Monday, June 13, 2011

There's Something About Shanghai

Pictured above, the incredible Shanghai skyline.

Shhh...don't tell Seoul, but I think I've got a bit of a crush on Shanghai. Seoul is still my number one, but with my second trip to Shanghai, my heart swooned and I found myself wishing that our 3-week stay would become a permanent move. 

The purpose of our trip was to get Raelynn her US citizenship. We brought all the required paperwork (after checking about 100 times to make sure we had every possible item) to our bright and early morning appointment at 8:15 on May 24th. Chinese nationals were piled into a massive line, eyeing my husband jealously as we were let right in to take care of our business. I was absolutely amazed at just how many people wanted to go to America, though not at all surprised. After our interview there, we were told that Raelynn's passport would take up to 10 business days to come out. We'd have to wait for an email from the consulate. The consulate is closed on weekends and on holidays for both America and China. Just our luck that there was one American holiday and one Chinese holiday during our wait.

But we made the most of it while trying to be helpful to our very generous host who spoiled little Raelynn rotten with incredibly lovely gifts (thanks again, Cherie!). Our first trip to Shanghai several months ago was like a mini-honeymoon. We still have yet to have a wedding ceremony and a real honeymoon but nevermind that. It was our last trip for the 2 of us before our beautiful Raelynn came into our lives. During that trip, Xiaolong took me to the Shanghai Zoo because, for one thing, he knows how much I love animals, and for another, I’d never seen pandas before. That trip was during the Chinese New Year so everyone had off work. And EVERYONE had the same idea as us to go to the zoo. There were so many people there (and everywhere else too for that matter), making it much more difficult for us to enjoy. But not this time. We went on a weekday and we practically had the place to ourselves. It was the perfect day. 

Raelynn and I stand in front of the Shanghai Zoo entrance.

Shanghai is an incredible city. I feel quite lucky to have visited there twice when so many people around the world might never have a chance to go even just once. It is quite the metropolis, filled with stunning architectural feats. And tucked in between massive skyscrapers, you find little Chinese temples and side streets full of vendors selling little trinkets or tasty treats. It’s an intricate blend of sophistication and tradition. If only Qingdao could be this modern and tantalizing! It’s not like Qingdao is a total dump. They call it “The Sailing City” because during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the sailing sports took place here. There are parts of Qingdao that are quite lovely, but it still has a lot of growing to do. I get hopeful when I see new buildings going up, flowers being planted, subway stations being constructed and clean malls filled with Western-style bathrooms, elegant dining and pricey stores like Prada, Cartier and Gucci. But if you know me at all, you know I can be a bit impatient at times. Like now, obviously. And right now, I want to wave a magic wand and turn this place into everything it could and should be.
Below, a couple shots I took of Shanghai on our first visit...

Back to reality, as I sit here and type this, alternating between watching my adorable daughter sleep peacefully and looking out the window at the city of huge potential below me (all the while counting to 10 while MIL putters around my kitchen). We created wonderful memories on this trip with so many firsts for Raelynn besides the plane ride and the zoo. We rode the subway. We went to the Shanghai Museum. We ate Xiaolong Bao (yes, spelled like my husband's name but his name means 'morning dragon'), the kind of dumplings Shanghai is known for, filled with soup and a flavorful meat mixture:

 And we walked around taking in as much of Shanghai as we could so we could always have a piece of it in our hearts. 
Our little family, posing in the hot Shanghai summer sun with the famous skyscape behind us.

For me, it was also a much-needed break from certain stressors (coughMILcough) which will hopefully enable me to attempt to be nice for my husband’s sake. But most importantly of all, we got what we came for. Our little Raelynn got her US passport and is now an official US citizen. Congratulations, my precious baby. Daddy and I always want you to have the best of everything in this world and that starts with having the best choices available to you. This is the best gift we can possibly ever give you, though when you’re 16, I bet you’ll think the best gift we could give you would be a new car. Hell, maybe she deserves it for us posting her passport photo:

Have you ever seen anything so adorable and hilarious all at once? This photo will always make me smile and warm my heart.

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