Monday, February 08, 2010

I is in China

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Tuesday, Feb 9th, 8:30 a.m.

I'm sitting on my sister's couch in a small apartment somewhere tucked into the urban jungle of eastern Shanghai. Through the window, concrete apartment high rises frame a narrow alley where bicyclists trickle by every few seconds.

Vanessa, Ramsey, and Lu (Ness's friend staying here) are all still asleep. It was well into the wee hours of the morning when I finally got to bed, or in this case, to couch, after having not slept in 30 hours. Now I'm wide awake, likely because my body still thinks it's in another time zone. Well I got news for you, body, you're in China. We'll see who's near collapse in a few hours when it's broad daylight and you think it's night. Who'll be laughing then?

The plane ride over was pleasant, if a bit maddening at times. Being cramped in a metal coffin zooming through the sky for 16 hours will do that to you. I sat next to a gregarious, if somewhat stinky, postal worker on his way to Thailand for the "adventure of a lifetime." He was very chatty and eager to discuss his upcoming trip. His fat rolls were also eager to spill over into my seat. Boo.

Korea Air has pretty great service, I have to note. In total, 3 great meals, lots of snacks, juice, hot towels, etc. The in-flight entertainment consisted of screens on each seat with a kazillion movies to choose from, most just barely out of theaters. I watched five of them – anything to shut the fat man up from listing his itinerary for the 15th time. No I kid, fat man, have fun in Thailand.

The Korean layover went smoothly, although the gate changed inexplicably twice. Arriving in Shanghai, getting my bags, and going through customs also went off without a hitch. Then I was stranded for about 2 hours as my sister and I waited for each other in different terminals.

It's an odd feeling, having no phone, knowing no Mandarin beyond a few phrases, and having no idea what to do next in a very alien place. I walked around with my bags, near panic, sleep deprived, and surely made a pathetic sight. I couldn't work the stupid pay phones to call Vanessa's cell. No matter what button I pushed some electronic-voiced lady came on and spouted something in Chinese. (Most likely translation: "Haha, no phone for you sucka.")

I also learned that when someone says they speak English, it really means they THINK they speak English. The info desk lady somehow interpreted my saying, "How do I use the phone to call my sister?" into "I'm trying to get to Australia."

Suffice it to say, when Ness and I saw each other it was a huge relief. She was pretty miserable, having waited in the wrong place for nearly 3 hours (the other terminal listed my flight arriving too – so you can't blame her). We took a long bus ride, followed by a taxi (in which Vanessa forced the taxi guy not to rip us off with her impressive Mandarin), and finally got to her apartment. My first impressions of Shanghai are pretty much nonexistant – I don't remember seeing much out the bus window except dark haze and street lamps and cars.

But now Ness is waking and cooking me breakfast (woo!) and we'll soon be replacing my non-impressions with first impressions. I'll try to keep this blog updated when I can get this VPN to work. China no likey blogger.


(photo: found in my sister's bathroom.Awesome)

6 comments:

grace said...

Can't wait to read the rest of your adventures! :D

Anonymous said...

This is Jill, I wished I could have rescued you with my fluent Mandarin skills! I hope your body will adjust to the time difference soon. I've never been to China before, looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventures. :)

Valerie said...

I don't want to know what the fat man's "adventure of lifetime" entails." Heard to many stories about those poor young Thai girls working the streets. Anyways, hopefully your Chinese "adventure of a lifetime" will include less airport disasters, an pseudo-English speakers. At least it won't include any red light districts!

the emily said...

What are you doing there? Just visiting for fun? Why does your sister live there? Sounds awesome.

LB said...

Oh I say enjoy the psuedo english speakers! That is part of the charm. And they really can be quite charming or amusing when you've had more sleep. Looking forward to living vicariously though you. Have fun!

Jer said...

Jill -- Wish you were here too. Having another Mandarin speaker would be soo nice (also, having you around in general is always nice.)

Val--I had the same suspicions. He fit the profile. Yikes.

Emily--My sister teaches English and her husband manages a MMA gym. She has a month off from teaching so we're traveling together.

Grace--glad you're reading :)

LB--true. I'm sure it's much more charming on a good nights sleep.