Travel Journal #12 – My Grandfather's Advice

Although I’m sure I had received advice before this one, I like to attribute the first piece of advice I’ve ever gotten to my grandfather. I can remember sitting at the dinner table long after my siblings and cousins had finished their meal and left to play. I had stubbornly refused to eat my green beans, and after describing them as “slimy and gross” to my mother, I was banned from leaving the table until I ate them. So I sat at the table pouting, poking at my food and sighing dramatically in the general direction of my parents, until my grandfather came and sat down next to me. Through his thick pop-bottle glasses I could see that his blue eyes were filled with laughter, though I couldn’t understand why at the time. Then he said to me in a sing-song voice, “It’s your attitude. It can change the outcome of anything.” And while his advice didn’t convince me to eat my green beans happily, it’s been the most useful advice to me in my life, especially here in China.
I haven’t left Shanghai in nearly eight weeks, not since my adventure to Inner Mongolia during Chinese National Week. While I didn’t expect to be able to travel constantly while in China, the inability to travel due to the large amount of coursework was definitely not what I expected. This week, when the rest of the intensive Chinese program was off on an all-school trip, I’d planned to seize the opportunity to explore temples and hike in Ningbo. Unfortunately, at the last moment those plans fell through. So, I was stuck in Shanghai for yet another weekend. Although temptation and exhaustion were present enough to make a strong argument for staying in my room and watching Netflix for most of the day, I decided instead to take out my map and roam around Shanghai.
Morgan at the Bund
The first day led me and my friend Rachel to the Pudong district, where we roamed around the massive Century Park. My foul mood hadn’t completely cleared up, but the unusually sunny day and good company had me smiling again before too long. After that we headed back onto the bustling city streets to visit a Confucian temple (above) and the Shanghai Museum at the base of the Pearl Tower. With every charred incense and cragged sidewalk that we passed in the temple, I began to appreciate the stroke of unexpected luck that had kept us in Shanghai that weekend. By the time we made it to the interactive Shanghai Museum, my positive attitude had resurged.
After viewing a night’s worth of travel photos of Centre students in Mexico and Strasbourg on Facebook, my poor mood returned. Nevertheless, I was determined to try and make the best of the situation. So I set out again, this time with my friend Corey to find the Shanghai Propaganda Art Museum. Instead, we got hideously lost for 45 minutes in the depths of Shanghai. Rather than having an awful time, Corey and I roamed the streets and practiced our Chinese skills on unsuspecting Chinese citizens.
Although my disappointment at not having had the time to travel will not dissipate completely, I know that how I choose to respond to a situation can make or break a weekend…or even a semester.
by Morgan Whitehead ’15, currently participating in the Centre-in-China study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in China.
PHOTOS: Inside a Confucian temple (top of page); me at The Bund, the waterfront part of Shanghai (above right).

By |2013-11-27T16:44:53-05:00November 27th, 2013|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - China|