In a blink of an eye, December is already around the corner. November has been a strange month: it feels like August, like the dog days of summer. It’s when the cold finally hits and it seems like overnight Shanghai went from pleasant autumn to frigid winter (not quite frigid in the New England sense, but alas). I spent most of November not realizing how fast time was passing. Besides going to Taiwan, which will eventually get its own blog update, this month was rather uneventful. For me, November has not even had many ups and downs, but rather a sort of static wave. It was this month, I felt as though I reached the comfortable plateau of really just living in China and having the luxury of enjoying Shanghai by means of doing nothing. By this I mean, lazy days spent in bed ordering Waimai don’t feel wasted, but rather a sign of myself in step to Shanghai’s rhythm. The heartbreak is starting to set in now, realizing that I only have two weeks left here and that the next time I will return remains uncertain.
A couple weeks ago I called my mother and told her I woke up in a sort of funk. This lingering, dissociative feeling seemed to reverberate throughout the city. Perhaps I was the only one to feel it. I think back to this poem I wrote last semester:
I can’t be the only one
that sees the ghastly, orange glow
on the horizon
Am I the only one that looks up
into the night sky
enchanted and horrified
by such supernatural color?
When I wrote this, I was describing Shanghai’s light pollution, namely the nightly view outside my dormitory window. The sky, to me, really did appear to have this extraterrestrial orange aura to it. However, more than that, I meant it to describe the sense of indifference that pervades Shanghai. Sometimes people seem cold, the city itself is a sprawling, cement jungle. It’s easy to feel like you are just another person, another student, another foreigner in a megacity of 28 million people. And above all, among the burden of everyday life, we forget the bigger picture: we’re alienated from our environment. Instead of looking down, whether it be at our phones (as it often is in our cyber-addicted generation) or at the street in front of us, why don’t we look up? Instead of looking at the tops of great skyscrapers, why don’t we think about the sky and the world around us? I wrote that poem last March; this November, in another season of change, I think of it again.
So, when I called my mother, I told her that I felt like I was ready to come home. I told her: Mom, I can’t live in China anymore. The people are apathetic and cold, the city life here is too hard on me. These words echoed nearly the exact same conversation I had with my mother the very first month I arrived in Shanghai last February. It’s funny to think about how life can be so cyclical. I’m still trying to process what led me to this feeling and to express it again to my mother with the same words almost nine months later. It’s the rhythm of Shanghai that pulls and pushes me between similar emotions, that my experiences and emotions here are intertwined with those that have passed me. The more I think about leaving Shanghai, however, the more I realize I can hardly bear the thought to part with China. How do I now escape Shanghai’s lulling rhythm?
The end of November is near. My mother again called me, told me that the family missed me at Thanksgiving dinner, and asked if I was ready to come home. I told her no…and to this she was confused! Had I not told her at the beginning of November that I was begging to come home? Yet, I can’t change what I have to accept. Just like I can’t change the mentalities of the people around me, or the general aura of the city I live in, I have to accept the inevitable or the intangible. I want to enjoy these last two weeks, regardless of all the flaws of Shanghai, and to make as much sense of this place I temporarily call home for as long as I can.
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<p>I'm Micol and I'm a fourth year student at Providence College studying Political Science and East Asian Studies. I am fascinated with Chinese culture and politics, which has led me to come back for a second semester in Shanghai. My favorite things to do in Shanghai are going to art galleries, eating at one of the million cute dessert shops, going to karaoke, reading about Chinese Marxism, and waking up to a day with blue sky.</p>