Just over a week ago, I arrived in Shanghai. In all due fairness, I have to give credit to United Airlines, because it was absolutely the most pleasant flight than any 14 hour flight could ever hope to be. Having had surprising experiences in the past with shellfish being served on flights in Asia, I have learned to order vegetarian meals when flying in Asia (I’m severely allergic to shellfish). The food was delightful, and they were very attentive with bringing water and snacks. All for a remarkably low ticket price–I’ve flown to Seattle from Boston for more!
We are settled in to the “Foreign Expert’s Building” in the Hongkou District.
We are right near the major football stadium, and a few blocks away from the main campus of Shanghai International Studies University. The liaison assigned by the university to help us with the kinds of settling in tasks that require speaking Chinese was concerned for us that we wouldn’t like this street–it’s quite bustling! But as it is, I find it enchanting. Last time I was in Shanghai, I was living in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood, heavily settled by westerners. This was perhaps a great initiation, but I’m very much preferring this
neighborhood that seems much more local. Few people speak English, which is a bit troublesome now, but I think will help me a lot when I’ve started studying Chinese. The Spring Festival is coming up, which gives everywhere I’ve gone a lovely festive air. Though not all is festive, so I present to you my most artistic photo to date.
There are plenty of English-language message boards with suggestions about life in Shanghai. One thing I didn’t expect was the amazing racism I find on these boards. It’s not universal, but over and over people write with at best dismissiveness and at worst open derision of China and all the Chinese. The kinds of sweeping statements I have been fortunate enough to encounter only very rarely are just rampant. Yet, expat boards seem to be the best way to get English language information about some of the things I need to know about. It’s unfortunate that I cannot begin Mandarin lessons until after the Spring Festival holiday–these attitudes make me all the more anxious to be able to function in Chinese.
The semester doesn’t start for some weeks yet, so I won’t have too much to report on the academic side until then. Now that my internet connection is up and running, I will be reaching out to Chinese academics interested in technology and its intersection with the Humanities. If there are people that any of you would care to suggest, do feel free to email me! Marta at this very domain name. As soon as I can wrangle up a proper organizing committee, I look forward to beginning work on THATCampChina. The best of my ability to research suggests that it will be the first gathering of its kind in the PRC.
I have learned that my Wednesdays are going to be even longer than previously thought. I’m teaching classes not on the Hongkou Campus, but on the Songjiang Campus. I’ll be on a shuttle bus at 8:15AM on Wednesdays and on a shuttle bus back at 8:40PM! For some reason, this is turning out to have a salutary effect on my planning process. Such a long day as that (though I don’t deny that I’m grateful that all my classes meet once a week and that on the same day) is inspiring me to have my lessons more thoroughly planned, further than advance, than I usually do. It seems a great thing, in fact.