This is the first in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Shanghai, China: Second Language Acquisition in China and the USA program this summer with Professor Lydia McDermott. Stacey Amezquita ’19 is a Politics & Psychology major.
I’d like to think that the realities of being a tourist in a foreign country don’t really settle in until you’re trying to find food on your own. A few days ago, our group had the opportunity to get dinner anywhere we wanted. Kate, Hannah, and I decided to go to Global Harbor Mall because it’s so close to our hotel and we thought it would be easy enough to find a food court there. Oh, how wrong we were!
For starters, we walked ten minutes in the opposite direction of the mall. We laughed it off and made our way down the correct path. Once in the mall, we were overwhelmed by its looming size. We realized soon enough that it wouldn’t be as easy as we thought to find a place to eat. Most of the restaurants we passed were quite pricey and we weren’t willing to part with a lot of money so early on in our trip. The mall started to feel more and more like an endless maze as our hunger grew. Eventually, we ran into Emily and felt a boost of confidence in our skills to navigate now that we were a group of four. Unfortunately, we still managed to wander aimlessly up and down elevators and escalators.
But! A ray of hope: She was smart enough to bring a phrase book given to us by the CIEE staff! We tried stringing together a variety of words and phrases to ask for “a cheaply priced restaurant” somewhere in the mall. We found a friendly hostess and tried asking our question but she simply looked at us in confusion. Clearly, we weren’t speaking Mandarin at all. We were so sure that this would work!
A nice couple saw us struggling with the hostess and tried helping us out (they spoke English! We were saved!). They were nice enough to point us in the direction of a nearby street with food. They even wrote the order for us to minimize complications once we found a place to eat. It was heartwarming to see such kindness and patience when we were all feeling exasperated and lost.
Before we made it out of the mall we found a cute restaurant that we decided would suit us just fine. We didn’t use the couple’s instructions in the end, but we were so happy with the choice we made. We ate a satisfying, much-needed meal — and agreed that we had been through quite a hilarious ordeal.
As frustrating as this experience was, it’s been one of my favorite moments from the trip. I’m proud of how much my group is able to take obstacles in grace. Our willingness to laugh at ourselves makes our time here much more enjoyable when it would be just as easy to be upset at the challenges we face. All in all, I loved that night in the mall but I’d prefer not to do it again!