Commentary: Ten Lessons in Shanghai from Mark Jinkins

By Mark Jinkins, Fall 2015 Door County Sister City Jingdezhen Delegate

The Shanghai Museum reviews said “best museum in China,” especially for ceramics, and I thought that would be a good base for my visit to Jingdezhen, the “Porcelain Capital of the World.”

My first lesson in Shanghai came in the early morning when I realized why so many people were wearing hospital masks. It was the haze (or pollution) in Shanghai. Still Shanghai is beautiful.

I planned to take the subway, and that was an experience. When the train pulled up, “packed” was the view through the windows. Doors opened and a rush in and out – pushing and crowding. I found myself left on the platform as the train pulled away. Next train I learned to be more aggressive and made it inside the car, knowing my neighbors a little more intimately than I was comfortable with. Lesson two – sleep a little later and avoid rush hour.

The Shanghai Museum was definitely good so I spent the day there – that was lesson number three.

Lesson four was a walk by a hospital. Parents carrying sick children in, plus “unfortunates” on the streets, without limbs, or with skin that appeared to be melted from a fire. It made me realize that regardless of issues in the U.S., America is a pretty good place to be.

The second day in Shanghai was a two-deck “hop-on, hop-off” bus tour with a partially open deck on the top. Door County has its trolleys but in a city, whether New York or Shanghai, an open-deck, second-tier view is spectacular.

Lesson five is “the traffic” – even the festival traffic in Door County is less intense than driving in China, where a jumble of cars are honking “beware” (or “get out of my way”) – glad not to be driving here.

Next: credit and debit cards – so widely accepted in Door County and worldwide, but even in metropolitan Shanghai more than 50 percent of the time it is only cash; so lesson six is make sure to have cash from the ATM – Baylake (soon Nicolet) bank card worked great!

Then another lesson, so number seven, soda is expensive. I’ve always thought it too expensive in the U.S. when there is just a little syrup mixed with bubble water and a charge of a buck or two. Try Shanghai where a soda is “five dollars a pop” literally. Precious is a cup of great Door County Coffee, and cheaper, too.

The next day is shopping, but I didn’t buy a thing except fast food to compare to what you can find in Sturgeon Bay. McD’s is pretty much the same except McCafé has much larger presence with separate counter and wider selection of treats to go with. Lesson eight is that there is a bit of America even halfway around the world.

Lesson nine is that during my days in Shanghai I was repeatedly hit on the street by propositions, and not the political kind (so cherish our freedoms, speech and otherwise). I was propositioned for a “massage” repeatedly and after the first “no” response was told “you can choose good-looking girl” with a card of pictures for choosing. Thank you Door County Sheriffs (and Sturgeon Bay Police, too); we have such a wonderful place and so many times fail to appreciate how good life is in the U. S. of A.

Traveling and seeing other cultures is interesting but of all the places I go, the best lesson is realizing how nice it is to be in Door County. Enjoying what we have is the ultimate lesson – Door County is the best place to be in the world. Of course that is my opinion and I have the freedom to profess that and take on the world. Thanks be to the spirit that moves each of us.

Click here to read Jinkins’ first account of his travels in China.

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