Don't worry everyone I am still alive! And I apologize for the break in communication, I have just been moving way to fast to find time to blog and have had limited access to the internet. I don't even know where to begin to describe the past week and a half of my life, I could begin with the World Expo (which probably deserves 3 or 4 blog posts itself), or my day of bartering in the Chinese black market, or my visit to Hiroshima and Peace Park, but I think chronological order will be the best.
Upon entering Shanghai, which could easily be mistaken for Manhattan if it were not for the hundreds of Chinese people bustling through the streets on foot and on bikes. Much of the architecture imitated that of the western world when it developed in the 20th century. Once you get used to the smell and constantly dodging traffic, it is quite a nice city! But seriously, the first night we explored we found "the Bund" on the riverfront and caught of first glimpse of city lights which are complimented with ferry lights from the river below. We made sure we got back to our hotel early enough for a good night of sleep as we knew what the next day had in store, the Expo.
Bright and early, we were shuttled through Shanghai to the Expo site. We caught our first glimpse of pavilions from the bus which peaked my excitement level as I knew I was about to enter the event I had been awaiting for the past 6 months(It was only after watching an Expo promotion video last November that I decided I was going to Study Abroad at any cost). We were told by the tour guide that that we must stay as close as "sticky rice" while trying to get through the massive crowds of people and make sure no other Expo-goers snuck into our group, which the tickets were already paid for. Once through security, we hopped on an Expo shuttle which took us directly to the Chinese pavilion, where we would be expedited past the line, another perk of attending as an American University. The Chinese pavilion was incredible, and could be compared to riding the Millennium Force first at Cedar Point before any of the other rides (which make the rest seem like carnival rides). As the host of the Expo, the Chinese made sure their Pavilion was a prime example of the Expo theme, "Better City, Better Life". From visual simulations of new green building practices, to the artwork of young children, the Chinese pavilion stood out among the rest, not to mention physically as it was one of the largest pavilions.
The Chinese Pavilion:
After this great start we spent the majority of our time in the Expo's "Theme Pavilions", which address different topics of city life and development, any urban planners dream. I felt as though I had arrived at Mecca of the profession of Urban Planning. These pavilions were everything I could have hoped for and more, I will be returning the the US with a new fire for planning lit inside me, and I am very excited to see how it burns. Thought we spent much time following our planning interest, we did not forget about the other Country Pavilions. We were even V.I.P. at the USA pavilion, where I watched my Professor, Dr. Wilson, deliver a lecture on Expo History to the pavilion staff and student ambassadors in a back room in the pavilion. We then walked through the pavilion which featured two videos, one involving stars such as Kobe Bryant and Tony Hawk struggling to say hello in Chinese along with regular citizens who encounter the same issues. The other portrayed a community creating a garden despite adverse circumstances. After the movies we shuffled into the main room which was lined with the US pavilion investor exhibitions and advertisements, many of which I already see too much of. I was very impressed with other countries, such as Chile, Canada, and Poland, which brought across much of their culture and city life in beautiful ways.
Apart from the Expo action we spent some time sightseeing in Shanghai. We began with a Buddhist temple, then did some haggling in the market, and finished off the day with a tea ceremony on a high balcony overlooking the city, the view was incredible. After being brought upstairs by a man at the market, we tasted 7 or 8 different types of tea, some which served as herbal cures for things such as hangovers or colds. It was a unique experience that I am thankful I will be coming home with. We finished our last night in Shanghai with a nice meal that we were treated to by the parents of a Chinese student on our trip, we have continued to be blessed in so many ways.
Rooftop view of Shanghai:
After another long day of traveling we arrived in our final Country, the Land of the Rising Sun. I have spent the last few days in Japan exploring Osaka, where we are staying at the moment, and riding the high speed rail to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nara, trips that would not even be possible for us to make in the US. Hopefully soon we will jump on the regional rail bandwagon. Hiroshima was quite an experience for me, and a real eye opener. I couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable walking through the Museum that portrays the horrific things that occurred because of my Country. However, I think that it is even more beautiful that the descendants of that awful time can walk next to each other, in light of these events, at peace. Hiroshima really has risen from the ashes like a phoenix lighting the road to Peace.
Tonight I prepare (or should be preparing instead of blogging) to leave for our final destination tomorrow morning, Tokyo. As we will only be spending only two days in what should prove to be one of the greatest cities I will ever see, this will be my last post for the trip. I will be meeting up with another professor in Tokyo, Schun Hagiwara, who taught a class Fall semester which also played a role in my decision to Study Abroad. I am looking forward to it greatly and hope to try and thank him for whatever influence he has on my decision to study abroad. I also hope that those who read this have been able to feel some of the things I was experiencing as each city has come and gone on this trip. The time has flown, the expo has passed, and it is almost time for me to return to my usual life, but I will not return the same. These experiences will stay with me and I don't doubt will greatly influence my studies in planning and perspective on life. I would like to conclude with a quote from the book The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck,
"The biggest challenge of map-making is not that we have to start from scratch, but that if our maps are to be accurate we have to continually revise them. The world itself is constantly changing. Glaciers come, glaciers go. Cultures come, cultures go. There is too little technology, there is too much technology. Even more dramatically, the vantage point from which we view the world is constantly and quite rapidly changing."
My map has been revised.