Today is the first day in Shanghai. Really I flew in last night, however, after getting my bags, waiting for my contact and the two hour bus ride and 20 minute cab ride, I really just wanted to get to my hotel, check in and crash. I had been up for over 30 hours at that point. However, I decided to try and plug my laptop in to see if I could get a wireless signal.
I grab the ol’ power adapter and power bar. First problem, the power bar has three prongs and the adapter has two… I decide to risk it and plug the whole mess in. Bzzzzz crack! From what I can tell, I knocked power out to the entire floor. I sheepishly unplug everything and walk to the counter and pantomime the lights going out. The front desk clerk looks at me like I am a big dumb white guy, which at this point I knew there was no contesting the fact. He spouts off some words that I can’t understand and points to a man wearing a maintenance jacket who promptly runs up some stairs. I meekly walk back to my room and within 30 seconds I have power again.
Needless to say, I scrapped the power bar and things work great. However no wireless…
I was tired. The type of tired where no matter what you do, you crash hard. My contact asked me if I wanted to get some water and bread, but all I had on my mind was sleep. And sleep I did. From 8 pm local time to 4 am. Then it was sporadic sleep for a couple hours.
For people that have never been to China, let me tell you about first impressions. Initially my thought was that it is not much different from a place like Toronto. There are big buildings, lots or people and street vendors everywhere. The type of place that you expect a big Hollywood movie to be filmed in.
And then… The noise.
That is the one thing that has been throwing me for a loop. All night long, different noises. Birds that just don’t sound right, people yelling things that can only be determined to be drunken salutations, and traffic.
Traffic has no rhyme or reason here. Street lights at best are taken as suggestions. Scooters rule the roads and seem to have right of way over all forms of movement. Walking included. Turning left on a red light is par for the course. Lanes are there to let you know that you are on the road. Even on coming traffic is fair game as long as you honk a couple of times to make eye contact, and even then it is more like a game of chicken to see who will swerve first. Frankly I am quite surprised that I made it to the hotel at all.
Now for todays first adventure. Breakfast. All I knew from last night is that my contact will be calling me at some point today. No clue as to when. So I wake up, get ready, watch a little bit of western TV that I have on my laptop and at 8:30 my hotel phone rings.
I grab it and say hello.
“sjkhserlkhgs sdfsh sfeiytnv” That is about as much sense as the call made. All I can determine is that it is a wake-up call. No one comes to my door and no other phone calls.
With that, I decide that I am on my own for breakfast. I grab my passport and room key and head off to the wild unknown, but not before finding something in the hotel room with what I hope is the address in case I get lost.
I first wander up the street for blocks, then down the other side. I find endless shops with steamed buns, fruit and various other local culinary treats. I almost stop and go for the steamed buns, which smell like heaven. Almost. However, fear gets the better of me and I spy a McDonald’s. The last bastion of Western civilization in my foreign nightmare.
I enter and the solitude washes over me like a warm grandma knit security blanket.
I walk up to the counter and point at the menu and order a #2. A McSausage, Hash brown and coffee. Total, ¥15. I initially curse at the price, but then do some mental math.
Carry the 7, multiply by the cosine…
$2.05. I continue on.
I wander through a park that from what I can gather is about the size of Saskatoon. There appears to be some sort of festival going on. Dancing, Thai Chi, military, haircuts, blood pressure testing. I have no idea what it is, but I watch for a while from the sidelines. Having left my camera at home, I am just another big lost white guy.
Then I see them. They giggle, the smile, they avert their eyes. Three young local girls, all with their cameras out. They try to disguise themselves and make it look like they are taking pictures PAST me. I look behind me and all I see are trees. I smile back and wave. They all giggle frantically and give me peace signs and then hurry off.
Today, I am the tourist attraction in Shanghai.