I woke up after a rather unpleasant discussion with my sister over going to Chinese language school alongside her boyfriend. To be honest, I really didn’t plan on going to Shanghai to just to go back to school: I came to do some soul-searching after over 10 years of living in a hellhole called New Jersey. Ironically, last night’s dream involved me talking to my Methodist minister and my apprehension of entering the real world and my recent turmoil with my friends. I was back in the chapel telling her my problems, about my past, my real fears and my goals. She told me it was a good decision coming to her and that they are always there to help people in need of help. It was a much better choice than going to a psychiatrist or a counselor who would try to break everything down into logical or scientific concepts with no real solution to my real problems.
She made me sort out my priorties that were important to me. I first told her I needed to get out of New Jersey and make the trip back to Shanghai to figure out who I was. My second priority was getting back in touch with a family that I lost touch with by choice. My third goal was to reconnect with an identity that was gradually eroded through Americanization and living with whitewashed Asians. Those were my top three goals I could think of and all she could tell me was to focus on these goals, but not before telling me to wake up.
The alarm clock was ringing until I slammed it shut. After getting ready for the day, I found a note on the kitchen table from my sister informing me that her son was in summer class, Carlos was working at his start-up consulting firm and she was at work in the bank. She also said I should go out and explore the city by myself since I’m not an independent man and to return by 5 since Chinese class starts at 6:00 PM. Enclosed with the note was about 2 thousand Yuan and a tourist guide to Shanghai. It looks like she was dead serious about being independent.
I get out of the apartment building and walk around the neighborhood. I can’t really see the sky although it was early in the morning because of all the smog and it really sucked that most of the locals in this area spoke Shanghainese as their main dialect. After taking a short walk around the neighborhood and hanging around the park, I just walked back to the apartment and went online. I then proceeded to download AIM and MSN and Feng instant messages me.
“Hey. Hows Shanghai?” Feng asks.
“It’s huge. It’s full of Chinese people and I don’t know where to start.” I tell him.
“That sounds like Shanghai. You ought to go out and check the local restaurants for a start. There should be small shops that sell interesting stuff at good prices there too. If you still feel uneasy about the area just go to a bar and look for foreigners or expats. They can help you find what you’re looking for or refer you to some nice places.” He tells me.
“You’re right. This feeling isn’t that different from moving into New Brunswick after living almost 3 years in Busch. I just have to go and explore the area by myself and learn through trial and error. Besides, I’m not even using my own money yet.” I tell him.
With that being said, I signed off the computer and went about exploring the neighbourhood. First place I found was a local restaurant that served authentic xiaolongbao, some stinky tofu, and a bit of freshwater crab. I kept reminding myself that it was spending money set aside for me and the food was so good! I then ordered seconds before leaving with an overfilled stomach.
After brunch, I did what every other tourist did: buying up large amounts of bootleg movies, DVDs, PC games, music CDs, and t-shirts at the nearby shops. By the time I was done shopping for bootleg goods, I had bought the entire Band of Brothers DVD set for less the equivalent of $20, the entire Beatles or Beetles CD collection for half what it cost for the movie, and even a copy of Windows Vista (I learned later it was only a beta version) for only $30. I was nearly out of money, and it looked like I spent most of it on food rather than bootleg goods so I returned to the apartment. Now, I have to go learn Chinese with the white boyfriend.