As of today, I have officially been in Shanghai for a month! I’m happy to say that I’ve grown comfortable with my life here and, as a result, it feels like I’ve been here for much longer (I get the same feeling at this point during a semester at Cornell too). I’ve become so close to my friends here that it’s hard for me to think back to September 3rd, when we were complete strangers.
Today I spent the day with a group of friends in Nanjing, a city less than 2 hours (by high speed train [knows as CRH]) north of Shanghai. Nanjing was the official capital of China before it was conquered by the People’s Liberation Army in 1949 (with this came the establishment of the People’s Republic of China [modern day China] and the naming of Beijing as the country’s new capital) and was also the sight of a historically brutal occupation by Japan (known as the “Rape of Nanjing”) in the late 1930s. Full of history and great scenery, Nanjing definitely deserves more than one day of exploration but, given our time and budget constraints, we only had about 12 hours.
Despite our short time in the city, I had a great time! There was a great deal that we left unexplored, but we made sure to take our time to take in the sights we did get to see. Our first stop of the day, and what was definitely the most memorable for me, was our trip to Zījīn Shān 紫金山 (known as the Purple Mountain). We had heard that the view of Nanjing from the mountain was great and I was under the impression that we’d walk to the top to see it for our selves. When we arrived, however, we were informed that the walk up the mountain could take upwards of an hour and that our quickest option would be to take the chairlift up the mountain.
I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of heights; I love going on the highest and fastest roller coasters and I always look out of the window when I’m on an airplane. I am, however, afraid of falling from a great height! Given the single cable the chairlift it suspended from and loose restraints used to keep the riders in place, I was more than a little nervous. I made a little bit of a fuss but I knew that we had to get up the mountain somehow so I decided to suck it up and I bought a ticket for the chairlift.
Initially, both myself and my roommate (tóngwū 同屋), who I rode with, were very panicky. The ride, which was somewhere between 30-45minutes one way, was a little too shaky for either of us to handle and the first 15 minutes seemed more like hours. I found myself struggling to get my breathing under control as the wind blew and the chair we were in began to sway back and forth; I was fearing the worse. We tried to distract ourselves with forced conversation as the distance between our dangling toes and the trees below us grew wider and the wind showed no signs of dying down, but to little avail.
It wasn’t until a small Chinese girl, riding down the mountain as we ascended, waved at us as our chairs lurched past one another that we found a sufficient means of distraction: we waved and said hello (more like nǐ hǎo 你好) to the riders in the chairs that were heading down the mountain (many of whom were thrilled to see wàiguó rén] on the mountain). My breathing calmed, the wind became less noticeable, and we actually started having fun (we had a great time gaging the reactions we received and even trying to carry on conversations with some people). Before I knew it, we had reached the top of the mountain.
All in all, the trip to the top of the mountain was totally worth it! Our view from the peak and from our descent were absolutely breathtaking. We continued waving and greeting as many people as we made our way back down the mountain as well, which made the trip down a lot easier to handle (despite the panic attack I had when I thought my shoes were going to fall off).
My experience on the Purple Mountain made me feel so much more excited about being in China for the semester. After only one month here I have found myself stepping out of my comfort zone more than I could have ever imagined. I have already experienced so many new things, created so many memories, and developed so many friendships that I can’t help but feel overjoyed by the prospects that the coming months will bring! Every day I have in China is a blessing and I have promised myself that I won’t let my fears and anxieties prevent me from taking full advantage of my time here.