Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | June 28, 2010

Welcome To Shanghai Where My Mom Carries A Fork In Her Purse

First Impression of Shanghai: Crowded. Second: Holy Electricity Bill Shanghai!!! Is this the Vegas of China?

My trip to Shanghai was kicked off with a great start.  I was upgraded to first class to accommodate at least one of the more than 20 people waiting to fly standby, and I was greeted with a Mai Thai as soon as I took my seat.  Before I knew it, I was in Honolulu!!!  Next stop Tokyo.  No more first class, oh well. That aside, the flight started off with what I was hoping wouldn’t be a bad omen.

I love flying and don’t really have any qualms about it, but before take off, one of the standard no smoking/fasten your seat belt light fixtures fell from the ceiling and hit me!  The flight attendant apologized and tried to put the fixture back on the ceiling with no lasting luck.  She came back with painter’s tape (not even duct tape!!!) and taped the fixture in place! I just hope that’s not a sign of how more pressing maintenance issues are handled.  Soon we were airborne, but then the pilot made an abrupt announcement.  Apparently we had a “heavy load” weird weather, and needed to uncharacteristically fly with the landing gear down for a while.  It just sounded a little sketch…Luckily, the light didn’t fall on me again, the landing gear came back up, and other than the usual turbulence, I made it to Japan safely and a few complimentary Sapporo beers happier.

OK China, You Win, I Don’t Look 16 Anymore! Can You Please Let Me Into Your Country Anyway?!

My layover in Japan and final decent into Shanghai were a 2 hour blur of yen, miso soup, and a Japanese rice crackers.  When I eventually landed in Shanghai, I went to customs, made my way to the “Foreigners line” and made sure to have my passport, disembarkation card, and boarding pass ready to show the woman at the custom’s counter.  She stared at my passport then stared at me and then back at the passport.  This sequence happened several times before she called someone else over.  He grabbed my passport and proceeded to stare at me.  Then he asked me to smile…

Let’s get a few things straight.  In America you don’t have to renew your passport for 10 years.  The last time I had my passport photo taken, I was 16!!!!  My hair in the picture was straight, I was into sparkly, pale eye shadow, and despite a drug free high school experience, I probably look high in the picture too, but I’d never had any trouble before.

I weakly smiled and then was asked to show another ID (Driver’s License)…more pondering…hmm… here’s my terrible BU ID…no. They finally asked me to give them my signature.  Victory!!! Thank God my signature hasn’t changed in 10 years!  I was asked to look at some camera and take my picture.  The camera has a screen that shows you what your picture will look like.  I looked in the screen at myself and thought that after 24 hours of travel, I definitely looked like a HOT MESS!!!  My hair was surprisingly big and all over the place, there were crazy dark circles under my eyes, and I looked kind of like a zombie (not on purpose this time).  I’m just glad that the Chinese government let me in looking like that.

I then went to baggage claim, and thought is the entire billion plus population of China waiting at this baggage claim carousel? Needless to say, it was extremely crowded and there was a lot of pushing.  I soon got my bag and met my parents on the other side of baggage claim.  Awkward hugs ensued (my mom is a bit too into hugging) then we got in a cab and went to a little restaurant near my parent’s apartment.

My mother already knows not to expect a fork in most restaurants here.

There’s an English menu and a Chinese menu, but there are only pictures in the Chinese one.  Instead of silverware there is a set of chopsticks for each person and a baby-wipe napkin like a sturdy, big moist towelette.  Apparently, you pay per napkin here.  I wasn’t too hungry, but I ordered some very photogenic crispy pork noodles and a Tsingtao Chinese beer.  I let my parents figure out the rest.  The waiter came back with more beer than I anticipated (may a little less than 40 oz– sorry rest of the world, but metric will never come naturally to me) and our food.  My father and I began to carefully use our chopsticks to grab noodles and meat, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a fork make its way into the food shoveling mix.

I turned to my mother and inquired about the fork–I really didn’t remember her asking for it.  She laughed and said it’s hers.  “Really, you just keep a fork in your purse?” In case you’re wondering the answer is an emphatic yes!  Forks are only standard in the restaurants that expect western visitors, and if you saw my mother desperately try to use her chopsticks the next day (she actually left her fork at this restaurant 😦 ) you’d understand why…

And that was the first 36 hours!  Hope this post wasn’t too long.

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