It’s only been a week. Only. One. Week. I feel like I’ve been here a month. Here are a few thoughts rattling around in my head.
- The subway will be crowded. C R O W D E D. Everyone on the subway will be staring at their phone. There are two exceptions – the VERY loud middle-aged man who yells into his phone, stares at it, then yells some more. I don’t know what he’s saying, but everyone for three cars in either direction does. The second group are the girls in their early 20s who feel it is necessary to shout to each other over the sound of the man yelling into his phone. The problem is they are on opposite sides of the car, separated by a pack of people 30 deep.
- Crosswalks are a suggestion. Actually not so much a suggestion as a way to use up leftover white paint. It does not matter if you have the right-of-way – dodging cars, mopeds and buses is a full-time activity. A scary one.
- The taxi card is one of the greatest inventions ever. Look up the place you want to go, find the little Taxi Card button and voila – your destination and directions show up in Chinese on your smartphone. Show your phone to the driver and off you go. However, there is nothing quite so unnerving as when halfway through the trip your taxi driver turns to you and starts yelling questions. Handing him the phone doesn’t help. Blindly pointing in the direction you think you should be going is pointless. He could be asking you how you feel about Communism. The point is you’ll never know.
- Speaking of taxis – Chinese is a difficult language. When you are a bit flustered and trying to answer the unknown questions being shouted at you by the taxi driver- it’s best NOT to reply in any of the other languages you don’t speak very well. Answering back in Japanese, French or Spanish is not going to help you. Although, it is amazing though how much Japanese I’ve retained having not been there in two decades.
- When riding in a bus or a taxi – never look out the front window. You DON’T want to know all the things you’ve almost hit.
- I forgot how much I hated humidity.
- Shanghai is huge. Like all of LA County huge. To get anywhere on the metro takes an hour. Did I mention how crowded the subways are? Did I mention humidity? Oh – forgot to mention that AC is one of those things that may or may not work depending on how badly you need it.
- WeChat. Best. App. Ever. Want to know how to make a 75-minute subway ride fly by? WeChat the message “Sticker Party” to all of your friends.
- Every building is either a mall, sits on top of a mall, connects two malls or is the entrance to a mall. Based on the number of malls every citizen in China must be doing very well.
- Pan-fried bao is my new favorite thing. Anything they serve in the cafeteria at work is not.
- Milk – how could I have waited so long to bring this up? Reading the labels on milk cartons you would think you were about to drink plutonium. Seriously – the warnings on milk labels will scare the crap out of you. DO NOT CONSUME AFTER TWO DAYS. DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN UNDER THREE YEARS OF AGE. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN WITHOUT SAFETY GOGGLES. STORE BETWEEN 40 and 42 DEGREES. 100% TRACEABILITY. Yikes! I just want to lighten up my coffee a little.
That’s it for now – need to pack as I move from the wonderful Kerry Hotel to an apartment in Jin Qiao (jin chow) an area about 30 minutes north of me. The location is far less convenient, but it beats living in a hotel for two months.