For those of you who have been following the adventures of the MIXLY team in Shanghai, Pack Your Bags contest winner Ryan Bunma and MIXLY correspondent Tarik Ross Jr., we’re pleased to announce that both young men have returned from their trip abroad safe, sound, and excited to share their adventures with us and our readers. Today we’re excited to be able to publish Tarik and Ryan’s first reports of their time in Shanghai. Check out their reflections, and stay tuned for more, as well as the Pack Your Bags video series, which will chronicle the week Tarik and Ryan spent in China!
A Stranger Caught In a More Strange Place
By Ryan Bunma
It’s three o’clock in the morning, and I am still awake, turning my thoughts over on my short tour of Shanghai. Even now, a part of me still wanders the streets of a world foreign, familiar, and at once fabricated as thousands of miles away from both mind and matter. It was akin to a morning haze, a dream-like state that I was in this country. It spoke to me in Mandarin – you would not believe how beautiful it sounded – and I replied as best I could for a stranger caught in a more strange place. But these sprawling metropolitan landscapes and steel vistas were very much alive well before I set foot. The people of Shanghai were going about their business and everyday lives, and they will carry on just as well without. The very concrete ideas that built the city and all of its facets make up the cogs of a system I had often heard, but never acknowledged. But I was able to experience Shanghai, if only for a week, and only as a visitor.
Given this opportunity from both MMXLII and FansTang, I did not let the time pass idly by. But three guys – Tarik, myself, and Gabil – armed with DSLR cameras and an urgency of adventure could cover a vast amount of the city. To have taken in everything would have been impossible with what little time we had there. None of us had been to China before, but we all had our own take on it before going in. Though being in China was a cultural change, there were many visible marks of Shanghai’s westernization, where global brands from Starbucks and McDonalds to Godiva and Gucci had taken root – there were even 7-elevens around a few corners. Between the assimilation of China and the Western world, Shanghai stands as a beacon for both to learn from one another.
In Shanghai, there was always something to do or see – even something as simple as walking out on the town after hours. To gain an understanding of a new environment, one should make the effort to take part in its way of living. If there was a chance to speak a little Mandarin, I would make small talk with whomever was willing. If there was something new to eat, I would try it. If there was a street to go down, I would take the time to look around and see what was there. The days were hot and humid, the hours would lengthen in our heads, and I spent my time treating every day as two, forgetting about the world that awaited me back at home.
With this trip taking place right before I head off to college, I felt very lucky that I could have these two new experiences occur back-to-back. I started my freshman year of college at California State University at Long Beach just one week upon my return to America. Although being in college is overwhelming, my plan is to continue learning more about Chinese culture and practicing Mandarin. I also have plans to return to the Central Kingdom, and to find myself lost in its streets once more.
I’d like to thank MMXLII and FansTang for giving me the chance to go on this trip. It’s been a great experience!
My trip to Shanghai: The Call
By Tarik Ross Jr.
One day while on campus I received the phone call that I now refer to as a “pre” turning point in my life. It has always been a dream of mine to travel to different parts of the world, but I wouldn’t have guessed it would begin so soon. The opportunity was for me to travel across the world to Shanghai, China, one of the few places I never would have imagined myself, a 6’4” African-American male, visiting.
I was really skeptical at first; I thought to myself, what am I going to eat? I’m already a picky eater in America! How will I be treated? How many black faces have they seen? Do I have to stay the full 6 days? Am I going to enjoy this trip? How will I adapt to a new environment, halfway around the world?
After the 6-day, 5-night trip to a foreign country, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I learned a lot about myself. The trip was packed with many different experiences that have challenged my perspective (and eating habits) on culture, diversity, and interpersonal communication.
Now that I’m back in the states my experiences are starting to sink in more and more each day as I reflect on my time spent in China.
I look forward to sharing more about my trip with MMXLII. Stay tuned…
Thanks to Ryan and Tarik for these awesome contributions! Photo from Eat Love Savor.