Winter Term 2014: Free Day

Today, Jan. 11, we had the morning off and had a unique opportunity to explore the city without the structure of a tour guide and bus. Walking through The People’s Park, which was a large park directly across from our hotel, we saw glimpses of everyday life in Shanghai. From elderly women practicing Tai Chi to young persons waiting in line to see the Shanghai Art Museum, it was amazing to see the city out and about and experience life directly, rather than simply through the confinement of a vehicle and the lens of a tour guide.

After finishing our stroll through the park, we cut over to a side street and took in the sights from the local vendors who had set up shop. Whether it was shrimp flavored potato chips, pickled chicken’s feet, or children’s jumpers, the street vendors possessed a wide range of unfamiliar and intriguing wares. Among those shops most fascinating to my group was small bakery specializing in something they described to us as an “egg custard.” They were small pastries that resembled sugary quiches and, as we discovered later, had been imported to China from Portugal. We each sampled one and discovered, much to our delight, that they were delicious. If you ever find yourself in Shanghai, I would highly recommend trying one!

After our successful pastry endeavor, we were feeling brave and a few of us decided to partake in a more traditional Shanghai street, the steamed dumpling. With a soft, doughy outside and a decidedly “strange, tofu-y” inside, there was a divergence of opinion over whether or not the dumplings had been worth the Yuan we paid for them. Regardless of our personal tastes, it was an entertaining experience and a valuable opportunity to step outside our palate’s standard comfort zone.

Speaking of comfort zones, after our free morning, we were summoned to the lobby of our hotel to participate in what I can now only describe as the most intense scavenger hunt I’ve ever participated in. We were split into teams and tasked with the responsibility of traveling around Shanghai with a lengthy list of activities, questions to answer, and pictures to take. Even with the most detailed of travel instructions, my team managed to get lost several times and was never quite able to finish. We ultimately decided to cut our losses at the end of the afternoon and caught a taxi back to the hotel to meet with the other, more successful teams.

More than just simply completing the tasks on the list, however, the scavenger hunt was designed to challenge us to step outside our comfort zones and utilize our cross-cultural communication skills. Even though we got lost, we worked hard as a team to problem solve and glean as much from the experience as we could. We saw many things today that we may not have ever seen otherwise and for this I am truly thankful.

I now leave you with a sample of the list of pictures we had to take as a part of our scavenger hunt. To put it into perspective, this was the easiest part of the activity and every item was found easily during the course of the afternoon.

  1. A dog in clothes
  2. A grown person wearing pajamas
  3. A stone lion
  4. A person wearing glasses frames
  5. A small child in “split pants”
  6. 5 different colors of underwear hanging from a line
  7. A squid on a stick
  8. A man carrying things on a cart

Written by: Caitlin Cutchin

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