That's not exactly how I remember it.
We were taking a course called "Education and Society in China" at East China Normal University in Shanghai,
|Downtown Shanghai, 1984|
China was just recently opening up to tourists. It was cheap. It was an adventure. It was mind-blowing. It was everything that travel should be.
We arrived in Shanghai in the late afternoon and walked off the plane to blasting humidity that never let up. No one was there to meet us. One lady in our group spoke Mandarin and organized taxis to our dorms. The only vehicles on the streets were buses and trucks and bikes. Thousands of bikes. Even though it was pitch black, no one used headlights. Every now and again a taxi would flash his lights and a bike carrying two or three people would be illuminated before our eyes. There were people everywhere.
|Streets of Shanghai, my roomie|
Myrna on right
We arrived at our very basic "international student" dorms and went to bed. Jet-lag and heat had me awake at 5 a.m. I watched a young man in a singlet and shorts doing tai chi under a tree under my window. At 6 a.m. the loudspeakers started and students began their morning exercises.
Every morning we took courses from elderly Chinese professors, translated by Mr. Ye or the handsome charismatic Charles.
|Len, me and Mr. Ye|
Everywhere, young people wanted to practice their English. Anytime we stopped to look in a shop window an enormous crowd gathered to stare at us. Women wore summer frocks out of the 1950s with knee high pantyhose or sported misspelled English words on trendy t-shirts ("Naughnty" was my favourite).Every noon hour was a lunchtime nap taken by everyone. Even the simplest of tasks was met with bureaucracy.
|Jade Screen Pavilion|
After a breakfast of rice gruel and tea, we started our climb. We had been told we had to be at the top before the thunderstorms struck at noon. We climbed thousands of steps carved into the stone mountain. Aaron met a girl and stopped at the first lodge.
|Len in the mists of Huangshan|
We kept going- past noon, through the thunderstorms that boomed and echoed around us. We climbed beyond the spectacular views, up and up into the clouds, seeing nothing. We took a side path to Celestial Capital Peak with its amazing view, but saw only swirling fog. People posed for pictures anyway. The crowds dwindled to nothing. Eventually it was just the two of us, climbing through the mist. We finally reached a ridge and walked on and on, hoping the guest house would appear.
Five months later, we were married.
Thirty years later, here we are.