On the morning of the 14th of October, I woke up, lazily showered, packed all my belongings, checked out of the hostel, retrieved my heavily overweight bags that I had put into storage, and taxied out to Busan airport. The terror set in immediately. I checked in and was told my bags were overweight, something in knew was coming. I pulled out my credit card and passed it to the check-in agent who instead insisted that I take some things out of my bags. I explained to him that this was impossible, as I would have nowhere to put it. He insisted, I countered, and ultimately he just told me that it would be ok ‘but just this time.’
That certainly won’t be a problem.
Travelling instills in me a paranoia that I will be late, that I will forget something important, that I will have somehow screwed something up. It is far, far from an enjoyable experience. After check-in, I paced and pondered what I may have left at the hostel. This got old, so I distracted myself with some internet until boarding. Not to long after that the plane began to move, and I white knuckled the fuck out of the arm rests until cruising altitude.
You’d never guess I’d been flying since I was five.
Shortly thereafter turbulence kicked in and I ended up gripping the hand of the poor sucker seated next to me. I’m pretty sure I terrified that poor little Asian guy. In that I was absolutely miserable, they two hour plane ride felt like a damned eternity, and when the damn thing finally landed a gasped the relieved gasps of someone who finally pulled it off. These two hours would be the high point of my religiosity for the coming year – at no other point would I plead the lord’s help and mercy as much as I had that day.
I got off the plane, went through immigration, found the nearest bathroom, and threw-up the awful kimchi I had been served on the flight.
At the baggage claim carousel a little scruffy-looking mongrel dog trotted against the traffic of the passing luggage. It had a sign on it introducing it as the contraband dog. It had to have been the cutest invasion of privacy I had ever seen. After the terrible flight, I really wanted to pet it.
A dude who spoke no English whatsoever got me from the airport to my hotel. At first, Shanghai was little more than a few tall building in the distance. And then suddenly, in an eye blink, we were in the middle of the city, on a stretch of highway that acts as a main traffic artery for Shanghai. After a long time, we ended up at the hotel, which seemed to me to be in the middle of nowhere. I checked in, got connected to the internet and asked myself for the first time what in the actual fuck I was doing in China.
I had prior to this received a schedule from my work instructing me on what I would be doing every day in Shanghai. For the rest of today it simply said ‘get situated.’ I figured I was situated enough, and it was time to explore a bit of the city. I went to the receptionist and asked if there was someplace nearby I could get some food. I was told that no, there was not, and I would have to go downtown. I would later learn that this is something of a default answer in China. The Chinese, though otherwise courteous, start on the assumption that you are not competent to do much of anything in China. After all, no one speaks English here, and Chinese is hard for foreigners.
Anyway, the hotel clerk recommended I go to East Nanjing Road to get something to eat. I agreed, caught a taxi and set out. Well, East Nanjing Road turns out to be the god damn Times Square of Shanghai, everything is lit up with giant glowing marquees and bright neon signs. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t nice, but it wasn’t my speed for sure. What’s worse, the place was lined with nothing but McDonalds, KFC, and pizza hut. A little disappointing, to say the least. I was also approached by women offering massages and men offering drugs, tea, women, whatever. Only one of them figured it out and finally added ‘you want Chinese food? I’ll take you to a good restaurant!’ to the end of his speech. One women simply put her arm through mine and walked with me for a good five minutes before I shook her off.
Went back to the hotel without eating. Felt pretty disappointed with me first night in China.