Two weeks ago I arrived in China, Beijing to be exact and then a two hour flight to Shanghai finished the first day. My boss met me at the airport in Shanghai and took me out to noodles and some Tea. It .was a great way to begin the trip.
The next morning we ate at the hotels breakfast buffet and headed to the Maglov, the worlds fastest training traveling over 350KM an hour. I now have the chance to say I have been on the worlds fastest train and it was exhilarating. In about 2 minutes we were at the Shanghai Bullet train stations. We waited about 3hours for our train to depart to Suzhou. We ate and I ordered some beef noodles that came with a nice soup and then some interesting pork balls, I did not finish the pork balls. The Bullet Train sped along at 300KM an hour essentially getting us into Suzhou in 30minutes.
I recall looking out the window the entire trip and was amazed at the landscape. China is huge, absolutely huge. Construction is everywhere, highrises are being built on ever corner. Yet there was still much greenery and scenery. I got to see some local farms and oldschool villages on my way to Suzhou and wow the life they live here is very different then the life in America…or so I thought.
We then took my boss’s car to my apartment, a two bedroom apartment on Jiang Feng Campus. As we walked up I began getting homesick, this is it, this is life for the next year. !2,000 miles away from the place I once called home. I dropped my belongings off and we toured the campus, toured the RT-Mart (essentially a Wal-Mart on steroids) then finished the day at the Metro, which is an Import store where you can buy goods from all over the world. It is like a Sam’s Club or Costco but with goods from Switzerland,German, Italy, Spain, America, and ect ect ect…
My first night I slept fine but woke up sad, a bit out of touch. I noticed not many people speak English and I know absolutely no Chinese. I figured I would just sit at home and search the interwebs for hours and hours but then that became dull, I had to venture out. So I went to RT-mart which is right across the street from my Pad. I was lost, nobody could help me and I could not answer anyones questions. The stares came from every angle, but the smiles comforted me. I left thinking this is going to be hell if I dont learn the language.
Luckily for me my neighbor is from Taiwan and has a dual citizenship in Australia as well. He can speak English and can also read and speak fluent Mandarin. Talk about a gift from the Universe. He came knocking on my door around 7pm China time which is 13hours ahead of Central Time US. He showed me around and introduced me to the subway, which is only a 5minute walk from my apartment. We went to Lushan Yu a shopping district which has a Japanese department store on one side and a Chinese department store on the other. Talk about competition. When I say department store I should say Mall as they have brand names from all over inside. On the basement they also have restaurants. He introduced me to his friend Geoffrey, who is a surgeon doing his residency at the Suzhou hospital. He loves basketball so we instantly kicked it off. We had a beer enjoyed some noodles, dumplings, some steam bread, and wondered around the rest of the night.
Day 2 was a success. I have a friend who is more then helpful and willing to show this American tourist around.
The days flew by we continued to explore all the shopping center Suzhou has to offer, which is about a billions. We continued to eat more and more local flavors and I started to become accustom to this whole living in China thing.
Some things I noticed:
1) the people: they stare at me everywhere I go, I am about the tallest person I have seen since being here. The people though are very friendly and very welcoming and more then happy to help barring they can speak english. The girls all come up and talk to me and find me amusing, they all ask for free english lessons, to which I respond yes, only if you can give me chinese lessons. they love it, I have gotten more numbers the first week here then I could have ever imagined. now I just to learn Chinese to talk to them haha.
2) this place is not communist. They may have a command economy and they may censor some things but this place is as capitalist as it gets. Anything can be bought, Gucci is here ans so are all the other big name brands. It is westernized, you must dress to impress. I was shocked at how much westernization has taken over this place. China is not the China I thought I would be seeing. Shopping Centers are blocks apart from one another. People fill these centers everyday. Money is floating around here endlessly and the people are happy.
I still have much to do and see but yesterday me and David my neighbor cycled Suzhou. We biked around 50KM and explored Suzhou in full. It was beautiful on the bike. Traffic was a mess but we survived. We saw things you can’t just see on foot. We will be doing this more and I will bring my video cam and I will post these amazing trips.
Two weeks in and I still miss home but it has become less difficult. The internet is amazing at keeping people connected and I feel like I am just a click away from seeing a friend.
More to come….