Our last day in China was our first cultural visit in Shanghai. We visited the Yu Garden, which was a beautiful and well-preserved area in the city. Like many other cultural sites, the undertones of it being an opium house were more than outweighed by the gorgeous architecture. The garden has all of the elements of a Chinese garden including earth, water, pagodas, and my favorite, zig zag bridges. While they seem impractical, I both liked their aesthetic as well as being able to look at both sides of the bridge easily while walking across. At one point there was an instance where you could see the Bund in the distance behind the traditional style rooftops and pagodas, which I thought was an interesting contrast. Shanghai seems to have preserved its cultural sites in localized areas, whereas Beijing and Xi’an integrated them more into daily city life. The Yu Garden gave me a similar feeling as the Olympic Village, in that it’s preserved for tourism, and not so much a part of typical Chinese life. After leaving the garden, we walked around the surrounding markets and had lunch at a local canteen. It felt like the university’s canteen, but significantly larger and much crazier. There were plates in a similar fashion to the dim sum dishes laid out throughout the canteen, and you could pick up what you want and pay at the end. I ended up eating a variety of scallion pancakes and fried pork and veggie dumplings, all of which was tasty. From lunch, Rashel and I went to the Bund again because she wanted to go up the tower, and I wandered around that mall. The scale of the malls still impress me, along with the fact that they pop up in the middle of the business district seemingly randomly. Once we returned to the hotel, I practiced my presentation once more and then headed to our final dinner and presentations. Dinner was a hybrid Turkish and Chinese meal and had much more meat than any other meal we’ve had before. I had these delicious lamb kabobs and Matt ate straight off of an enormous bone!
In the presentations, people talked about how China differed from their expectations. Sarah brought up how she noticed that we were incredibly loud as a group of Americans, which is something I noticed particularly when the group of us walked through the park to get to the noodle place. Personally, the biggest surprise for me was the overall variety across China. I hadn’t expected the food to be so different between Xi’an and Shanghai, nor did I expect to be able to recognize dialect differences, particularly when vendors in Xi’an said “wu.” Most of all, the changing landscapes I saw at the Great Wall, on the bike ride, and on the train rides surprised me in the variety that China has to offer. I also hadn’t expected the infrastructure to be as developed nor the cities to be as green as they are, which I now know is a result of China’s governmental structure. Overall, I’d love to come back to China and explore more of the cities, particularly in southern China which the presenters at AmCham told us was the technological hub. Until next time!