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.
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.
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.
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.