22 August 2013

Shanghai So Far

The day of our arrival marks two years since my first date with Michael, when we talked about how I might move to China soon. How great to celebrate it by moving here together

The flight was fine, except for the hour that a cute but sad little Indian kid screamed "Baba! Yeye! Baba!" (which made it suddenly seem long), and the last thirty minutes, during which I had to breathe deeply not to throw up from lack of sleep (does that happen to anyone else?). Michael and I enjoyed Iron Man 3 together, and I started Bourne Identity until tai chi exercises came on the screen and I seemed to be the only one doing them.

So far, Shanghai is hot, sticky, dark, and honky. But hey--we don't have loud and/or crazy people walking and/or smoking only ten feet from where we sleep, and the sidewalk is very clean compared to San Francisco (sad truth). I was pleasantly surprised by how many trees we saw on the way to our residence, during which time I also greatly enjoyed listening to the radio--it's nice that I don't have to participate in the conversation, but I can listen for words I know . . . I'm guessing I'll be liking TV a little more than I have in the past eight or ten years because then I can also have visual clues to figure out Chinese.

The sticky heat amazes me--everything I touch seems to be wet. Our room is a little less hot than outside, but it is filled with scary golds that I would never ever use in my house, stale-smelling, and dark. There is only one chair, and we walked in to find two small beds that we ended up pushing together. The amount of storage in here is laughable. We have a three-foot-wide closet, three drawers, and a few bedside drawers. I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to stand living in a hotel, even with the draw of saving money and cleanliness. People have thought it's great that we can have our room cleaned, but I'd actually rather not have that. At least there isn't smoking on our floor, and the window between the tub and the bedroom amuses me. There are two common kitchens on our floor, and the one that is much farther away is the one with the oven; I joked that someone might steal my cookies. Floors 4 and 10 are missing because they're bad luck, but since we're on 5, doesn't that make us on 4 anyway? :D

With very sore feet, I had to drag myself downstairs long after my expiration time so we could find something to eat. There was no good bread to be found, but I did find a bin full of individually-wrapped brown eggs that also held a few dead flies. We chose some shampoo, I grabbed some Buenos, and Michael picked up canned congee. 

Canned Congee, first night in Shanghai photo 2013-08-23035820_zps835eb710.jpg
Michael, canned congee, darkness, and scary gold curtains.

Besides one of the other Hult students, we have yet to see any white people, meaning I've already received a lot of stares that I return just as intensely. I've also observed closely the craziness of the moped riders, who don't seem to care about pedestrians or looking before turning, and who ride their quiet electric mopeds with their feet dangling above the ground. I wonder how I'll do if I decide to moped or bike. We passed a surprising number of hair and nail salons, and even more surprising was the fact that they were still open at 9 PM. Michael oohed and aahed at the different mini-restaurants until we stopped at a bright little place that made us sweet fried chicken and "onion rings" that were more like round fries with onion flavoring.

After eating much less than I probably should have and digging around for my toothbrush, I laid on the bed while Michael spent a lot of time figuring out how to get our internet staples. Sadly, as of now, only one of us can be surfing at a time if we want access to our normal sites, and everything loads very slowly.

Six hours later, I'm up in the middle of the night because of jet lag. Funny, when I went to bed, I felt like I could sleep for two days. And now I feel like I'm ready to sleep again, so off I go . . .


  1. What an adventure so far. Thanks for blogging about it. Your comment about not wanting house cleaning reminds me of the cruise.

  2. Wow. So different, and yet I feel like I can just picture it in my mind. I always forget how much I detest smoking until I'm in a country where the "non-smoking section" in a restaurant is a joke. Glad for the trees!

    1. Unfortunately there is actually a regulation against smoking, but no one cares about it, so there aren't even non-smoking and smoking sections. People just ignore it wherever they're sitting. :(

  3. I'm allergic to nicotine, and so I'm always interested in the experiences people have related to smoking rules and smoking reality. We are considering a few options for going back to school, (since my husband's company is being sold and unfortunately he has 19+ years doing something that will no longer exist) and have found some of the best options in some of the strangest places.

    I know I'm going backwards, but I'm curious to know if you've found places that are smoke free, or if it is just omnipresent?

    1. Oh my goodness! I want to hear more about the nicotine allergy. I think people often think I'm overreacting, but being around smoke is really a problem for my eyes, throat, and lungs. I never know what to call my reaction, so I tell people it's asthma. I often think that if they knew just how much trouble they were causing me, they'd be nicer about not smoking. Knowing it's an allergy may be more motivating than asthma to some people. I googled it and didn't find much about it. Help?

      As for places that are smoke-free, do you mean housing? Or eateries? Or just places in general? Smoke-free housing is available, but that doesn't mean that you won't get whiffs of it if people break the rules or if you open your windows. In the ten-minute walk to the Metro, I'll probably pass about ten men smoking (yes, it's usually men--the count of women I've seen smoking is up to a grand total of 4). The underground metro stations are supposed to be smoke-free, but occasionally someone will smoke anyway. I plug my nose, glare at them, and do a hand sign motioning to the exit. Restaurants? It's against the law there, and yet none of them care when someone starts smoking, so it still happens, except the very posh expat restaurants. Supermarkets? No. Little street shops? Yes.

      Also, good luck to your husband. If he ever wants to talk to Michael about his experience with HULT, let me know. (And of course I'll continue to answer any questions you might have about my side of the story.)

    2. Well, I passed out, (like had to have some nice EMTs get me breathing) once when I worked a shift, as a waitress, in the indoor smoking section of a restaurant when I was 18. (I usually did the nonsmoking section, or outside, and after that, I finished the rest of the summer without working in that section again.

      At that point, my doctor told me that it was an allergy, and to be glad I grew up Mormon and in Oregon, with its relatively low smoking rates, and laws about indoor smoking. My only other big incident was when someone who didn't believe me gave me Nicolette gum (I don't generally chew gum, so all gum tastes kind of weird to me) and I again got to meet some nice men, who got me breathing again. That time it took epinephrine, adrenalin and some aggressive CPR, although I really only remember the ambulance ride after, with some cute firefighters who were very relieved that I was breathing on my own, before we got to the hospital.

      Several allergists I have talked to said that they think that about half of SIDS deaths, where there is a smoker in the home, could be related to nicotine allergies, but that it is hard to diagnose in general, and not able to figure out from an autopsy.

    3. Wow, I'm glad you're still alive. Smoke is poison, and I don't understand why people are allowed to poison everyone else. I have bought some of those doctor's masks that people wear over here when they're sick, but I'm not sure how much smoke and/or pollution they filter out, if any.

    4. For looking at school options, we are kind of in an unusual situation. My husband is a disabled veteran, but his time in nuke school doesn't transfer to civilian life. He has worked for his dad, supporting software (and sometimes hardware) for a small company whose program is used to run car dealerships. His dad is close to retiring, and while we had thought of simply taking over his dad's territory, it looks like the parent company's new leaders are making choices that are losing customers, and its unlikely that the company will still be around in 5 years.

      My husband is very smart, but doesn't have any college credits. (Nuke school is like a highly competitive grad program for nuclear engineering, but no college credits are assigned. The Nuke guys are too busy in Nuke school to take outside university classes.)

      I have an Associates of Science degree, but haven't completed a Bachelors degree, because my community college professors told me it was better to wait until I was ready to actually work in the field, so my internships would open doors when I needed them, and not 10 years before they would actually be useful to me.

      As we are looking at schools with good Engineering Departments, with writing and teaching programs, we are finding that while my husband doesn't have an GI tuition benefits, some states (like Alaska) offer instate tuition to veterans, which would make it even less expensive than going to BYU. We are still looking at a lot of programs, but good schools that won't lead us in a ton of debt, (we are in our late 30s, and really don't want to be paying off school until we are in our 60s) are going to require some pretty drastic lifestyle, (and location) changes.

      So, if you or any of your readers have creative options we might not have considered, I'm all ears/eyes/mind open to them!

    5. From what I understand, masks do filter out the actual nicotine, so if that is what you are allergic to, it can help. I've had to go to business functions, in the past, that were in the smoking section. I usually just tell people I like breathing, and so I eat before or after the meeting, but keep my mask on if our "lunch meeting" is in a smoking section. (Painters masks don't keep it out, but the medical grade ones do.)

      I have asthma as well as the allergy, so if there is a language barrier, I usually just explain that the smoke has things in it that I am allergic to, and can make my asthma back enough that I stop breathing. The idea of me not breathing vs not eating, usually takes away any chance that the person hosting the meeting will feel insulted.

    6. People seem to be looking more at experience and skill these days rather than certificates, so the world is getting better that way, I think. If your husband or you decide that you'd like to go in the direction of computer science, I can definitely help you out there. I was headed in a completely different direction, paid a zillion dollars to attend a 10-week bootcamp to learn software engineering, and now I'm a web developer. I've been gathering resources to learn ever since--paid, free and online, etc., if those interest you: http://bit.ly/15MS0Em (don't miss the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet).