Film from a Foreign Country

As soon as I stepped foot in Shanghai Pudong International Airport I knew that to truly capture the culture, scenery and overall experience of China I would have to film it.

Over winter break I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to study international entrepreneurship in Shanghai. The trip was the experience of a lifetime to say the least. The amount of activities we managed to fit in such a short period of time seems nearly impossible. With that being said, I didn’t want to be constantly videoing and have that detract from my real-time adventures. Luckily, I was able to find a balance. I laced together the bits and pieces I managed to capture on my iPhone 6 (including a lot of time lapses) and made a video using iMovie.

Feel free to ignore the following words and skip straight to the video below, but in case you want some backstory, here’s some behind-the-scenes information. The opening shot is a bridge that’s in the middle of the beautiful East China Normal University campus. Our class stayed in dorms on the edge of campus and walked the bridge at least once a day to get to food or the metro.

The man making the burrito-looking breakfast item spoke no English. I had to watch other people order and then point to what they got. He showed me the coins I owed (3 Yuan which is about 50 cents!) in a tin he had set up to collect his daily earnings. I went back every morning and eventually we got a rhythm down where he would see me and start making the wrap. To this day I’m not sure what was in it.

Our class took a bus tour of Downtown Shanghai the first day, where we visited The Bund. The Bund is the waterfront area that snakes along the Huangpu River, the largest river in Shanghai. From the Bund you can see landmark buildings such as the Pearl Tower.

Other than the bus tour on the first day, we took the metro everywhere. The West Nanjing Road exit took us to the Jing’an Temple. This Buddhist temple had incense that individuals could burn in prayer. While we were there the monks all came out and stood in a line, singing their prayer and playing instruments.

The Yuyan market was a popular shopping spot for tourist items. Ladies selling pearl necklaces would string them right in front of you to get your desired style. There were shops filled with scarves and the owners would bargain their hearts out with whoever had the time to stop in. While walking back to the metro from the market, my roommate and I came across a square of people of all ages ballroom dancing.

Another excursion the class took was to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park. The park was outside the city so we had to take a few metros and buses to get there. At one of the bus stops a man was making fresh orange juice. He crushed sugar can in his machine in order to sweeten it. The Wild Animal Park was unlike any park or zoo I had ever been to. We were able to take selfies with lemurs and hold tigers that were only weeks old. We took a tour in a caged bus where the driver would stop every few minutes and stick raw meat out the windows, urging the animals to get as close as possible.

On the way back from the park our class took the wrong bus and got very lost. When we finally were able to get on the right ride it was packed. We defiantly managed to squeeze all 24 of us on, in addition to the regular Chinese commuters, but it was an extremely tight fit.

After our official class time was over at ECNU there were still a few days before Spring semester began at SDSU, so about half the class decided to go to Beijing. After all, you can’t go to China without seeing The Great Wall. We rode the bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing which traveled up to 186 miles per hour and took us about five hours travel time.

While in Beijing we hired a driver, Mr. Yang, who advertised himself as “A Good Driver.” Luckily, his business card didn’t lie. He took us to Huairou where potters made Ming Dynasty pottery. This type of pottery is made out of stone powder and needs to be fired in a kiln seven times before it is finished.

Our next stop was The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu. It would have taken hours to hike to the top so we took the ski lift. Once at the summit it started sprinkling flakes of snow. It was pure magic. We walked a few stretches of the wall and eventually made our way to the slide to get down. That’s right, you get to slide down The Great Wall!

The next stop was tea tasting in Olympic Park. The lady who was pouring the tea told us about the four popular types of tea in Shanghai (ginseng, jasmine, pu’er, and lychee black tea) and had us try them. She was very excited to participate in the video recording process and took a video of us trying the tea. There was a specific ritual to how the tea was prepared and part of it included rolling the cups on our cheeks to make them rosy.

The last day we were in Beijing we went to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. This day was all blue skies but 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The lake at the summer palace was frozen over and people could ice skate on it. After this last freezing day, we were ready to get back to sunny San Diego.

There is no way that this video can reproduce all the amazing moments I lived out in China, but it will give any viewer a few snapshots from my trip. A year ago, even six months ago, I did not know I would be catching a flight to China on New Years Eve. I had no idea I would be holding baby tigers or sliding down the great wall. I didn’t realize I would be making so many amazing friends, who I would be bonded with for a very long time. I am forever grateful that I took the chance I did. I couldn’t have asked for a better study abroad experience.


Elsie Weisskoff is earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Shanghai, China, during winter 2016.

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