Dan Dot Blog

Based on a true story

Updates: Fudan U and Other Stuff

Today it is rainy. After checking out of my hotel in Yangpu, PuXi, I headed back to PuDong to the Ramada to drop my stuff at my dads place. The taxi ride was long and the Dramamine I had forgotten to take was unfortunately locked in the trunk, inaccessible.

I have plans to meet with Liwen, a student from our lab, around 4, so now I’m on the subway headed back into the city. It’s amazing how much cheaper public transit is. Of my long jaunt across the city today, far and away the most expensive portion was the taxi fare, 11 RMB, from the Ramada to the metro station.

Realizing I can’t stay underground or in cabs all day, I picked up an umbrella at the hotels shop. It is possibly the girliest umbrella I have ever owned, but armed with my pinkish-green, butterfly-decorated umbrella tucked neatly into my significantly more masculine backpack, I’m heading into the city.

The subways here are awesome. They see way higher number of people than anything I’ve seen in the states, but they are fast, modern, clean, and exceedingly cheap. They’re definitely better overall than any public transit i’ve used anywhere in the West.

Had to stop writing due to a transfer and then increasing traffic density as I approached people’s square. I met some nice students on the last leg of my subway trip. I think I’ve stumbled on to a good method for meeting people: I just smile, good-naturedly and stupidly, at everybody until someone smiles back and talks to me. I wonder if it will work back home. The students I met were from someplace far away in China and visiting Shanghai to go to some sort of amusement park. They asked what I was doing in China and my answer involved something about psychology, the next several questions I received were about mind-reading and being psychic.

I met Liwen at Xujiahui station where she was waiting for me. She bought me this really fragrant flower from a woman selling them on the street. I have no idea what it is, but it smells great and is presently affixed to one of the buttons of my shirt. Liwen and I went into the basement food court of a shopping mall near the station. It’s really cool; there are small food vendors selling things from different regions of China. You pay to preload a card with money at the entrance then go around the food court spending it. It certainly makes things efficient. I had some sort of meaty spicy soup from Sichuan that was just awesome. After only half of that I was pretty full and moved on to fruit and dessert. Food is so cheap here and readily available. I think I will definitely miss that when I go to Japan, a much more expensive place to live.

The food vendors are very noisy as they hawk what they’re selling. I’ll try taking a walking video around. Having dinner with Liwen was great. I’m really super lucky to have so many terrific friends, and doubly lucky that several of them are in China.

I’m a little frustrated that my Putonghua is not developing at all. I think the cupboard is just too bare to begin with. Soon I’ll be venturing out of Shanghai, so perhaps I will lose my English crutch then.

Tonight I’m taking the subway again to visit Du Yu, the son of a friend of Kathy, my dads Chinese friend. I’m meeting him at his University, Fudan. It’s supposed to be a very famous university in Shanghai, and I’m eager to see how Chinese university students live.

I’m back on the Metro, taking line 3 a looong way towards Fudan University via ChiFeng road. I’m hoping the rain stops before then. It’s not so much that the rain bothers me, but I know it will be much harder to find a taxi if it’s raining, and I hear it’s a hike from the metro station to Fudan U.

I’m getting a lot of silent time, which is good for reflection. It’s odd; it’s far from silent, but with the language barrier I feel like it’s much quieter than it is. I’ve been thinking about what it would be like if I had committed to being in China a long time. Would this be lonely? I don’t think so. In fact, I think being at home can be more lonely. It’s a very isolating feeling when you’re around people you can relate to, share a language and culture with, and still, you’re either too shy to talk to them or just don’t have anything to say. To me that’s real loneliness. Here, I feel like if I could just find the words and understand the language, I’d have a lot to say, but even more questions to ask. Maybe I just like having excuses, but I find it so much easier to socialize as a traveler than when at home.

I want to ask these people what they think of where the world is headed, if they worry about the gradual re-valuing of their currency, or if they’re just focused on getting by. Everything really seems to just work here, so I can’t imagine people are too unhappy. Still, I don’t know how long I could take the dirty air and water. It’s easy enough to imagine away and ignore, but reality sometimes rears its head; I had to keep my contacts out for a few days because so much crud accumulated beneath them.

I feel a lot less personally valuable and important here. In some ways it’s kind of liberating and fun, but it seems like it fosters an individually survalist mentality. I now find myself pushing through crowds and racing people to seats on crowded subway cars. It’s definitely different and understandable, but I’m not sure yet if I like it or not.

As I write this I occasionally find myself self-censoring, thinking that maybe Twila or a Chinese friend will read this and disagree, but hopefully it’s obvious from the format of these travelogues that they are just that, my anecdotal experiences and attempts to wildly extrapolate and divine some deeper cultural essence.

The train ride is long and I’m getting bored and suffering from the same existential enui that is frighteningly familiar stateside. I am cheered by the wafting fragrance of the flower from Liwen, still wrapped around the button of my shirt. Maybe it’s better if I stop writing for a while and indulge in some ebooks like a true super-commuter.

Reading got quickly old. I’m sitting across from a young couple, probably my age, who are engaged in shameless self and mutual grooming. The girl is working and popping pimples on the boys face while alternately swabbing her ears with a-tips. Now she’s very closely inspecting and cleaning his ear lobes. To me it’s really strange, but nobody else on the train seems to be paying them any attention. Maybe they’re in their own worlds while I’m the only one really paying any attention to the inside of this subway.

It gets dark early here. I suppose we must be to the East of the time zone, but that doesn’t fully make sense as Japan is also in that zone…I guess I should prepare for even earlier nights in Tokyo. Before I came I was worried about the heat, and while I know i’ve been relatively fortunate and shanghai has had moderate weather, I’m surprised at how quickly I adapt to the constant mugginess and heat.

I’m in a cab now headed back to PuDong after my visit to Fudan University. I’m pleased with myself for writing so much today (at least it looks like a lot on the iPhones text editor).

Fudan U was really interesting. Conditions in the dorms were pretty eye opening. They definitely don’t live in squalor, but it reminds me more of camping than University, but I hear it’s super cheap (like <800 RMB/yr) so I guess you get what you pay for. Still, I can’t help but feel they get nickel and dimed for everything; they even have to swipe a card that records and bills water usage when they take showers. The heat and overall mugginess would be mighty distracting in an American U, but maybe it’s that kind of toughening that allows Chinese students to compete so ferociously on the world stage.

Skipping sleep sleems to have an immediate effect on me, which Is actually petty cool. No more operating at a perpetually growing deficit, so at the end of each night when I don’t get enough sleep, I feel tired early, like tonight.


June 10, 2009 - Posted by | Personal, Uncategorized | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Variety of very delicious dessert and food

    Comment by mikaalls | June 20, 2009 | Reply

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