Shanghai Diary - 1 (Early days in China and how I got here)
Last updated by cooolnits at 2010/11/25; Destinations:
"All my life I have longed to visit China and having arrived 6 weeks ago in Shanghai I immediately fell in love with the city."
No, that's not the way I will start this story. Simply because it's nothing close to the truth. In fact honestly, it's one big lie (apart from the fact that I arrived here 6 weeks ago).
I was in Milan (Italy) last one year, pursuing my Masters in Strategic Design (feel free email me to know more about it) and I had one of the most fantastic times of my life there. I was on the lookout for internships and I was pretty much clear and sure I wanted to do it only in Milan (not even in Europe). That's the overpowering effect Milan has had on me. The food, the people (barring a few bad experiences with landlords and losing a lot of money), the culture, the design, the travel bit and lastly my passion for photography. Traveling in Spain in early June I was then in the last part of my trip, couch-surfing in Madrid with a great Mexican guy by the name Israel. I also had a fellow couch-surfer Alan (from Shanghai). Coincidentally I received information for an internship in Shanghai from my Uni and although not too keen I just decided to show a slight interest (since Alan assure me of help incase I arrived to SH).
To be entirely honest, I was not keen on coming to Shanghai (or China) but it was the shortage of quality internships in Milan that prompted me to show an interest in this one (that I am currently pursuing). Ultimately, my internship talks with the company in Milan did not materialize and I agreed to take up the Shanghai offer (content that I atleast had an internship unlike my other classmates), with PG Design and Brand Consulting firm. After a few months of hope, anticipation and bureaucratic frustration, while I spent time with my family in India, I finally arrived in Shanghai on the 6th of October - entirely on my own, just with the address of my company and Alan's promise of help.
Alan did not disappoint me. I stayed for the first few days in his spare house near Zhongshan Park. Though quite far from my office my relief was that I atleast had a place to stay and a familiar face to guide me through in my first days here. The language was a difficult barrier but the universal language of humanity (aided by sign language) lived on. My first experience with people was when I was unable to get through to William (Alan's dad) upon my arrival and I asked a stranger to call the number written on a piece of paper I held in my hand. The woman willingly obliged and a few minutes later I arrived safely to the apartment. William was a wonderful person and took me on his bike (bicycle) to buy a mobile card, and showed me around the place. The house was a neatly kept house and I was really comfortable and relaxed. Ever since I have had some wonderful experiences with people, who despite the language, mostly went out of their way to help me. It was in stark contrast to Singapore, where I lived for a few years, and where to have lunch with a friend you need to take an appointment 2 weeks in advance! A good beginning for me already.
In the next few days I managed to find an apartment in Xiamu Qiao Lu close to Jiashan Road metro, and just about 20 minutes walk to my office on Taikang Lu. I couldn't have asked for a better location. One thing I like best is the location of my office - in Tianzifang - the wonderful art and craft district of Shanghai. Here, amidst old Shanghai architecture of narrow streets and brick faced buildings, you see an array of cafes, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, studios and what not. A favorite with the tourists for the variety of cuisines and souvenir shops, it's unlike the modern, tall, Shanghai. This place has a spirit and character of it's own and is definitely one of my favorites in Shanghai. (there is a picture of Tianzifang)
The first thing I visited in Shanghai was the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, as a starting point to explore this city. I needed to get to know the history of this city and get a sense of the scale of the city. Here I saw the gigantic detailed model of the City and the Expo, a view around People Square and some glimpses of the city's past. In hindsight I think it was the perfect start, for it gave me some basis to plan my next move.
Now having been here for 6 weeks I can say I am beginning to fall for the city. What started with reluctance, then developed into acceptance and now into liking (for this city). On my way I was guided by some wonderful people, my friend Sammy to start with and my inspiring boss Parson. I will elaborate more on what I discovered next in this city, in my next story - solely to avoid scaring people by the length of the article.
Just to assure you, the discoveries in my next article are all pleasant and wonderful.
(Feel free to write to me firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.nitindani.com)