I got off the plane, out of the terminal, and through customs. The airport was was not much different than to what I was accustomed: moving sidewalks, large crowds of people with luggage, loud computerized voices echoing off tile floors. Fuji (the professor helping lead our research team) met me outside of baggage claim. Everything seemed similar to what I knew in the States. Together we hopped in a taxi and began our one hour drive from the airport to Fudan University. It was only then that I knew I was in China.
Chinese billboards, Chinese license plates, Chinese road signs, thick Chinese smog. And I cannot forget Chinese driving. We got onto the highway, and the taxi driver swerved between cars and straddled lanes. Grabbing the door to keep steady in what seemed like a theme park ride, I looked out past the highway. We were an hour from Shanghai, but even here I saw crane after crane, each slowly expanding the city limits with new buildings and new infrastructures. I strained my neck to see the tops of the massive electrical poles that ran like arteries into the city.
These poles were striking. I saw men working around their thick concrete footings. It took me a second to realize what they were: they were farmers. Looking anachronistic in the rapidly modernizing landscape, they tended crops on fragmented farmland, strattled between new apartment complexes and below high voltage power lines. It seemed as though they were slowly being swallowed by the city. How are they surviving now and what are they to become? The taxi-cab driver honked and swerved. My view was again replaced with thick concrete highways.
I do not know if it was the heavy, industrial smog or the dizzying cab ride, but I arrived at my dormitory as night fell feeling a little nauseated. Fuji brought me to my room. Passing on dinner, I unpacked my bags and fell asleep.