Monday morning came earlier then expected, maybe due to the lingering chest cold or the truck that insisted on its constant horn honking at 4 AM this morning. I was greeted to a full breakfast, first time since my Navy days to wake up to a full breakfast. After eating, shaving and showering I made my way to my new job. Work now begins at 9 AM, that is an alien concept to me, but a welcomed one. One thing I must say on Shanghai taxi drivers… they do not seem to know how to get places very well. Almost every taxi we have taken requires a 5 to 10 minute dialog on how to get to where we live or are going. Now it is important to point out now of the areas I am going are off the beaten path by any stretch of the imagination. I work in Central Plaza, it is the main office and business area located centrally in the city, hence the name. I live in the Zhai Bei area, which is just north of People’s Square across the river. I am having detailed directions written up in simplified Chinese for future use and until my Chinese gets fluent enough to do it on my own, and to be understood too.
Due to the traffic situation I have noticed punctuality is not as closely adhered to as it is in the states. Being 10 to 15 minutes late seems to be acceptable and common. Road rules are also followed loosely. Red lights seem to be more of a suggestion as taxis, busses, and the numerous bicycles and mopeds continue their flow throw red lights seemingly oblivious. There are quite a few foreigners here, as I am now one of them, but I have noticed we still get stared at quite often. For a city of the size and population that Shanghai is it has seemed to locate its population out well. There are hundreds of people anywhere you go, but it never seems over crowded or claustrophobic as some may suspect.
Today as I was walking back from a lunch with the office manager and some of the office staff I was treated to a familiar sound, the roar of a military jet flying overhead. Then the sharp ping of terror as I realized this was not the typical Falcon, Eagle, Hornet, Tomcat, or even Harrier but an actual fully functional Mig, this subsided quickly but was still odd. Little things like this are going to get hard to deal with as my previous profession is in constant conflict with my current situation. I timed my walk back to Coco’s work and it took be around 20 minutes, of course I got a bit lost on the way and overshot one of the intersections I was supposed to turn down. From our apartment to work will take no longer then 35 min, and a taxi seems to only shave 10 to 15 minutes off of this time… I am in the process of figuring out the subway system too; for rainy, hot, and cold days. Speaking of the subway, it is more like what I have heard of the London Underground then anything I have seen state side so far. It is lined with stores that sell everything and anything.
I am still trying to figure out the wireless situation here, I can connect to some networks and not others, and my connection does not always guarantee the ability to get onto the internet or web. I will try my magic tonight by attempting to configure a wireless router in our apartment. I have dealt with American DSL, Cable, and dialup for years… Now I will tackle ADSL and the used of proxies to be able to go to the places I am not supposed to go anymore… like news sites and information sites not in line with the current accepted view. Agh agh, nudge nudge, wink wink, poke poke.
I am writing this from the ever always aromatic Starbucks where the special of the Day is Cinnamon Latté. It started out a bright clear morning and has turned windy and hazy, of course the smog in the city is constant but it is a damp biting wind very similar to Norfolk on a winter evening. The humidity is increasing and it appears to be ready to rain. The reality of my move has still not fully sunk in yet. I can take comfort in knowing there is still a small assembly of normality at home still, there is beer in the fridge and through the use of power adapters and converters I have a PC, internet, music, movies, and a few familiar things to keep my tide over till I can feel confident to venture out fully on my own. Today was a big step in that as I made it back ok, visited the Shanghai version of Best Buy/electronic bazaar/swap shop, the underground and some of the subway section, ran a crucial errand of retrieving a lost cell phone from a restaurant from a place where English seems to be limited to only seating and ordering (proving I was authorized to pickup the cell phone was another matter all together… calling it on my cell phone was not sufficient but calling it from the house phone while using the address book on my cell phone was………… hmmmmm yeaaaaaaaaa. Sorry Office Space moment). I am not confident enough to hail a cab yet, as I am not confident in the driver’s ability to find where it is I have to go. But I signed up for this knowing darn good and well I am going to have to change quite a bit in my perceptions, expectations, and abilities to get the normal things done, no gamble no gain!