Where Past, Present, and Future collide
Trip Start Oct 04, 2005
62Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
My first instinct was to compare it to Bangkok, but pretty soon I realized that though they are both cities of the future where people come from all over their respective countries to find opportunity and modern adventure, they felt completely different. As Mom and I explored the French Concession, the Fake Market, the Bund, and the Old City, time seemed to fastforward, rewind, and stand still all at once. There we were walking the very streets that Papa had walked seventy years before, chatting about travelling adventures and the news/gossip of home. One day, while looking out at the futuristic buildings that now dominate the skyline across the river from the Bund, we were approached by some Chinese students. The first was Chris, an art and english student from the countryside who had come to Shanghai with her university in order to put up an art show. She told us all about the history of the city and her desire to be a tour guide someday. She showed us her incredibly well-crafted artwork and asked about life in the States. Then, as we stood looking out on the city, this time contemplating the hopeful exhuberance of Chris instead of the new age buildings, Bonny and a friend approached us. These two, just as friendly and excited as Chris, were students eager to practice their english and learn more about the western world. They showed us their book of english phrases, asked about movies and religion. We asked them about school and where they were from, the impending Beijing Olympics that had the whole country bustling with preparation. Even as we were engrossed in conversation with the students, Mom and I both knew that these exchanges, both cultural and personal, were something special.
As we wandered the back alleys of Shanghai, ate in beautifully deocrated old Shanghainese restaurants, and took in a mesmerizing acrobatics show, I think that in the back of our minds both Mom and I were still replaying our day on the Bund with the students. Talking about it later, we both agreed that our conversation with Chris and Bonny were the highlights of our time in Shanghai. Here we had come to reconnect with our family past, to see with our own eyes the city that had so captured our imaginations after years of Papa's stories. We had come to meet each other in a celebration of the present, to see each other after seven months. And we did experience those things. But neither of us will remember Shanghai as a city of the past or present. For both of us, Shanghai is a city of the future, not only because of the oddly shaped buildings scraping the sky, but because of the Chinese students so smart and so eager to become a part of the world. And as they enter the global sphere with their exhuberance, fresh ideas, and determination, I have no doubt that the world will change, for in them I saw the future. And who knows, maybe someday my granddaughter will be walking along the mall in a DC that bears no resemblance to the one I know now, and will have a similar experience of time colliding...