Jetson-esque Shanghai skyline

Jetson-esque Shanghai skyline

Cathay Pacific is a great airline – especially in business class. It cost me a boatload of miles, but it was worth it to be able to stretch out in a fully reclining seat and get a few hours of effective sleep. I’ve never been able to sleep in coach – I can’t sleep face up so my slumber occurs in 10 second bursts while drooping my head down. Eventually I start to fall over and wake with a start. In addition to a lay-flat seat, I also got to shower in the Hong Kong Cathay Pacific lounge before the last leg to Shanghai. What luxury! 7pm and I’m still awake and hopefully good for another hour or two.

I was picked up at the airport along with “Till” – a nice German guy who’s going to be here for six months studying and working for a multinational. 30 minutes later, we were in downtown Shanghai at the Mandarin House language school. We received a packet of introductory material, a textbook and some local information.

The apartment where I’m staying is a 5 minute walk from the school. I have, as expected, a private room in a shared apartment. My room is perhaps 8′ x 10′ and contains a very small bed, a desk and an armoire. Pretty sparing, but really all I need. The apartment has a small kitchen, a dining area, a washing machine and most importantly – wifi.

As I expected, I am the oldest guy here, for at least another hour, until Tom arrives. Till is, perhaps, 24 or 25. Vincent, a Dutch dude who’s been here for a few weeks and speaks survival-level Mandarin is probably about the same age. Karen, a gal from Sweden, is perhaps 22.

From Vincent’s description, there’s often a fair bit of partying going on in the apartments. I can’t imagine I’ll be part of that, but may have to learn to tolerate nearby carousing while I try to go to sleep at 10m.

I spent a few hours walking around town with Vincent and Till today. We walked towards to river where I took the picture posted above. This is going to be the site of the Expo at Shanghai. There’s a lot of very futuristic-looking architecture in the area and new, wacky, buildings being erected.

We had lunch in a local dive. Although it had an English menu, few of the dish descriptions were recognizable. The ones that weren’t did not seem very appetizing (“Bad Fish Fillets”). Regardless, the “Sizzling Beef”, “Crispy Prawns” and “Kung Pao Chicken”, paired with a couple of very large Tsingtao beers, were tasty enough and a bargain at about $12 for the three of us.

Later, we took a walk around the shopping district, fended off dozens of street vendors (esp. those selling watches) and went to the Raffles mall. Except for the scarcity of Occidental faces, walking through Raffles is like walking through any upscale mall anywhere in the world. Similar stores and similar young couples mulling about.

Dinner at the Raffles food court proved to be a great improvement over lunch. Till and I shared a chicken hot pot (kind of like your own little wok with a sterno to keep it warm). This was about $5.

Tomorrow, we start school at 9.We have class from 9-12:30 and then we have a “private” (Tom and I with an instructor) lesson on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 2:30-3:20.  Sprinkled throughout are various cultural outings.

My goal for my 50th birthday celebrations was to partake in new adventures. So far, Shanghai is fitting the bill perfectly.