This was the second year Jordan Mandujano stayed in Shanghai during Spring Festival. Still, the American student at Fudan University hasn't experienced a real festive environment in China due to the tough times caused by COVID-19 last year.
As life gradually returns to normal domestically, he planned to take this opportunity to immerse himself in the festive vibe this year.
"I'll at least gather with friends and classmates for a nice dinner and learn about the holiday customs," said the 26-year-old from Texas, who is pursuing a master's degree in ancient Chinese philosophy and culture.
He planned to roam around the city and take street photography of the daily lives of locals. It is one of his favorite hobbies, which he discovered during a trip to the gardens in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province. There, he was impressed by the classic tourist sites noted for exquisite craftsmanship to reach harmony between architecture and the surrounding natural environment.
"The moment I started playing around with the camera, I discovered that I can actually build new worlds for myself, helping my artistic side and loving my own being in this world. I see ordinary things with extraordinary lenses," Mandujano said.
He's taken plenty of street photos in Shanghai, from scenic spots to the everyday streets he walks on, such as Yu Garden, and cultural places in Xuhui and Hongkou districts. There is almost no place he hasn't walked around in Shanghai. He finds it necessary to feel every detail in the scene, which prompts him to take a photo.
"With no specific photography plan, I'll just take the camera whenever I have the mood to see the world and take pictures," he added.
During the holiday, he planned to continue working on his master's thesis about the concept of play in ancient Chinese thought.
"I have always been interested in history but never really understood or had any learning about Eastern philosophy and culture. Studying the major in China since 2019 allows me to add that into my own reservoir of knowledge," he said.
It has been a year and a half since Mandujano left his native state of Texas. He misses home and is eager to return later this year.
"Many people, including myself, went through bouts of stress and anxiety last year, feeling isolated from the rest of the world. However, philosophy offers conceptual frameworks to navigate your present situation. I adapted, saying, 'Let me change the perspective and deal with the challenge with the concepts that I know.' It helps me structure my life in a way to look at the world in a more optimistic sense," he said.
Interpersonal communication, he added, is critical under such circumstances.
"When you start hearing other students talk about other struggles, there is a sense of solidarity. Now it's not just your own struggle. People get through these together," Mandujano said, adding that he's received a lot of care from people around him.
"This year, I would like to be a better gift-giver, to give my warmth, love, and care to people, instead of just receiving," he said.
Li Junyao in Shanghai contributed to the story.