July 1, 2014
By Jeff Levine and Ethan Levin
Wednesday was the second-to-last class, and after the presentations of the Shanghai margins project, we realized we only have one more day of lecture upon us. The end was coming up fast. Along with this end was our final project – it was a marathon of a week! The freedom afforded to us in the prompt of this last project was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because we could talk about anything within the realm of globalization; a curse, because the vague parameters caused some soul searching among the GEA participants: What was the most relevant of topics that we should discuss for this last thesis? We spent much of the rest of the day attempting to figure out what it is that we should be talking about.
On Friday morning, we had our final class. It was a bittersweet moment. On one hand, we were excited to be done with the marathon week of presentations and be finished with work; while on the other hand, it would be the last time we would be meeting to watch and root each other on. We’ve come a long way from where we started. We have a clearer understanding now of just how unclear the word “globalization” can be, and can better examine the complexities that revolve around it – especially when it comes to China.
After class, we had some afternoon free time to explore, nap, or do whatever before the banquet. We decided to take the opportunity to go visit the Shanghai Science and Tech Museum – conveniently a stop along the subway lines (a subject on which, by now, we’ve become experts). We’ve already explored the incredible shopping center underneath; however, we (embarrassingly) had yet to check out the actual museum. We were glad we did. The museum was incredible. Each floor housed a few different exhibits, each one emphasizing intimate interaction and participation. The first floor, my favorite, featured a recreation of the Yunan Rainforest. It was an elaborate array of (fake) animals and plants, complete with bamboo bridges, waterfalls, and caves – plus even more exhibits within the exhibit, devoted to insects, birds, molecular studies, and more. This was only the beginning, though it had the greatest impact. The other floors featured body and health, the universe, information technology, and robotics.
After the museum, we got back with just enough time to prepare for the banquet. After a 40-minute taxi ride, as well as some sleuthing for the right building, we arrived at the restaurant. The banquet was course after course of delish food, such as fish, egg rolls, cabbage, duck, tofu, and more. Our stomachs were long satiated before the waiters (or fúwùyuán) stopped coming. Just writing about it now makes me hungry again! While the food was superb, there was, yet again, a bittersweet mood to the dinner. We were all so happy to be feasting on this deliciousness together, but we all knew that this would most likely be the last time we were all together (already one of our comrades had left us, shout out to you Steven!). We concluded the night with one final tour around the neighborhood.
The next day, our last full day in Shanghai, we began with an outing to People’s Square. We stopped by a local fried dumpling (shēngjiān) shop, and enjoyed the slightly rainy, yet comfortable, weather. From there, we went to the marriage market in the Square itself. The marriage market is, as the name implies, a weekly ordeal whereby parents will sit outside with a flyer of their child, trying to set their son or daughter on a date with someone suitable. Someone in our group aptly noted that it was almost a “real-life” version of online dating, and we joked about whether our parents would do the same for us.
After the marriage market, the group split up. One group went to the nearby Urban Planning Museum. The museum showcased the development of Shanghai, from its origins as a small fishing village, to its current status as a global metropolitan. It was fascinating to see pictures side-by-side of Shanghai now compared to 100 – and sometimes, even just 50 – years ago. The growth of the city is remarkable. It was the second floor, however, that took our breaths away. Filling up almost the entire area was a giant model of the entire city. Every road and building was accounted for. Additionally, it recreated a 24-hr cycle every 10 or so minutes, so that you were able to see the city in broad “daylight,” as well as its glory when lit up at night. Being able to spot places on the model where we had been, including the Bund, the museums, the Pearl Tower, the French Concession – it gave us a new perspective and a better idea as to just how enormous Shanghai is.
Everyone eventually met back up at Tianzifang, to get a late night snack. To cap off the night, a few members of the program stayed up to watch the Argentina-Iran World Cup game! Everyone was off to sleep before the Ghana-Germany game though.
By the time Sunday rolled around, a melancholy mood had filled the Qinyun Hotel. Only five people were taking the standard flight home, while the rest were going to Beijing, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or elsewhere in the United States. Yet, perhaps it is telling of the program’s impact that everyone was so sad to depart – not just from Shanghai, but also from each other. We had each grown incredibly close during our month of bus rides, train trips, and flights across China and the world. One month seemed like years, in the best of ways. Shanghai had grown on us, and whenever we were away from the city, we always referred to it as “home.”
The authors of this blog post would like to personally thank everyone on this trip, from our fellow students, to Carlos and Professor Sheehan, to the multiple tour guides (especially Anne), for providing an experience that has taught us more about ourselves than we could even imagine. We’ve been pushed to the limits (or, “margins”), both internally and externally, and have grown as a result. 大家加油！