Written by Juniper Katz
In this, our third week in China, the group has really melded. We have already been to four cities and travelled by train, bus, airplane, subway, taxi, and rickshaw. A memorable moment for me was taking the metro in Shanghai to a morning meeting near People’s Park. I had experienced rush hour in Beijing, but nothing prepared me for just how packed the metro was during rush hour. First, I was nearly bisected by the subway doors when I just couldn’t fit onto the first train. Apparently I triggered the safety mechanism, because after I made it back onto the platform, the train couldn’t leave and the workers had to come fix the door. I made it onto the next train, which arrived a mere minute and a half after the first one. But it really got interesting when I got off — imagine being surrounding by people on all sides, only able to move inches in any one direction. In this group shuffling process, it took about five minutes to get to the stairs to exit the train station. I remained calm, but I was aware of the fact that if there was an emergency, things could get dangerous in a hurry.
However, the sardine journey was worth it — we visited the Shanghai Urban Exhibition Center (only in Shanghai would there be a museum dedicated to urban planning). The photos don’t do justice to the scale-model of central Shanghai. This is a city that few North Americans can relate to: the population of Shanghai is reported as 23 million, but everyone we spoke with indicated estimates of up to 27 million is more accurate. The city has grown quickly and it features some of the most advanced urban planning on the globe. For example, there is a magnetic levitation train that costs 1 million US dollars per kilometer to build, but it can take passengers to the airport in a mere 7 minutes. The city also has multiple districts instead of one downtown. The metro system, although crowded, works beautifully and transports millions of passengers per day. Just the one stop under the Exhibition Center sees 1 million passengers pass through it. There are too many Shanghai sites to report, but some highlights include the Bund — a strip along the Huangpu River that was conceded to the British in the early 1900’s and displays European architecture in a mosaic of shops, restaurants and wide streets. Nanjing Road is a pedestrian walkway with every store you could possibly want. At night the area is lit up with high tech signs and shops reminiscent of Times Square.
It wouldn’t be a complete story without talking about food — today we had my favorite meal of the trip. Our Chinese colleague Tony Qin found the restaurant on his phone, it’s reported as one of the most popular restaurants in the city of Wuxi. The Chinese name of the restaurant roughly translates as Maternal Grandmother’s Kitchen. I want this Grandmother! You know those moments on trips when everything comes together just right? This was one of those times, a group of us sat and ate dish after dish of Hunan style food mixed with specialty dishes of Wuxi. Sweet red bean and rice soup, cold pea soup, perfect duck, tofu skin wraps, clams in a spicy sauce, and more. It felt really good to be sharing the moment with US and Chinese students, everyone enjoying life in the same way.