"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page." - St. Augustine

Friday, September 2, 2011

Orientation in Shanghai

Alright everyone, this is gonna be a long one, so go get yourself a drink or something and come back. I won’t be offended if you get bored! It’s time to document my arrival in China and orientation in Shanghai (although I might have to split this into a couple of posts).
I left Austin bright and early last Thursday morning (the 25th) on the 6:35 to Chicago.  Leaving was hard and definitely emotional, but you can fill in the details on that for yourself. I got to the airport just before 5:00, so I had plenty of time to check in and everything. Once I had gone through security, I got myself some coffee (I had only slept for about an hour the night before) and a steak breakfast burrito from the saltlick as my farewell to Austin – yum! The flight was about 2 hours and 30 minutes and I had three seats to myself which was nice. I tried to sleep a little, but my head kept doing that dashboard doll-style bobbing so I didn't really get much rest.
The flight from Chicago was much less enjoyable. To start with, it was delayed almost two hours while we waited for other delayed flights to get in and then hung around on the ground for a while longer just for fun.  I was seated second in in a row of five, which is never fun. Plus, my tv wasn’t really working – all the people were blue and the screen kept splitting and rearranging!  To put it nicely, it was the longest flight I’ve ever been on. But, 14 ½ hours later we landed in Shanghai, so it ended up alright. I got through customs fine and collected my bags. There was a slight moment of panic as I went through to the arrivals area when I thought “Oh no, I’m not going to be able to find the CIEE people and then I’ll be stuck here and have to make my own way and then I’ll get lost in Shanghai and be abducted by my cab driver…” but fortunately that was not the case. I saw the “CIEE” sign they were holding and raced around to meet the Chinese students that would be helping us out at orientation.  After everyone else from the flight joined us, we went out to the shuttle bus where a bunch more people were already waiting and headed off to Shanghai Jiaotong University.
view of shanghai from our shuttle bus from the airport
It was about an hour’s drive from the airport to the Faculty Club at the university where we were staying. We got to see some great views of the city, as well as experience the completely insane driving of Shanghai: the lanes are too small, traffic lights and crosswalks are mere suggestions, and it’s basically a free-for-all horn-honking fest. Also, Shanghai is humungously outrageously unbelievably huge. That is all.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we checked in and took showers stuff and then a bunch of us set out in search of food. We stopped at what ended up being a Japanese restaurant just around the corner for some delicious dinner, but ordering was quite the battle and paying was even worse – only a preview of what’s to come I think.  Since I had been up for about 48 hours at that point, I decided to go back to the hotel and call it an early night.
Saturday, August 27th - Orientation Day 1:
Thanks to 13 hours worth of jet lag I was up at around 4:00 am on Saturday. FUN. I went down and had breakfast a little later before our schedule for the day began. First, we just kind of introduced ourselves and figured out who was going where before beginning our “Survival Chinese Lessons.”  Next was Lunch before an incredibly long four hours of teaching lessons. We had seminars from three different teachers on teaching at different levels (college/university, high/middle school, and kindergarten/elementary school). Then we split up and worked on our own lesson plans until dinner.  For dinner we went to this awesome restaurant where there was a bian lian or "face-changing" performance. It sounds kind of lame, but basically this guy can change his mask insanely quickly. Like I said, it sounds lame but it was actually really impressive and apparently there's only ten people in China who can do the real thing. The food there was really good too, so all in all it was a great night.

After we got back to the hotel, a huge group of people decided to go out in search of bars. I think we split in half, but the group I was in ended up at an overpriced Irish bar called Murphy's. We stayed for a round and then kept walking, only to discover that most of the bars around there were just as overpriced and overrated. We stopped at one more place before I left with three others and headed back to the hotel.  The four of us called in at the Family Mart on campus and bought another beer  and just sat talking in the park area on campus. It was pretty nice out, but at around 12:30 five or six policemen came up to us brandishing night sticks and told us to get out  recommended that we go back to our hotel and "get some rest." We decided to call it a night.

Sunday, August 28th - Orientation Day 2:

Shanghai Museum
Shanghai Museum - one of my favorite statues!

Jet lag had me up again bright and early on Sunday.  Our morning was full of more Chinese lessons and teaching practice (note: 9:00 is way to early to be trying to learn a tonal language). We once again had lunch at the hotel - more interesting and varied foods containing who knows what - before our afternoon excursion to the Shanghai Museum.  There was some really cool stuff to see but by 5:00 we were all kind of dragging our feet (3 hours of sleep + jet lag + lots and lots of walking = tired tourists).

Shanghai Museum -Another favorite!
Shanghai Museum

Next was dinner at the Jujube Tree, a vegetarian restaurant that makes dishes that look and taste like meat.  I was a little apprehensive, but it was really good. I'm still not sure how they made some of those dishes - I could have sworn they were meat - but it was definitely a unique experience! After dinner we went to see a Chinese Acrobatics show. I was a little disappointed -  it didn't quite live up to my Cirque du Soleil experiences - and there was a high cheese factor, but it was still impressive. Highlights included a guy who could catch a plant pot on his  back, four guys on motorbikes almost killing themselves inside a giant metal cage, and an ariel ribbon piece set to a poorly mixed titanic soundtrack. After an exhausting day it was back to the hotel for another early night.

Alright that'll do for now - I'll finish up my shanghai experiences tomorrow


1 comment:

  1. i forgot how ridiculous the music was at that acrobatic show. there was star wars them music, i swear i heard harry potter, definitely the titanic crap. and i'm glad you got a pic of that statue dude stepping on the demon baby. that was sweet. haha.