So I’ve been in Shanghai for a few days now, but it feels more like a few weeks and that’s not in a bad way. I guess it’s just that jetlag has a way of making you feel, well, quite lagged, lol. My flight from New York City was 26 hours in total and the time change in China compared to where I’m from in the US is 12 hours. After this, I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about our semiannual time changes. I feel like a time warrior. On my flight I watched a host of Chinese movies, of which my favorite is “Go Away Mr. Tumor,” comedy about an upbeat woman who is facing cancer with a host of supportive friend it sounds like a downer, but it was anything but that. The movie only served to make me even more excited about my trio abroad!
After disembarking at Guangzhou aiport for a 6 hour layover I went through customs and a host of security checks but once I was all cleared I could not believe what I saw. It was the coolest airport I’d ever seen. I couldn’t figure out if I was in an airport or a very chic upscale mall. My attention was grabbed by the cool restaurants I saw and the cute food ring served. One of my favorite things about the airport was the free massage chairs. It was much needed after a long flight.
Everything wasn’t peaches however. I looked through my bag to be sure I had everything I need and to my dismay I was missing both my passport and boarding pass for my flight to Shanghai. My heart thumped so hard and fast. I had to do a 10 second breathing exercise to calm myself down. Nothing good ever happens when you panic. I tracked my steps all the way back to the last security check and used Google translate to say “I lost my passport, is it here?” The airport personell smiled and reached towards their desk to hand me my passport and boarding. Somehow in the crazy frenzy of taking getting through security I had accidentally left it in one of the bins that gets passed through the security scanner. I was relieved. “That was a close one” I thought to myself. From there I headed straight to my boating gate and got on my plane.
The program I am participating in provided hassle free transportation from the airport to my hotel. I was so happy to finally be able to rest. My room is huge compared to what I have back in New York and the location is excellent. There’s even a kitchen and washing machine in the unit. I was starting to like Shanghai already. Later that day I was treated to an orientation dinner. We had Sichuan food. Although I have a very low tolerance for spicy food, there were a few dishes that were tolerable and quite tasty. I’ll say, forget it!
I started my internship the very next day. I was tired, but really happy to meet all the new people at the job. On my second day I went with a group of other items to Old Shanghai. It felt like being in a time portal ad it was even stranger because this antique part of Shanghai was set near some of Shanghai’s most futuristic looking buildings. On our way back we stopped at McDonald’s where I order an ice cream. It tasted so different from McDonald’s ice cream back home. It was thicker, heavier, and tasted like cake batter, yum! There were a number of food items that I could see were tailored to the Chinese market such as Taro pies instead of Apple pie. It was a good reminder of a good life dying “When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do.” What was even more remarkable to me was how people payed for their food.
For the most part, China is a cashless society. WeChat is one of China’s most popular apps and everyone uses it to pay for purchases, similar to the way ApplePay or AndroidPay works in the US, the difference is that literally everyone uses it. It is so efficient. Because my visa does not allow me to open a bank account here so I can only pay for things in cash. When I pull out my Ren min bi, I feel like quite the anomaly.
Even better than WeChat Pay was the fact that you could pay with Face Recognition. It was unbelievable. You don’t need a card, a smart phone, just your face. Your face is linked to you bank account and once the machine recognizes your face it debits the money from your account and voilà. I’m not even sure if this device is available back home yet.
All in all, I’m extremely tired, but enjoying my time so far. I can’t wait to tell you more in my next blog post.