I haven’t been doing anything this summer break, so I randomly got the idea to visit Sheena (my best friend) in Shanghai, since I’m already in Beijing anyway. Well, the idea wasn’t so random. I was talking to her about the Benjamin Francis Leftwich concert in Beijing that I was considering going to (like I mentioned in my May-in-review blog post). The only thing was that I couldn’t find anyone to go with. Then we realised that Benjamin Francis Leftwich would be in Shanghai too, so Sheena was also wishing she could make the concert, if only she could find someone to go with. If only the two of us were in the same city!
Well… I made it to Shanghai! Not in time for the concert, but I made it nonetheless. My friend Grace was also in Shanghai, so I decided to pop by and meet both of them.
This travel post will be a little different from the usual. Usually, I talk about the place, the sights, the eats, etc. But this trip was more about seeing the people than the place. Which made me realise: Of course, I love traveling to see new things and stow away these experiences in my belt and on my blog. It’s fun staying at hotels, eating out all the time, and being extravagant for a little while. But as I said, this trip wasn’t about seeing Shanghai so much as seeing two friends. Yet, this trip felt very special to me. Or rather, I should say, thus, this trip felt very special to me.
Sheena and I met up at IAPM Mall and spent the whole evening there. At the mall, we hit up Nana’s Green Tea for an afternoon snack (green tea with mochi and red bean for me, green tea with green tea ice cream for her) and Ban Ban by Sproutworks for dinner (Hippie In Me bowl for me, HCMC Is My Jam bowl for her). If you’re visiting Shanghai for the first time and wanted to see some of the city, I would not recommend spending your time at a mall. Luckily, as it just so happened, that wasn’t what I was in Shanghai for. We were there for good food, good company, and air conditioning. But mostly air conditioning 😉 jkjk
We talked and talked and talked. We got our green tea desserts from Nana’s and kept talking until we finished snacking and then kept talking some more. The waiters at Nana’s–God bless their souls–even came by our table to give us cups of water as we were still sat there talking. We kept talking until it was time for dinner even though neither of us were that hungry, got dinner, and then–yup you guessed it–kept talking some more.
I want more moments of my life where I simply spend time with friends. And I really mean to spend it, to experience every minute of it and take all that time has to offer. To just sit and chat. Not to find something to do. Not to check out a new place. Not to do a photoshoot. But to spend time with you. (I mean, but going to a coffee shop never hurt anyone.)
The next day, Grace and I met up at 田子坊 and spent the whole morning there. 田子坊 is “a touristic arts and crafts enclave that has developed from a renovated traditional residential area” that is now “home to boutique shops, bars and restaurants” (-Wikipedia). We roamed the shops and stumbled upon one where we could make our own music boxes. It was SO. MUCH. FUN. But I don’t want to focus on what we made or how we made it in this blog post (I’ll share more about that in a separate blog post). I want to focus on the time that we spent together.
When I was little, I did a ton of arts and crafts in school and out of school, and my parents and I would proudly display it in the house until it was pushed to the side by a new tacky art piece by me. Now that I’m older, I’m all about practicality and living minimal and only keeping things I need and that strike joy. I don’t buy souvenirs when I travel anymore. I don’t make art anymore, tacky or otherwise.
Making a music box is not something I would typically do, and neither is it for Grace. When I hang out with friends, we usually try to do more, see more, and eat more, not sit in one place and make a music box. I can’t remember the last time I did any arts and crafts! (Okay that’s a lie. The last time I did an art and craft was when I made the reusable Soylent bottle. I have the blog to thank for remembering. But the point is, it’s been awhile since I’ve done arts and crafts.)
But I’m so glad that that was what we chose to do, to sit in one place and make a music box together. I think there’s something inherently personal about making art together. When I see the music box we made, I see the pieces of us. I could probably do an analysis of it in the style of English class literature reviews. But seeing the finished music box wasn’t even the best part. It was the process of making it together, the fun we had choosing elements to our piece, the chatting we did all the while, some lighthearted, some a little more serious.
This trip has left me wondering about whether I’ve been writing about the wrong things. Somewhere along the way, I shifted from sharing about how I felt and what I learned from my experiences to sharing about what I did (or perhaps more accurately, what I ate)–just an itinerary of facts. My good friend Ami has been the only person to really point this out to me, not to say that what I wrote before is better than what I’m writing now, nor the other way around, but just that they are different. I think she brought up a really good point. I do miss how I used to really personalise my experiences and reflect and learn. I miss how it didn’t use to be about doing more and seeing more and eating more so that I’d have more content to blog about. I mean, I don’t do all of this so that I can have more to blog about, but I do sometimes get swept up in more more and more.
My weekend in Shanghai made me realise and reflect. It made me think about how I spend time. Earlier I said that I want to spend more time with friends. But I kind of feel like a hypocrite for saying this, because at the same time, lately I’ve been grappling with this uncomfortable feeling that there are some people that I feel like I’ve been spending too much time with, and I feel like a totally shit friend that this is something I even need to think through.
I’ve been trying to figure out why some time spent feels rejuvenating whereas others feel exhausting. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that it’s due to the quality of the way in which we spend our time. What I mean by that is, be meaningful. I’m not interested in rehashing the same conversations about nothing. I’m not interested in hanging out just because we’re nearby. I want to hang out not because I’m bored or because you’re bored but because I want to hang out with you and you want to hang out with me.
How have you been and what’s been making you feel full?