March 19, 2013, by Katie Angus
Shanghai is a compelling city. The colourful streets are bustling with street sellers, fruit shops, market stalls and dumpling stands wherever you look and whether it is dawn or dusk it seems the whole city is streaming with shoppers, workers, tourists and locals. It would be a lie to say Shanghai comes alive at night simply because there doesn’t seem to be a single minute when it is in any way at rest. However, it is undeniably at night -when the lights of the Pudong financial district begin to frame the tall outlines of the skyscrapers against the black of the sky- that the exciting potential of Shanghai shines brightest. I spent a weekend in the city; a few weeks back now, and have decided that I’ll have to visit at least once per month. Speaking to other Internationals it seems that Shanghai always has that affect upon students visiting from Ningbo. The trip from Ningbo to Shanghai (which you can do either by train or by coach) takes approximately three hours and cost me 250 RMB, which equals around £25 –but it can be even cheaper when you opt for the coach and not the train. Hostels are also cheap and good quality and knowing the hostel’s address in Chinese characters –or that of any place you want to visit, means that getting around in taxis is easy and the language barrier does not pose much of a problem.
They say that after a week Shanghai gets pretty boring but the advantage in visiting during the weekends means that you can fill up all your time doing all the things Shanghai has to offer. The fake markets are fantastic places for brushing up on bartering skills –bartering is incredibly fun and difficult and I’m told, a skill which improves with practice (the Chinese sellers are absolutely pro, so you probably will get fleeced in the first few attempts!). Century Park is also a great place to get involved with Chinese culture and get a bit of exercise at the same time, renting three-seat tandem bikes, riding around a lake is hard work but great fun, with Chinese laughing at the unusual sight of a bunch of Westerners wobbling past.
Back in Ningbo, the buddy system group organised a Chinese culture evening, with traditional Chinese music, dress and calligraphy sessions. I never realised how difficult, nor how complex the process of training undertaken in order to be able to write Chinese calligraphy properly. The art is a very relaxing and fun one, not knowing Chinese characters made the process harder, inevitably, yet if anything, I can say I appreciate the art more now than ever. We’ve also got a Spring Ball coming up at the end of this month and for it, I’ve got to dance. I learnt a very simple Waltz when I studied abroad in Austria last summer, but with a lot of others, and not to demonstrate my skills in any way! It’s a little strange when I think I’m learning Viennese Waltzes…in China…but its pretty fun, hard work, but a good skill to have!
Currently the school of English are hosting public lectures delivered by international writers, the lectures are events of The New York Times BLF Literary Caravan 2013, which is part of the Bookworm International Literary Festival (BLF) 2013 (for more info http://www.nottingham.edu.cn/en/events/the-bookworm.aspx) . Tonight Justin Hill, an acclaimed novelist, travel writer, essayist and poet spoke on his influences and work. He is offering a creative writing session tomorrow which I am attending and looking forward to!
Assignments are starting to be handed out and work is getting a little more intensive –no Easter holidays for us! But with the weather warming up, unlike the UK, there are advantages to being over here instead, although the lack of Easter eggs is not one of them…