04 September 2009

Shanghai - Week 1

08/27/2009

Arriving at the LA airport at 5:20 AM went remarkably smoothly. I was able to find where I needed to go. We had plenty of time. The lines were not long at all (the advantage of going there at the butt crack of dawn), and even when we did our transfer from Vancouver, we found our gate and customs very easily. Very quick and efficient. There was no rush whatsoever. I am very pleased with Air Canada's service. They were all very nice, constantly going down the rows asking us what we'd like to drink. Normally most flights would ignore you unless you hunt them down, but I felt like they spent a great amount of time making sure we were all comfortable. The movies were awesome. I probably spent 6 hours sleeping but the other half of the time I watched movies on my private screen behind the seat in front of me. We watched “I Love You, Man” and “Obsessed” together and then I watched “My Life in Ruins” and Ramsey watched “Monsters vs Aliens” and “The Office” while I was sleeping. He didn't sleep much. I put on head on his lap most of the time, so it was really easy to sleep.

We had major turbulence on the plane and there was more than one time I thought the plane was going down. I've never experienced that much turbulence before. Worse than Star Tours at Disneyland. As a result, I threw up 12 times. Thankfully the staff kept me well fed and hydrated so it wasn't so bad.

We left the terminal and went to baggage claim. Great surprise we actually got 3 out of the 4 luggages. I was sure they would lose all of it. The last luggage got transferred to Beijing. I could try to understand their logic for days but that would be a waste of time. Supposedly, I will get my luggage in a day sent straight to my apartment. Luckily, that luggage was the least valuable-having most of my clothes and shoes. Ramsey thankfully packed a lot of my clothes in other ones, so I'm not clotheless. I just hope it comes because it also had a lot of my toiletries and earrings. But still the least valuable. It could be worse.

What went very well was that there was actually someone there at the airport with a sign picking us up. I felt pretty important! I've never had a sign out with my name on it at the airport. Someone was actually there! I could have had no one there to pick me up! The assistant that picked me up was from the university and her name is Irene. She was very sweet, very concerned if we had enough rest. She also picked up 2 Korean students and 1 Japanese teacher (our colleague). So we were the first to arrive and we waited about 45 minutes for the others. The students were very nice and the Japanese teacher didn't talk to us at. Maybe she will warm up to us later—for all she knew we were students as well and she didn't speak English. The Koreans spoke to us in English and they knew as much Chinese as me so I have no idea how they will get by as students. People are very brave!

So the mini bus that is owned by the university took Ramsey and me home first. It would have been 45 minutes but it turned out to be more like 1 ½ hours because of Shanghai traffic. My first impression of Shanghai—freaking hot! It was 107 degrees and really humid, so it felt like entering a sauna. The funny thing was that it was raining and it was still 107 degrees! I can only imagine what it's like when it's not raining. I know Shanghainese people told me it would be very humid, but honestly I couldn't even breathe. I felt like I was under water, struggling for breath. All the men on the street are shirtless and the drivers next to us looked like they were naked. Thankfully, the mini bus was very comfortable with air conditioning and it felt really great! The driver was the craziest driver ever but actually quite skilled. He would honk to let people know he was cutting them off, which means he would start going into their lane and they would be forced to move over. Pretty much, survival of the biggest. He would fit in spaces I never could. So even though he was crazy and aggressive, he was remarkably skilled, reminding me of the crazy cab drivers in San Francisco.

So we get to our apartment, and our department head “Miss Zhang” is waiting for us. She gives us some instructions but hurries off, telling us to rest 'til she gives us further instructions. She is meeting us tomorrow at 2:00 PM to take us to the police station to get us registered with them as well as help us get internet and phone. Our apartment, gas, water, and electricity, and cable is all paid for. We just have to cover internet and phone. I gave Miss Zhang a CD of my dad's and she was very pleased and my Chinese listening skills aren't the best right now so I thought she said my dad was very cute but then she saw my face she quickly reiterated that it was me that she thought was so cute. Probably because I said in Chinese: “This is my daddy. He plays the piano.” I know. I speak Chinese like a child.

So as soon as Miss Zhang leaves we assess our apartment. What can I say, it is better than we expected but don't let that give you any ideas—it's still a developing country! The kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom are all separate rooms. I was sure we would be in a studio apartment, but so far I'm pretty impressed. What I love most about it is that there looks to be a pretty new washer and the air conditioning unit is amazing!!! There are two—one in the bedroom and one in the living room and they come with remote-controls and I was able to cool down the apartment fast! The apartment is completely furnished-comes with everything-bed, t.v., desk, dressers, drawers, tables, chairs, phone, printer ironing board, washer, etc. The mattress is very very very hard but it's not that bad. It really does help straighten out one's back after being in a plane for 13 hours. The sheets are obviously sketchy but those can be easily replaced. There is no carpet, which I kinda like. Ramsey really likes the apartment and was pleasantly surprised. I definitely want to find the closest Ikea and do some fixing up, but that will have wait til I get my first paycheck.

Well as soon as we get into the apartment we both sleep for about 5 hours. It was very good! We woke up hungry at about 10 pm and then left the apartment to scavenge for food. Thankfully tons of stuff is still open. We bought orange juice, water, yogurt and bananas at a mini mart and went back to the apartment. Then Ramsey and I messed around with power plugs and converters. It's still very complicated but we will probably get help tomorrow figuring stuff out. I messed around on my Ukulele which I still have yet to play any real tune and then we went to bed.

08/28/2009

We slept really well and woke up at about 9 am feeling very refreshed so with all the crazy random naps, I think our bodies have adjusted to the time change. We left the apartment to explore. We just walked down all the streets looking for what would be useful. There are a lot of half-naked men on the streets fixing bikes and scooters for money. We had a difficult time figuring out what some of these stores actually sold. There is a lot of food places and mini marts super close to our apartment. I was able to get some sort of dumpling with beef and gravy inside. I was proud I could actually ask for the chicken and I understood when they told me they just had beef. So far my Chinese has helped a lot. A lot of my Chinese friends told me that a lot of people in Shanghai speak English, but so far I don't think that's the case—who knows maybe in the highly tourist areas. So far I've only encountered two people who speak English—the department head, and the department coordinator. This morning we headed out with Miss Zhang (the department head) and we got resident permits. Then after we left that building we gave our resident permits to the local police and we received a certificate of temporary residence. Miss Zhang was very busy so she wasn't able to help us get phone and internet, so she pointed the way and gave us addresses. She assured us they speak some English there. Well after that, we leave Miss Zhang and head over to China Telecom to set up our internet service but it turns out there are no English speakers there. I can memorize internet jargon but I have no idea what they are saying back to us so it didn't really help. I knew we needed a English-speaking Chinese person to help us. The problem was Miss Zhang told us to call her when we get our phone and then she'll set up a meeting for Miss Xing (the department coordinator) to discuss our teaching schedule and our materials. Nevertheless, we still have no phone so we couldn't call Miss Zhang. I felt like a failure because I couldn't speak Chinese well enough to get internet and Ramsey told me to not be so hard on myself and then he turned on Chinese television and told me to start improving my listening skills. So I watched Chinese cartoons because they seemed to be the easiest to understand. We were very exhausted after walking everywhere and exploring so we went to bed at about 7:00 PM. I went to bed thinking, “Oh great, we have no way to contact Miss Zhang.” Well at about 9:00 PM, Miss Zhang came to our apartment and told us about the meeting with Miss Xing for 10 AM the next morning. I was so relieved. So I went back to bed and I slept until about 2 A.M. For some reason, I couldn't sleep so I read my family history for about 1 hour before being able to fall asleep again.

I learned about my great grandmother Charlotte Ann Abel Munns who when she was 16 had a terrible pain in her head to the point she couldn't bear it and so she had a priesthood blessing and she said: “As soon as they took their hands off my head, the pain began leaving my head. It went right down through my body, when it got to my legs I felt that I couldn't stand it, then it went into my toes and I can still remember the terrific pain in my toes. It seemed to hurt almost worse then in my head, then by way of my big toe it left me and I never had any more pain.” I read about my great-great grandmother Annie Austin Munns who's father erroneously was charged for poaching when it was actually his brother that was poaching and he had to go to jail for 30 days and “thus established the family's only criminal record.” So there are a lot of cute stories like that.

There are many stories about my ancestors in England and how that saved every shilling and sent family members over to Utah one at a time. They were so sick of being persecuted because of being LDS that they were willing to do everything to be with the saints in Utah. They weren't even allowed to go to school because they didn't belong to the Church of England. When they came to Utah they had many hardships but they were always very hard-working, getting into the sugar-beet business etc. The women were also very industrious. Annie supported Charles while he was serving a mission and he was able to do temple work for his ancestors. Annie had to support Charles and all of their 9 kids and yet she was able to do it because she was very smart. She took boarders, sold books, and started a very prosperous horseradish business. I am so impressed by my ancestors—how much they worked, how little they had, but how truly strong their faith and testimonies were. I'm very glad my father gave me this book right before I left for China. I'm having fun reading it. I've only read 18 pages but I've enjoyed the stories so far.

08/29/2009

We woke up at about 7 am feeling like we slept forever. Ramsey went to hunt for breakfast and I stayed in the apartment. I just wanted to make sure I was here when my luggage arrived because we don't have a phone yet. Ramsey brought back two peach/apple mutant thingys, popped beans, and mummified mango slices. Oh well, he tried. Miss Xing arrived at 10 am and we discussed all things pertaining to our work schedule and lesson plans. It turns out we only work 2 days a week each instead of 3 with the same pay! Ramsey works Mondays and Fridays and I work Wednesdays and Fridays. We only have to work 9 hours a week each so it's pretty awesome. I explained to Miss Xing we needed help with getting the internet and phone and she's willing to help us. She also helped us figure out how to get to our church and to Carrefore (a supermarket).

At 2:00 PM, we got a delivery for a new queen-sized bed from our university. We had a full-size before. Well I had a hard time opening the door because it was stuck. This was the second time it has trapped us in. So I had a hard time communicating to the manager that we couldn't get the door open. I had to search for the word “key” in the dictionary and finally I was able to say that the key is under the door so he could open it from the outside. I told him that the door sometimes did not open (wish I knew the word “jammed” in Chinese) and then he tried it out and said it worked and I told him “I know, often you can open the door, but sometimes you cannot open the door.” Funny way to say that but the only way I know how to in Chinese. Well, they installed the bed and they were very fast. It's a beautiful bed-looks like cherry wood. Beautiful frame. Also, we got two matching bed stands. They were going take our old one but I managed to tell them I wanted all of them and then they said I don't need all three but I told them: “I also want!” and so they left us with the third night stand. Now if only I can get used to the new mattress smell. Everything is brand new which I was initially happy about but the gluey smell is seriously making me high.

More hours of Chinese television. I cannot leave the apartment because I'm waiting for our missing luggage to be delivered today. I hope it comes. Meanwhile, Ramsey further explored the streets of Shanghai.

At around 4 PM our friend Shizhang's mother and father came to our apartment. Shizhang was worried about us because he hadn't heard from us and so he sent his parents to come check on us. =) Ramsey wasn't home. They didn't speak any English and I was getting by and fortunately Miss Zhang came and brought me over new bedsheets and was able to translate for a couple of minutes before she ran off again. Good news from Miss Zhang. My luggage is coming tonight!!!! Anyway, the Chens were very nice and they are going to help us shop. They have a car and will help us do all that we need to do. I feel like we're truly being blessed and I am grateful to have a friend like Shizhang who also has very kind parents. They told me they are going to be my Chinese family. As I'm writing this, I feel like I'm going to cry because I was feeling very alone and helpless. It felt good that they are so willing to help us. I'm also very happy that Chen Shizhang's mother is a teacher because she is so much better at speaking Chinese to foreigners than others. I was able to understand almost everything she was saying to me because she used simple words and phrases. His father was also very nice and showed me a family picture of them and so I showed him my family picture and introduced him to all of my family. “Shizhang mama” said I looked much slimmer than the picture and I told her I lost 15 lbs by gesturing a thinner frame and saying “15!” in Chinese.

10:00 PM—My luggage came! And everything is all there!

3 comments:

  1. Yeah!! I was so worried about you!! I felt the same way, I couldn't breathe when I came home from the airport. I thought I was going to suffocate! And I'm sure China is more humid than D.C. Hmm.. Carrefour, we shopped there in France. So impressed with your Chinese skills, and so happy to have a family looking after you. We love you and are praying for you!!!!

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  2. OMG it's so long for me, post a comment first.

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  3. HI! :-) Hang in there! The alone feeling will pass fast - you're very friendly and outgoing. And the helpless feelings will pass quick too I think - It sounds like you're earnestly working at learning their language. Keep posting. Know you're thought of and loved and prayed for! :-)

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