After some unknown delay (the English of the Russian co-pilot still sounded very Russian to me), de-icing of the plane, and a long flight, I finally arrived in Shanghai. As announced two students were waiting for me at the exit and took me under their wing. First we went downtown because they had to pick up some computers. On the highway the traffic was similar as in other cities, but when it comes to driving downtown it’s simply a disaster! Sometimes it’s the infrastructure, like lanes that sort of dissolved without notice, but mostly the drivers. Honking, turning without much if any notice, switching (several) lanes last minute (well, last second!), and that’s not all. O my, they say that if you can drive in Amsterdam, you can drive everywhere, but those people are dead wrong. If you can drive in Shanghai and stay damage-free (for you and others), then you can say you can drive anywhere. Although you should not drive the same way! It was a very strange experience. Thankfully they have bridges for pedestrians and often separate bike lanes, although I’m not really sure how safe those lanes are. I will find out.
What you can see when you’re in the city center is unbelievable. It already started when I was on the plane, from there you can see several places where they have a lot of tall buildings all placed very neatly together. Just like a Lego city by an autistic kid, they were perfectly placed next to each other. On the other hand, it is one big chaos. There you have some big boring buildings, a typical old-fashioned Chinese house, a bunch of pastel colored houses as if you were in England, very high-tech glass malls, palm trees, huge banking buildings and a very lovely church in the middle of all this. And this is only the part I’ve seen so far!
After falling asleep a few times (I was so dead tired, haven’t been sleeping much lately, could barely sleep on the plane and skipped a night while traveling), we arrived at the (temporary) apartment. I have been very relaxed till then, but there I had a panic moment: it wasn’t the address I was given before. So I didn’t know where I was, my family and friends thought I was somewhere else and my mail would be delivered to the wrong address, so yeah, I panicked. Just for a little bit. It didn’t help that the building was very old and not very clean, but the feeling that nobody (including myself) knew where I was, scared me a bit. The girl, who was there, Lu, was very sweet and said she could understand and tried to calm me down.
After a quick shower (traveling makes me feel dirty) we went to the laboratory to meet the professor and the rest of the group. He was very welcoming, explained the change in address (now one of the Chinese students is my roommate and could show me around, otherwise I would be on my own and it would be more difficult to find my way), introduced me to all the people in the lab (so many names, such difficult names!) and explained shortly what they were working on (think I remember most even though I was almost falling asleep, so guess I liked it). Everybody there was kind and helpful, but communication will be hard, since most really have difficulties with speaking English and I don’t speak Chinese of course, but we will manage. I think they have to soon, since I’ve heard that the meetings from now on will be in English…
The professor took us (himself, his wife, 2 female students and me) for something to eat and then we had to do some shopping. I needed a blanked, pillow, sheets, slippers, iron etc etc. What they call a supermarket is nothing I’m used to. Well, I’ve seen it in other countries, but still: it is huge! And you can pretty much get everything there! Even food that’s still alive…May not always be the cheapest solution, it definitely is the easiest one. In the end I spent around 100 euro for all that stuff, so it isn’t all that bad. One of the things I noticed is that you don’t clean up after yourself. In fast-food restaurants you leave the tray on the table and even the shopping cart you just leave on the sidewalk after you’ve loaded everything in the car! So when you’re done with something, you just leave it there.
Back in the apartment we didn’t have a water heater at the moment; we should have it back soon. My room isn’t that big, but has everything you need. The bed is pretty large (could be a bit longer for me, but it’s doable), but it is very hard. Have to search for a top mattress, but need to know first what kind of bed I will get at campus, so I’ll buy the right size. Lu told me that her mom always says that a hard bed is good for the bones, then they’ll stay strong.
Tomorrow it’s time for registration, to get a bike, a Chinese phone number and to see a bit more of the campus. Need some sleep now.