Over the next two months I’ll be living here in Beijing, taking classes at the Harvard Beijing Academy (HBA),. We cover a week’s (Harvard) 3rd year syllabus every day! The nice thing is that the only thing we have to worry about here is learning Chinese… you get your own dorm room on the campus of the Beijing Language and Culture University, and just eat/drink/sleep Chinese. We have a “language pledge” where we’re not allowed to ever speak anything other than Chinese for any reason the whole two months we’re here, except when calling home, and if they catch you speaking anything else three times then you’re out…
|The Shanghai waterfront|
On the way to Shanghai we flew almost directly over the North Pole from Chicago direct to Shanghai! — quite amazing. It was a very long flight, at least 13 hours. My luggage didn’t turn up on the same plane as me. I have bad luck with this — my luggage has been delayed on about 1/3rd of all flights the flights I have taken in the last few years. I was told once it’s because I take cheap multi-carrier flights, and I should never check my luggage all the way through. It’s starting to be something I almost expect as standard, despite the fact that a friend of mine, who spends 95% of her time traveling, has never once had a single bag turn up on a different flight from her.
|Shanghai, check out the enormous tower in the background…|
Despite the usual crowding and crazy traffic situation, Shanghai was much cleaner and better-developed than I expected. Lots of tourists, especially Chinese (not just foreigners). I honestly didn’t get to see much of Shanghai due to time and having to sort out the luggage problem, but I saw the obligatory waterfront view with all the amazing buildings, and visited three of the main shopping areas: one long street with tons of huge bright signs and lots of people, a big traditional palace-like shopping area near a famous “ancient Chinese style” garden, and an area with huge electronic gadget markets. The gadget market was awesome, so many cheap gadgets at such cheap prices — unfortunately I left it to last and ran out of time… however I was amazed at how you can buy *anything* in China you can buy anywhere else — everyone has the latest Canon Powershot cameras, laptops, Nokia cellphones, etc. I saw the biggest Best Buy store I have ever seen there, prices were about 15% higher than the States but they had everything, including a monster 104″ plasma TV selling for USD$110,000… that’s a lot bigger diagonally than I am tall…
|The electronic shopping district in Shanghai|
I also went through Wuhan on my way to Beijing. Last time I was in China, I met a cool Chinese kid by the name of Eric and we biked way out into the beautiful countryside of Yangshuo in southern China. Eric happened to be flying into Shanghai the same day as me, and then on to Wuhan to visit his girlfriend. He mentioned at the Shanghai airport that he neglected to tell me he was going to Wuhan to get *married* to his girlfriend the next day so he could take her back to Australia with him where he’s studying English…
Wuhan is the biggest city you’ve probably never heard of. It’s amazing how easy it is to keep living each day of life completely unaware of the existence of cities of millions upon millions of people in various corners of the world.
Once I arrived in Wuhan, I spent the day visiting some sights with Eric, including the Yellow Crane Tower, which holds a place of deep importance for all Chinese. It’s a large traditional pagoda-style building, quite impressive given that it is (or at least used to be) built mostly out of wood.
|The Yellow Crane Tower|