Celebrating 21st Birthday in China

Last Saturday, I, along with my Chinese tutor (Alex), and CIEE classmate (Kasia), went to Tianzifang (天子方) to celebrate our birthdays (mine was on Sunday and Kasia’s was Tuesday). Tianzifang is this relatively new “old-style” shopping area in Shanghai that mostly serves foreign tourists. My host dad had never heard of it and when Kasia’s eight-year old host brother asked his mom where Kasia was going, his mom said “the place where foreigners buy things.”

Despite being packed with foreign tourists, it was a very enjoyable place to wander. The alleys are very narrow and there was a wide variety of souvenirs–going from just a few RMB to a few thousand RMB. Needless to say, we stuck to the cheaper area. I must say, it was rather odd seeing so many foreign tourists. It is not that I do not see foreigners on a daily basis–all my classes are filled with study abroad students, but I rarely see any foreigners who are not studying abroad. Alex was surprised at how many shop keepers in Tianzifang could speak English but we decided it was because they would have a hard time selling their goods if they could not communicate with their customers.

We got really good Thai food for lunch in a teddy bear restaurant (it was rather odd) and my purchases for the day included a 15 RMB hair clip, a beautiful red silk scarf, and 18 postcards of old doors in China that I want to hang in my room. The birthday celebration day was finished by “fast food” hot pot (I did not think such a thing could exist), a 10 RMB piece of chocolate cake (which was amazing!), and watching Monuments Men. We all enjoyed the movie and it seemed like the Chinese movie goers who were with us did as well. The Chinese subtitles were pretty accurate, at least the ones we could read, and I was surprised by how perfectly the humor translated over into Chinese because all the audience members were laughing at the same time.

The following day, my actual birthday, I had a splendid time hanging around my house with my host family. My host sister and her six month old daughter have been staying with us for the past week. They are doing construction work on their apartment, which makes it hard for the baby to sleep. I spent the morning finishing up some applications and talking with my host sister and host dad. In the afternoon, my host sister and host cousin took me to buy a birthday cake. We wandered around the neighborhood for an hour sampling various food items (roasted spicy duck and tofu noodles), while waiting for the bakery to finish the cake. Dinner was hot pot and it was amazing–so much good food! Three hours later we had cake and they sung to me in Chinese and English. Well, my host sister is the only one who can really speak any English, so she sung in English and everyone else kind of mumbled along. Afterwards it was picture time, and I’ve included a few below!

Me and my birthday cake.

Me and my birthday cake.

Hot Pot Dinner! The hot pot where we cook the food is on the far right. On the table there is also raw shrimp, Nanjing duck, tofu, bean sprouts, duck throat, slippery rice (?) tubes, meat balls, fried tofu--so much good food!

Hot Pot Dinner! The hot pot where we cook the food is on the far right. On the table there is also raw shrimp, Nanjing duck, tofu, bean sprouts, duck throat, slippery rice (?) tubes, meat balls, fried tofu–so much good food!

Shushu, Me, Baby, and Ayi.

Shushu, Me, Baby, and Ayi.

Me and my host cousin.

Me and my host cousin.

Me, Jiejie and her baby!

Me, Jiejie and her baby!

All in all, it was amazing birthday and I am so thankful for having such a caring host family. They are really the main factor making my study abroad experience so wonderful!

-The Older Sparrow




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