It must have been my third day in Shanghai & the first time I had been alone in a foreign country. I decided I would spend the day around the things I love the most, airplanes. I had read about an aviation museum near Hongqiao International Airport, so I set out to find it.
I didn’t understand a word of Chinese & the concepts of subways & public busses were completely foreign to me. In hindsight, I should have paid attention when my friend explained the subway system to me. I should also point out that this particular day was cold & it was raining, the worst weather combination in my opinion.
I made my way to the closest metro station, got a few snacks & jumped on the first train that was headed in the right direction. I made it to Jing’an Temple & I had to change lines there. It seemed simple because there was only one other line at that station… maybe not simple enough. Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the culture shock or maybe it was my complete ignorance for public transport, either one, I got on the correct line going in the wrong direction.
About an hour & a half later, I arrived at the end of the line which happened to be Pudong International Airport. I realized I had made a mistake. I connected to the WIFI & reassessed how to get to the other airport. Slightly upset, I headed back to the metro & attempted to get to the other airport.
After a further two & a half hours, I got off the train at the station before Hongqiao in the hopes of being able to walk around & find the museum. It was cold & wet & I struggled to make my way around. I decided to go back to the metro, get to the airport, find some food & then try find the museum from that angle.
Due to some safety concern, the police weren’t letting non-passengers into the airport & from my understanding, you could only leave that area on the metro or in a car, not on foot. Being naïve & not knowing that these things happen while travelling, I was extremely upset & felt really emotional. I was hungry, dripping wet & shivering. The only shop in the metro station was a tea stand with a glass display case full of cakes & treats. I went there to buy some tea. Using a combination of charades & pointing, I stumbled my way through an order. I got my cup of tea & I went to pierce the plastic covering with a straw… Sploosh! The straw had gone through the whole cup. Piping hot tea all over my hand, down my arm, covering the entire display case & dripping into puddles on the floor.
I often think of how amusing it must have been for passers-by to see an awkward foreigner being shouted at by a tea vendor. I never did find that aviation museum. I also never got to taste that Oreo infused vanilla milk tea. I did, however, learn the importance of checking the weather forecast, double checking you are headed in the right direction(literally) & making sure you know exactly where you want to go, not just having a vague idea.