October 21 – October 27: New City, New Rules
Well, I’ve left Japan, BUT not without a little drama.
Turns out Osaka has more than one airport (take note!). So, waking up at 5 am (four hours before your flight) and following the subway signs to “Osaka Airport” is NOT a sure-fire way to end up at the right place. Which, is what happened to me.
At 7am (2 hours before my 9am flight), I discover that Osaka has two airports and I am at the wrong one. Oops. Also, I learn that, while there is a bus that drives between the airports, the ride takes about an hour. Double Oops. Oh! And guess who has just run out of all her yen and if she goes to exchange for more will miss the bus that has just pulled out in front of wrong-airport and will have to wait 30 minutes for the next one? Yeah ….
And this is where my faith in humanity is restored! Not only did a very nice attendant at ITM make sure I found the right bus, but, upon learning I had no money to pay for my ticket, a very nice couple comped me the few dollars I needed.
I arrive at the right airport this time one hour before my flight takes off. I find the Air China counter and, guess what? My flight has been MOVED UP 15 minutes. Great. Oh, and it is final boarding call.
And once more, humanity rocks! The woman at the Air China counter grabs me, takes me through the crew security line, runs me to the right tram, and I board the flight just before the gate closes!
Whew — what a way to leave Japan!
So now I am in Shanghai. After one week here, my thoughts are as follows:
- OMG the food! Street food all day, everywhere! And it is awesome (and SO cheap — like <$1). See this guide that roughly describes what I am eating every day: LINK HERE
- The history is incredible. There are tons of museums here, but so far the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square is my favorite. The museum is filled with different forms of Chinese art (pottery, porcelain, jade, statues, seals, calligraphy, etc.). Many of the items on display are literally thousands of years old. The museum is massive and incredible. A must-see!
- Mass transit is awesome here. The subway systems are vast and inexpensive (albeit a bit crowded). Shanghai is huge, but the city is very accessible
- Fitness is actually really huge in the city (not something I experienced while in Japan). I am doing Crossfit on an outdoor track (see next list for why on a track) and there are constantly people around playing soccer or ultimate frisbee, dancing to traditional Chinese songs (in impressive unison), performing tai-chi, ballroom dancing, etc. There are so many parks and places to exercise that it is pretty much a constant no matter where I’ve been. I love seeing so much activity!
- As you’ve probably heard, much of the internet is blocked here. I am talking Google (and Google products such as Gmail and Google Maps), Facebook, most blogging websites, etc. Bring your VPN (/ more than one VPN option). The Chinese government is not relenting on blocking these sites and is constantly updating its firewall. My normal VPN could not break through. As of today, ExpressVPN works — go crazy!
- The Chinese government really is king here. My crossfit gym found a notice on its front door 2 weeks ago saying that the government wanted their land for a new construction project and they had one week to move. Ouch. Par for the course I hear. BUT, before you start raging on how totally unfair this is, I do hear the government generously compensates owners when land is seized (hey! have you ever heard of eminent domain in the US?). It just sucks if you are a renter and don’t get a ton of notice (the government moves FAST on these projects).
- Drivers are INSANE here. I have never seen such poor adherence to traffic lights, signals, signs, etc. Oh, and I include pedestrians in that. Everyone pretty much just does what they want. The green lights even have countdowns to yellow on them and I’ve still yet to see a red light actually stop traffic. Be careful out there!
- You really stick out as a white foreigner here. I actually think I saw fewer white people in my time in Japan, but I think the Japanese are more exposed to Western culture and english than the Chinese are (or at least it is painted more favorably). Those I have met here in Shanghai who are expats or have spent any time outside of China are totally friendly to me, but from those who appear never to have left the country, I don’t feel as welcomed. Now I have only been here a week and haven’t wandered into every non-touristy / less-commercial neighborhood in this very large city, but the places I have wandered, I will say that the stares weren’t exceptionally friendly.
And that’s it for my first week! Will check in soon with more adventures!
Shoot muffins! I had thought I had published the above a while back, but looks like I merely saved the draft and moved on with my life. Whoops. So this will be a bit of a double post!
October 28 – November 10: China Rage
China continues to prove itself a wild and challenging place. Fortunately I have a friend who lives here in Shanghai who I’ve had a chance to hang out with. Ganesh and his girlfriend, Gabby, have invited me to join them for a bit more upscale Shanghai dining. Spending time with them has given me a chance to see more of Shanghai at night, explore the Bund, and eat some amazing food. They’ve also explained to me that my frustrations (what they dub “China Rage”) are normal feelings foreigners have when they spend any significant time living in places throughout China. Apparently discomfort with the chaotic lifestyle of the locals is normal, whew!
I’ve also been able to take a few day trips outside the city. Not as easy as day trips around Japan, but possible. Hangzhou and Suzhou are great (water towns! — think: Chinese Venice).
And I have found a new box in the city that has really tough (read: awesome) crossfit classes.
Maybe my most exciting update is re: my book (tentative title: Sandwatcher). I will probably finish my first draft THIS WEEK (I’ve said “tomorrow” for the last few days, so I’ll refrain from saying that again here, but I do really think tomorrow is the day!). I have a ton of revisions I’ll need to make to get a second draft ready for review by others. But, I’m feeling good about the core of the work and am excited to keep plowing ahead!
Now I am off to Singapore (!!!) for a few days for a b-school interview. Looking forward to warm weather, western-ish food, and more english speakers 😉 Ramen at Bugis anyone?