View from hotel room in Shanghai
In some ways I was more prepared for my second trip to China and in some ways it was more frightening. I would be traveling alone this time and I did not have a Chinese speaking friend to accompany me to my hotel in Shanghai. As before the trip
was long and the food was almost exactly the same. The olfactory senses are stronger than I expected. I remembered tasting some type of hamburger before we arrived in Beijing. This time I could smell them coming down the aisle and my stomach turned.
As the server handed one to me I said no thank you and could barely manage sitting in my seat as people ate them around me. Upon arrival in Beijing the sense was the same. I passed the fever scanner and metal detectors and without incidence. As
before passengers were escorted through the airport to catch the connecting flight to Shanghai. There were no big surprises. I even had the same driver pick me up at the airport. The only difference was I had to show him my hotel address as I could not
speak Chinese and he spoke very little English.
The next morning I met up with my US colleague. Her luggage was not expected to arrive until the next day and she needed some clothes fast as we had a little side trip planned to
Wuzhen for the weekend. We grabbed a cab and set off on a shopping spree before our afternoon departure. Getting around without a Chinese speaking guide was challenging and the language barrier was immediate and vast. We gave the cab driver written
Chinese instructions we had acquired from the concierge and arrived right in the center of the shopping district. That’s when the fun began. Chinese women were much smaller than average American women so finding clothes presented several challenges.
The sizes were remarkably smaller, hemlines were shorter, pant legs were slimmer and the length on pant legs was not even close to fitting. The underwear shopping proved to be a little more embarrassing. The sizes did not even compare and we could not read
them anyway so it was a matter of holding things up to see if it looked like they might fit. I was not even buying and I just wanted to get out of there. After a couple of hours and my colleague being relatively slim and short we were successful in finding
enough clothes to last for a weekend trip. All we had to do was get back to our hotel. We hailed our cab with our hotel address in Chinese. He tried to drop us off at the wrong hotel in some ally. We kept repeating “Hyatt on the Bund”
hoping he might understand the English and showed him the address again. We both kept a calm demeanor but my heart was pounding by the time we arrived at the hotel. We were laughing and shaking our heads as we got out of the cab happy for a safe
arrival. I felt like it was a huge accomplishment to take care of the simplest tasks. Somehow we had managed to take care of all the money and transportation transactions in record time with no language skills. As we entered the lobby I was relieved to see
that the rest of our American colleagues and our Chinese speaking guide had arrived for weekend trip.
One of my colleagues brought his 16 year old daughter along to experience Asia. She was adorable and I was impressed that she could hold her
own quite nicely with all those adults. She immediately walked up to my female colleague and myself and told us she was very happy to see American women. She has been in Taipei and Hong Kong with her dad and his workmates and she had been the only female with
a bunch of engineers for a week. Poor thing, I can see why she was happy to see us. She was a typical teenager who was in a foreign place with people she did not know and she was struggling to stay connected to her friends via Facebook. Internet
access is very limited in China so this was a pretty big change for a young woman who was used to 24/7 access. Her father allowed her to use his company computer and she was able to connect behind the firewall via company internet so she was not totally cut
I went upstairs and grabbed my bags. I was very ready to get on a bus with someone who spoke English and who knew where they were going. I was completely content to look out the window and enjoy the ride.