Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
–Imagine, John Lennon
My trip to Shanghai was a lot more than the places I visited because they were secondary to the people I met and spent time with. I guess I want to start out by saying to those people:
I don’t think you have any idea how much that time meant to me.
I’ve been in China for nine months now and, in all of those nine months, I have spent a maximum of three consecutive days with the same English-speaking people. (Until Shanghai.) Usually, it’s meet-and-go, either I head on my way to somewhere else or they’re passing through Beijing. It’s really very lonely. I had a blast the night I spent in Beijing and met some awesome people, but it was a night and then we were on our ways again. Standing on the platform of the train to Shanghai, it really hit me how temporary my life has been since I got here, and how lonely. Bernard is the only recurring English-speaking person and I’ve only been able to meet up with him twice since we met over the summer and only for a few days. Then I spent a weekend with Pippa. Then the weekend with the Troxell siblings (and Bernard). But that’s been it. It’s sucked.
The week started with another meet-up with Bernard, who left after 2 days, I think? It wasn’t long, he had to get back to work. When I thought about how I would spend the rest of my week in Shanghai, it was sort of depressing. I figured I’d hit some museums, bum around English-speaking places, and mostly pretend I didn’t live in China. What actually happened was way better and way less depressing.
When I checked in to the hostel, I had the great fortune of meeting Lisa, who was checking in at the same time as me and was also staying in the same dorm room. Now, I don’t want to sound superstitious and call it fate, but at the same time if the shoe fits… It was totally fate. We went with Bernard and his new Vishal to get dinner (and Bernard is not allowed to be in charge of anything because we always end up lost) and then the next day, Vishal went to Beijing, Bernard and I got breakfast (I seriously almost wrote brekkie, I hate Bernard and Vishal and all the other Aussies I keep meeting for that), and Lisa slept in. It was, actually, a pretty perfect day. (Except that part where Bernard was in charge and we got lost.) We got bagels for breakfast, went to a great bookstore, went back to the hostel and convinced Dean and Lisa to go to the Science and Technology Museum with us, hit 221b Baker St, and then went back to hang out at the hostel some more. I think this was the same night we met the Spaniards? I’m not trying to say it was fate…. No it totally was. Let’s not even pretend here.
Turned out, Alex and Victor (brothers whose age difference matches me and my bro, except the younger one is literally 17 days younger than me
fate) were staying the same amount of time as Lisa and I was (originally) leaving a couple days earlier than them. I think we may also have met the Swiss guys at this point? My memory was hazy even before we all left because I always felt like we all arrived at the same time fate and were leaving at the same time fate, so there was never a point in my memory that we weren’t all hanging out in the hostel café together.
Over the rest of the trip (a total of 10 days, I think? I ended up changing my train to leave the same day everyone else was leaving), Lisa, Alex, Victor, and I went to Suzhou, Hangzhou, ZhuJiaJiao, and spent some time in Shanghai itself. Lisa and I became instant besties in a way only girls can (my best friend from back home asked “You talked about boobs, boys, and periods?” and the answer was “actually, boobs, boys, and birth control…”) and ended up switching from our 4-bed dorm to a private twin suite together. Over the course of the trip, we got used to “the Bro Show” as we called it, where Alex and Victor would be doing whatever brothers do in Spanish while Lisa and I planned what we did next. At the end of the day, I would hang out in the café with Sandor, Manuel, and Friend (except Dimitri never really hung out and always went to bed, hence me calling him Friend all the time) and whoever else was staying in the hostel at the time.
I honestly couldn’t remember what we did or where we went when I got back to the quiet hostel in Beijing. (There were something like 30 people staying in the hostel when I returned.) It didn’t really matter to me. Usually, I go to a new city armed with a list of restaurants and museums, but this time my list was discarded for the sake of socialization. And I couldn’t have had a better trip. I’m so thankful for social media
and VPNs because it means we don’t have to lose contact with each other as easily as we would have before Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, etc. And since Lisa studies in Beijing, we met up two days after we left Shanghai to go shopping. And we’re planning on meeting up again when she gets back from Japan.
So, again, to those people with whom I spent a fantastic week in Shanghai, thanks. It meant so much to little lonely me that we were such fast friends.
Safe travels, hope to see you all again,