THE CITY: To me, Shanghai seems like a combination of New York + Vegas + a densely populated area of Asian people. The city is filled with iconic towers, skyscrapers, and endless malls, shops, and restaurants just like New York & Las Vegas. It has also been extremely hot and humid, reminding me of the high temperatures in Vegas, but when we are inside, there always seems to be air conditioning, which makes me think of my experiences in Vegas when navigating between the extremes of the heat outside and the cool air conditioned temperatures inside. The streets are filled with people at all hours of the night and day. The number of bikes, scooters, cars, and taxis have been striking, and even more impressive is watching how they share the streets here.
THE FOOD: There is a wide variety of food, and what has really amazed us all is how cheap it is! Several times we have eaten at nice restaurants where we have been served large portions of food and the bill ends up being only $5-$10 per person.
GETTING AROUND: I am really glad that I brought some good walking shoes. We walk everywhere. I can easily reach 25,000 steps in a day here. This will be very helpful so that I can burn off all the calories I have consumed eating all of the amazing food! I have a feeling that I will forego fashion and style for comfort here, so my normal choice of heels will be pushed aside for my walking shoes.
In the first week, Richard and I have walked, taken the metro, and rode our first Didi (which is the Chinese version of Uber). Our next adventure will involve renting a bike using the Ofo or MoBike apps. There are bikes all over the city that you scan when you want to rent them and pay for them using these apps.
BASIC NEEDS: The staff has done a wonderful job introducing our whole group to Shanghai. In psychology, Maslow’s hierarchy proposes that humans must have our basic needs met before we can be motivated further for development. In the first week, the staff has done an outstanding job making sure that we have our basic needs met, and this has helped us all feel welcome, comfortable and safe as we begin our stay in Shanghai.
In one week, we have:
1) immediately hooked on to the wifi system and gotten SIM cards for our phones,
2) been introduced to local eateries,
3) been shown where the local banks and ATMs are to access money,
4) taken the metro and been introduced to bike apps and the Didi app,
5) gone to the local “Walmart” which is called “Carrefour” to purchase toiletries and groceries
6) visited some local iconic attractions, like the Bund and the Yu Garden,
7) learned about local and international travel,
8) and attended international church (optional).
STAFF: I can’t say enough about the incredible staff. They are warm, kind, friendly, and so helpful. They have set the optimal tone for the beginning of our journey. They have shown us and taught us just enough, and then given us the opportunity and the tools to explore on our own. Each is uniquely gifted with talents – travel, language, classes, networking with locals for us, leadership. Pepperdine is so blessed to have the Shanghai staff!
STUDENTS: The students are amazing. I find that the Shanghai students are unique in that they have intentionally selected an international experience that is different than the “mainstream.” They have chosen to live in an Asian country where the language is particularly challenging, where they will eat with chopsticks the majority of the time, and where various aspects of the culture and travel are extremely foreign to them.
The students have already impressed me with their kindness and thoughtfulness—just yesterday one of our students had a birthday and several students worked together to surprise him with two birthday cakes and a celebration in the Sunshine Room. The students are open to learn, which is key when participating in an international program. They are also personal and easy to talk to – several have approached me to talk about their classes, their faith, and their interests in serving in leadership roles in the program. I have prayed for each of them as we prepared for the trip, and it has been exciting to meet them and begin developing our relationships.