Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 1 - Arriving at Shanghai

Originally written Wednesday 13th November:

What a journey! I am so glad I thought to take some cold medicine at start of the flight, it helped me to sleep through most of the first flight at least! It was sad to see such an empty plane coming from Egypt, 170 empty seats, however it meant that everyone was able to stretch out to sleep! 

The Chinese air hostesses in Egypt air did not smile once and it worried me! Are all women in china going to be like this? Thankfully, On my china air flight from Beijing to Shanghai I found the opposite to be true, everyone was very smiley and welcoming. Phew!

What struck me most coming in to land in Beijing was the pollution. I live in Cairo. I am used to pollution, but this stuff was dense. The sky was yellowish, like a really heavy sandstorm in Cairo, but worse. As soon as we landed, before the doors were even opened my sinuses started complaining! I am really glad I am not in Beijing for the month, that's for sure! My heart goes out to the millions who have to breathe that stuff on a daily basis! 

At Beijing airport, the domestic flights area was less interesting than I had hoped. I wandered about for the 5 hours, people-watching and trying (and failing) to work the free airport wifi! I figured I could pass time by trying some dumpling or noodles or something, they smelt good, except that I had no Chinese money with me and the only ATM in the place was out of order. Ah well, saved me some pennies I guess. The food on the plane though was lovely, better than any Chinese restaurant in Egypt! I have been eating Egyptair food for so many years that I forget that other airlines do different things, although granted I did have to stifle a laugh because the choice was still chicken or beef! 

On arrival in Shanghai, I was praying that Leon, the course organiser, was going to be at arrivals when I got there since my phone doesn't seem to be working at all here. Will look into that tomorrow! He was not only waiting at arrivals but had his sister, a photographer and his wife there too. A whole welcoming party, which included the paparazzi!!! His sister speaks fluent English and had lived in Kuwait for 2 years, so it was really interesting meeting her and comparing experiences.  I've been stressed about this trip for weeks, but as soon as I had actually met these guys I could feel myself relaxing instantly. I think I will be happy here.

After I had checked in to the hotel that will be home for a month, Leon and Mai (his sister) and I went for food. A restaurant a stone's throw from the hotel served us duck, goose, noodles, veg, and lotus root (which was v sweet and quite tasty).  I didn't want to risk drinking the tap water just yet... Don't want to start the course with a dodgy tummy, so I ordered coke, with a difference: it was served in a tea cup, hot , with ginger and lemon in it. A surprisingly very enjoyable drink! I even managed to eat the meal with chopsticks and didn't disgrace myself too badly with them, another phew! Leon took photos of me doing so too, which I believe are circling around Chinese social media somewhere already!!! 

My hotel room is like a mini studio apartment, complete with kitchen. Seemingly I'll move in a few days to a different room that has a washing machine in it too!!!! I am on floor 30, and looking forward to seeing the view from my huge windows in the daylight! The skyscrapers are huge. Seriously huge. But that's enough for now.. The past 23hours since I left cairo have taken their toll, Mr Sandman here I come...

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