Masses of sweaty, anxious, and mildly rude people standing in line had never really appealed to me until now. Everything around me caused awe and wonder: the rows of endless cones that separated the seemingly countless number of people, the brightly colored trashcans that were peppered throughout the grounds, and of course, the many distinctive pavilions of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China.
After waiting in line for the greater part of the day, my family and I finally gained entrance to the Expo’s most popular site – China’s pavilion. It looked like an upside down pyramid, and many just stood in awe before it, wondering how it didn’t just topple over. The inside proved to be as ingeniously designed as the exterior architecture of the building. There were animated paintings featuring China since its beginning and IMAX movies about the progression of culture that brought tears to my eyes. With remnants of China’s long history surrounding me throughout the pavilion, I developed a strong sense of nostalgia. Though I was born in the US, I still have vivid memories about my childhood visits to China – I always looked forward to returning in order to run into my grandfather’s arms again, bike around the crowded shops with my cousin, and taste my grandmother’s delicious cooking. This year was my chance – I’d been craving a freshly steamed bun for a year; I’d missed digging into a densely packed ball of delectable pork wrapped in the soft protection of a flawless white pastry. Now, with that simple piece of heaven sitting delicately in my quivering hands, I savored each bite realizing I could not remember the reason for my anticipation—it tasted exactly like the bao-zi I microwaved at home in America.
This summer marked my eighth trip to China, and in ways such as my realization about the bao-zi, this year’s trip was different from the ones in years past. It was no longer about food, shopping, or watching my favorite Chinese commercials. Perhaps I had matured or gained strengthened observational skills, but I spent a lot of my time discerning the changes in China: in the culture, the lifestyles, and the daily activities. I was still bombarded with a myriad of complex and delicious looking dishes wherever I went; however, I discovered this year that a lot of food had been Americanized. The Chinese ate fried chicken from KFC and drank coffee from Starbucks. I also detected price changes – most restaurants in China were now selling their food for the same amount of money as a filet mignon in America! I no longer experienced the exhilaration of speeding around on a moped because my Aunt, much like the rest of the Chinese population, had traded her moped for a high-tech car. No more complaining about the grimy holes in the ground that used to be presented as restrooms; I was delighted to find bathroom stalls with sparkling clean toilets that flushed and stood off the ground! I also noticed that even in the extreme heat, massive amounts of sunscreen were not required to prevent sunburn; the dense gray pollution that seemingly shrouded China’s major cities apparently blocked the damaging UV sun rays.
From this experience, I intensified my passion for learning about the world, exploring new cultures, and savoring exotic foods. It opened my eyes to observing the differences—and increasing similarities—between cultures. I love to travel for all these reasons and look forward to sharing my experiences with others to perhaps help shape a more global group of people who will embrace differences rather than fear them.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.