Two and a half life changing weeks.
Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, Zhouzhuang.
Richard, Oscar, Jessica, Cheryl, Self, Shelly, Ken, Julan, Irene, and Vivian.
If only I was still there.
Where? China, the country where my grandmother had taught a short course each year for five years. I boarded three planes for a total of 20 hours of air time to visit my grandmother. I had visited China before, in the fall of 2005. At that time, I was only 11. Now, as an 18 year old, my perspective through which I saw China and everything within was different. I was older and more mature, but also more interested in connecting with others and different cultures.
Shanghai was my most favorite–the lights, the people, and the sights. I rode overcrowded buses, subway trains during rush hour, taxis with very assertive drives, and walked. A lot. I admired the city lights of Pudong, the new section of Shanghai. I walked under the faint street lights of the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. I talked to college students. I met Cheryl, a student of my grandmother's who applied to Cornell University, the school where I will attend this fall of 2012. I went to a Chinese Christmas party at the University's German Culture Center. I held a New Year's Party at the University's American Culture Center, at which I spent the whole evening talking to six lovely students interested in America. I went to eat hot pot with Oscar and Jessica, two more students at the University who were close to my grandmother. I smiled, laughed, and communicated with Chinese people–past the language barrier, past the cultural barrier.
In Suzhou, I met my "Chinese Uncle," Richard. He had been a student of my grandmother's earlier in her exchange teaching years, and now considers her to be his "American Mom." Richard is a kind man who led my family and I around Suzhou and Zhouzhuang. He haggled with shopkeepers, caught taxis, and ordered way too much food for us. On our last night in Suzhou, Richard and I had a joint birthday celebration with a traditional Chinese cake. He opened his gifts from us, and was very appreciative of them. The next morning, as we were leaving the hotel, the hotel desk staff handed me a bag. Within the bag was a necklace and four figurines, a birthday present from Richard. We were sad to leave him.
Beijing was nice as well. There, we spent Christmas Eve and Day. My mother and I sang Christmas carols while walking down the street. We visited the zoo, Tian'amen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. Here, I learned more about the history of China.
But I cannot forget my time in Shanghai. My heart yearns to go back, to see my friends again. Even though I only spent that one evening with Julan, Self, Shelly, Irene, Vivian, and Ken at the New Year's Party, it was sad to leave them. Such a fun and wonderful night ended with sad hugs and hesitant good byes. I left home to come home, as China became my home. It became my way of life. I learned so much from the people there. I learned to adapt, to accept, and to love others no matter what.
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.