Written by Priscilla Yan
Day Fourteen was one of the most bittersweet days of our trip. Being our last full day in Shanghai, this day was rather different. We were all scheduled for a visit (to a Corporate office or to the Shanghai Museum), followed by lunch at Din Tai Fung and a free afternoon in Shanghai. I myself joined the museum group, and so our adventures started approximately an hour after the corporate group (yay for sleeping in!).
Due to our limited Chinese skills, a supposedly 20 minute trip turned into an hour of adventure. After taking the subway, taxi, jaywalking, and climbing a gate, we were finally able to escape the deadly humidity by diving into a pool of air conditioning at the museum. We took some nice pictures and learned quite a lot about Chinese culture. The museum was very interesting to explore because it encompassed a vast range of ancient artifacts dating all the way back to the Tang Dynasty. The most interesting exhibitions were definitely the ones about the monetary system and Chinese paintings. The level of artistic talent was unbelievable, and it was evident that the artists gave meticulous attention to each stroke of the paintings.
After meeting up with people from the corporate visit, we all made our way to Din Tai Fung for lunch, thus officially putting an end to the 13-day bombardment of tourist meals. Five words: Best 小籠包 ever. Unlike the other meals, there was no leftover food from this one.
After lunch, we split up into smaller groups and began our free activities (time to explore!) Although the groups dispersed, we all visited the same few places in Shanghai. A popular site to visit was the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, which was a controversial exhibit about the reign of Chairman Mao. The exhibit was located in a super sketchy basement of a residential area, so there was no way we could have found it without asking some of the French tourists who happened to stand near the building. There were even French translations beside most of the posters, indicating the Centre’s popularity among French tourists.
After the intriguing yet slightly eerie experience, we made our way to another popular site: The Super Brand Mall! Here’s a fun fact: many people from this trip have an unhealthy obsession with Uniqlo. For those of you that don’t know about Uniqlo, it’s essentially the Chinese version of Gap. Throughout the 14 days of our trip, wherever there was a Uniqlo, you could find at least 5 loyal shoppers from our group stationed at the store. After a tiring afternoon at the mall, our group ended up eating dinner on the 8th floor. The ramen was not bad at all, up until one of the members found a bug in their soup. And no, it was unintentional (unlike the scorpion dishes). Mmmmm scorpionsssssss *drools*
The final pit stop of the night was at the one and only Flair, a lounge at Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai, Pudong. By 10pm, everyone arrived and looked particularly dressy. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We spent the night enjoying our 58th floor view of the entire city, the river, and just reminiscing about the trip as a whole. As this was our final night in China, this night consisted of nice music, an incredible view, good drinks, tons of good pictures, and lots of laughter. I didn’t realize how close I had grown to everyone, so there was a mix of emotions in the air. After such a tiring day, everyone ended up heading back to the hotel to pack and sleep rather than going out to party some more.
On the final morning (July 30th), we were all given the gift of sleeping in. There was no 6:30am wake up call as per usual, so most of us slept until 9:30am or later. With a 12pm checkout time, there was plenty of time to eat breakfast and pack. Some people managed to do a final Uniqlo run that morning before leaving the country. As a “final adventure”, we took the Maglev (magnetic levitation) train, which took us directly do the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Even though it was travelling at approximately 300km/h, it felt like an ordinary train. At the airport, the check-in process was surprisingly quick (I guess Chinese people are more efficient :P). However, unlike the flight to Beijing, our seats were dispersed.
While we were waiting to board our plane, we took one final picture with our banner and red t-shirts. Some people forgot their t-shirts in their check-in luggage, but fortunately, there were enough people wearing their red Peking University shirts to blend into the crowd. As well, it was very amusing writing personalized messages to everyone, because there would be a hoard of memories in my head while writing them. The most difficult part was keeping the messages short, because there were too many hilarious events throughout the trip.
While walking towards the plane, there was a group of younger children (ages 12-17) in bright green t-shirts holding their Chinese passports. The last day of our trip happened to be the first day of their trip. They would probably be taking banner pictures in front of CN tower or at the ROM. Regardless, I’m sure they will enjoy the fresh air and uncontaminated tap water that Canada has to offer.
On the trip, there were many people who started to get sick. However, our group is made of champions, so everyone had a speedy recovery and came back to Toronto in good condition. The flight wasn’t as bad as I thought, mostly because I fell asleep for a large portion of it. Despite sitting apart from each other, there were many moments where people walked around the plane to talk to each other. When we arrived in Toronto and went to pick up our luggage, we all said our final goodbyes and parted ways. It was extremely upsetting, but I was somewhat pleased to be back in my home and native land.
Overall, I would say that this trip was extremely successful. I would like to especially thank Gen and Victoria for being our den mothers for the past two weeks. I’m positive that without them, the trip would have fallen into chaos. Under their guidance, we were able to stick to our itinerary and maximize efficiency. They were always prepared with pills and first-aid kits. Also, I would like to thank Cherry for being such an amazing tour guide, translator, and friend during the trip.
One of the things to be extremely thankful for is that nothing extreme happened. Before the trip, I remember being thoroughly warned about the ‘dangerous’ conditions of China and listening to terrifying stories about the fake medicine, carcinogens in the water, the bird flu, death by street meat, the horrendous weather, getting pickpocketed, and getting our organs harvested (LOL Howard). Luckily, none of the above happened to any of us. All of our wallets and kidneys were out of harm’s reach. Maybe we just happened to have luck by our side. On the other hand, the weather in Shandong was quite unbearable (39 degrees plus humidity). Despite the horrible weather conditions, we decided to all buy fans at Qufu to start a “fan club”. Furthermore, due to the lack of Wi-Fi on the buses, we kept ourselves occupied by spending hours practicing how to open a fan with one hand.
Watching everyone bargain in the local markets was probably the most entertaining part of the trip because none of us were even close to being proficient in Mandarin (Herman and Jesica being the exceptions). As well, the politically incorrect t-shirts were definitely farcical.
Another one of my favourite memories is definitely practicing the song and dance shamelessly in public. At first, it was a little bit awkward, but once we stopped being self-conscious, everyone ended up having lots of fun.
The only thing that wasn’t completely satisfactory was the food on the trip. I don’t think anyone enjoyed the food prepared for us (first world problems). Due to the monotonous food, everyone craved the simplest foods such as ramen (Ajisen) or fast food (KFC, McDonald’s). Luckily, these alternatives were readily available in most of the cities. There was always a Starbucks in the area, which was perfect for tourists like us to get a taste of home (at twice the prices).
During these two weeks, we were all tourists in a foreign country. I guess that being stranded on another continent would either result in some rendition of the Hunger Games or end up creating stronger bonds. Luckily, it was the latter. It was heartwarming to watch our group grow closer and closer as the days passed. The versatility of the group definitely did not hinder its inclusive nature. Although we were all different in terms of our educational backgrounds, our cultural backgrounds (and in turn, similar upbringings) were what brought us closer together.
All in all, I realized that the Game Theory is very applicable to this whole experience. All of us have been through many adventures as a team. Teamwork is a realization that collective collusion leads to higher payout for each individual on average. It became very evident to me that incentivizing teamwork during activities such as biking in Xi’an or climbing the Great Wall boosted all members of the team as a whole.
Here’s a good way to summarize the trip: We went to China as a group and came back as a family.