Carlo in Shanghai: First Impressions

photo 2Long airplane ride. About 14 hours in total, from Rome to Helsinki to Shanghai. I get there at 7:10 a.m., but for me it’s 1:10 a.m. My state of mind is not one of the clearest, but that is fine. For the first time ever I am in a dictatorship. Ok, well, if we exclude Vatican City. I arrive in this “communist” country and the first thing I see is a Burger King. Fantastic. Gotta love capitalism. I sit there and I wait for the chaperones of the organization to come and pick us up. Some other guys start coming, mostly from the Commonwealth: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, of course, United Kingdom. I walk around the airport, they sell dried duck tongues in the snack shop. Simply glorious.

Plane to ShanghaiThe representatives arrive, and I set foot in the area outside the airport: heat and traffic. We climb on a bus and we head to our hotel. The seats are Chinese-sized, therefore extremely uncomfortable, but I am too busy looking at the area around us to notice. The city starts at the airport and goes on and on and on. Apparently it has a diameter of well over 120 km. The traffic is terrifying, with Chinese people driving around in cars kept together with spit and prayers, honking their horns and in general behaving terribly. Add in the fact that there is elevated road almost everywhere.  The chaos is basically that of Naples on three different levels.

After I collapse in the hotel, I manage to get through the great Firewall of China, and, in spite of the Communist Party, I am on Facebook. Fight the power.

The day after I start exploring the city. It’s hot, and cloudy, but impressive. There’s a cross between modern, skyscraped Western city and the sticky and chaotic environment of a third-world city. Of course, people are much richer here than they are in the rest of China – which is not saying much – but, even behind the shiny commercial streets and the terrifyingly efficient infrastructures, there is a feeling that something is missing. Freedom? It might be. I still have to understand. Besides that, in Shanghai they have gotten almost completely rid of the remains of their older culture. I’ve only seen one big Buddhist temple. Even though the Chinese culture extends back before the birth of Christ, the city is completely new.

Apparently, Chinese people are interested in Westerners and scared of me. I find it very hard to ask for information of any kind: it might be that their ethnicity is one of midgets, or that they are characterized by a tremendous somatic uniformity, but they are not very comfortable with the 1.90 m Caucasian-Jewish looking guy. Oh, well, my black friend has it MUCH worse. Reactions range from people actively avoiding him to people asking him to take a picture. And Shanghai is a global city. I wonder what’ll happen if I’ll go to the countryside.

A native Roman and a Business Administration major, Carlo is building his international resume by interning in Shanghai this summer.

Carlo Guercia Sammarco
Business Administration Major
JCU Class of 2014
Interning in Shanghai, China through CRCC Asia

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