For a week in September 2011, I, with a small group from my high school’s band, went to Shanghai, China. The food, the smells, the class of people on the street and how they interact, were all different than here in the U.S. I saw a few things that I wished were more common in the U.S. but I am glad that most of what I saw is not common.
The trip was mostly funded by a local organization in Shanghai who wanted us to march in a parade. All we had to pay was airfare. Upon arrival at the airport in China, nothing seemed unusual. It was late at night. The city looked busy, and big, on the bus ride to the hotel.
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Upon arriving at the hotel I walked into the room and fell face first on the bed, and felt like I was falling onto stone. Further peculiarities, it was impossible to get an electrical plug (I was using the correct one for the region) to fit and stay in the outlet. Some outlet covers did not even have a hole behind them. Our dinner for the night was the first of the exact same thing that we would get for rest of the trip. The most notable of the food was the teriyaki chicken served with the head and all the bones still attached to the meat. Each piece of chicken was more bone than meat and generally difficult to eat with chopsticks.
All of what I observed the first night was only trivial to what I observed later in the Chinese culture and lifestyle. My main purpose of being there was to march in a parade, and that I did somewhere near the middle of the trip. The only audience I saw along the parade rout was of the upper class. The entire parade route was down a street with modern or, at least, well-kept buildings. The staging area and the area where we exited were rundown and probably did not have electricity half the time. The electric poles looked like a stick with 50 or more tangled headphone cords of wire on top.
When we were not performing, we were taking tours around the city. When the tour guide made a reference to the lower classes, they were called the common people. The common people’s only way to buy fruits and vegetables was through a local farmers market. All of the fruits and vegetables, for every vender, were piled atop of a rug that was no cleaner than the ground the rug itself was on. All of this happened in a neighborhood where the shutters on the windows were mostly in pieces, all of the buildings were unpainted and blackened with dirt. The electric wires were in the same condition as was observed in the parade staging area.
At the time I saw the market, we were all headed to a Buddhist temple. The temple itself was well kept, but the outside was lined with beggars and homeless. The beggars lining the edge of the temple were disabled, diseased and deformed. Some had no legs and were sitting on carts. Others had their young sons with huge knots on the back of their head. Not a single one of them had any money in the cups that they were holding with them. Walking in to the temple, I saw well dressed people burning two/three bags of money per family and a couple tons of jade. There is more to say about China. I wish I could continue, but there’re restrictions that I must follow.
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