A Walk Through Spring

Monday, April 18, 2011: All About Shanghai

上海師範大學 Shanghai Normal University

9 am after a comfortable breakfast, 小舅舅 ‘Xiao Jiu Jiu” took us on a walking tour through his backyard, which happened to be one of Shanghai’s renowned education universities: 上海師範大學 “Shanghai Shi Fan Da Xue.”  It was a gorgeous, sunny and breezy day in Shanghai. It was green-green everywhere, flowers blossuming and birds singing. My sister and I walked out in light cardigans, while my uncle bundled up in 3 layers consisting of a shirt, vest, and jacket. My aunt and uncle thought we were crazy walking out in such light clothing. They kept insisting we bundle up and not catch a cold. I was more worried about allergies catching up to me, thanks to all the budding flowers and flying pollen. Spring had arrived here already!

Shanghai Normal University campus

Leafless Trees

With the Funny Uncle, 小舅舅 (Xiao Jiu Jiu)

The campus was a beautiful site! It IS possible to have some green in the big city! See, a great university like NYU is infamously known to not have a campus. The most of a campus I had was Washington Square Park, for one measly year until construction took over for the next 3+ years. Bye Bye green grass, water fountain, and walk in the park. Even with Stony Brook, the campus is small, vapid, and monotonous. I’m on the medical center side, but I walk through the undergraduate campus all the time and it is plain and lackluster. Shanghai Normal University, however, was full of vim and vigor with plenty of fresh green, natural melodies, scenic waters, and lively plants. There are two campuses, Xu Hui and Feng Xian campus. We only walked through Xu Hui campus, the closer one in our Uncle’s backyard, where the focus is mainly on the liberal arts, education, languages, fine arts, and performing arts; the other side is research, mathematics, engineering, and the sciences.

My older cousin 表哥, Sun Po, studied fine arts and graduated from Shanghai Normal University. Now he works at the University as a guidance counselor for the college students. And he lives in one of the nearby apartment buildings for faculty and family, the same one Xiao Jiu Jiu and Jiu Ma live in now. Pretty sweet deal: a nice apartment, family, college degree, and a comfortable job.

I also found a few funny things on campus.

1) An exotic tree with a hairy tree trunk… Needs some shaving.

2) Asians are stereotypic nerds: glasses, human calculators, Intel winners, doctors, CEOs, lawyers, bookworms. And I got proof! A clock constructed with No. 2 pencils, sharpened and shiny. It’s a daily reminder to do your homework!

Kang Jian ‘Low Carbon’ Park, Shanghai
We then strolled through Kang Jian Park across the street from Xiao Jiu Jiu’s place. Specifically, it’s a relatively new public “Low Carbon” Park, with energy-saving light lamps and a running track made from recycled tires. The very first thing we saw walking in were women dancing. A little further down, we saw many elders practicing Tai Chi. That’s another major difference between Chinese people and Americans. Well, America complains about the obesity problem; just take a look at what other countries are doing right. People in China may eat the greasiest and meatiest of all cuisines, but they still know to eat in small portions and practice healthy habits, like exercising. Many people, including elders, stroll through the park, walk the city streets, ride bicycles, practice Tai Chi, dance, etc… Chinese people believe in herbal medicine, so many soups and foods have a tonic effect on the body. I, myself, am a victim of this herbal medicine, because my mom cooks fiber-packed, not-too-sweet soups with funny looking beans, fruits, and vegetables.

We passed many elders and babies, with my sister and I stuck somewhere in the middle of that generation spectrum. There were waddling kids on the fields with grandparents and parents as well as old people exercising on the playground =D The park was magnificent, with a radiant landscape and fresh smell of spring. With a gentle breeze upon my face, I could have fallen asleep on the grass. The park was like a miniature version of Central Park, with an Asian twist. There were different ancient-style rooftops for a shady retreat. A little pond with lily pads and water grass led towards a shaded bench area. Large bamboo shoots shot up high, creating a barricaded walkway and cool shade. It wasn’t mosquito-season, but the bamboo bushes had something built in the ground to repel the pesky buggers come summer time. And the rosy cherry blossums in full bloom. What a heavenly sight!

We returned back to the apartment for a little while. Xiao Jiu Jiu, whom I call our Funny Uncle for good reasons, shuffled around and started singing old songs and playing the piano. Because we were planning to see the Great Wall, he sang to us an oldies song called ‘The Great Wall’ (長城, ‘Chang Cheng’). He sang with the deep vibrato, the waving hand gestures, and music at hand. Then he shuffled to the keyboard and played some simple songs for us, as he was taking piano lessons at the university in his free time. In my head, it was a funny episode. His sister, my mother, went about her business and paid no attention: “Singing what ‘Great Wall‘!?” Hm, I thought to myself, “Funny, they’re related…” It dawned on me that, whoa, they were siblings and all, and I have such a cool family out and about. I still had a whole rest of the Pok family to see again…

We went back for a second round through the park again, this time with Mom and Xiao Jiu Ma.

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