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City on Steroids

Sitting here in Hoi An, in the middle of Vietnam, and man, it is hot outside!! This is the first chance I have had to blog about my experience since I began traveling through Asia.  How how did I end up in Asia for the summer? Well, I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah in Parks, Recreation and Tourism and was given the opportunity by my thesis advisor to teach for a month in Shanghai, China, at Shanghai Normal University. My wife and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to see some of southeast Asia as well.

Our trip began in Laos, on May 10, but that feels as if it were months ago, so I am not going to do any blogging about that here. If you are interested in reading an excellent blog on Laos, I would check out I will briefly add that Laos was truly incredible and had some of the most magnificent people, biking and trekking I have ever encountered and been a part of.

So, after Laos, my wife and I flew to Shanghai to begin the teaching experience. While I fully expected the teaching to be a unique experience, I do not think we were fully prepared for the shock that the city was going to give us.

When you finally arrive in the center of Shanghai, it feels as if you have stepped into something out of Total Recall. The buildings have a futuristic vibe that is impossible to describe. Just google the Pearl TV tower in Shanghai for the best example of this.

Beyond this, you also have to be prepared for some minor and major cultural differences. Do you like personal space? Forget about it in Shanghai. For example, getting on the metro (subway) is like being involved in a riot after your favorite team wins the championship. The metro cars feel like an oversold concert moving at incredibly high speeds. Yep, that is what you get when there are 15 million people living in a city.

Did I forget to mention that people like to spit…a lot. People do not try to hide it either. Like an artillery gun, you can hear people spitting from across the road. At first, I thought it was comical, but after watching thousands of people hurl bombs during the course of the day, I stopped laughing.

Then, there is crossing the road. Unlike the good ol’ USA, the pedestrian does not have the right of way, or any rights for that matter. Here is a fairly simple description of crossing the road:

1. I have the green light, all of those cars and buses will stop for me.

2. Okay, they are coming full speed at me, but they have to stop, right?

3. Oh, CRAP!! RUN!

It took awhile to get used to, but I haven’t been run over…yet! We also came into contact for the first time with some of the more well-known oddities of China such as the lack of Youtube and blogging capabilities. You never realize how much you miss some of those things until they are denied to you.

Anyway, it is starting to cool down here a little bit, so it seems like a good time to venture around town. More about the teaching in my next post. Peace!