Monday, January 12, 2004

China Trip: Arrival in Shanghai

We crossed the International Date Line in the ocean, so it switched days on us rather suddenly. I think the plane trip was very hard on my health. For some reason, my immune system must have been low, and I started getting dehydrated. I couldn’t get enough water the whole trip, and my throat was uncomfortably dry the whole way. I drank as much as I could, fearing the awful consequences of dehydration, but I fear they have settled upon me. My lungs are congested, I have a cough, and my stomach hurts every time I eat. My voice isn’t working too well, and I am always cold.

When everyone reached the peak of feeling frustrated and cooped up from being on the plane, we finally landed in Shanghai. It was a relief to stand up after being cramped into small seats with little leg room. If I felt that way, I can’t imagine what it would have been like for those who were physically larger than me!

Customs was a breeze; everyone got through without being searched, and nobody lost any luggage. *No, one bag was lost. I was too tired to revel in the excitement of “Wow! I’m in China!!” However, I did try to take everything in and notice things that were different from home. The first thing that struck me was the great proportion of people wearing black. Another thing was the quiet. The wheels of our luggage made no sound on the smooth, new tile floor, and other voices were scarcely detectable, even though many people were milling around.

We met up with Mr. and Mrs. X and the S family, who were to take us to Pinghu, and we followed them to a large bus. We all piled in, and the manual transmission bus creaked and shuddered as it pulled out of the airport for the 1 ½ hour trip to our hotel in Pinghu. I stayed awake for a little way, observing what things were like on a Chinese highway. They drive on the same side as we do, and many things are very similar. There are white dashed lines dividing lanes, green roadsigns in Chinese and English, and toll booths along the way. The cars didn’t look too much different from cars I’m used to seeing, but it was odd to see delivery trucks painted with Chinese characters.

Almost every billboard along the side of the road was printed in Chinese and in English, and many of the billboards were about 4 times larger than the ones at home. I could identify with the Trapp family getting out and taking a picture by one of them!

Along the way, we mostly passed a sucession of rows of factories, followed by rows of apartments. Very few of the apartments were lit at local time of 9:30 pm, but the glass was so clear you could see right into the ones that were lit. Without exception, they had bare, white walls, no curtains, a single bare light bulb, and little furniture. The final thing I noticed on the roads was that people used their horns a lot more. Whereas in America, hearing a horn makes you wonder who has road rage, here it does no such thing because you hear it so often. I then dropped off to sleep and didn’t awake until we were pulling up at the Triumphal Arch Hotel.

My sleepy eyes opened in wonder at the sight of automatic clear glass doors, beyond which a young man dressed a dark uniform decorated with red accents and shiny brass buttons held open the second set of (manual) glass doors. We unloaded our nearly 100 pieces of luggage from the bus onto the brick-paved driveway, and then brought it all into the lobby, spreading out over a large round circular design inlaid into the floor. Farther on, a wide staircase spiraled up to the second level, illuminated by a large chandelier. My initial reaction was, “Wow! This place is fancy!! It’s probably nicer than any hotel I’ve ever stayed at!” However, since it was about midnight, we found our rooms as soon as possible and tumbled into bed, ending our long journey.

Next Post: Jet lag and sickness
Previous Post: Flight to Shanghai
First Post: Pre-departure excitement

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