我在上海到了!I’m living the first 12 days all by myself… O_O

It’s crazy to believe I’ve made it to Shanghai on my own! I’ve traveled to breathtaking countries like Australia, the Philippines, and Germany, but never have I gone to China and never have I gone somewhere far and ALONE. I think that’s what scared me the most about flying here. I’ve always been one to try and show my family I’m mature and able to be on my own, but this was one of the rare times where I had so many doubts.

When I sat next to this Chinese lady on the flight from Toronto to Shanghai she asked me something in Chinese and I immediately defaulted to saying “对不起,我说中文一点”. I wasn’t even proud of myself for speaking Chinese because one: I had no idea what she said and two: I was way too wrapped up in my thoughts thinking “What am I doing?” and “Why am I here?” I spent the next 13.5 hours on that Air Canada flight distracting myself with movies, music, and games. I was doing anything to not think too much about the flight and how long I’m about to be away from home. I barely got any sleep and in the several 10-15 minute episodes of air turbulence, I found myself grimacing and barely breathing. Not a fun plane trip.

But upon arrival, I began to feel that excitement I always felt whenever I landed somewhere new. I got through security and immigration smoothly and once I found my friend, Jason, I felt better. Riding to my apartment with Jason, I was already so curious, so much that Jason laughed at me and said “Look at you being a tourist already” because I kept craning my head to look at the huge skyscrapers and the river.

When Jason dropped me off near my apartment, the stench of the streets, the sight of grime, and the people staring at me, the new laowai in this community all hit me, but I was quick to accept it (maybe I just ignored it). When I managed to drag in my two huge suitcases and my backpack into the apartment, my first reaction was “Wow I am dumb”. I had no idea what logic I was going with, but when I had first booked this Airbnb with Siân and Katie I thought it was going to be fairly big and spacious, with multiple rooms, and zero neighbors. It was such wishful thinking that didn’t take into consideration that this is one of the most populated cities in the world and so something like a house is a rarity. Instead here are pictures of the actual size of my apartment that exists on the 12th floor of a 15 story building stuck in the middle of a community filled with hundreds of other residents! It all matches the pictures on Airbnb, it just happens to be that everything is crammed into three rooms.

The door leads right into the small kitchen, bathroom, and door out of the apartment

After unpacking my belongings and trying to get some sense of organization in this already chaotic journey, I figured I needed food. Because I lacked unlimited data and I had zero confidence in my Chinese speaking abilities, I went to the nearest Family Mart and purchased snacks, sugary drinks, and already prepared meals. For the first week, I either ate fast food or American food, the one real Chinese dish I had was pork wonton soup. I was eating nothing that I wanted to and getting zero experience of the food culture or any culture at all.

I barely did anything either. Besides playing tennis with Jason or tagging along whenever he offered, I hardly went anywhere by myself unless it was less than three minutes from my apartment. I brought my professional camera and I would glance at it ever so often wondering if I would actually use it.  One night after going straight home after my internship, I took a snapchat of the Papa John’s pizza that I proudly ordered in Chinese and one of my friends deservingly gave me crap for it. If I didn’t have that or the encouragement from my travel-expert brother, I might still be too hesitant to really go out there and really travel.

That’s definitely not the case now.

Dragon structure inside the Yuyuan Garden

Some of the food I’ve been having.

Kangjian Park

Since the first week, I’ve settled in and gotten used to navigating on my own. I think I just needed the time and the reassurance that I’m out here to explore a whole new world. I am so grateful for every little thing I’m seeing, trying, or doing. I’ve already gone all over Shanghai visiting gardens, temples, and its city views. I’ve eaten at/tried street vendors, restaurants, and many of their little dessert or drink shops. Whether I’m out solo or with Siân and/or Katie there is something new I learn about Shanghai every day and each day I grow to love this city a little more.

 At Jing’an Temple

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