China: First Impressions

Alas, I begin my travel series documenting my trip to China last month. My posts will be organized chronologically and grouped by location as well as my own crazy mind. So I guess there is no order.

Day 1– I arrive in Shanghai at about 7pm on July 14th after 24 hours of traveling (12 of those hours on a plane from Detroit to Shanghai) with a serious itch to jump around like a maniac and sleep at the same time. I settle on driving to Peter and Brian’s apartment and promptly fall asleep. What jet lag?

Day2– After waking up ridiculously early, Peter takes me to a fast food place across the street for some dumplings. OMG REAL CHINESE DUMPLINGS.

Warm. Plump. Juicy. Delectable. I am in dumpling heaven. The key to enhance the savory mass of the dumpling is in the sauce. We try a mild, slightly sweet sauce and a rich, spicy sauce that raises my temperature and makes me groan in delight. While that might sound inappropriate, these dumplings were inappropriately tasty.

He knows what’s up

More traditional dumplings, hand-made and filled with pork and vegetables.

On the right is the restaurant’s special dumplings fried to crispy perfection

Preparing for my trip to China, I was nervous about the cuisine and possibly being forced to eat small dogs every day. I was also concerned about potential digestive problems due to the general lack of fiber in Chinese diets. Thus, a quarter of my luggage consisted of fibrous foods from America including cereal, granola, granola bars, and nut butter. Although all of this was probably unnecessary, the granola bars saved me everyday from low blood-sugar/starvation between meals. Also, I was able to eat cereal and nut butter as an easy and quick breakfast with some milk from the grocery store. It is crucial to find plain milk. Chinese grocery stores tend to stock sickly sweet milks and creams that make you want to die when consumed accidentally with your cereal. The key to my happiness in China was eating breakfast, eating every couple of hours, chugging bottled water like nobody’s business, and using clean restrooms when available. I think Peter learned the value of preparation after realizing I am not a camel like him and am actually very needy when it comes down to the basics.

Bikes and scooters populate the streets of Shanghai. Be careful, they do not follow traffic lights and do not yield for pedestrians. Ever.

Walking around Shanghai, you realize that it is really like any other big city in America. Lot of people, lots of traffic, off-smelling streets, crowded public transportation, pollution, and shopping. However, Shanghai is different in that everybody is Chinese (duh). They are short, with dark hair and dark eyes and don’t care if you are in their way. Sometimes they spit in the streets. Babies do their business in streets, in trashcans, into bushes. Bathrooms generally do not have soap. Or toilet paper. Or toilets. You learn to squat with grace and to embrace hand-sanitizer.

As a blonde white woman you learn ignore the fact that every single Chinese person you pass stares at you. EVERYBODY. If a passerby did not stare at me I was a little shocked, a little annoyed that they did not find my yellow hair unique, illuminating, beautiful, and strange. Ok that sounds egotistical but I got used to the stares, the looks, the open mouths, the pointing children, the terrified children, and the random photos with strangers on the street.

A man hangs his clothes up to dry in his apartment

Apartment buildings are everywhere. Just like the Chinese.

But really. Shanghai is very normal and fun to explore like any other city I have encountered around the world. The weather is hot, humid, and perpetually overcast. It reminds me of walking in an oven that is slowly broiling although it is still dark and gloomy. Yes, Shanghai is more humid than Florida. At least I spent more time outside in humid Shanghai than I do in humid Florida. Floridians prefer to drive cars. Everywhere. That is what I love about China…. Walking! Public Transportation! Exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise! I am beginning to like it here.

After satisfying our hunger with delicious dumplings, Peter and I take the bus to Jabil where we get Subway sandwiches and iced coffee. Subway in China is exactly like Subway in America, except you can add a fried egg to your sandwich. Yes, an egg. And it is delicious. At this point is is noon and it is hot hot hot. I am sweating more than I have ever sweat in Florida and gulp down my iced coffee, grateful for the cool liquid and caffeine. We then walk to the main building of Jabil and board a bus with a group of Peter’s coworkers to embark on a workcell bonding trip! And just like that, we are whisked away towards Suzhou.

Suzhou Adventures… coming next!

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