After flying from Seoul into Shanghai, I made my way via Maglev & metro all the way to the Hongqiao railway station and onward to Changzhou…
After an hour on high-speed train, I arrived in my former China home –Changzhou! for the first time since I left almost 3 years ago. I was met at the train station by my former host brother & host dad, and it really felt crazy to be back. Although they had moved houses since I lived with them from 2014-15, they still hosted me while I was there visiting in their new neighborhood, not far from where we lived before. I rested for a little while, then we all went to a big family dinner with the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins I had met before. Dinner was very traditional Chinese-style, with lots of yummy things from the Jiangnan region like fish & shrimp. It was nice to see everyone again, although I still couldn’t understand their Changzhou dialect!
The next day, I went with my host brother & cousin to an amusement park called Joyland, about one hour from Changzhou. Since it was a work day, there weren’t too many people there, which meant no lines for all the rides & games we did. After a full morning there, we came back to Changzhou, and I went to explore some of the places we hung out at during my NSLI-Y / AFS year, like Injoy shopping center, the Changzhou city wall & canal, and comb lane. Much was exactly as I remembered it from before, which brought back a lot of happy and funny memories. I also met up with some of the current NSLI-Y / AFSers for some milk tea, before my host parents took me to the train station to catch my train to Shanghai just in time!
Once in Shanghai, I took the metro to my friend Hanna’s apartment near Fudan University, where she’s studying this semester, and we had a late but nice dinner near there and relaxed a bit back at home. Then we met Johan & Kevin, two of my Danish friends for a beer nearby before going to Kartel in Jing’an for rooftop views and chill vibes. After Kartel, we walked all over Jing’an looking for a 7-11, but ended up stopping at White Castle & Family Mart near W. Nanjing Rd. Wandering around that area brought back great memories from my summer in Shanghai, and it felt nice to be back.
The next day, Hanna & I went with a few of her roommates to find the Shanghai History Museum. At first, we thought it was near Lujiazui, so we ended up walking around the Pearl Tower and even stumbling upon an Indonesian Festival, before eventually making our way to our intended museum near People’s Park. The museum itself was pretty nice and well organized, and I brushed up on my Chinese history, from a Shanghai point of view. The museum also had a little rooftop with nice views. Nearby, then even had a modern art pop-up in the form of a music box with a DJ inside. After the museum, we stopped by Gil Wonton to eat something, then went back home to get ready for the evening. Since it happened to be Cinco de Mayo, we decided to go to a very American bar in Jing’an I used to go to all the time last summer to celebrate with lots of margs, nachos, & quesadillas, and festive decor. After, we met Johan & Kevin at a bar called Ellen’s, then ended the night at Le Baron.
The next morning, Hanna & I went for a delicious Sunday brunch at Liquid Laundry near S. Shaanxi Rd. We ate so much, but I was so happy for good food. From there, we walked through one of my favorite areas of Shanghai, under green trees & stunning architecture, to go to the Propaganda Museum, which had so many propaganda posters from modern Chinese history. Hanna & I both thought the museum was really interesting, and a unique perspective from which to learn about China. The gift shop was also really cool, with original posters for sale, and even North Korean propaganda magazines. We walked around the area a little more, then went home for a nap. For dinner, we went to eat Jiangnan style dimsum — aka xiaolongbao & sesame noodles. So good! Then we went to E. Nanjing Rd., did a little unsuccessful shopping, and met Johan & Kevin at Bar Rouge for nighttime views of the Bund. Since Bar Rouge is pretty expensive, we left after a few photos, got some beers at Family Mart, and strolled along the Bund, which is one of my favorite things to do in Shanghai on a nice night. It was honestly such an enjoyable evening, and I took it all in, knowing it’s my last time in Shanghai for the foreseeable future.
In the morning, Hanna went to class & I packed my things, and met her for our last lunch together at a Yunnan restaurant. I had some time to kill before going to Hongqiao to get my train to Beijing, so I chilled at a nice cafe nearby for awhile, and reflected on my recent travels in one of my favorite regions in China. All in all, it felt very nostalgic to be back. I was flooded with memories of my past year in CZ & my recent summer in SH; however, it was still very much a different experience, being here with different friends. I was really happy to be able to hang out with both Hanna & my Danish friends, whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time.