Shortly after Jennifer arrived in Shanghai, the talk among the students turned to what they were going to do when they had a few days off from school in honor of National Day on October 1st. Jennifer texted that she and a couple of friends were going to take the train to Nanjing – “Don’t worry Mom when the first thing that pops up on Google is the Nanjing Massacre,” otherwise known as the “Rape of Nanking.” Thanks for the reassurance.
But that’s (almost) ancient history. My immediate concern was whether Jennifer and her friends could find their way around in China when their grasp of the language is such that they can only eat at places that have pictures of the food. If I had my way, they should all wear badges around their necks that say in Chinese, “If found, return to Shanghai, c/o Pepperdine University.”
This is one of those times that as a parent, it’s much better to pray that she stays safe during the trip and hear about the details after the fact. And besides, what could I possibly do? She’s 15 hours and 6,000 miles away.
Jennifer and her friends, did in fact, make it to Nanjing and back safely to Shanghai (“Oh Mom – did I mention there was a typhoon?”) and thanks to a 90 minute internet call on WhatsApp, we got to hear about the weird moments of the trip. And that’s the fun of going; coming back with stories.
In Shanghai, wai guo ren (white people) get stared at but in the less cosmopolitan city of Nanjing, people stare like you’re ET. Of course, this is only exacerbated by the fact that Jennifer’s two traveling companions are blonde. The girls shared an elevator with a young Chinese family and the child’s jaw literally dropped open in complete awe at the sight of them. His mom tried to close his mouth, but nope, he had never seen anything like these Americans and it fell right open again.
Feeling like you’re one of five white people in a city of 3.6 million can be a little intimidating when it comes to calling a cab in a very crowded marketplace. They were barraged with nonstop shouts from cabbies of “Hey, pretty girl! You want ride?” They were relieved when a female cab driver rescued them from the melee.
Jennifer and her friends got blind massages. What does that mean? Getting a massage from a blind person is a common experience in China. In fact, there is a government sponsored program to train blind people as masseuses. Jennifer and her friends paid about $10 for an hour and a half massage which included the masseuse performing a Van Halen drum solo on her fully clothed butt. Okay, the song may have been open to interpretation, but it was percussive and it was loud. Good thing that she and her friends were face down because it took everything that she had not to start giggling uncontrollably.
They were exhausted from the stress of the trip and were so glad and relieved to get back to their Jia in Shanghai. It’s amazing how a place that seemed so foreign just a month ago, now feels like home.