Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai: China tourists' holy triumvirate. I've been to Beijing. It was alright, but too loud, crowded and messy for me. I've been to Xi'an and loved it. I've been to both of those cities 4 times. Beijing I would only revisit by necessity – maybe a consular need, and Xi'an I would gladly return to.
What about Shanghai? I've been through it on my way to Wuhan. Riding the mag-rail, a super fast train across town was exhilarating. At that time, that city was hosting the World Expo. It would have been cool to take that in but I was in no shape or mood to do so. Besides, I was on a clock: I was due to start my new career as a teacher in just a few days (See 'Stranded in Shanghai', posted August 2010). Other than that, I've had no thought or desire to go to Shanghai.
Wondering why? Because most tout it as a modern culture center: lots of shopping and entertainment; some history. Not really my cup of tea. Also, as some have noted, I am contrary. I study what everyone else does and I don't do it. It is a part of my charm. Speaking of charm: I prefer smaller villages, connecting with people and studying historical architecture and diverse cultures. There's plenty of that all over China. No need for Shanghai.
Why am I going now?
It is Lancy's fault. You might remember her from the It Doesn't Get Any Easier entry, posted May 2013. Two years after graduation, she and I are still in touch. Last week she visited Wuhan on her way to Enshi, her home province. We spent a wonderful day frolicking at Mme. Toussaud's wax museum (Yes, there is one in Wuhan!), lounging at Starbucks and shopping for gifts for her family.
I had brought my computer to show her pictures of yore, those fabled days when she was a student here. In the course of that we ran across pictures of other students, among them Zhanny and Dash, my cookie cutter girls. They were my first friends here, and remained staunch throughout their time at our school. We 'played' together more often than I entertained other friends, and indeed no other student/friend comes close to what we shared. Not even Lancy and I.
Those images hit me hard. I realized how much I miss those two clowns, those dear girls who helped me terrorize our campus on Halloween, who took me around Wuhan my first time, who sat with me at every stage show the school put on. Dash wanted me to be the first to see her newly dyed hair. Zhanny confided her sugar addiction and family troubles.
Suddenly I longed to reconnect with them.
Lancy knew of my friendship with Dash. Last time I went to Shenzhen we all got together: Tristam and some of his friends, Dash – who came from Guangdong, where she lived at the time; Lancy and her terrific fiance. It was a large splash of fun.
When I asked Lancy about Dash and Zhanny's whereabouts she told me they were both in Shanghai. Might she give me their QQ number? Of course! Sad to say that the rest of the day I was obsessed with thoughts of visiting my two friends. My mind was not entirely on visiting with Lancy.
Incidentally: I learned during this visit that Lancy is of the Tujia ethnic minority. Her people hail from Enshi, the city I had hoped to visit on a volunteering stint, but was not allowed to (see A Huge Disappointment entry, posted June of this year). The student who had introduced me to the possibility of volunteering also did not get to go. Our school refused to sign her permission slip for fear that, should something go wrong our school would be blamed, or at least receive negative scrutiny.
It was wrong of me to initially feel a twinge of glee at her disappointment, I know. I should have felt bad for her missing such a great opportunity. Overwhelmingly, I do. It was her superior attitude that led me to not feel charitable toward her at first. Swallow, I sincerely apologize to you. Just goes to show I am not the good person I strive to be yet. One day, I'll get there.
One day I will also get to Enshi. Hopefully I can learn more about the Tujia minority: their beliefs, culture and lifestyle. I'd like to tell you all about it.
For now, I'm headed to Shanghai. Not because one of my fellow bloggers at ChinaDaily says its great. Not because it is a part of the tourists' triumvirate, but because my Zhanny lives there.
After Lancy and I parted company I jumped online to seek my friends. Immediately: a barrage of messages! Turns out I've been on their minds as much as they've been on mine. Dash does not live in Shanghai, as Lancy reported. She had only visited her best friend and has since returned to Shenzhen, where she now lives.
So much for killing 2 birds with one stone. I had hoped to visit with both of them, perhaps to relive memories of our good times together.
Shanghai has another temptation. I've been Ikea obsessed for a while now, and had actually planned several trips around shopping at that store, none of which I've as yet undertaken. Wuhan will have her own Ikea soon, but not soon enough for me. Initially I thought: “Beijing!”, immediately followed by 'UGH!'. Now that I have a goal besides Ikea - visiting with Zhanny, I can bring myself to visit Shanghai.
My original plan was to head to Shenzhen first, and then visit Guangdong where several other graduated student/friends live. Then I would land in Hangzhou, visit with Gary and some ChinaDaily bloggers that live there. Last stop would be Shanghai.
I wanted to go there last because I didn't want to lug anything I might buy at Ikea around Southern China with me. However, I got a message from Dash yesterday, informing me that she will be busy this weekend. Could I go to Shanghai first, and then visit with her next weekend? OK: there's my impetus to not shop, but I can still go look around, and maybe eat in the cafeteria.
I wish Ikea in Wuhan would open up!!!
Time to pack my bags and head out. Today I'll clean house and wash clothes. I'll carry my dear friends in my heart until I can again hold them in my arms. It will be a sweet reunion.
As reuniting with you after my travels will be.