Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
My first day on the job. Thanks to jet lag I was up before the sun so easily arrived on time to my first day of training. I'm working for an English training center that primarily teaches business English and focuses on spoken English. I’m training with three other teachers, another foreign teacher from the UK and two local, Chinese teachers.
At lunch our trainer, Robyn, took us to a western style restaurant. I guess she wanted to ease me into Chinese culture. She also introduced me to City Shop, an expat's dream when you're homesick for mac n' cheese or bagels. It comes at a steep price but, it was rather comforting on my first day. I can imagine going to seek refuge amongst boxes of Post cereal, Nature Valley granola bars and frozen pizzas.
After training I set out to really see the city for the first time. My fellow foreign colleague was nice enough to lead me to the metro station and show me how to navigate the system. He’s been in Shanghai a week at this point. The metro ticket machines have an English button which is a lifesaver. The system is really easy and the fare is cheap between 3-6RMB which is under a dollar. (7RMB=$1US) The metro is fast and clean with station stop announcements in Mandarin and English.
I took the metro to the Jing’an Temple district, an area that I wanted to explore because I’m interested in living there. It’s on metro line two so it required a transfer at People’s Square, a main transfer point and very busy station. Walking to the metro was my first real look at Shanghai. The Xijiahui station (where I'm staying) is beneath four converging malls on a main street. The shear amount of people was amazing. Forget about personal space here too. If there’s an empty space someone will soon be in it—-or even a car, moped or bike. Pedestrians are not safe and don’t have the right of way. I sometimes feel like I'm in the old B movie, Death Race 2000, where cars raced cross country and earned points for people they killed along the way.
The amount of advertising along the walk was mind-boggling. It’s everywhere and it’s HUGE. Bright lights, flashing lights, strobe lights, neon, video, gigantic projections—you name it, it’s here. It feels like Vegas and Times Square combined.
Friday, March 7, 2008
I arrived in Shanghai at about 11pm on March 7, 2008 after more than 14 hours on a plane and a lay-over in Tokyo. Tired and anxious I stepped out from behind the barrier to face the sea of people holding name cards and looking for friends and loved ones. I was supposed to meet someone from my new school, Maria. The communication before leaving was a little vague and she told me to meet her at area 9. I didn't have a contact number for her and had no idea what she looked like. Our flight was a little early but as I made my way down the exit line I didn't see any listing my or the school's name. I went to the number 9 exit door. No one there looked like they were waiting for me. I went outside thinking maybe we were supposed to meet outside. No one there either. I had a few panicked moments as I imagined being forgotten and having to make my way into the city on my own at midnight. Sleep deprivation and jet lag was getting the better of me.
We took a bus from the Pudong airport to downtown
From the bus stop in Puxi, the center of Shanghai, we need to hail a taxi which wasn't the easiest. While we were waiting I had the chance to observe the lane designated for bikes and mopeds. People come whizzing by on electric bikes and you can't hear them at all. When we finally got into the taxi I quickly experienced the haphazardness of driving in
The hotel staff lacked personal skills and most times I passed through the lobby I was welcomed with cold stares. Even my "ni hao" (one of only two words of Mandarin I know) wouldn't get much of a reaction. However, every morning by about 6am I would smell the cigarette smoke alerting me to the morning shift workers' arrival.