Friday, August 05, 2005


It is 5:30am here in Shanghai (well, all of China really because even though the country crosses five time zones, they only have one... a ripple on the pond leftover from the rock that was The Cultural Revolution) and my body has no idea what time it is. My clock says 5:30am, but my brain says it is 5:30pm and refuses to let me sleep any longer despite the probable need.

I suppose I should go though a more detailed version of my trip so far. The flight from Chicago to Shanghai was hell... 14 hours in an economy seat is pure torture. I was lucky enough to be in an bulkhead seat on the aisle so I could at least stretch more than some, although I wish I had been one of the lucky ones who had a whole row to themselves... they could lie down. I was one of perhaps 20 westerners on the plane and I did not hear much English though the flight. All of the immigration forms were in Mandarin and I had to illicit the help of some of the other passengers.

Arriving in Pu Dong airport, we were herded over to Quaratine. Here you stand in a long line giving the patrolling doctors and infrared cameras a chance to look for any signs of sickness such as fever, cough, sneezing, etc. In the line for customs a Yemenese family of 12 cut in front of the entire line causing a "Good Ol' Boy" from Georgia to try and physically move them to the back of the line. I thought a fight was going to break out in customs! I don't know whether the family from Yemen or the man from Atlanta made their respective countries look worse. I picked up my bags and was greeted by Aaron (my American boss), Ngee Siew (my translator), and QP Lu (Fluidcare director).

As we drove from the airport to my hotel there were many near miss accidents. I've been told to just get used to it and they often look closer then they are. Ngee Siew translates for Aaron and I to QP Lu, but sometimes there are moments of mutual understanding and we all burst out laughing. I tried out some of my Mandarin on QP and he seemed impressed. We dumped my stuff at the hotel (a very nice hotel mainly for westerners, I think) and headed to what seemed like a local mall to have my passport picture taken for my employee ID card. At first glance you could be in any upscale American mall until you realized that everything on sale was negotiable. We went to the supermarket to buy some Tsing Tao beer (much better over here, btw) and some seasonal food called Moon Cakes. These are semi-sweet pastries that are only sold around the Moon festival. They come in all sorts of flavors although I don't think I recognized a single one. They also sold clothing in the supermarket and I couldn't believe how cheap it was. Shirts for $3, pants for $4... actually, everything was cheap, except the foreign stuff.

We came back to the hotel where Aaron and I had some dinner. We split a dish of chili pork with rice bread dumplings on the side. Sooooo good. I could easily get used to this food. We talked some business and then it was up to bed. My room is extremely small compared to typical western hotel rooms... perhaps 10'x 10' with a reasonable large bathroom.

As I type this I am watching Chinese MTV which is a strange mix of Jessica Simpson, Stone Temple Pilots, and what seems to be a Chinese version of Brittany Spears. A Chinese metal band just played a song and they were quite good, although incomprehensible to me. They were followed by the Chinese James Taylor. The bed is rock hard... actually under closer inspection there seems to be no mattress, just a boxspring of sorts. This is fine with me because I have always prefered a firmer sleep surface. I do wish they gave you more than one pillow though.

So apparently I will be staying in Shanghai for three weeks... they need that time to process my immigration paperwork for a work permit. Most of this time will be spend meeting people and getting my bearings in the Chinese Fluidcare business. I only have a dialup connection in my room, so I don't know if I'll be able to upload pictures, but I'll try. As far as a cell phone, I have been told that they will be buying me one... I don't think this will work for international calls though so when I go to work today I will inquire on how to call home. As soon as I can call I will, whether from work or with a phone card.

Well, I have to get ready for work now... oh, thats one thing I am very happy about. I was expecting 12 hour work days, 6 days a week... Aaron told me he generally works 8-5 and as far as my weekends, I should just tell them I will not work Saturdays. I hope he is correct about both of these things because I will have much more time to myself then.

Oh my... the Chinese version of R. Kelly just came on TV so with that it is time to leave.