I’m going to say today was the coolest day ever, and by today I mean the last 48 hours or so since I left BWI (Baltimore Washington International Airport) on Sunday. Since then it’s been one long day of traveling and layovers, first Dallas then LA and on to a 13 hour flight across the Pacific where we had a layover in Hong Kong for 4 hours.
I’m sure there will come a day very soon that I will be crying and eating peanut butter pop-tarts from my emergency stash because I’m homesick for the good old USA but for now listening to Kip Moore songs is enough of home to keep me in good spirits. I have so much to tell you that I don’t know where to start.
Let’s see, I slept most of the flight to Hong Kong, I flew on Cathay Pacific which is supposed to be a really good airline according to my travel agent Maria. It turned out to be a really good trip, the blankets were cozy and I got to watch Tom Cruise in Oblivion. The movie went off a few minutes before breakfast which was a choice between a vegetable frittata or seafood congee. I asked the stewardess, a gorgeous Asian woman, with a size 2 waist and red high collared uniform what exactly congee was. It was a porridge dish with a large slab of fish and small scrimp, green onions, mushrooms and ginger. I’d give it an 8 (on a scale of one to ten).
After a 4 hour layover I took a crowded bus to the DragonAir flight. I ended up sitting in the very back row of the plane, surrounded by Chinese people. I asked the guy sitting across the isle from me if he spoke English because I had no idea how to fill out my customs papers but he didn’t so I just tried to make the best of it and guessed. Then it hit me, that’s the thing I’m going to miss most, is just people who speak the common language. I did think it was cool though that everyone was talking and cutting up with strangers before the flight took off, just like they were good friends. In America you don’t talk to strangers, at least not like that.
They served us another meal on this flight. I don’t have the name of the dish but it was a noodle dish with dimsun dumplings and a green vegetable thing. It was good, and I used a fork like any proper American, unlike the man sitting across the isle that was shoveling and slurping his noodles into his mouth straight from the dish. When we touched down in Wuhan it was a steamy 32C. That’s 90F degrees in American numbers, apparently the rest of the world doesn’t subscribe to our units of measure… go figure.
Going through customs was a breeze after they found out I was with a group of Foreign teachers they waved us through customs. My university contact and guide Lily picked me up from the airport in short order and we were off to the domestic flights to pick up the one and only foreign French teacher, Sabine who has been a god-send for me today. Lily took us to lunch (yes I’m eating again) at the Hotel Restaurant and asked me if I could use chop-sticks. I replied “I’ll try” to which she rapidly gave orders to the waiter to bring me American silverware. I did succeed in using chopsticks, though somewhat ineffectively, and when I tried to stab a piece of bean curd with a fork from the serving dish I felt like a seven year old sitting at the grown up table. No one tells you that survival in another country is hard.
Lily helped me get my internet connection working, a feat which took over an hour of running up and down stairs between Sabine and my apartment trying to get the broadband connection to connect. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about my apartment. It’s awesome. Actually that’s an understatement. My apartment is probably 2,000 sf and includes 4 bedrooms of which one was converted into a study complete with bookshelves. I have two bathrooms (one if you don’t count a squatty potty as a real bathroom), a washing machine, brand new bed linens. It’s pretty great.
So after I moved into my apartment Sabine came by my apartment which is on the fourth floor by the way, no elevator. Sabine has lived in China for the last two years, but it’s her first year in Wuhan. We needed to get food and cleaning supplies, so Lily walked us to the University gate where we hailed a cab to the Carrefour a French grocery store which was probably 10 kilometers away. I learned a little bit about how taxies work in China. There is an initial fee for getting in, and covers the first 3k after which there is a fee per kilometer. Ours was 6RBM entry then 1.4RBM after that. I’m still really confused about how the whole thing works.
Sabine showed me how to buy cleaning supplies, toilet tissue (which you must carry at all times), fresh fruit (which must be peeled), chocolate cookies, chicken nuggets, and ramon noodles. I also got rice which comes in a huge open air sandbox. You use a bucket to fill your bag then have it weighed. It was really different. Also, if you buy a large ticket item you have to pay for it in that department before you move on to the rest of the store, and you have to buy the grocery bags to carry your things home in. I also learned that dysentery is a real danger here. Sabine said she finally went to the doctor last year after about two weeks of bowl trouble and the doctor said the dysentery had messed up her kidneys really bad and if she had waited any longer to be treated she could have died. Wow.
After shopping Sabine and I tried to catch a cab back to the apartment, but there are no lines in China, it’s every man for themselves. After getting passed by numerous cabs a guy about my age looks over at me “Are you all Americans?” I said yes and explained that I was an English teacher and it was my first day in China. David said he was from California and we were the first foreigners he had seen in a while and asked for my number. I said I didn’t have a sim card yet so he gave me his card, but was nice enough to hail down a cab for us (and keep everyone else out of it, which was a bigger feat).
Things I learned today:
- Fastening your seatbelt is bad manors in China because it causes the driver to lose face.
- Driving is not so much an art as a survival of the fittest.
- Be a fast learner, you may only get the instructions once. Remember it.
- Take pictures of stuff I can’t remember. A picture is worth a thousand words.
- It is bad taste to not say hello to strangers you pass on campus.
- A horn works just as well as a turn signal… well almost.