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I can’t quite figure out how to get the internet to work so I’m writing this from Word.

I can’t quite believe all the trouble that I had with my visa considering how much warning I had, watching and listening to the experiences of three fine young people heading off to consulates to get their visas approved.  I was under the impression that I already had mine in hand as I certainly couldn’t remember needing to do all that finagling for my last visa.  The trouble was that this time was the real deal. 9 months is much more serious to the Chinese government than the measly 90 days that I resided in Shanghai last summer.  I landed in China and my stomach sank when the immigration officer told me that none of the papers approving my arrival were the necessary visa.  Luckily thanks to much encouragement and advice from both China and the United States I was told that if I went to Hong Kong I could procure a visa for the mainland.

Schlepping around the Fragrant Harbor for 5 days visiting all kinds of museums and heritage sites was fun but I had a nervous feeling that persisted until my passport was back in my hand, the visa snug inside.  I left yesterday afternoon on a through train from Kowloon to Shanghai.  I purchased the cheapest ticket which was a “hard sleeper.” I was surprised to discover that I was on the topmost bunk of beds stacked three high to the ceiling.  I found that there wasn’t room for me to sit up all the way which was fine as I could just lie down and read the whole time.  Conversation with the passengers surrounding me was out of the question as they mostly spoke Shanghainese, a minority dialect that sounds more akin to an African language than to Chinese. The train left at 3:15 and arrived in Shanghai at 10:00 the next morning.

After all that effort I’ve finally made it to Shanghai Normal University.  I’ve been zipping around most of the day making up for the days that I’ve missed during registration.  They placed me in level one Chinese language classes until I realized just how easy the books that they handed me were. I spoke with the woman in charge of registration and I’ve since been placed into level four. It’s foggy and wet here as I expect it will be often after the Mid-Autumn festival which signals the arrival of fall.

Although this experience has been harrowing and unnecessary it’s already happened and I know that it is only beneficial to me if I learn from it.  So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I really do want to be here learning Chinese. The thought of being deported filled me with a depression and dread that I have not known before.
  • I have to work hard. I know that I must work to achieve what I want and to protect what I already have.
  • I need to use my time here to the fullest. I’m already extraordinarily lucky to be in this situation but now I have a new appreciation for it. No excuses, I have to study hard and seek out new and enlightening experiences.

As we all embark onto great things and new chapters know that I am always sending you my good thoughts and pleasant daydreams about your lives.



Or the internet bar.  For some reason none of the students are able to log onto their wireless internet accounts on campus and they’ve been scraping to log on however they can. Whether through some other mysterious student account that’s been handed around or by heading to the dark, smoky, and doubtfully hygenic recesses of the local internet bar.  Forgive me, my fellow adventurers, whenever I’ve been able to log on before I was either too superstitious or too racked for time to get some thing good out. 

I can tell you now that in the span of time before classes have started I am pretty lonely.  I have a double room to myself that allows me plenty of room for the regrettable amount of clothes that I brought with me.  My dorm room is inside what is essentially a long-term hotel with many vacancies allowing those inside to pass without really running into each other.  Whenever I see  a foreigner on the street I want to call out to them and I can barely resist the urge to try and chit-chat with the desperately busy clerks in stores.

Hopefully by the time classes start I can make friends without having soaked too long in what I’m sure is perceptible desperateness.

Singularly Yours,


P.S.  At the risk of placing things out of order I have typed up something earlier that I’ll post once my wireless is up and running.  I think that maintaining it’s sincerity and spontaneity will be worth it.

I woke up this morning cranky and curled into a face down, baby-style sleeping position.  I stomped around trying desperately to remember the things that I was going to forget and shove things into my luggage that I knew I would never really need.  I stomped around full frustration and vinegar while my mother and Jacklynn tried to make my life easier.  Remembering how much I loved my friends and family and how much I would miss them I stood in the kitchen and filled with tears.

After maneuvering things the three of us rushed off for some delicious and sinful corporate scones.  Jackie and I said goodbye while demanding that the other have a great time.  My mother and father were both at the airport to drop me off and we did some good old fashioned problem solving after discovering that my enormous luggage was obviously overweight.  They told me endlessly to take care of myself reminding me that as I live in Shanghai I have to both pay attention to what I do and let them know that I’m okay.

I willed my body to sleep or at least my eyes to be closed throughout the flight to San Francisco. I got my first taste of China when I arrived in the international terminal.  Hectic, hot, and crowded.  I stood in line patiently to ask the clerk at the United counter a question and another woman bolted in front of me automatically when she sensed my hesitation.  Suddenly she seemed to remember where she was saying, “Oh right, queuing…” and then waiting her turn. Soon I’ll be elbowing with the best of them trying to push myself to the front of the line.  The gate is filled with Chinese mostly and a smattering of others ready to become minorities. Seeing excited faces of friends talking, grandmothers and moms doting on only children, and exhausted business men all remind me of people to meet and speak to in Shanghai.

I’m excited about the new and interesting things that I’ll be doing and I’m excited about the pitfalls that I’ll encounter and roll around in. What could be better then a brand new adventure?



I’ve known for quite a while that I’ll be going to China but it’s only now as things come down to the wire that I’m really allowing myself to get excited by it.  Thinking of meals shared with friends via giant Lazy Susans and being crammed into a karaoke parlor room to partake of snacks and pop songs fills me with a unique kind of happiness.

I can’t wait to meet not only native Chinese but also people from around the world who have been attracted to the city of Shanghai.  The big city provides a great backdrop for mingling with those who have a variety of perspectives and interests. I’m especially excited to take classes about China in the actual country.  I expect that I’ll learn plenty of new things and gain a better understanding of how the Chinese view themselves. During the upcoming months I’m also hoping to learn somethings about myself as I prepare to go to graduate school and plan a direction for my future.

I also know that things won’t always go my way, certainly not at the beginning of my journey when miscommunication and confusion abound.  I also know  how great it is to work hard and overcome those problems with the understanding that my knowledge of the language and cultures has increased by even the smallest inkling.

– Carissa