Like many of my fellow politically aware friends, I needed to carry out my civic obligation of voting in the municipal election. Thus, I headed for Shanghai on Wednesday, where the consulate of Finland is located. The pre-election date happened to fall on my birthday, so I made some plans with my friends to celebrate beforehand. Last weekend we had a really nice lunch gathering with my friends and Wen’s family. There is a lovely restaurant across the lake about one kilometre from my dorm. Here are some pictures from our lunch date.

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When we entered the restaurant, I thought the pool was for guests to enjoy. I was wrong. The pool was full of very large fish. When the guests want to have fish for lunch, they are taken to the pool, and they point out the fish they want. Then the fish-handler catches the chosen fish and prepares it right then and there. I had to excuse myself as the handling was really brutal (although very fast, I doubt the poor fish felt anything). Aside from this, the experience was excellent. The restaurant is situated next to the East Lake, and the view is very beautiful, as is the food. After the lunch, we walked back to the campus, and decided to have some interesting dessert: stir-fried frozen yogurt. The shop is located outside my dorm, and it sells all kinds of ice-cream-yogurt-tea-juice mixtures you can think of, for example taro jelly-tapioca-stir-fried ice cream cocktails. If you ever have the opportunity to try this out, I highly recommend it!

With my birthday approaching, I decided I could as well spend it usefully by voting in Shanghai. I didn’t have any big intentions for celebrating, but when I got to Shanghai, there were two Chinese girls staying in the same dorm as me. We started talking and discovered that me and one of them had the same birthday! She told us that she had come to Shanghai for work and didn’t intend to celebrate that much either. Needless to say, some time later, we had grand plans: afternoon tea at Shanghai’s highest rooftop lounge, hot pot dinner with special treatment, and visiting the Shanghai oceanarium, since we all were something of science fanatics. The oceanarium was fascinating. There were separate sections covering several floors, species from all over the world. I especially liked the jellyfish and rays. There was even a crocodile, killer whale, and penguins. The killer whale seemed very frustrated though, in its tiny tub too small for an animal of its size. I felt a little sorry for the poor creature swimming around in circles on its own. Luckily, all the other animals seemed to have enough space to live.

The African electric fish were interesting to watch, it seemed like they were pulled together by the current they generated. Some species I had never seen before, such as the sea bottom worms(?). The jellyfish compartment was kind of hypnotising, which you can imagine when you see the pictures. Some children even fell asleep in front of the ray basin.

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The next day was our birthday (we spent such a long time at the oceanarium that we didn’t have the time to do much else), and the three of us had afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong. The hotel is of a very good standard, and the 52th floor lounge has a view overlooking the Bund and the Pearl Tower, basically the whole city centre. The service is out of this world. We had a hot pot dinner after the afternoon tea, and when the staff learned that two of us were celebrating our shared birthday, they brought us an eight-dish-tasting menu for free. Before this, they provided us with aprons. Then they sang to us, performed a noodle-stretching show for us and gave us a cake and flowers. I also got a scale model of the Pearl Tower, Shanghai’s tallest building. At the table, there were two footmen constantly monitoring our every move. Two seconds after putting down a finished plate, they were whisking it away. When they noticed that some of my hair was hanging into the food, they brought a hairpin on a tray. They also bowed every time they opened a door or brought a plate of something. When we left, they offered us an umbrella and respirators, and escorted us to a back door to avoid the crowd. I have never experienced anything like this in Europe. Certainly a birthday to remember.

If you are somewhat affluent and happen to run out of ideas how to spend your pocket money, here are some suggestions.

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Meanwhile, back in Wuhan, the control of the attendance of students is taken to another level: each student’s face is scanned before and after the lecture, to pinpoint the exact time of arrival and departure (and possible absence). Luckily, exchange students don’t have to do this. The 80% required attendance at home is starting to feel like a breeze.

Mili

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