I have been I Shanghai, China for 40 hours. I arrived on Saturday evening. When I got off the plane and took my first deep breath of Chinese air, my first thought was 'oh it smells like China Town in Sydney!' and went straight to my new home with my husband. On Sunday we woke up and after breakfast walked to get a coffee and run some errands, the most important of which was registering me with the local police station. We walked up to the window and we were greeted with a grunt from a stoney faced officer. Greg passed over several pieces of paper. A grunt. He then yelled to a lady officer in the back who immediately rushed in and used the computer and possibly the oldest printer I've seen. (Circa 2001) I was issued a temporary residence certificate by her and in her warmest voice said goodbye. There was even a smile. There was warmth.
It is monsoon season and it was pouring out so we jumped into a taxi and went to Tesco. This is a British Supermarket chain who has braved setting up in the Chinese market. It was filled with what can only be described as unique foods. Unique to me but mainstream to the Chinese. Huge green-brown toad leaping about for dinner anyone? The toad-monger tried to scare me with it but little does he know about my travels through Vietnam. Nothing can scare me son! Ok well a few things still can if I'm honest. I took great joy in purchasing noodles and vegetables from a street vendor and making a stir fry for dinner. Yeah I know... Lame. But I felt I needed to get in the swing of things.
This morning I went to work with Greg to learn how to use the subway system. He was filling my head with 'if you go here you can get this or go there and see that' 'you can turn this way and get to the same point but I go that way because of such and such' I had to ask him to stop. I just needed to memorize where it was we were actually going and picking points to remember so that I knew I was on the right track if I ever venture there alone. Poor Greg... He agreed with me but he is just so excited to share his knowledge of our new home I think he was a little sad.
I had decided last night that I would walk home. It's only 8km so not too far. Just a bit further than what I would do for an exercise walk. I had my VPN (virtual private network) installed so I could access Google in all of it's searching glory (China has banned Google and all associated products but EVERYONE has a VPN to get around it... good trying China) I searched where I needed to go and tried to follow the directions. Firstly the Google lady wasn't speaking so I had to hold it out in front of me and walk with it like a tourist. Then I realized that I was in a different spot to where Google said I was. Suddenly the Google lady told me to walk north. Which way is north?! There is no sun shining in the blue sky here. Oh no it is a glow shrouded by smog and seasonal cloudy weather. Because Apple is genius and there is a compass app, I whipped it out and found north. By walking north the google lady was asking me to cross railway lines... Scale a fence and cross about 40 sets of railway tracks! I thought better than to do this and back tracked to a major intersection. She was still not responding. I was starting to lose my faith in Google and the Google lady. How could you be inaccurate Google!?
I decided to make my own way home. I made my own path. A trail blazing giant white girl... Yeah that's what I am. So I started walking... I was walking through areas where trail blazing white girls clearly don't trail blaze all that often. Greeted with stares, snarls, tooting horns and people trying to speak to me. (Telling me I am mad? Telling me I am in danger? Who knows... I blazed on.) Did you know that in Shanghai when there is a red light busses don't need to heed the light they can just continue on their merry way? Yeah I didn't know that either and was nearly taken out by one as I was crossing the road with the little green man. I was being good and not jay walking not only because I was erring on the side of caution but because there were men in uniforms on most corners, maybe they were police or maybe not. I really don't know. But they have a great scary scowl to pull everyone into line. Thinking that it was just a rogue bus driver trying to take out the trail blazing white girl I crossed the road again and was once again nearly taken out by a bus. Next road crossing... I crossed with the locals. I walked at their pace and stopped when they did. Safety in numbers.
Google was once again playing with my head and anxiety levels. This time it was telling me I was where I was but it was telling me home was across town. I messed with it a bit more, sweat dripping all over the screen and I found my own route. I walked and walked and walked. My faith in Google was decreasing each sweaty step I took, my blood sugar levels were dropping. No faith in Google and low blood sugar = very sad CJ. Then after a 5th recalibration of where I was and where I was going. I made it to a leafy street. A street that had architecture similar to the area in which I live. I knew that I had to be close. The battery on my phone went dead. I about lost it and then I remembered my wonderfully thoughtful, calm and considerate husband throwing in a portable charger, it has almost been 3 hours of sweaty unnerving trailblazing by this giant white girl, I was not my best. I plugged in my phone and the charger breathed life into the phone. Google once again had to be recalibrated. I once again swore at the Google lady for letting me down. Then I saw the Police station I was in yesterday. I laughed through my sheer exhaustion. Against my instinct I followed the Google lady and she took me to Yong Kang Lu. It wasn't the Yong Kang I was on yesterday! It was urban and suburban and leafy... It was the opposite end to where I needed and frankly wanted to be at this point in my blazing. I stumbled onwards and before my eyes appeared westernized restaurants and cafés... Closed westernized restaurants and cafés! Whhhyyyyyy!!??
Jay-Z. I hear Jay-Z pumping out of the speakers at Oh My Kebab! I about fell through the door and woke the guy half asleep behind the counter. I ordered a kebab and a coke.
Now I don't do kebabs... Not in Darwin, not in Sydney, not in Greece, not anywhere. The ever rotating processed meat on a stick is a haven for salmonella. The tomatoes in Shanghai frankly look unusual and not like the shiny red powerhouses that I am used to and as far as lettuce goes in this country, well the water here out of the tap is usually polluted by the somewhat non-existent sewage system so you don't drink it and you don't wash your lettuce in it. I also don't drink coke. Diet cola beverages yes, but not the full sugar version. (Let's not start on the debate sugar vs. the chemicals in diet drinks.) I got my sweaty low energy hand on that Coke and poured it over the ice (another do not do) and slammed that baby down like the solo man. No amount of carbonation was going to stop me. I was handed the kebab and once the onion was removed (I had to at least uphold one standard on this day) I inhaled that sucker like socialite to a glass of Bollinger. Feeling markedly better now thanks. I think I can make it the 300 meters, ok 100 at worst, home so I can shower and get ready for round 2. I have to be at a dinner tonight. But somehow I think I am going to blaze it in a Taxi.