I have loved cities since I was very young. My mother began taking me into New York City when I was three because her haircutter of twenty years, the hair god Dale, is in uptown Manhattan. She worked in New York for a period of time and has always said she didn’t want me to be afraid of the city. So, instead of growing up fearful of the millions of people that inhabit New York City and the intricate streets filled with high-rise buildings and crowds, I grew up savoring the pounding of the taxi wheels on the pot holes and the variety of characters you can find on any given street corner. When embarking on this journey to an ancient land, I had hoped to find the future of China in a city that would capture my dreams in the steel framework of its high rises.
We had spent two days in a village and the rest in cities that prided themselves on their history more than their city lights. As we approached Shanghai in the early evening I was hoping for neon liquid in glass tubes to light up the skies and digital screens to flash ads and commercials in digitalized pixels. I was warmly rewarded with a city that took my breath away.
The buildings not only tower over the river that flows between the English style architecture and the more modern skyscrapers, but they are also architectually astounding, especially at night.
The TV tower, with its multiple bulbs and lights, pierces the smog filled air with authority, while the Bottle Opener stands next to it proud and beautiful making it worth the neck craning to get a glimpse. The skyline highlighted by hues of blue, green, red, and yellow, adds life to what was the dreary daytime sky and makes the water sparkle with life.
The people here walk around cutting the edge of fashion, wearing what they think is in style and dismissing any one else’s ideas on belts, shoes, or hair. They ride around on scooters and bikes like they are Porsches and Jaguars, ready to run you over, because whatever buisness meeting they have to attend or party they have to enjoy is much more important than your life. They own this city. And for the two days we spent there I felt like I did too.
We have a joke within our own group here. Matt, Patrick, Jon, Austin, Meg, and I use our plastic name cards attached to our lanyard to metaphorically “purchase” or “return” anything we can. For example, when it gets extremely hot and muggy we will swipe the card upward and return the air. In Shanghai, I “purchased” the city and although I can’t put it in my suitcase or in my pocket the drum of the city and the heartbeat of the modern culture will stay with me forever.
Early in the first full day in Shanghai we visited a special needs school and a nursing home, where we had a contest for to see which group of fourteen could buy the most practical items for the least money for the elderly. My group won as teamwork, strategy, and lots of toliet paper prevaled and oue prize was some interesting Chinese candy. After a welcomed western meal at Pizza Hut we traveled to the New Shanghai Circus. I was skeptical at first of this show, since how good can a circus on a stage be, but my qualms were quickly dismissed. The show had amazing feats of magic, acrobatics, and gravity defying stunts. The magican created one dove out of two, multiple acrobats piled onto one bike, and two dancers flew high above the stage on two white sation ropes stopping our hearts as we feared for their lives. The most death-defying act was five motorcyclists driving around in a large metal wire ball at once in upside-down and sideways formations. Every time a new rider was added to the group there would always be cries of “No!”, “Oh my god”, “They are going to die”, or in our case “Purchase!”. It took our breath away and had us talking about it for hours afterwards.
The show in a way personified the city. It was flashy, brilliant, and made you feel as though you had found something otherworldly. They played by their own rules and made you want to stay and watch for longer. I am ecstatic that we will be returning for one night, in my new favorite city, where as my mother always says “anything goes”.
(From Left) Jon, Myself, Patrick, Destiny, Matt, Meg, Austin