Only a Thousand Words Needed

It’s frightening that I’m not sure what every picture is of.

You could patiently wait for the people on the train to get off before boarding or everybody can just shove at the same time, that’s cool too.

Hopefully people know which spots not to take. 

Why not cross right through the middle?

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Hopefully the Picture Tastes Good

 Buried somewhere in the streets surrounding the Yuyuan Gardens metro stop lies Old Shanghai. However, I did not know this because I thought the subway stop was right in the middle and ended up on some random street that was not in fact Old Shanghai. Unable to locate it and strongly desiring food I gave up my search for Old Shanghai and replaced it with the nearest restaurant. Still, not quite comfortable with the city, I spotted a place where two foreigners were eating and decided to give it a try. Upon entering, I stood and waited for several minutes to be seated before realizing that customers seat themselves.
My menu arrived shortly thereafter and I opened to the first page to find a menu lacking in English words. That’s not so bad I guess, I can just look at the pictures and should be able to find something to try. Contained within the first page was not a single thing that looked appetizing. The next several pages went by with the same conclusion. As the last page approached the fear of not being able to find something to eat steadily rose. Thankfully, on the last page there was a picture of a dish of potatoes, not my proudest moment but I am not about to order something random and potentially make a fool of myself by gagging while trying to eat it. So potatoes it is, and what better to accompany them than a beer since that is the only drink I can figure out how to order.
After deciding what to order I spend the next ten minutes sitting around waiting for my order to be taken. It is not until later that I realize that since these waiters are not tipped, there is a difference in what the waiters will do. Thankfully my waiter realized this and eventually came over to take my order. The conclusion of this meal resulted in a full stomach and a bad story ending.
Lesson Learned: Do your best to try and understand others and the differences by which they live their lives. Failing to do so will probably have you ending up looking like an idiot.

I Traveled to New York to Check out Time Square

The job for which I’ve come to Shanghai for does not begin until June tenth so while the rest of the city begins the Monday morning grind, I’m left to my own for the day. Motivating myself to leave the apartment at first was pretty tough, it’s just so easy to sit around and watch movies and do nothing. I ended up doing just that for the next hour and a half until my stomach made it known that staying inside all day was not a plausible idea.
With the thought of dumplings still fresh in my mind I headed off in search of the restaurant from the night prior. Due to my state of jet lag I could not remember the location so I roamed aimlessly for awhile before stumbling into it. Ordering food was the first time the language barrier became apparent. I was reduced to pointing at pictures to order my food.  Sadly this will be the limiting factor every time food is ordered without someone who speaks both Chinese and English. Maybe in a few months I’ll have a good enough grasp of the Chinese language to accomplish this task.
After getting my stomach topped off it was time to return home to hang out for a bit while I waited for my appointment to check out an apartment. While heading home, I realized that I really needed to snap out of it, if I keep going home, I might as well have stayed home in New Jersey. To counteract my previous thoughts I did the exact opposite, I got on the subway and took it to a random location. My destination was People’s Square, which I’d heard a little bit about. Walking out of the subway I realized I’d stumbled into yet another large shopping center. I only lasted a few minutes on this street before thinking that I did not want to spend another day roaming through large shopping centers. A random ally appealed to me and I went exploring the side streets. Nothing exciting to report but it was interesting to see the side streets which weren’t all polished and touristy.
Since I had forgotten to get the address of the apartment I was checking out before leaving for breakfast I made my way home. With the address in hand I returned to the subway. Figuring I’d probably get lost along the way, I gave myself a two hour buffer until the appointment. I ended up making it there in about twenty minutes so I took the next hour and a half to explore the area. Arriving early is now my choice for all further destinations. There wasn’t really anything of note to report on but constantly checking out new locations is bound to have some interesting results.
The apartment sat inside a gated community on the seventeenth floor with an amazing view from the room that I might decide to reside in for the next six months. The residence was rather bare but I didn’t require much since I wouldn’t really be there more than to sleep, hopefully. After my quick tour I was wet from the constant rain and stinky from the hot weather so it was time for a shower and relaxation.
As I left the shower my phone rang and it was my friend ready to head off to dinner. With at least the shower accomplished, I met him for dinner. In route to dinner, he let me know that each night would be filled with a new interesting meal; tonight’s menu was Korean barbeque. This was probably my most enjoyable meal in a long time, sorry United States but Korean barbeque just beat you. The style of Korean Barbeque involves ordering raw meats and vegetables and having a grill in the middle of the table which you then can choose what you’d like to cook and eat. Chicken wrapped with bacon was easily my number one choice for the night. After a long dinner, with a full stomach and jet lag the ever constant nag, it was time to head home to rest.
Doing it right: A quick note of the subways, they are awesome. I’ve been on Boston’s and New York’s subway system and neither have anything on Shanghai. The two best parts of the subway are the stickers on the ground constantly pointing you in the right direction and each subway line is completely separate from the other. While on the platform, one side is one direction, and the other side is the other direction for the same line. You don’t have three different trains pulling in going to different destinations and you don’t end up on one side of the tracks for uptown and the other for downtown if you have to make a last second change on which way you’re going.
Lesson Learned: Traveling is pointless if you’re going to go the typical route. Step off the beaten path, get lost, and enjoy the process of finding your way back

Been There, Didn’t do That

My first morning in this new place found me waking up to a vacant apartment. My friend was out for the night and would be returning in the afternoon.  The fridge was empty and so was my stomach and it demanded a remedy fast. My journey took me wondering through several large shopping centers, eventually finding a suitable location for breakfast. I apologize in advance but my first breakfast ended up being a coffee from Starbucks and a glorified ham and cheese sandwich.  Progress is steady but slow and I aim to move beyond my western comforts to more interesting selections.
My pocket contained a list of items that needed to be purchased, so with a full belly I set off in search of locating each of these items. As I wondered into an electronics superstore, think Best Buy(by the way they’ve completely pulled out of China since they are unable to compete with the place I walked into) but five times larger and with lots of little shops instead of a giant store, I started to realize how materialistic the people of Shanghai are. In America you’d walk into a Best Buy and see maybe fifteen different laptops to look at. Here, there were easily five hundred laptops on this one floor. Unable to locate anything on my list I moved to the next floor where I was able to cross two items off my list, recharable batteries and a computer mouse. With the purchase of these items came a valuable lesson, unless you want to be broke long before you expect to be, you’ve got to learn to haggle. I easily spent twice what I could have gotten for these items but I didn’t know.
I had left a note saying I would return to the apartment to meet up with my friend so with two items off my list I headed home to meet up with him. We spent the next few hours touring his neighborhood.  This ended up with a cheap and awesome massage and another new and interesting meal Shanghai has to offer. Dinner was cheese and beef noodles as well as dumplings. A quick note while we’re on the subject of dumplings, several years ago while traveling in China I got my first taste of real dumplings and they were amazing. We’d go about our day, stay out until about 5am and then wake up to Coke and dumplings. Upon returning to the United States I had no desire to corrupt myself and avoided dumplings ever since. The moment the dumplings were set before, I knew it was time well spent waiting.
After dinner we set off in search of a cell phone for me to use. Another glimpse into the materialistic society came during the search for a cell phone. There was an entire floor, which was huge, dedicated to nothing but cell phones in all varieties. With the help of my friend, I managed to wade through the sea of phones and locate one, probably designed around the year 2000, to use for the next six months. You could call, you could text, and that was it. Sadly the next step up was $200 and not justifiable at all so I went with the $50 time capsule of a phone.  With jet lag poking in to say hello, we decided it was best to retire for the night.
Lesson Learned: What’s the point of flying half way across the world to get Starbucks? Explore, try something new, and save the Starbucks for when you’re two months in and feeling home sick. Five dollars for breakfast is a joke and you deserve to be laughed at when you can walk around the corner, find an interesting and tasty breakfast food, and pay twenty cents for it. 

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

The first night here was a relatively uneventful one as jet lag was demanding all of my attention. The only three things on the agenda for the night were shower, food, and sleep. I got an introduction to the subway as we headed off towards an appetizer of vendor food and then dinner at a restaurant my friend suggested. The vendor food was spicy pork which was absolutely amazing. For dinner I had set before me four different dishes of egg and rice, spicy fish, beef and onions, and some sort of sweet corn dish. For those that don’t know for whatever reason, I cannot eat fish. I did however give it my best go and managed to try some fish and it was actually enjoyable. After dinner it was straight back home to sleep and hopefully get rid of jet lag as soon as possible.
Lesson Learned: Be weary of the pick pockets but bring your camera! I’m kicking myself for already missing several interesting pictures.

Thank you for flying, enjoy your stay.

Friday at 5am I headed out the door, not to return home for several months. Nervous thoughts filled my head during the car ride but quickly transitioned to excitement. Four years ago was the last time I stepped foot on a plane and I’d been waiting for this moment since then. I arrived to the airport, kissed my mother one last goodbye, and headed off to the departure area.
After a two and a half hour wait the plane was ready for boarding. As I walked down the rows toward my seat I was happy to know that I had a window seat, any other and I would not be getting any sleep, thanks to my very specific manner of sleeping. I got to my seat put my stuff in the overhead and then looked at which seat was mine and to my horror I realized for the next sixteen hours I would be sitting in the middle of three seats. Why the hell do planes not put their seats in alphabetical order? They decided to skip a letter and so instead of 59j being the window seat it was in the middle.
Your impression of what a 16 hour flight feels like is most likely spot on. If you’re still guessing at what it feels like, it sucks. They offer a wide selection of movies, TV shows, music, and video games to play as well as a power outlet for your own devices. I’m not sure what it is about an airplane but the wide selection meant nothing. I started about six movies and four different TV shows and only finished three of the movies and didn’t make it through a single TV show. Luckily I did manage to take several short naps which helped to pass the time. The food was decent enough and helped fill up some time.
Thankfully, before I knew it the plane was touching down in Hong Kong.  I was still four hours away from my destination but grateful to get an hour to not be sitting in the middle seat. The plane ride from Hong Kong to Shanghai was rather uneventful and I scored an aisle seat. Leaving the airport went smooth as well. Right outside my friend greeted me and we headed off to his apartment so I could drop off my stuff and get a quick shower before heading off for my first adventurous night in Shanghai.  

Welcome to the Real World

All in all these hurtles of preparing for the internship weren’t so bad. Things could have gone a lot worse. Potentially I could have had my visa application rejected or had to stay overnight to get the visa instead of same day processing in which case I would have missed several classes. I’m thankful this is the worst that happened.
First step in preparing for the internship was obtaining a letter from my school explaining that I was a student and had passing grades. Simple enough, right? As the answer to that question always goes, it was in fact not so simple. It started off with an email to my career services which didn’t get a response. I then called both career services offices and neither had a clue. My next best guess was the dean’s office of engineering. Upon arrival the entire office happened to be out for lunch so I sat around for an hour and waited. Finally getting a chance to talk to the secretary, I was told they could do nothing and said the registrar would be able to assist me. Well they couldn’t do it for me either so it was back to the dean’s office. With one last desperate begging attempt I managed to get a secretary to write me a short letter. Who knew simple tasks could require so much?
Next up was the waiting game. Another great welcome to the real world is paperwork. I was told the internship was mine and it took another two and a half months to procure a piece of paper telling me so, during that time I got to watch ticket prices increase by almost $200. That piece of paper then spent the next week traveling in DHL’s hands from Shanghai so that I could go to New York City to get my visa. All was fine with that until DHL attempted delivery. The first day around 10am I was not home and a delivery attempt was made. This is understandable and I thank them for not just leaving the letter there. The next day, I planned on waiting until the letter came, heading to New York to stay with my sister and then arriving to the visa office the next morning as early as possible. This almost went smoothly except for the delivery driver never showed. I checked the delivery status webpage and to my surprise the driver had attempted delivery. I checked outside however and there was notice of a delivery attempt. I called DHL and figured out that the guy had just decided to drive by and not actually deliver the letter. I then waited another forty minutes and finally around 7:30pm he shows up.

A Little Bit of Background

In my youth my diet was rather limited to foods such as hot dogs, pasta, and chicken nuggets. One evening, I went out to eat with my family and left them to order my food while I went to check out the magic shop. What I returned to was horrifying at the time, chicken fingers. They were not chicken nuggets and thus inedible. After a five minute fight with my family I reluctantly decided to try them. Now that you have this impression of me, imagine my young self being invited to spend three weeks in China, traveling with my sister and her friend to visit her friend’s extended family.
With forty health bars in suitcase we set off for China. I was no where prepared for what awaited. Every meal involved extended family watching me use chopsticks and offering me every dish on the table, which usually averaged about about ten different things.Within the first week I’d eaten two-thirds of my supply of health bars.  It took some time but I slowly managed to improve my outlook on these new foods. I arrived home with a somewhat more open view on the food. 
Several months ago, I contacted the friend who I had previous traveled with for an internship. He had since moved to Shanghai for a full time job and was in a position to offer me an internship of six months. I happily accepted and purchased my ticket for May 21st. What awaits me will be seen in the months to come.