My sister Columbine is studying in Shanghai this summer, and she’s been sending me dispatches about the city and culture. I think a lot about urban life, especially how we can create more liveable cities (a new urban habitat, if you will), so it’s fascinating to hear about life in a city of 24 million.
Columbine has traveled extensively in Europe and Latin America, but this is her first trip to Asia. She’s amazed by how clean and safe Shanghai feels:
I didn’t know what to expect from China and Shanghai. I have never been to a city of this size. I certainly have never lived in a city this size. I think I expected to be a bit disgusted, since most large cities have an element of filth. Walls near the train tracks will be painted with graffiti. Sirens will be heard at all hours of the day. Whiffs of open sewer will find your nose. Trash will be strewn about. Shanghai is nothing like that. It is quite clean. Much cleaner than any American city I’ve visited, including small cities like Denver and Portland, and it is much cleaner than New York. I have not heard one siren. I have not seen any graffiti. And the streets are consistently being swept by people in sage green uniforms. It is also the safest-feeling place I’ve ever been.
Another thing she consistently remarks on is how healthy the elderly residents are:
Every morning the parks are filled to the brim with old people doing calisthenics, tai chi, fan dancing, and walking. It brings tears to my eyes and makes me smile. There are parks every few blocks, as most people here live in shantis or apartments and they don’t have lawns or yards as we do in the States, or even shared gardens as you often see in Europe. There is something magical about seeing all of these old people enjoying one another’s company, all in incredibly good health. I have never been to a country where the old people were in such good health.
Chinese culture melds ancient traditions that go back thousands of years, like tai chi and Traditional Chinese Medicine, with cutting edge technology that far exceeds what we have in the U.S.:
The fastest train in the world connects Pudong Airport to downtown Shanghai. It is an electro-magnetic train which reaches speeds of 270 mph. It was dizzying as the landscape whizzed by. I kept wanting to see what China looked like, but it was flying by so fast that I couldn’t get much more than a quick glance. You go 20 miles in less than 8 minutes. It was absolutely incredible.
Have you visited or lived in Shanghai, or another part of China? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.