“Shanghai is split by the Huanpu River, a tributary of Yangtze…The one thing I know for sure about China is; I will never know China. It’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep. There’s simply not enough time. That’s for me the joy of China, facing a learning curve that impossibly steep.”– Anthony Bourdain, “Shanghai” on Parts Unknown
I have discussed my one-month stay in China in June of 2018 twice on this blog. Once, I discussed the trip in the context of the brewery scene in Shanghai. More recently, I detailed my weekend excursion to Beijing and visit to the Great Wall of China. Even so, I failed to cover, purposely, some of the significant locations I visited and experiences I had during my time in Shanghai. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to venture back to Shanghai and explore some of those incredible moments that I think about fondly. With the ability to travel still at a standstill, the best I can do is travel into my memories. In those recollections, I discover that I am a pretty capable traveler.
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”– Anthony Bourdain
I first started this blog in July of this year, so not long ago. It began out of my most profound hope to scratch a creative itch and share stories with those who want to read them. My second blog post, Exploring Shanghai, dealt with my trip to Shanghai, China, in June/July of 2018. I will not repeat too much for those who read it, and for those who haven’t, please do. It has some great reflections and stories of the month I spent in Shanghai, China, teaching, traveling, eating, and drinking. The one part of my trip to China I did not detail, and wish to do so now, was my weekend journey from Shanghai to Beijing on June 23 & 24 of 2018 and my eventual and emotional walk along the Great Wall of China. So back to China we go, but this time we jump on a bullet train to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
“Time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”– Patrick Stewart (Captain Juan-Luc Picard) in Star Trek: Generations
During the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Shanghai, China teaching US History for the Massachusetts Educational Institute. I immediately considered this a once in a lifetime experience and eagerly accepted. As someone who had never been to that part of the world or even considered the possibility of ever setting foot in Asia, this seemed a daunting journey. My anxiety grew higher because I would be traveling without my wife, who was still working in Boston and did not know anyone else who had signed up to teach.
Travel is fantastic, but being with someone makes it stand out, at least for me. Now I am not criticizing those that travel alone, actually the opposite. I am envious of the lone traveler. Their spirit, confidence, and resolve must be admired and applauded. But I had never traveled by myself like this, and the length of my stay in China would be 38 days. That’s a long time to be away from my wife, our dog Mr. Tuttles, and journeying to a place whose language I do not speak and whose culture I did not want to offend.
Even so, the excitement of this type of travel was enough for me to leap. In the months before my departure, I prepared, planned out excursions, researched places to eat, sites to see, and how to get around the city of Shanghai. I am not the first person to do this, so it was not hard to get information, but that did not remove my anxiety about leaving home for a month and doing all this alone. Luckily, when the time came to go, I boarded my flight in Boston. After an emotional goodbye with my wife, the excitement of what was to come took over. I was on my way to China.