I knew I had arrived when I was awakened by a grunt from the taxi driver. I kept my fingers crossed as I walked into a large, for American standards, apartment complex. There were over thirteen grey high-rise buildings, three play grounds, and a large fountain that was empty and as dry as the Sahara desert. I felt as if my luck of finding my brother’s friend Kent had run just about as dry as the fountain. However, I soon spotted Kent’s building, number 13, and entered. Deciding to save my energy, I took the elevator to the seventh floor. Stepping out of the elevator and looking to the right, I saw Kent standing in his doorway. Our stomachs growled like a mad dog as we discussed dinner and the following day’s activities.
Almost immediately, Kent and I were off to a small restaurant overlooking the Baroque style architecture of the Bund. Sitting at a large circular dining table, Kent ordered a traditional Shanghai meal. Soon, our large table was covered with a platter of maroon lotus roots stuffed with rice, a plate piled with crunchy jellyfish, a clay pot loaded with tender pork belly, a plate with fibrous pork intestines, and a white bowl with a matching ladle filled to the brim with succulent duck stew. With the end of the meal not far, I could do nothing but drift my eyes across the river that the restaurant overlooked.
Shortly after dinner, we purchased tickets for a short boat ride down the Huangpu River. Soon, the crisp cold air blowing down the Bund breezed across our faces as we stepped onto medium-sized neon light-decorated guide boat for a tour down the Huangpu River. I was astounded before the vessel even left the dock. Blue, green, white, and red lights illuminated the November night sky, outlining the shapes of the most noticeable skyscrapers in Shanghai’s skyline. Building structures popped like highlighted words in a novel. Feeling the rumble of the craft’s engine, we knew we were departing the dock to fill our eyes with spectacular views of the city.
We were slowly motoring down the Huangpu River, Kent attempted to explain awkward Chinese political beliefs, but I interrupted him in mid sentence. Shooting from my chair, while pointing, I shouted, “There it is, that’s my boat!” I felt as if I was once again a kindergartner showing my parents where I created my finger painting masterpieces that at one time covered my childhood refrigerator. At this point in the voyage, the ship seems to be a second home, even more than where I spent the previous two years of my colligate life at my university in Nacogdoches, TX. It was fulfilling to boast my new home, the M.V. Explorer, as its hibernating reflection bounced off the Huangpu River into Shanghai’s night sky.
– Thomas Shelton