June 1995: Even though I have been fortunate to travel to most of countries of the world by my 40’s, I didn’t actually get a passport and leave the country with the exception of Canada until I was 18. My first trip was to China on an international language study program to live in Shanghai for the summer in the Shanghai teachers institute where I would live in a dormitory and study Chinese. Living in China at a time when the country was just starting to open its doors to the rest of the world was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and it was the travel experience that catapulted me towards achieving my eventual goal of visiting every country of the world.

 

 

My family minus my older brother seeing me(far right) off at the Minneapolis airport for my first intltrip to China

Shanghai

During my visit Shanghai was still one of the largest cities of the world but it was developing and modernizing quickly and there was a horizon full of endless skyscrapers under bamboo scaffolding being constructed. The pear Tower in the Pudong District was newly built in a swamp, bicycles outnumbered vehicles and foreigners were a scarcity and everywhere I went curious onlookers would greet me and practice any semblance of English that they might have learned. Huge neighborhoods were still traditional or hutong where there were no high rise modern sterile apartments but instead old community neighborhoods with old Chinese style housing, many with open sewers running into nearby streams. There were exotic marketplaces where crickets in small bamboo cages believed to sooth crying children were sold by men on bicycles and everything from dogs, cobras to eels were sold for food. I was absolutely fascinated by the city and its mix of old-fashioned Chinese architecture, Buddhist customs and Chinese communism.

 

 

Shanghai

Sprawling Streets

Pearl Tower

Shanghai intersection

Bicycle parking lot

Traffic cop at Shanghai intersection 

Public bus where crowding was the norm and busses would commonly breakdown and to kick start them everyone would need to get out and push the bus.

Public bus where crowding was the norm and busses would commonly breakdown and to kick start them everyone would need to get out and push the bus.

Chinese drinking hot tea in the steamy hot Shanghai summer, a practice that is common in China

Yu Gardens where we ate the best huge pork dumplings known to Shanghai as xiao long bao

Buddhist temple where monks are congregating

Buddhist monk

At the Jade Buddhist temple, a Chinese woman brings her handicapped child to the temple for a blessing by the monks to help cure him

A Pagoda that is hundreds of years old

My home for the summer was the Shanghai Teachers School where every morning I woke up and had breakfast in the dormitory-hardboiled egg, gruel and tea, then I would jog in the running track or around the neighborhood while hundreds of people performed Taichi with the background odor of sulfur from coal burning power plants. I would commonly have a small following of Chinese students follow me when i was jogging giggling and practicing their English with me. It was easy to meet friends and my Chinese friends were always happy to show me around Shanghai or to invite me to eat at a cafe or their homes.

 

 

The track I ran on everydayat the university

Chinese gardens and ponds where elderly men would fish everymorning at the university

My friend Dean-his English name

Me and my Chinese friend Normon and the prank severed hand I brought from home

4th of July celebration

Me signing autographs for chinese students

4th of July games that we hosted at the university

I visited an exotic marketplace near the university almost every day because I was so enthralled by it. This was a scene in China that I wouldn’t be able to find again in China when I returned more than a decade later.

 

 

Old market food stalls

Eels for sale at the market

fresh produce

Chickens butchured 

Cobra for sale

Chirping from Grasshoppers in small bamboo boxes are believed to calm crying babies and are sold in the market. I bought one and it turned out I paid a dollar more than I should have and when a nearby Chinese women overheard the price I paid, a riot ensured of angry Chinese people who came to my defense and together they angrily cast the grasshopper salesman out of the market and managed to retrieve my dollar I overpaid.

 

 

Grasshopper salesman

On occasion I would venture out to the countrside to experience village life and I was never dissapointed when I did. 

 

 

Lamb in front of a ricefield 

Me and my Chinese friends in the country village

Canals between villages in countrside 

A bizarre circus show in a village where I watched a small girl slide a live snake in through her nose and out her mouth among other bizarre acts. I also  went on one of the quirkiest funhouse rides of my life.

 

 

Circus show

Snake show

Bizarre ride

Bizarre ride

Norman and I on the way to the ocean

Swimming in the polluted Yellow Sea

Beijing

After Shanghai I had a few days to visit beijing,where I went to Tiannaman Square, the Forbidden City and Great Wall of China.

 

Tiannamen Square

Me and Mao

Me and Chinese soldeirs at Tiannaman Square 

Tiannaman Square 

Me at the Great Wall

1 + 6 =