Say what you want about United Airlines, but they have been nothing but faithful to me in my ventures to China and elsewhere. I was somewhat worried about the trip over this time only because I had 5 large checked bags along with my carry-ons. The baggage claim in Shanghai is still in the secure area, so you’re on your own for getting your stuff out the door. I had a few potential strategies involving: soliciting help from others (I struck out in this regard with everyone else around me already needing a cart) to recruiting an airport employee (he walked away quickly, seeming very frightened at my charades about lots of luggage), so that left me getting it on my own, which I did. All 5 bags and the little carry on I checked all arrived, thanks United! [Disclaimer: my luggage was all half-full of curriculum and workbooks, I didn’t bring all that just for myself.]
[A note about the Dreamliner to those who are interested…
My flight from LAX to PVG (Shanghai) was aboard United’s newer Boeing 787, the Dreamliner. I had heard the hype about the aircraft and was intrigued when it was the best option, scheduling wise, for me to take, so I booked it. Advantages over the 747: huge overhead baggage space, better humidity and air pressure so you feel less tired, personal entertainment. The verdict: did I vow to never take a 747 across the pacific again, no, I wasn’t that impressed. The improvements were not great enough to compel me to pay extra or compromise on a more convenient 747 flight, especially since I thought the cushions on the 787 were rather cheap. I always upgrade to economy plus now and so either bird is equally as bearable as it gets when it comes to a 12+ hour flight. This guy gives a pretty good review of the plane with more specifics, if you’re interested in that.]
The owner and Director of the school, I will refer to as L, had informed me before my arrival that my apartment would be ready the following weekend, so I would be living with her and her family in their apartment (also in the same complex) until it was ready. No trouble, except that anyone who has shared a hotel room with me knows living out of a suitcase is not one of my fortes. Packing for a week stay at someones house is different than packing for a two year adventure abroad, so in not wanting to drag all the suitcases upstairs, I picked the one I though had at least enough things in it to get me through a week or so and just leave the rest downstairs. It’s worked out. Somehow upon touching down in China you instantly a whole lot less concerned about most things you were when you left. I appreciate that about this culture.
I have been slowly exploring our new neighborhood and the city with Molly, my new friend and roommate. I am very thankful for her! We are kindred spirits in many ways. Our hosts have introduced us to great noodle, dumpling, and other Chinese restaurants around the corner from our complex, however we have already discovered that mentally man cannot live on noodles alone and we have already stopped for Dairy Queen blizzards. I will post more about our apartment next week when we actually move in. Here is a picture from the sales office, yes our apartment complex is called Dream of Space.
This week we also went on an overnight staff retreat to the city of Shaoxing. This city is home to many famous Chinese. I cannot tell you who they are because I think they are only famous to the Chinese. We took a private bus to the city and were dropped off at the Qingbo Ice and Snow World/Convention Center/Hotel. We had a couple of sessions as a staff to get to know each other, shared meals, and then Wednesday morning we ventured over to the indoor skiing area.
As I’m sure it will come out in my stories, a good perspective to have while residing in China for any amount of time is to check your expectations at the airport. This is one of those times where it was good advice to follow. It was apparent from some promotional items around the venue that there were 2 large slopes straight down. I thought it might be fun to suit up in the provided winter gear and take a trip up the lift and down just to have the “experience”. We walked in and went to the viewing area where you could watch the slopes from the comfort of the indoors. It had just opened and so there were no skiers out yet, but it became immediately apparent that the slopes were not maintained to even minimal expectations. You could see that there was virtually no powder and there were huge patches of ice covering the slopes and on one side, moguls placed at really confusing intervals that undoubtedly lead to some crashes, especially with the ice situation and navigating with hundreds of Chinese skiers with no experience or context for the sport. This was where a few others and I made the call to skip the downhill crash course in the interest of not wanting to test my new insurance policy just yet and see if there were sleds or tubes available (this was a no). In the meantime I watched the safety patrolman go up the lift and start to make his way down the slope and proceed to fall 3 times. Soon after that (the following is guess at what was happening, it wasn’t readily apparent) some instructors started making their way up the hill to show some skiers how to properly stop, except they seemed confused at how to walk up the hill, taking their skis off and putting them back on every 15 feet or so, sliding down backwards instead of walking up sideways, and generally falling pretty often. I think I made the right call. (yes, that is christmas garland on the rail. and an old balloon.)
Oh, and Fermented Soy Bean Prawn Lays anyone?
In China there is a saying among expats and visitors, TIC, or this is China, which means, it is what it is, there is no more shock value in anything, just go with it.
More to come later, tomorrow I go to finish my visa processing with a health check and a trip to some government office. Should be an adventure.