One more item about the toilets here. Maybe I’m biased since I also went to the toilets in the train back home (some people find them disgusting) and that I’m in a big city now and not the countryside, but I think they’re really not so bad. Even in the subway station they had a Western toilet and they were all pretty clean.
For some reason I can’t upload photos to my blog at the moment. I’m already glad I found a way to upload my blog text. Hope I can add the photos soon!
Time for some sightseeing! My roommate went with me to the city center where we met up with sister in the nail salon. They had a lovely cat there, named Lucky. So quiet that at first I wasn’t sure whether it was a real cat! We went for a great lunch, lots of fresh food prepared at the table, it was yummy!
Nanjing Road is one of the best know places in Shanghai. In the East part there are a lot of big fancy (and expensive!) stores. You can also found shops where they sell traditional Chinese medicine. The main thing I saw over there was some sort of worm, but I also saw seahorses there, apparently good for kidney problems. The chopstick store was also very nice, so many different kinds! I should get some of my own sometimes soon. For the rest we did not enter any shops (only to use the restroom, a lovely sit-down version with toilet paper, hand soap and hand dryers). At the end of the road we could see one of the other famous places: the Bund.
Actually the Bund is just a part of the city with a bunch of very tall buildings, but taken together it looks very impressive. It was pretty crowded there, but actually, it was crowded pretty much everywhere! For the first time Chinese guys came up to us and asked whether they could take a picture with me! Like I’m some sort of celebrity. Ah well, why not. But of course they all had to be on the picture with me as well then!
At the end of the Bund Boulevard there’s a monument about the time where the Chinese kicked out the foreigners that wanted to change the country or something (I’m not so up-to-date with Chinese history). This is one of those things that you see everywhere that shows the Chinese are really proud of their country (or so it seems). A bit further was an old bridge. Seemingly nothing special, but several married couples where taking their pictures over there. Some famous movie was partly shot there, so that’s what made it such a popular place. In the background you could see the Bund. I learned that red is the traditional color to marry in (saw some really great dresses!), but nowadays they do take in some Western traditions, so white is now pretty common as well. Poor brides, posing without coats while it is pretty cold! And smile…
On our way back I really wanted to enter one of the small streets. I’m really happy we did that, those are so much nicer than the huge shopping street! I ate something ‘off the street’ for the first time, I had something the man liked to call a Chinese pizza. I saw so many things there, including lots of food places, fresh fish (some even still alive), a kamikaze cat, meat, vegetables, dogs (with their owners 😉 ) and the smallest shops you can think of.
After dinner (rice soup for the first time) we went to a pub on West Nanjing Road, the Windows bar. Everything was bilingual, so that made it somewhat easier and apparently this was also a place where a lot of foreigners came to. Again a western toilet here, but later in the evening you could see that people still squat here sometimes, given the footprints on the toilet seat. Cocktails were pretty cheap here, but I think I know why; there’s not very much alcohol in there. We were planning on not staying to long, but hey, plans are there to be changed right? When some foreigners started dancing, I joined them (my Chinese friends weren’t really of the dancing kind, although they both did join me for a little while). They appeared to be German, working here for about a month. Their boss was also on the dance floor, a Mexican working in Germany but now stationed in Shanghai for about 6 months. We hit it off on the dance floor; he is as crazy as I am, so I had a really good time! In the end it was about 3 am when we took a cab home. First night out downtown and I already got my first kiss…
After a good 9 hours of sleep (I needed that!), I woke up pretty happy. There’s a real upside to Chinese drinks: since the amount of alcohol is so low, you feel perfect in the morning! Some of the students from the lab came over for dinner. But not before my roommate and I had to go get our bikes from the subway station, since we took a taxi home last night.
They arrived a bit before five and the cooking began immediately: chicken legs, dumplings (not home-made, but very delicious) and some sort of simple soup with flour and eggs. I still find it pretty difficult to eat the chicken legs with chopsticks, but they are really good at it. They also leave their bones much cleaner than I do, but they also eat more of it according to the sounds that came out of their mouth.
They all had about one drink, half of them had a beer (again, low alcohol percentage) and when the food was gone, somebody was asked to do the dishes while the rest tightened up the room. When they were don, they talked somewhat while eating sunflower seeds, and when also the dishes were done they left. They were barely here more than 2 hours!
After a very short night (I couldn’t fall asleep) it was time for my first workday. My roommate asked around 8.30 whether I was ready to go, which of course I wasn’t. So I told her to go and that I would be on time. What is it that they think you’re ready at exactly the same time as they are without letting you know beforehand what time they will be leaving? Ah well, I knew the route to the laboratory, so I would be fine. You know that it’s actually pretty safe on the road? Even though it looks like a disaster! I think I’m getting the hang of it. It’s like the survival of the quickest, but in a pretty safe way. Pedestrians don’t look, they just walk. Except for maybe when they cross a large street. Bikers keep their eyes on the pedestrians and keep to their lane (except when the sideways or streets are more convenient) and drivers honk a lot, do crazy things, but most of all they watch out for the other traffic. So yeah, just think of where to go and go, they won’t run you over. If you’re lucky…
In the office I could start catching up on my reading, since I got some articles already on Saturday. I got another tour through the lab and got my own bench. So far so good. My roommates are nice. Still have to figure out their job titles and practice on their names, but I think one is an associate professor. She’s from the other group, the genetics group (how convenient), and apparently she’s impressed with my accomplishments so far (or would that be the polite way to greet new colleagues?). I even published more articles than she has.
Like everywhere else in Shanghai, there is no heating in the office. As is the case in the apartment, you can put the air-conditioning on heating. However, the air-conditioners are always placed high and warm air tends to stay there, so it does help, but it’s always a bit cold on sitting height. And it doesn’t help if one of your roommates (of course the guy, it’s always the guy) really likes to have the window open!
All meals here are pretty early. Lunch starts at 11 and dinner mostly is between 5 and 6 (starts already at 4.30!). It’s all warm food, which I really like, and there’s plenty of choice. There are a few reasons why you should be there early. First, classes are out at 11.30 (or was it 12?) and then everybody’s heading to the cafeterias (we have 5 big ones at the campus). Second, when arriving early, the food is fresh and warm. Third, if you’re late most of the food will be gone and chances are that what’s left is not so warm anymore. Lots of people have breakfast at the campus as well. So far I’m starting my day with fruit and yoghurt, but you never know what I will get once I live on campus! By the way, eating here is not as social as it is back home. You go to the cafeteria, get some food, eat it, and leave. Really, when the last one finishes, we immediately go back to work.
Taking a nap on your desk apparently IS very normal. Both my roommates had a little nap after lunch. I know from experience that it could really help to close your eyes for a few minutes, but I don’t know about it… I’m the first one when you enter the office, the door is always open, I’m European…
How about the toilets, I still am wondering. I know I have to bring my own toilet paper, and that extra cardigan or sweater to keep you warm is also very suitable to dry your hands with, but now I’m wondering about the situation that at work several cubicles are occupied, but you don’t hear a sound. Nothing! I saw some shadows moving today, so there are definitely people inside. What are they doing there? Hang around until they’re dry? That would explain the lack of toilet paper…
Today was a rainy day. Just as in Holland, it rains here often. They woke me up early while I had been awake half the night, because apparently registration needed to be within 24 hours after arrival. So we went to the so-called “Household registry reception”. Apparently we had to make some photocopies ourselves and when we came back the woman was on lunch break and of course they had no replacement. Thankfully lunch breaks don’t last that long, so we were helped relatively quickly. It was a strange place, a typical Shanghai woman (so I was told) ‘spoke’ to someone there really loud (it sounded more like a fight, but apparently it wasn’t), people would cut the line if they had the chance and money was kept in a simple basket.
After registration we went to the campus for lunch, to get a sim card and to email since the internet in the apartment wasn’t available yet. I tried something I didn’t know which appeared to be kind of meatballs with rice. It was ok. There is lots of food for me to discover! You know what was so surprising when being in the car with the professor and the others? The car belongs to his wife, so she drives, and he lets me sit in front! He goes and sits in the back with the students. How about that?!
Oh, something completely different. If you need to go to the toilet in Shanghai, be prepared! Squat toilets are pretty common and toilet paper is pretty rare. Thankfully in the apartment it’s a normal sit-down toilet, but even at work they are squat type, and the stupid thing is that even in the office there is no toilet paper! Or hand towels for that matter. Think I have to take my own every time I go.
The girl took me out to dinner that night and let me taste the best dumplings ever! Well, to me ;). One kind with beef, one with pork and Chinese cabbage and one with egg and chives, all very delicious. You eat that with some vinegar and I loved it! Can’t wait to try more real Chinese food. When we got home, I opened the door for the first time with my own keys. Well, I was planning to… I just broke of the key! Felt like a big blond hulk, because I really didn’t use any pressure!! Thankfully other people in the building could let us in and they should fix it soon, but still. The very first time I used the key! The girls told me it was Chinese quality…