Monthly Archives: March 2012

In Transit

I’m sitting in the Vancouver, BC airport.  It is 6:22am, Tuesday in Shanghai, and 3:22pm, Monday in Vancouver.

I woke up over 22 hours ago, stressing, worked up, anxious.  Got everything packed and ready to go.  Had an amazing lunch with a couple good friends and then had a lovely, relaxing, just what I needed, 60 minute massage, before leaving for the airport. (I think I need another one post flight!)

My flight was good, despite only getting about an hour of broken-up, interrupted, uncomfortable sleep, the 10.5 hours went by fairly quickly.

As my plane took off from Shanghai, I was full of emotions.  A mix of emotions.  A season of my life is ending, my life in China.  It was an amazing adventure, an unforgettable 14 months.  I enjoyed life to the fullest, I made connections and friends that I will never forget, I saw so much, learned so much, grew so much.  I’m sad to leave it behind, but I’m excited for the new adventures awaiting me.  I’m anxious to see what is next, where life will take me, all of the new things that are in store.

I felt it was appropriate to update the world on my life from the Vancouver Airport, I do have a history of blogging from this airport.  Normally, it is on my way TO China though, and I’m much more awake and coherent.  One year, two months and nine days ago, I sat in the Vancouver airport awaiting a flight to Hong Kong before my China adventure began, I had just learned of my grandfather’s passing minutes before getting on the plane from Portland to Vancouver and I wrote: Saying Goodbye.  Eight months and nine days ago was the last time I was in North America, as I awaited my flight out of Vancouver, I reminisced on the beauty of my sister’s wedding and my quick two weeks at home in And I’m Out.

Transitions… that is what airports are all about, right?  We think we just transfer from country to country, city to city, gate to gate, plane to plane, but really, we are transferring, transitioning from one journey to the next, one adventure to another. As one chapter of our lives ends another begins, and we find ourselves flying in a new direction, looking towards the horizon, wondering what awaits.

Just don’t forget, there may be long layovers, there may be delays (like my flight outta here), sometimes you may lose your luggage (or your mind) but enjoy the journey – cause sometimes it isn’t all about the destination.

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Shanghai Aquarium

I'll miss you, May!

I don’t really get to spend much time with my good friend May anymore; however, I wanted the chance to hang out before going back to the States.  On Thursday, May was sweet enough to take a day of work so we could hang out.  We talked about doing a day trip somewhere, but decided instead to stay in Shanghai and check out the Shanghai Aquarium.  (This ended up being the perfect plan, because sandwiched between a blue sky, beautiful Wednesday and a warm & dry Friday, we had a rainy miserable Thursday – being inside was a good thing.)

Dark, cloudy and rainy!

The Shanghai Aquarium is right next to the Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong. As we were walking by the tower, I realized in my time in Shanghai, I have only been over to the area near the tower about four times.  Every time, it happened to be wet, cloudy and miserable.  So this is how the tower has always looked to me when ever I have seen it up close and personal.  (I have yet to actually bother going inside.)

We arrived at the aquarium, bought our tickets (160 rmb/adult) and noticed that we were just in time for the shark feeding on the feeding schedule! Yippee!  We asked where the shark tank was and learned about the one downfall of the aquarium – one way traffic.  You start out on the third floor of the aquarium and work your way down and through the three levels of exhibits – once you pass through you can’t go back.  The shark tank, of course, was at the end.  So we weren’t able to watch them feed the sharks but it was still a great trip to the aquarium.

This is a sea apple.

There was a special exhibit of dangerous sea animals, lots of funky looking poisonous fish, electric eels, sea urchins and little shell fish that you would never imagine had venom in them capable of killing hundreds of humans.

No offense, but you are sort of ugly....

Funny lookin' poisonous fish

There was an alligator (or crocodile, I don’t really know the difference) that was laying there SO still, I swore he was dead.  He had obviously been laying there for awhile because someone had thrown a coin on him and it was laying on his back.  May said he was definitely alive… I had my doubts.

Can you see the silver coin on his back?

One of my favorite parts was the jellyfish section, huge tanks full of beautiful jellyfish of all different sizes and colors.  They are such fascinating looking creatures, floating about, gliding effortlessly through the water.  One of the huge tanks of hundreds of clear/white colored jellyfish was illuminated by lights that changed colors, making the entire tank and jellyfish look like they were changing colors.

Gorgeous and colorful!

May gazing at the jellyfish.

jellyfish

In the SOS (save our sharks) exhibit, there were graphic images of the brutalities sharks face as they are hunted for shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asian countries.  There was also one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen, live fertilized, developing shark eggs.  Okay, so maybe eggs aren’t the most fascinating thing ever… but this certain type of shark actually develops and hatches from an egg.  The aquarium had eggs at their different developmental stages on display with light shining through them so you could actually SEE what was going on inside the egg.  In the first several stages, there was still a yolk inside the egg with the little teeny shark embryo.  The eggs from 41-50 days old were the best I thought, because you could see the yolk, and then around the yolk you could see a little teeny baby shark swimming around inside the egg.  I was fascinated!  In the later stages of development, you could see the little shark (and if definitely looked like the body of a little shark) just cramped up inside the egg ready to be freed into the world.  Awesome.

That is a shark swimming around a yolk in an egg. Fascinating.

My other favorite section was the “World Longest Underwater Viewing Tunnel at 155m” as the sign said.  The tunnel is broken up into sections and different sections feature different types of fish and sea life.  An area with huge schools of fish swimming super fast in circles around you, an area with a coral reef and lots of small colorful fish, and of course the best part, the huge sharks, giant sea turtles and graceful stingrays.  Have you ever been in a glass tunnel with a shark swimming above your head, so close you could touch it, or with a huge sea turtle (that probably weighed way more than me) swimming straight at you?  It is pretty amazing.  Unfortunately, with my fussy, broken camera and the fast swimming animals, my attempts to photograph the experience didn’t work so well.

Schools of fish swimming all around me!

So it isn't the best picture... but he is lookin' straight at me. If it weren't for the glass above my head, I may have been lunch!

I did spend a long time in that tunnel, just in awe of the beautiful, stunning, creatures of the sea.  I had heard good things about the Shanghai Aquarium and I am really glad I took the opportunity to check it out.  It is well laid out, everything is in English as well as Chinese, the displays and amount of animals you get to see are quite impressive.  I would absolutely recommend it if you are hanging out in Shanghai on a rainy day and need a good indoor activity.

What a cute little lizard!

After the aquarium, May and I headed to the Super Brand Mall where we feasted on delicious dim sum at Bi Feng Tang for lunch.


14 days of 14 months

In 14 days I will be leaving China, just 14 months after arriving in Shanghai. Bittersweet. It is hard to believe that it was fourteen months ago that I wrote about the bittersweet day I left the Casey Eye Institute in my post Here we go: 2011. In some ways, it feels like it was a lifetime ago, in other ways, it feels like only yesterday I began this adventure. Yesterday, was my last day of teaching at Kid Castle. No more of all the crazy little kids.  All the times I couldn’t stand them, they drove me crazy, they drove me to tears.  All the times I came to the realization that my sister is absolutely insane for choosing to be a teacher as a lifetime career and that I could never cut it!  (Love you sis – insane but I am eternally grateful for you and other people who have a passion to teach children.)

All the ups and downs of teaching.  The spoiled children, the crying, the yelling, the playing and not paying attention, the dear child that vomited all over the floor of my classroom on Wednesday, the parents that drove me mad, my lack of creativity that sometimes made me feel incapable of planning a lesson to hold the attention of 18-20 small children.

But there were the hugs, the sweet words, the children that GOT it and were so bright and amaze me everyday with their abilities to learn English. There were the screams of JULIA! JULIA! JULIA! when my students saw me.  The high fives, the laughter, the amazing bonding and friendships built with my co-workers.

This week it came to an end.  This week, I saw the emotion in the faces of my children.  I saw tears from a class-clown, the funny boy, the tough boy, the little bit naughty, but very smart so I loved him anyway boy, he drove me up the wall… but I really liked having him in class.  As I said goodbye, his eyes filled with tears, he was quiet, not yelling and shouting, not acting out… he was silent tearful and sad because I was leaving.

My little student, Michael, who hangs on me, never letting go.  Always coming into the office to sit with me, giving me the biggest hugs each time he sees me. At six years old, he told me (in Chinese), that he was going to study English really hard so that he can come to America and visit me.

I had some of my older students asking me for my phone number in America, since I don’t know what my number will be and I don’t think they would actually be calling, I wrote down my email address on the board for them instead.  My students scrambled to jot down my email address, as my co-worker and I stood there saying to each other that we didn’t think any of them would actually ever write.  Thirty minutes after getting home last night, I received this email:

Julia,I like you.Don’t go away.
Jieli
2012/3/4

My students may have driven me crazy.  But they love me, and for the most part, I love them back.  My coworkers surprised me with a wonderful going away present and almost brought me to tears with the messages they all wrote for me.  They have made me feel so welcome, they have helped me out so much, they were such a part of my life for just over a year and they definitely sent me off feeling the love.

I have a feeling there will be more bittersweet days to come in the next two weeks, as I move on in life, from one adventure to another…


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