexpected ways).

  3. Aunt kari permalink
    August 12, 2011 7:44 pm

    So you remember that poem gift I was suposed to send you? Well your last blog just summed up my entire gift! I’ll start from scratch now. Wow so glad you have learned so much! Agree with everything you said. Can’t wait to see you live back in the good ‘ol US of A! Hope you have a good flight and enjoy talking to you seat-mate!

  4. August 13, 2011 11:29 am

    Yes, I also agree of spending a quiet day and enjoy your last day in China with some good tea, getting yourself too exhausted before the flight would really get you sick, then you no longer have to fake it 😛

    Oh before you leave, remember to pack some tea back US!


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