Samuel Garcia, NUS Exchange, Fall 2014
My entire summer has been one rapid adventure. After a hard Spring Quarter at Northwestern, I was greatly looking forward to coming to Asia for almost six months. In a new continent, with new people, I could conquer new challenges and discover different parts of myself. My time in America ended quickly, as I watched my boyfriend graduate, spent four days at home celebrating my birthday, and hopped on a plane to Shanghai.
Here I am after nearly six weeks in Shanghai packing my things and preparing to go to Singapore. When I came to Shanghai I planned to take more time for myself, but I was quickly immersed in the fast-paced life of one of the most developed cities in the world.
I was fascinated by the blend of Western and Chinese culture in Shanghai. Every corner I turned there was another shopping mall, but hidden in parts of the city I found beautiful, traditional Chinese architecture. I will never forget the skyline from the rooftop bar on the Bund, nor will I forget the small water village on the edge of the city.
What I was most surprised by in Shanghai was the openness of the gay scene. I expected a conservative, traditional society, but found I was able to discuss gay issues with my Chinese teacher. The gay bars were packed, and I made some great friends there. The best friend I made even dared to hold my hand while we walked, despite the stares of many people. I found that the younger generation in China accepts homosexuality without a problem, but for their parents it is still taboo. While they have a strong community, they are still not immersed in society as equals.
As I prepare to leave for Singapore, I wonder if the city I find will be as Western as Shanghai or hold on to more traditional values. It seems like the cities have much in common; they are both international hubs, have prospering economies, and begin with S. I am curious if I will find a similarly strong gay community and whether gay couples there dare to hold hands on the street.
One thing I truly fear is the sweltering heat when I step off the plane.