Sunday was supposed to be a rather leisurely day but wound up being somewhat chaotic as our group became seperated and we began to search around Shanghai for each other!
The day started off with the majority of us going to a church that Brian and others had found, roughly one mile from our hotel. Jamie, Kate, and I walked there (I was soaked due to the humid conditions by the time I got there!), only to find that the rest took a cab later because it was already so hot at 10 am! It was very much like an American church, in a lot of ways, except for the fact that there were two services in seperate buildings - one for Chinese worshippers and the other service in English. We were led to a room upstairs, which had me concerned because it was already so hot, however, the 12 or so air conditioners in the room made it rather comfortable. The pastor, in a lot of ways, was a Chinese version of Pastor Ivan, including how he combed his hair, his glasses, clothes, mannerisms, and how he carried himself as well. (He was incredibly passionate about the Word of God as well, just like Ivan.) It turned out that the man was of Chinese origin, but had lived in the US permanently up until 7 months ago. There were about 200 people at the contemporary service, which surprised me. I had heard in the past that churches were hunted down by the communist regime in China and that if one wanted to attend an international church, he or she had to show a foreign passport to get in. Perhaps the rules are more relaxed in Shanghai because they want to encourage Western business here so much.
Afterward, we took a taxi to the subway station and headed off for the Shanghai Zoo. In some ways, the zoo was an incredible experience, but a rather sad one as well. They had, by far, the largest variety of animals that I had ever seen at a zoo. Of course, the highlight was the three giant pandas that we saw. They would just sit there, eat some bamboo while staring at the crowds, walk to the front of the glass, and then lie down for awhile and repeat this over and over. The landscaping, with all of the trees and ponds throughout the zoo, was also incredible. On the downside, the animals all looked rather depressed and the areas that they had for them were rather small. (The elephants were in oversized horse stalls that were maybe large enough for them to take 2 or 3 steps, but no more. One of them had its legs chained together, for some reason unknown to us.) Furthermore, many visitors would throw trash and other food in the cages for the animals to eat, which was rather disturbing. I highly doubt that potato chips are part of a giraffe's normal diet!
When our leisurely stroll through the zoo had ended, it was back to the taxis again to go back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we had another bad experience with them. We needed three taxis and they all took us to the wrong subway station. One arrived well ahead of ours, and when they didn't see us, they went to the correct subway station, got off there, and searched all over for us (but of course, we were not there yet!). The other two taxis also got dropped off somewhat near the wrong station, but our cab drivers told us to walk in the wrong direction. After searching for three blocks and seeing some rather authentic (a.k.a. gross) foods being cooked on the sidewalk, including chicken feet and snake, we found a police station that pointed us in the right direction. We then went to the correct subway station as well to find the first group, only to no avail, as they had left the station to look on the streets for us! About 90 minutes after we left the first subway station, we all made it home safely, but it wound up being rather stressful. (The situation was made more difficult by the fact that none of us had our cell phones with us. We could use them here, but it would cost over $3.00/minute.) Finally, we were back at the hotel, enjoyed a wonderful dinner and were greatly relieved to see Flex, our fearless Chinese leader, return from Beijing, where he had been for the previous week, getting trained in as an Olympic volunteer.
Monday marks the start of the second and final week of camp. We are all feeling refreshed and ready to go, which is a good sign. To this point, we've been blessed with good health (no illnesses, allergies, etc.) on the trip and a pretty good group of kids. Tomorrow, you can read all about our journey, teaching the kids about the Wild West.