It’s actually hard for me to grasp the fact that I went to China. Traveling to all these other countries is so surreal. But visiting one of my closest friends on the other side of the world was such a fun adventure! It definitely helped my (slight, but still present) homesickness by seeing three friends from home. I flew into Shanghai, where they met me at the airport. We spent three days there, then traveled to Suzhou where my friends lived and taught English for a semester.
The city of Shanghai is impressive, no doubt. Very modern, a lot of skyscrapers and plenty of things to see. The bund was beautiful at night, seeing the lights of the buildings reflected into the water below. We were lucky to stay with a family, who provided us delicious meals and showed us around the city. They definitely made the experience better (and cheaper)! The museum in Shanghai was free, and had so much cool history, including calligraphy, currency, tribal clothing, pottery, jade, and much, much more. Visiting around Christmastime was really magical, because everyone was so cheerful and lights were everywhere! I was surprised how popular Christmas was in an Asian country. The Yen Yuen Garden was also very beautiful, and neat to see something so cultural. I would compare Chinese gardens to Wats in Thailand – cultural, beautiful, and common!
We traveled back to Suzhou by way of church members, so it was luckily free. I really enjoyed my time in Suzhou because it was much slower paced, although still a big-city feel. While there, we rode bikes around the beautiful lake, shopped, visited a garden, took a boat tour (that turned into an all day tour), ate street barbecue, sang karaoke, and had dumplings for lunch. It was a slow paced trip, since my friends still had to teach, but it was a nice getaway.
Although I loved seeing China, there was something I was disappointed about. It lacked a certain cultural charm, as though culture had been lost and replaced with secularization. However, it was definitely fun taking so many pictures with random Chinese people, and getting to learn a few Chinese words. I am excited to return this summer for the ISLP Program and see a whole new world!