Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Shanghai...The First 48 (Part 2)

(This is a two part post-read part one for the full story)

As you already read in the first part of this story, I arrived in Shanghai just fine.  Upon locating my room and filling up on a massive bowl of soup, I immediately went to sleep with a full day of work ahead of me…

Friday, September 7:

I woke up Friday morning feeling refreshed and a bit anxious since my first day of work loomed ahead of me.  I got ready with coverage of the Democratic National Convention as background noise (the television in my hotel room has CNN).  After a couple of outfit changes, I managed to find something professional, yet chic, then I made my way to the hotel lobby to wait for my ride to company headquarters. I was surprised to find that there were many other people eagerly and anxiously waiting their first day.  My fellow co-workers hailed from various parts of the U.S. and the U.K. and all of us exchanged our Shanghai arrival stories.  Our transportation finally arrived and I managed to secure a window seat of the van. I looked out the window in sheer amazement at all of the people, noise, traffic and large buildings that whizzed by me that Shanghai morning. 

After pulling up into company headquarters, we were immediately escorted to the Bank of China to open up bank accounts.  The bank was clean, modern looking, and very efficient.  After filling out some paperwork, I went to a teller who instructed me to choose a six digit pin number (much different from the U.S. four digit pin) and after signing my name on several documents, I received a bank card on the spot for future use.  Once everyone completed the same process, it was back to headquarters for training.

Training went pretty smoothly that morning.  The morning consisted of housing matters, money matters, contract and workplace matters and even a Chinese lesson on how to order food (we were expected to order our lunch in Chinese).  After several hours it was time for lunch and upon exiting the training area, I noticed that the sky was incredibly dark with not a ray of sunshine in sight. Once I got downstairs, I noticed that it was raining hurricane style and people were running all around the street trying to duck and dodge the downpour. The trainers managed to find us some umbrellas and they were anxiously on the phone arranging taxi cabs.  Upon exiting the building and making my way to one of the available taxi cabs, I noticed that there were puddles of water as high as my ankles!  I managed to stay somewhat dry and after a ten minute ride, we pulled up to the restaurant.

The restaurant was very busy with lots of shouting, patrons, and waiters running around (which means it had to be good!).  Due to time constraints, we were unable to order our meals in Chinese; however, we were escorted to a back room full of food dim sum style.  There were a variety of dishes that were set up on rotating table.  I dug into all the selections without hesitation (okay I was not going to try the squid), and to my delight, everything tasted delicious. The conversation flowed and I spoke to the trainers about life in Shanghai and anything else noteworthy.  Lunch came to an end and then it was back to headquarters for part two of training.
So Much Food!!!

The second part of my training day involved going to my future teaching center.  I learned that my center was very far out (at the end of one of the metro lines to be exact), which I was not too thrilled about but I had to remember this was big city living.  I was escorted to my center by one of the employees of that center and we eagerly talked the entire time about the job, life in Shanghai and our lives. 

The near empty subway...at the end of the line

Exiting the Metro

We finally arrived to the center which was located very close to the metro.  Another major plus location wise was it was located inside a new and modern shopping center.  I was excited to see that there were some of my favorite international stores such as H&M, Marks & Spencer’s and Carrefour.  I was given the tour of my center and all of the local teachers and students were pleased to meet me.  I tried to make small talk with some of the foreign teachers but I was given an icy welcome and dismissive responses in return.  I settled into more paperwork and training for several hours then it was the end of my day. 

I'm Working next door to a soon to be Weight Watchers...must be a sign...

Just some of the awesome shops in my shopping mall...bye bye paycheck!

I had a one hour commute ahead of me back to the hotel and later that night, I had dinner with some of my new co-workers.  We decided on an Indian restaurant and it was very delicious.  Laughter and more stories were exchanged as we shared our meals.  The idea of going out came up, but I was much too tired to commit to a full night of going out and I assured them that maybe I would be up to it tomorrow. 

Thus concludes my first 48  hours in China.  Keep up for my upcoming posts in the future!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shanghai...The First 48 (Part 1)

Hello All!  As you can see, I officially made it Shanghai!  So much has occurred over the past few days so I’ve decided to break this up into two separate posts.  So, without further ado, here goes a quick review of my first two days in Shanghai (with pictures!)…

Departure Day (Wednesday, September 5):

As I previously predicted, I was up until the wee hours of the morning packing. I was up so late in fact, that I only got two hours of sleep. My cell phone alarm went off around 4:15 a.m. E.S.T. and I quickly put on my clothes, brushed my teeth, and then moved my very heavy suitcases to the car.  I arrived at the airport just in time for check in and to my dismay; my bags were a bit too heavy.  I managed to plead with the person working the check in desk to let me through since I was going to China (for God knows how long) and that I needed everything.  She was kind enough to let me through and sternly told me that next time, I needed to be 50 pounds and under (my bags were 54 and 52 pounds).  I then hugged my mother goodbye with lots of tears and then I quickly passed through security for flight 1 of 3 in 24 hours (my flight schedule was: Hometown-> LaGuardia-> Detroit-> Shanghai).

My connection flights went by quickly and smoothly since I pretty much caught up on much needed sleep. Once I arrived in Detroit, I called several friends and my mother to bid them adieu, as well as, I sent out one last text message saying goodbye.  

My Plane to China

My flight to Shanghai was pretty standard and uneventful.  The flight was almost filled to capacity and as I wrote in an earlier post my only option was middle seat (boooo!).  Once I arrived at my seat, all the overhead bins had been quickly scooped up, so I had to run around the plane to find an empty one.  I ended up shoving my huge backpack in business class (which was nearly empty) and once I returned to my seat, a kind gentlemen ended up switching seats with me and gave me his aisle seat (yeah!!!)  I settled into my seat and started playing with the inflight entertainment which was pretty decent for a domestic airline.  My 15 hour flight consisted of watching movies, sleeping, eating, watching TV shows, sleeping, and eating.  The food was edible and the staff was pleasant (I even managed to try out my Mandarin to the delight of a flight attendant).  After what seemed like an eternity, I finally heard the message that the plane was “making its descendant into Shanghai, so put up your tray tables and seats and prepare for landing.” It was officially time…

Shanghai: Thursday, September 6

The plane touched down into Shanghai PuDong airport on 9/6 at 7:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. E.S.T.).  I gathered all my belongings and made my way off the aircraft.  I was pleased with the airport upon entering and making my way to customs, it was very modern (it was built several years ago) and since everything was in Chinese characters and English, it was easy to navigate.  I cleared customs rather quickly and upon exiting, I was greeted by a hotel representative holding up a sign with my name on it.  We greeted each other and he led me to a bench since he had to wait for two other arrivals. I met one of my new coworkers who I had previously been in contact with via the internet.  We were happy to finally meet each other in person and we eagerly exchanged stories of our preparation, packing, and flight to China.  

Pudong International Airport

A bit of the Shanghai Skyline
Since the other two arrivals were delayed, our hotel representative led us to our transportation that would be taking us to our hotel (Sidenote: My employer would be putting me into a hotel for two full weeks at their expense.  During my two week stay, it was up to me to find my own housing).  I looked out with amazement at the incredible views of the airport and all the different areas of the city.  I managed to find my camera and I enthusiastically snapped away. 

The Shanghai Exhibition Center

After 45 minutes, we arrived at the hotel and after filling out some paperwork; I received my room key along with a welcome back from My Employer filled with some much needed goodies (cell phone with SIM card, adapter, map, and notebook). 
My Digs for 2 weeks

Bag of Goodies!
 By the time I made it to my room, I was completely drained and starving.   I managed to locate the hotel’s restaurant and I ordered what I thought was going to be a small bowl of soup.  I was shocked when the waitress brought me an enormous bowl of soup that could have easily fed four people.  I managed to stuff myself with four smaller bowls as I watched the Asian version of the t.v. show “The Voice” (which was named “The Asian Voice”).  After my late night meal (it was after 11p.m. at this point) I dragged myself to my room, brushed my teeth and set my alarm in preparation for my first day of work…

Thanks again for reading and stay tuned for how I handle my first full day in Shanghai!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


"Come tomorrow, I'll wake up new..." ~Chad Shugg

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty face from day to day." ~William Shakespeare

"Tomorrow is Pregnant and no one knows what she will give birth to..." ~African Proverb

As you can see from the quotes above, my current focus lies on tomorrow due to the fact that I depart  tomorrow and I will officially arrive in Shanghai on Thursday. I'm full of stress (I'm still packing ;/ ) and my emotions are running incredibly high. I cannot believe that I'm going to China...


As I mentioned previously, I'm still in shock over my decision to go to China.  If someone had told me a year ago that I would be going to China, I would given them a wicked side-eye followed up with enormous gales of incredulous laughter. As I mentioned previously on this blog, China, or Asia in general was never on my radar, but, life happens and I never question my gut.

 The reality has not really hit me that I'm going to be boarding a plane in a few short hours (with a hella long flight) and waking up on the other side of the world ( a day later). The reality that I'm willingly leaving my comfort zone of the west to voluntarily go to the east.  The reality that I'm living abroad again...

I posted the above quotes because they convey my current thoughts. I don't know what tomorrow or this adventure may hold but a few things are certain: tomorrow is a new day, living a new dream, with new experiences, and in the future, new stories and anecdotes to share with a brand new outlook.

So, I will leave you now so I can finish packing and hopefully, I can catch some zzzz's.  All I ask is that you keep me in your positive thoughts (or prayers) because I would truly appreciate it.

Have a wonderful night and see you on the other side of the world!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Moving...Saying My First Goodbyes

Hello and Welcome Back!

Just as the title says, I started the moving and goodbye process. I officially leave in three days and so far, the reality has not hit me yet.

Over the weekend, I moved out of my apartment which was enormously stressful.  When it comes to moving, I tend to grossly underestimate the process which only leads to more stress the actual day of the move. Since I left The Firm over a week ago and upon returning from my mini vacation on Monday, I pretty much had the entire week to pack, organize and clean.  All week, I slowly packed up my things and I honestly felt like I had very little to pack, but when Friday finally came, it was a different story and I was frantically throwing things in garbage bags and cursing under my breath about all the s#%t stuff I had accumulated. I was fortunate to obtain some help at the eleventh hour; but, I completed the bulk of the move on my own, which only led me to think...

Can I continue living this lifestyle and if so, for how long?

Maybe it was the stress talking (because after all, who really likes to move???) because while I was packing, I had some time to think deeply about my long term plans for the future. Don't get me wrong, I love to travel and I'm excited about the opportunity to live and work in Shanghai, but I have to be honest when I say a small part of me is experiencing some fatigue when it comes to the nomad lifestyle. A part of me is eager to finally settle down into a place I can call my own without the undue burden I've placed on others. A part of me is over saying goodbye again and again only to return to where I came from.  A part of me is just tired...

I'm sure many other people who are in my position have these same thoughts and just like me, the thrill and excitement of travel weigh out a life of stability or monotony (or something along those lines).  All I can say is that I've chosen this life and I will deal with the consequences of my choices (rant over).

Now that I've ranted a bit, I was very overjoyed once I completely finished the moving process and a representative from the rental agency did a walk through of my apartment and upon inspection, informed me that I should expect my security deposit back in 4-6 weeks (this bit is crucial since I was engaged in a battle with the rental agency for several weeks over the return of my security deposit). Once the inspection was completed, I dropped off several bags to the neighborhood Goodwill and I continued on back home for a nap and then the massive task of once again, organizing and packing.

Saturday evening found me in the brand new home of one of my childhood friends complete with a delicious home cooked meal by his mother.  His mother exchanged some stories and advice on what to expect upon my arrival in Asia since she had spent some time there and had a sibling who lived there for several years.  It was a lovely evening full of friends, foods, and lots of discussion. We decided to call it a night just after midnight and thus, I said my first round of goodbyes. Despite the sadness of the situation, I remained cheerful and empowered about the new chapter of my life that would begin in the next few days.