Finally the day had arrived — We were on our way to China! After giving each other enthusiastic high fives, Collin and I packed up his truck (we had 6 pieces of luggage including our carry ons) and headed to DFW airport around 5 in the morning. Thankfully we had a good friend who agreed to take us (Thanks Cyrus!) or else it would’ve been quite the debacle packing all of our stuff into a taxi.
The night before I prepared plenty of food for the plane, because if there’s one thing I remember about these long flights is the terrible terrible food. Airplane food is a mystery on it’s own, you never know what you’re eating and whether it is meat, salad or dessert — it all strangely tastes the same: it’s either overly salty, horribly preserved or just plain bad.
I decided to bring along some wheatberry salad with broccoli, zucchini, red bell peppers, arugula and cranberries and topped it off with some crumbled hard boiled egg. I also brought along some guacamole and pre-sliced all of the ingredients so it’d be easy to assemble at the airport/plane. Plenty of fresh fruit, granola bars, almonds and Haribo gummies were stuffed in my purse in case we needed a snack along the way. 🙂 Don’t judge me, being on a 14 hour flight, the last thing I’d want to deal with is bad food and feeling hungry the entire time. Hungry zhang = grumpy zhang.
This trip was a huge deal for me, it’d be my first time traveling to Shanghai on my own. I guess I never realized how dependent I was on my parents for Chinese. Over the years my Chinese had evolved into “Chinglish”, my Chinese would sometimes require English as fillers for the vocabulary I had forgotten. I suddenly felt regretful. Crap. I don’t even know how to say “engineer” in Chinese, how am I suppose to explain what Collin does? I was intensely furrowing my brow when Collin patted my hand — “Hey you okay?” “Yeah, I’m fine. Just nervous.”
Our flight route was interesting. We left from Chicago’s O’Hare airport and flew over Siberia where I captured some really cool shots. I couldn’t help but be completely awestruck by the strange scenery — I’ve never seen anything like it. The images almost looked like it came out of Lord of the Rings (okay that was dorky).
A long nap and a few movies later, we finally arrived in Shanghai. The minute we stepped off the plane it was evident we were no longer home. The airport seemed massive, swarming with Asian people, mostly Chinese I’m sure. I felt at home yet like a stranger at the same time. All the signs were now in Chinese (which I am unable to read btw) with shoddily written English translations underneath.
My uncle (I call him Jiu-Jiu) was picking us up and after we grabbed all of our luggage we went out to find him. I searched through the crowds of people thinking to myself “How to hell am I going to find him?” when suddenly I heard a familiar voice “Xin-xin!”. There was Jiu-jiu with wide eyes as he took one look at our massive amounts of luggage — “WOW, you guys brought ALOT.” I blamed this on my mother, seeing that one luggage was packed full of presents for the family and the other was packed full of William”s books and shoes…
We had to step aside and think of a logical solution for transporting all of our luggage back home. As we went out to search for a taxi, all the drivers looked on with hesitation. I could completely see their minds going “Please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me!” Finally a driver agreed, but not before exclaiming “Jesus Christ, I have never seen two people with more luggage. Did you guys pack your whole damn house with you?” I couldn’t help but laugh. So with half of the suitcases packed into the back of a small early 90s Jetta and then carrying the rest on our laps, we were finally on our way to Jiu-Jiu’s house.
Pictured above is actually the alleyway of my grandmother’s house at the intersection of Tian Ping Lu and Guang Yuan Lu. My Jiu-Jiu lives at the intersection of Heng Shan Lu and Yu Qing Lu — they are literally within walking distances of each other so I’d always walk to my grandmother’s in the morning to give her her daily dose of hugs and kisses.
The energy of Shanghai is undeniable. There are people running around EVERYWHERE. I thought New York was busy but Shanghai brings it to a whole new level. All around us there were cars honking, our taxi driver was weaving in and out of traffic like we were in an action film during a high speed chase. There were highrise buildings everywhere yet also buildings that have been around for awhile — a mixture of the old and the new. The streets were heavily congested with all different means of transportation: mopeds, cars, wheelbarrows?? and lots and LOTS of bicycles.
When we finally arrived Jiu-jiu’s house I was happy to find they had an elevator, or else I might’ve ripped my hair out carrying all of our suicases up several flights of stairs haha. As we walked up to Jiu-jiu’s door there was Jiu-ma waiting for us with a huge smile on her face and warmly greeted us. She pulled me aside and said “Xin xin are you still able to speak and understand Chinese?” Thanks to the phonecalls my mother and I have several times a week has prepared me for this moment “Jiu-ma I can definitely speak and understand Chinese the only one who’s out is Collin.” (This entire conversation took place in Chinese btw as Collin looked on with a blank smile upon his face)
But do not worry, being the sharp fellow that he is Collin picked up Chinese quite easily while we were there. To the point where even natives were impressed by his SHANGHAINESE, but I will save that story for another time 🙂 Once we unpacked all of our things and ate dinner, Jiu-ma arranged for us to take a night ferry tour of Pu Dong and Pu Xi so we were able to see all the wonderful lights of Shanghai’s skylines.
It was very cold and foggy that night, so I was unable to capture great shots of the night scenary. The ferry was also moving at quite the fast speed so many of the photos came out blurry, shucks.
But after a 24 hour journey we were finally here, Shanghai, my second home. I was excited about all the adventures she had to offer and was happy that this time Collin was with me. I was ready with open arms to experience all that is Shanghai — stay tuned for glorious dimsum, an introduction to my family, and more photos capturing the everyday life of the people in Shanghai.