PaperQueen in Shanghai - Week #1 (Feb 8 - 14, 2016)
Ni hau! (pronounced "nee how" = hello in Mandarin)
My husband Bruce has accepted a three month consulting job in Shanghai from January to April and I am joining him for seven weeks. Our kids are all in University so we are actually able to accept this unusual, random, once in a lifetime Chinese "adventure". I am completely out of my comfort zone as I don't speak a word of Mandarin and no one here speaks much English, plus I will not be working, I know no one, and my husband works from Monday to Friday. So basically I am stepping majorly outside of the box, aka "my comfort zone", which is a good thing! It should be very interesting...
After 17 hours of travelling I was ready to debark the plane and let the adventure begin! The first person I saw as I left the baggage area was darling Bruce. He's been living stag for the past three weeks and the novelty of living the bachelor life had definitely worn off (his words, not mine).
The first thing I noticed was how empty the airport was. For a city of 24 million people, I had envisioned thousands (maybe even millions) of people, noise, spitting, mandarin, action and energy to be greeting me. Instead, it was just dead, like it is at YVR (Vancouver Airport) when you land at 1am. Kind of disappointing to be honest. Where were all the people? We got into a cab and headed off to our new "home". Bruce had been telling me how scary the drivers are here, the traffic, the honking, the yelling, but I witnessed none of this. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. No one on the highway. No one anywhere. I was then informed that during a two week period, Chinese New Year is the largest human migration on planet earth. Out of the 24 million, 16 million leave the city to visit their families in the outer lying towns and villages. So I'm literally easing my way into the new culture. I've decided that this is the best way to get acclimatized into the city and my new home because by the end of next week it will be back in full throttle insanity.
(A major intersection by our apartment in the Expat district of Jinxiao, New Pudong. Normally a massive traffic zone gong show.)
Our apartment is fantastic, on the top 19th floor, two bedroom, two bathroom and has the best layout and storage space I have ever seen in an apartment. I think I could actually live in an apartment (we shall see if I still feel this way at the end of my seven weeks).
(Sitting on our deck in 17 degree weather).
On day one Bruce took me down to the subway for my subway lesson. My kids are coming to visit later this week and next so I needed a crash course on how to get around the city before my husband goes back to work. The subways are very clean, don't smell at all like other subways in large cities, are easy to navigate and reasonable. Each subway comes every three minutes and they are upgrading them in the next two years to arrive every ONE minute! That is how you move around 24 million people! Impressive. I have heard rumours of subways being squished with people. Of course, because of Chinese New Year, I have a false sense of calamity. It will be interesting when things get back to "normal". We took the subway into Shanghai to the Bund, the 20 year young new downtown city. The Bund was all just a huge rice patty twenty years ago. The skyscrapers are immense and architecturally beautiful. They look very futuristic and many are made of shiny chrome like material. Kind of reminds me of something out of Gotham city. We then went to the French Quarter. This is where many expat's live and is very European and charming. I can tell I am going to be spending a lot of time in that area. Dreamy shops, restaurants and watering holes, all of which are still closed due to the holiday. After lots of poking around and walking 17,000 steps we decided to head back home as my jet lag was kicking in and we wanted to see how long it would take to get home by cab vs how long it took us to get there by subway. There is a tunnel we had to get through which took about 30 minutes, but after that it only took another 12 minutes to get home. A 42 minute cab ride costs $16 here. Woo hoo! Not like Vancouver rip off cab prices, that's for sure.
Grocery shopping is expensive! A medium Starbucks black coffee is $4 each. Granola is $20. Cheap Maybelline mascara that is $6 at home is $25 here. Massages are inexpensive ($30) and heavenly. The knock off market is over the top. Everything and anything you can imagine is for sale. Right now they are offering the "Happy New Year" discount. Everything you want to buy starts off at about 100 x's for what you end up paying. You have to be hard core or you get ripped off. Luckily I am hard core.
(We are trying to work out everyday. We have a great gym that hardly anyone uses! Love having my Kayla Itsines app with me - my saviour!
The Chinese food is amazing here. The weather was spring-like (17 degrees) when I arrived and by the end of the week was -2 degrees. The smog isn't as bad as I thought. Many people wear the masks but I don't really see the point. The pollution isn't nearly as bad as it was in Shenzhen. There a dogs everywhere. The birds are glorious here. So many chirping, way more than Vancouver. And here I thought they ate all the birds... Loads of little tiny cute poodle like dogs. The fashion is extremely tacky. Take "hello kitty" fashion and multiply it by 1000. Everyone wears back packs as front packs. What's with that?
Chinese babies and toddlers and the cutest thing on planet earth!
Jack, our son, arrived a couple of days ago and we picked him up by the Maglev train. It is the fastest train in the world, travelling at 430 km hr. The trip takes 8 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes by cab. Loved it!
(Jack and I at the Aquarium with 10,000 screaming little kids. Get us out....)
Last night we went on a paid "Chinese Food tasting tour". It turned out to be total bust. The cab reeked of cigarettes so I felt totally car sick (everyone smokes here), it was freezing cold (-2) and all the food stalls were closed, except for two, due to the Chinese New Year. So they took us to this semi dumpy restaurant for Chinese soup. Sigh... you win some, you lose some.
The sun is blazing today, Bruce just went back to work after a week off and Jack and I are off the see the Yu Gardens and the Bund today.
All in all life is good and it's been a great first week.
Annabel (Bruce and Jack) x
Zài jiàn - good bye