Well, it’s been one hell of a week. I’ve been through some ups and downs in these final couple weeks. Struggling with really wanting to be home as well as not wanting to leave. But a wise man once told me, if you can no longer resist something, accept it. And that is what I have been doing this past week. Accepting that I can no longer act like I have more time he here. I’m really leaving and there is nothing that I can do about it other than make the most of the time that I do have left here. After my final thermodynamics exam on Tuesday, it was truly just me and an entire city to say goodbye to.
William and I took off early Wednesday morning and headed toward Xujiahui and the French Concession. I wanted to get lost in there one final time. No plan, nothing I wanted to see, no direction I wanted to go. All I wanted was to walk along the narrow, tree lined streets and soak it in. That is exactly what I did. For more than three hours, just walking and breathing in all the memories that I had in this place.
We then made our way back to our old downtown campus in Xuhui to meet up with David and Mo. There is something wonderful about meeting friends in the city. We don’t have cell service so there is no way to communicate. We just tell each other that we will meet in a certain area at a specific time and then part of the adventure and excitement is finding them. I think I will actually miss the simplicity that comes with not always being connected. It’s been good for me. From there, we made our way to People’s Square. Walking around the park one final time. A place where I have done much reading, sitting, watching, and thinking. Then it was down Nanjing Lu to the Bund. A walk that I have made dozens of times in my Shanghai stay but one that is always special. Sitting on the Bund and seeing the skyline is something special every time and a place that I will miss dearly.
The sun was beginning to set so we decided to get checked into the hostel downtown Shanghai and put on our ‘out on the town’ clothes. We had to be the sharpest group in all the city. I love this city but what has really made it special has been the friends I have had the honor of sharing it with. The move for the night was Bar Rouge. When I saw that the address was ‘Bund 18’ I knew that it was going to be a special evening. One of our friends knew someone who knew someone who got us a table right in the heart of it all. It was a rooftop bar on 7th floor right across from the Peace Hotel with a one of a kind view of the Bund and city skyline. We were the youngest people in the place by about 10 years. It was filled with the young hip professionals of the city and the old wealthy bourgeoisie. We were a little out of our element but didn’t really mind because were more concerned with the people right with us. The friends sitting to my left and my right. The friends who I have gotten to know over these past 4.5 months. There is nowhere and no one I would have rather spent my final night out in the city with.
The next morning, I was up early, checked out of the hostel, and took off by myself to say my own goodbyes to the city. I walked from the hostel in People’s Square to Xintiandi. That’s about a 5 mile walk. I do things like that all the time and don’t even notice it. That’s the only thing that has kept me in shape this semester. Well that and climbing 4 mountains. My next stop was to Xujiahui Cathedral for the final time. I said my daily rosary and just about cried my eyes out in the process. This is the one place that has really been home for me in my time here. I’ve turned here in times of sadness, in times of helplessness, and in times of uncertainty. But also in times of joy, hope, and thankfulness. It’s the one place in this entire country that gave me strength that I could rely on. There have been few things harder than walking out of that cathedral for the final time and not looking back.
After that, it was back to campus. Packing, more goodbyes to friends I’ve made and places I have come to know, and preparing for the final departure. I don’t think anyone will ever fully understand just how hard these goodbyes are. They’re not just, ‘goodbye, I’ll be a few states away.’ It’s more that I will be half a world away from these places and people and most likely never see the majority of them again. But who really knows. I could be back here another time I’m sure. For whatever reason. So maybe this isn’t a ‘goodbye’ at all, but rather a ‘see you soon.’ Yeah, I like that much more. See you soon.