Last week we returned to a country that my heart loves. A country that is as crazy and chaotic as it is beautiful. I haven't been to China since the end of 2011, and for this reason, I've been anxiously awaiting this portion of our trip. This land and this people hold a special place in my heart. One moment they make me smile and laugh, and the next moment, they frustrate me beyond words. It's almost like that line that you walk with close friends or family when you've spent way too much time together and you end up closer and crazier all at the same time.

When we arrived in Shanghai last week, I wondered what my reaction would be. I've only ever been to China as a non-profit volunteer, never as a full time tourist. And it is definitely a different perspective. When I've been here in the past, I've been surrounded by people that I know and love and who know and love me. This time, I've been a number in a mass of tourists that swarm the streets of China. But all the same, I still love this place. And to see Perry's reaction to this place of crazy, chaotic beauty has been a bonus :)

In all honesty, Shanghai is a little different than what we expected. We knew it would be huge, full of skyscrapers too numerous to count, and the main business capital of China, but we expected it to be a little more touristy. And it is touristy, don't get me wrong, there are loads of Chinese tourists, but there aren't many touristy things to do. It's honestly a city that you spend your days getting lost in the streets and enjoying views of places like the Bund on the riverfront.

Once we learned the history of this city, it started to make sense. The city wasn't really much more than a small town until the mid-1800s at the end of the Opium War from which Britain received five port cities throughout China with Shanghai being one of those. Once this happened, Shanghai kind of landed on the map and quickly developed into the economic giant that it is today.

So with that in mind, we did spend most of our time, not seeing tourist attractions, but instead wandering the streets and soaking up different areas of the largest city in China (like over 30 million people!).

We loved walking up and down East Nanjing Road seeing all the lights and hustle and bustle of Shanghai's shopping area.

We spent some time exploring the different areas of the city filled with skyscrapers and apartments. We visited some of the residential areas of the city, where, similar to most big cities, the contrast between skyscrapers and shopping malls and some of the living conditions was quite drastic. While wondering around, we enjoyed some of the local delicacies like dumplings, onion pancakes and other yumminess.

We visited the suburb/town of Zhujiajiao about 1.5 hours outside of Shanghai. This "watertown" as it's called, is made up of many canals with shops, restaurants and homes lining the waterways. Its known as one of the most well-preserved ancient watertowns in all of China.We loved escaping the big city and getting to explore this smaller town and all of it's nooks and crannies. While there, we took a boat ride on the main canal, visited the Kezhi Garden, and took about a million pictures.

We explored Old Shanghai, which is the small area in the city that the Chinese lived in during the years that Shanghai was a British, American and French port city. Unfortunately most of this area has been torn down and rebuilt over the years, but it was still an interesting and fun place to explore with the Old Bazaar and City God Temple being part of it.

We did find one very touristy place to visit: Shanghai Disneyland. We know we're crazy, but we can't help it. If there's a Disney Resort in a city we're going to, why wouldn't we visit it? :)

Our last day, we spent time walking around the Bund and Pudong areas. These areas sit on the Huangpu River and make up the iconic skylines that you think of when you imagine Shanghai. They were so fun to see during the day and at night. At night, all of the buildings light up and perform a light show on both sides of the river. We also made some new "friends" aka some Chinese people (adults and children) who asked to take pictures with us simply because we were foreigners...we fully hope and expect to be in one little boy's graduation or wedding video.

Also our last night, we visited the Oriental Pearl Tower, which overlooks the Huangpu on the Pudong side. We enjoyed seeing Shanghai from the sky as it showed off its bright lights and beauty.

Being back in this place, with this culture and these people, has been a reminder about the differences in cultures around the world. China doesn't operate the same way that we do in the States, in fact, things are quite different here. Many times, Perry and I have had to "check" ourselves over the last week and remember that it's different, but that's not a bad thing. The differences are what make this land what it is, and that's okay. It's teaching us a little more about extending grace and patience and understanding more about a culture that sometimes we just don't get. And I firmly believe that the world would be so boring without all these differences. So today, I'm hoping and praying for a more patient heart. May I extend grace when needed. May I learn to recognize that our differences make this crazy, chaotic world more beautiful. And may I strive to more deeply love a people and a land that have held my heart for almost 10 years.


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