Archives for June 2018

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

First Couple of Days in Shanghai

This is my first time out of the country by myself and also living by myself, which was a terrifying prospect. The flight was long and mostly smooth sailing for 13 hours except for 5 minutes of death when we were over Japan and the plane hit severe turbulence. After landing, I began to freak out about the next two months. What was I going to do? How was I going to get around? My internship was outside of the city and there wasn’t a metro line near where I was staying, so I was going to have to learn how to use the bus system, which are notoriously confusing. The company where I was interning had someone pick me up her name is Gao Xiao (高晓). She does not speak English, and that is when I realized that my language skills that I learned in Chinese class were inadequate to have a conversation with her and we ended up using our phone to translate back and forth. I found it difficult because she used phrases and words  that I did not know, but I learned a different way to say it. We managed to eat hot pot after my flight and go shopping all while dragging my suitcase around. Because I just flew 13 hours and I don’t know very many Chinese characters my first meal consisted of chicken gizzards and cow intestines and some vegetables. They had an interesting rubbery texture. It was not the worst tasting food that I have eaten, but I would not order it again. We then dragged my suitcase through the street to the grocery store to buy a few daily necessities. The company had sheets and blankets already ready for me. After dinner and the short shopping trip we arrived at my apartment. My room was on the fifth floor, which is the top floor, and we both managed to drag my suitcase up the stairs because the complex does not have an elevator. After that Gao Xiao left and I immediately fell asleep. 

My apartment consists of a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. The kitchen only has a sink and a refrigerator and freezer, so I plan on eating out a lot. The bathroom has a washing machine, a sink, a toilet, and a shower, but the entire bathroom is used to take a shower. When I took a shower for the first time, I was not exactly sure how to position the shower head and ended up getting water everywhere in the bathroom. The apartment has A/C, but it took a while to get it to work because I did not have the remote and I had to ask my boss at work to come with me to pick it up from the apartment office.


Bathroom in my apartment.











On my first full day in Shanghai, I woke up at 2 AM because of the time difference, and I went on a walk at 5 AM around the community that I am living in. There were only a few people up and it was rather cold in the morning as I walked around to find the company’s building. Below are pictures of my apartment complex. The top left picture is a garden where they are growing food between buildings and is one of many around the complex. Many of the people living in the apartment complex were farmers, and I learned from one of my co-workers that if there is an open space they will make it into a garden. I also learned that the gardens are not allowed, but because there are so many of them and the residents just keep making them the apartment management does not do anything about it.  The top right picture is of a street inside the complex. The bottom picture is the street in front of my building. My apartment building is the building on the left. 

One of the many mini gardens in my apartment complex.

A street in my apartment complex with gardens on the left and right.











My apartment building is on the left












I am outside of the city by quite a bit. I am about 40 minutes away by car and about 1 hour away by public transportation. There are no metro stations near me and I have to take buses to get to the nearest grocery store and nearest metro station, which I figured out how to use with the help of Gao Xiao who helped me get to the grocery store. Because if I went by myself I would have been very confused. Before my colleague helped me to the grocery store, I tried to find a grocery store by myself and I wandered around trying to find one, but with no luck. I did get to see another neighborhood and had more chances for people to stare at me. Below are photos of my adventure.

Canal near my apartment

Exercise equipment in a neighborhood near my apartment complex