Friday, February 19, 2010

Shanghai

I’d like to preface this blog post with a PSA… Please do not support the Shanghai Zoo. But more about that later

We arrived in Shanghai early Thursday morning and I was right off the boat onto my Field Directed Practica with my US-Sino relations professor, John Israel, Shen Dingli and class. Shanghai Interaction as the trip was called consisted of a visit to Fudan Universities Center for American Studies. We met with Professor Li, who sat as a director of the ministry of education. He spoke to us about the importance of American Students studying in China. After that we had a boxed lunch at a local dim sum spot, where one of my friends had an allergic reaction to some shellfish. After 5 minutes of being excused I suggested someone follow her and make sure of her safety. 3 minutes later they both came out of the restroom one holding her finger in pain and the other frantically hurried. An epipen incident gone wrong! She had to go back to the ship; I observed that the Chinese sense of urgency is dangerously logy. I’ll shallow your shock in indicating at this point that she is fine. Hen Bao – or very full at this point- we went over to the French side of Shanghai were we had drinks at the Maison Bar, we were delighted in conversation from a Vietnamese UVA student who was studying in Shanghai and her experiences. Thereafter we had a traditional Shanghanese meal. I don’t remember everything we ate but, boy, we ate. Soup dumplings, Shrimp, tofu and more. That night we returned to the ship and a couple friends and I went out looking for a place to hangout and eventually found a nice hole in the wall bar where some SASers had frequented that day. A couple of beers, peanuts and popcorn a game of pool proved for a perfect way to end the night. We literally made our mark on the bar by signing our names on the walls – as was tradition.

The next day a group of us went to a Chinese acrobat show which was amazing. I cannot articulate how cool it was. After that the night transformed into a night filled with dancing at Chinese Clubs (M2), fistfuls of Yuan and broken Chinese proved to be the highlight of the Shanghai port. Outside of the FamilyMart we met Chinese students who we couldn’t communicate with so luckily we hailed down a Frenchmen and my French, Chinese and Diplomatic skills came into play.

Our last day in Shanghai, I awoke wanting badly to go to the museum. Never made it. Instead we went to the dreadful Shanghai Zoo. A place where you can examine either side of the glass and must question who the animal really is. We saw people feeding the Boars potato chips, the elks had no water to drink, we saw peacocks who were being man handled for the sake of pictures. The most disturbing of all was the manned wolf that was confined to A 30 square foot cement viewing box who stalked back in forth in its own urine. We saw people throw bottles and balled up pieces of paper at lions and tigers to warrant a roar. I’m going to cut further observations of the Zoo short because I am sure you get the picture.


After we left the zoo, a humbled group of us divided. Some went to the ship and the other half, Wal-Mart. I picked up some things and Now we are headed to Hong Kong.
















Monday, February 15, 2010

Japan










After disembarking and clearing customs with my lovable roommate, I decided to venture into the first 9 blocks of Yokohama. I took out about 20000 yen then headed to the silk shopping center to see how warm the Totos were in Yokohama. Final verdict, not very. I found a neat Little America vintage and antique shop where I came across prized treasures from Americas "golden" age, the 50s. Chevron mechanic shirts, circa 59 varsity jackets and beloved fonzi magnets. I even peeped some Michael Jordan valentine’s day cards and a host of big boy statues. I was about to buy a government license plate from Guam until I was quickly reminded about japans sheer love for over pricing, so I shyed away from the 8000 yen price tag. After mulling through more junk I returned to the Yokohama international passenger terminal and decided to call my friend Nobihiro.

Nobby, as he was affectionately known as, was an exchange student at Morehouse during my freshman year, staying only
4 rooms away. Nobby had an affinity for djing and cultural understanding. I literally waited 45 minutes for a Spanish speaking women to get off of the phone, to which I was sure she called Chile. I stormed off into Yokohama impatiently and eventually found myself nestled in a cozy pub called "CJs". The lone person in the bar, who I assumed to be CJ, was kind enough to let me call Nobby, who was 20 minutes away via JR Rail. I decided to reward CJ with my patronage. Unfortunately, my request for hot sake found me with a scoop of pretzels and a pour of lager. 30 minutes later I met up with Nobby and his two really cool friends Shiho and Keenan. After becoming acquainted with Keenan, a pharmacy student at Xavier and Shiho a current student in Japan we went to Chinatown for an all you can eat and saw a rat. Kennan freaked out while the rest of us kept it moving. LOL. We ate a lot of shrimp, visited the beautiful Yashaita Park and took the subway to Shibuya and Harajuku. In Shibuya we had amazing sweet crepes and relaxed on the street while fellow SASers stumbled through the streets like true tourists. Later on we ate at a Jamaican restaurant in Harajuku. Thereafter after deciding against going to the Ice Bar we went to Roppongi and hung out at a bar with some SASers. The night was great and I went back to the ship that night.
The highlight of Japan was meeting Virginia Anami, The wife of the Japanese ambassador to China. She is a writer, photographer, and historian. She has recently written her 3rd book about the ancient trees and elements of Japanese society. Interestingly enough her focus was in China but became entrenched in Japanese culture, especially after marrying her Japanese-nationalist husband. After she found out I attended Morehouse, she was ecstatic because she started the Japanese Studies program at Spelman. She even exclaimed that I was her student –indirectly. She showed us around her quaint Tokyo suburb and made rice balls, inari and other Japanese delacacies and other students and I sat in her home and discussion Sino-japanese relations. Interestingly enough, her growing up in New Orleans added a lot to her hospitable and likeable nature. She is American but became a Japanese citizen before marrying her husband.
The next day we sailed to Kobe. Kobe was insane. Kobe Steak with some of my friends was an amazing experience. It was definitely worth the 8300 Yen. The night moved into partying at “2nd Chance”
Jordan, Amira and I got Okonamiyaki (a type of pancake pizza originated in Osaka) the next day in Kobe and walked around the shops in Chinatown.

All in all the visit to japan was phenomenal