China Diary:
Settling in Shanghai

[Leaving Home] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Settling in Shanghai] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Getting to Work] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Becoming Routine] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Western Contacts] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) ["National Day" Trip] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Meeting Folks] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Plenty to Eat] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Downtown] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [South by Southwest] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Socializing] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Dance Fever] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Exchanges] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Business Week] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [North by Northeast] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Computer Crash] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [The Good and the Bad] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Wrapping Up]

September 1

Goodbye, Beijing – While I shower, the light bulb blows. I am appropriately in the dark. At breakfast in the hotel, all are Chinese and so is the food. Later, Jade arrives followed by Kathleen and her driver. They head for the airport, and I pile my stuff in a cab. At the airport, cabbie tries to take his own tip but this time I read the meter and am firm. Standoff followed by compromise. I leave a small tip anyway. Waiting for Kathleen and Jade to arrive, I see Charles with family in tow. We say good-bye.

Hello, Shanghai – Literally, the city "on the Sea" is the terminus for China’s largest river, the Yangtze. The Chinese word for this river is Chang (long) Jiang (river) since it begins nearly 4,000 miles away at the eastern side of the Tibet plateau. Only the Amazon and Nile are longer. This long river cuts China in half and serves as its major transportation route, carrying about two-thirds of all inland water shipping. If Beijing is like Washington, Shanghai is like New York City. Britain’s once international seaport has become China’s largest metropolis, industrial and finance leader, the center of its economic growth, major port and one of the world’s ten largest ports. Over half of its economic growth is fueled by six industries, including steel and automobiles, but the city planners are targetting new six pillars including tele-communications and multimedia.  Shanghai is a bit larger than Beijing but more modern and perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in China. We are met at the airport and taken to our apartments (I’m in the second up, far end) which also house "foreign experts" from France, Germany, Russia, Japan, and Korea as well as the U.S. Most teach English. (Here’s a map how to get there.) Facing my balcony across the wall is the VIP compound for Fudan; many of these apartments are empty because of the exacting requirements to live there.

Class Schedule – The Director of Foreign Affairs for the School of Management calls. The MBA program is part-time, with classes scheduled all day Tuesday and Saturday. My capstone strategy class is a two-hour elective for forty, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. The other class is a bit more selective, a seminar for nine MAs in International Business scheduled for three hours Wednesday morning. I think I will have long weekends.

Shopping – Jade takes Kathleen and me shopping for some essentials (wine, potato chips, cookies, kitchen ware) then head to the Red Wall Restaurant for dinner. Back "home," I kill my first cockroach. Huge. I am asleep by nine.

September 2

Morning – I am awake for a while, and finally get out of bed. It is 5 a.m. in the land where the day begins. It seems everyone here rises before the sun to head to the parks and streets for their morning exercises. While they get ready for the day, I get caught up: put my materials in order, write a fat check to the IRS, and organize some odds and ends. Grab some breakfast of yogurt, banana, pound cake, tea. It is 7 a.m. and I go to the balcony to read. Hot. I finish by 9 and hit the tub. It’s been an interesting week and I deserve it. Soaking, I hear a persistent knock at the door. Dripping from the tub, I wrap a large towel around myself and let in three bemused maids.

First Encounter – It is a bit after 10 and I dress to head off to the Management School. Apply insect repellent as a precaution. The school is one block away, off-campus, and recently built next to the old facility which now houses adult education. I meet the Dean and check out my new digs. The Spring schedule will be problematic, but right now it’s time for lunch.

"This Is China" – I return to the School to find out about getting an ISP for my apartment. I am informed that the promised printer is unavailable, and so head for the Waiban office who suggest I be persistent. Zhe shi Zhong-guo (TIC)! I stumble into the Director for a joint program with the Norwegian School of Management, which I visited a couple of years ago. They will notify me when their faculty visit, as they often stay in my compound.

Going with the Flow – I purchase an electric strip, then get a Fushida 12-speed mountain bike for $64 including a couple of locks. OK, it’s heavy as a tank, I have to tighten some nuts and bolts and it still rattles, and the front brake won’t stop squeaking. But my shopping list whittles down. This place operates under a different law of relativity with unique perceptions of time and space. Seems the only rule of the road is not to cream the guy in front of you. Intersections are a challenge, but running red lights (I mean trucks and busses) is predictable. After cruising to the post office, I go to a local joint for dinner. A couple of environmental researchers help me order. Back in my apartment, I fire up the laptop and, wanting to hear some opera, play the "Tommy" CD while I read a bit. This time, I’m asleep by 8.

September 3

At the Bund – I arise earlier than yesterday. Read a bit, then head for the shower. Cold water. Read some more. Still cold. Get breakfast, then take the damn cold shower. Run out of toilet paper, but have plenty of tissues. To be on the safe side, take my first dose of Pepto-Bismol. Kathleen and I take the air conditioned bus downtown. The Bund (Wai Tan because it was originally a "muddy embankment") is the heart of the city. I buy a map, we check out the boat tours, and have an interesting lunch since there is no verbal communication. I meet David on the boardwalk. He is a computer science undergraduate student from Xi’an, home of the famous Terra-Cotta Warriers. He is on a field trip with forty classmates.

Class Size – Kathleen’s colleague and a couple of students take us to the local department store. We pick up some more essentials, and I get a rice cooker. Instructions are in Chinese but what the heck ... so is the rice. I get a call asking if my MBA class can handle 70. I can do the math. I counter only if I get a printer. Standstill. Then I compromise on 50. Figure he owes me. Turns out he can’t do the math.

Fish Bottle – Renny is one of the American experts. He just graduated from college where he studied some Chinese, and spent the summer tutoring Shanghai businessmen in the U.S. He continues to meet them regularly, and his fiancée, A.J., will arrive next week to tutor them in English. He shows me to a local restaurant, where there is an old beer bottle in the middle of a fishtank for no apparent reason. The lights go out during dinner, but we don’t miss a beat.. He pays, and I get most of the leftovers. About $6. We wander around the markets, and I pick up some household stuff for about a buck.

The Weekend

TGIF – This time, I stay in bed a bit longer. Work until 10, then hop into a scalding shower. Nothing is predictable, except running red lights. Today is laundry day and I take my two loads to the semi-automatic washer. An hour later, I hang my clothes over my balcony. I have last night’s leftovers for lunch, and read some more. Early evening I venture out to buy my basketball, then some food for my first home-cooked dinner.

Saturday:  From Hoops to Hops – I make Chinese-style breakfast and bike to the basketball courts before 9 a.m. Not very crowded on a Saturday morning. Mostly solos and one-on-ones, and a couple of full-court games at the other end of the playground. Also, some soccer on the courts. It has rained so it’s a bit wet, and my sogged ball gets pretty heavy. There’s also some broken glass around. The hoops are hard, bent, and uneven, and the backboard’s warped and soft. But, hey, I love this game. All eyes are on the American; the pressure is on. I make my only move, spinning, stopping, go to my right (naturally). YES!!! One on none. It is hot and humid, and an hour later I bike back and meet Maurice, a linguistics Ph.D. student at Columbia who will edit Fudan Press’ texts. I show him around a bit, and then we meet up with Kathleen and the three of us get a hot pot lunch. Later that evening, we hit the local pub for a $6 pitcher of Bud. At home, I make my second roach kill. Not as large this time.

Sunday Ride – For breakfast, I scramble a couple of fresh eggs, pour some juice, tear off a piece of bread, and spread the jelly. After some reading, lunch is yesterday’s leftovers. By one in the afternoon, at the peak of the heat, I am ready to ride. I head southwest towards downtown. An hour later, I am hopelessly lost. Examine map and ask directions. Eventually, I pass the Silk Road Hotel which sounds familiar. Sure enough, it’s on the map and toward where I started. I aim for the campus, straight for McDonald’s for a strawberry milkshake. It’s been one and one-half hours and I am drenched but not tired. This time I head due north. There is a park on the map, but after an hour I don’t find it. Instead, I stumble onto an interesting outdoor market where I get some fresh baked bread for about a penny. I head back, and again am hopelessly lost. I ask directions again, and turns out I am a couple of blocks from the supermarket where I get some cans of Suntory Extra Dry. I quaff one with some Pringles while doing the laundry. Soon, I’m out cold.

Dinner at the "Blue Joy" – Later that evening, as I head out for dinner I bump into Yoshimichi, a Chinese linguist from Kyoto Tech whose ten months here began last May. He confirms that China’s "Middle Kingdom" was the highest culture in the far east, influencing Japan over one-thousand years ago. He is here to research Shanghaihua, the local dialect. We head for the Blue Joy, having a couple of large Beck’s to wash down the many dishes he orders. I ask him to take the leftovers, and I pick up the $10 tab for the both of us. We stumble home. It’s been a good week. Tomorrow, I begin my tour of duty.

[Leaving Home] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Settling in Shanghai] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Getting to Work] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Becoming Routine] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Western Contacts] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) ["National Day" Trip] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Meeting Folks] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Plenty to Eat] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Downtown] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [South by Southwest] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Socializing] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Dance Fever] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Exchanges] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Business Week] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [North by Northeast] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Computer Crash] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [The Good and the Bad] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Wrapping Up]


Copyright © 1998 Paul Miesing. All rights reserved. Please do not use without permission unless in the People’s Republic of China which does not enforce intellectual property rights. Revised on January 17, 2001.