Well, Julianne and I have now been in China for four days . . . and it’s been awesome!
We arrived Monday night at 11:30pm, and got through customs and “security” very quickly. I think we waited maybe five minutes in line before a customs agent took my passport from me, asked me two questions, and then did something with the computer typing in info about me, and then she stamped my passport and I was officially in China.
After clearing customs we went and picked up our luggage. This also happened pretty quickly, and I was very surprised. All five pieces of our luggage came out onto the carousel within a couple minutes of my standing beside it. We headed towards the exit and didn’t have to show our boarding passes and passports to any security people at all. Once outside the baggage pick up area we had to run our suitcases once more through an X-ray machine, and then we headed out of the airport.
We were then met by the foreign affairs department secretary at the university we will be working at. She had come with a driver and a van to pick us up and get us to our new apartment. After shaking hands we headed outside the building and into a warm and extremely humid night.
I immediately noticed the pollution/smog. I could smell and taste a slight metallic taste in the air, and feel a very mild tingling or something in my nose and throat . . . I was surprised that it was so much worse than anything I’ve experienced while living in Seoul, or any other part of Korea for that matter.
We loaded up the van and then Julianne and I jumped into the back seats. The van looked and felt like what I’d imagine a communist-era, decades old, mass produced with no frills van you might see in a Soviet Union war movie, lol. There was no air conditioning and Julianne and I immediately opened up the windows to get some air moving through the van.
Upon leaving the parking lot of the airport we were immediately introduced to the honk at anything and everything and nothing driving culture of China. Our driver would honk if he saw another car whether it was 10 feet away or 100 feet away; he’d honk if he changed lanes; he’d honk if a car pulled up beside us; he’d honk for reasons that surpass my ability to comprehend . . . HONK! HONK! HONK! Lol . . .
We didn’t really chat much with our liaison from the university because Julianne and were just plain exhausted from the two weeks of packing and moving and prepping to go to China leading up to our departure date. Julianne and I just sat in the dark in the back seat of the old and worn van relishing the fact that we were about to embark on the next leg of living and teaching overseas.
During the drive to our apartment we could see a continuous blanket of smog-fog covering the expressway and later the streets on the outskirts of the city. Surprisingly, I seemed to be more effected by it than Julianne (she has some sinus problems, and can be sensitive to smog).
Before entering the city itself we came up on a glowing blue archway that I think was on top of some sort of bridge or gate. But a few minutes after that we came up on the coolest toll gate I’ve ever seen. It had this traditional Chinese gate architecture feel to it with an ornate roof and massive posts. I snapped a few shots but only got one decent one because of the van’s movement and the low light.
After passing through the toll gate we entered the city. There were some massive factory buildings both before and after the toll gate, and we began to see signs of urban buildings.
By this point I think our driver had honked his horn over fifty times (I lost count after 20) in less than a 20 minute drive–I do NOT exaggerate, lol.
We then came up on a bit of a traffic jam in front of a narrow street running under a small bridge. We saw that a van was sitting in the middle of the right side of the street, and there were some pylons set out behind it to tell traffic to go around it. This was impossible because there was only one other lane and that was for oncoming traffic . . . actually, it’s “impossible” from a western cultural point of view! Even with cars coming towards us in the oncoming traffic lane our driver just pulled out into the oncoming traffic lane and drove towards them honking all the while—YIKES!
A few minutes later we arrived at our apartment. This was, of course, after experiencing some more driving culture shock when we saw several Chinese people wanting to cross the street and how they’d just walk out into oncoming traffic spread out over a six lane street. It was really something to see people scattered all over that many lanes while cars were driving between them as they walked and paused and walked and paused . . . wow.
Pulling up to the gates of a walled apartment compound the driver immediately–yes, wait for it, lol–laid his fist on the horn non-stop for 10 seconds or so to tell the security gate guards to wake up and open the gate for the van to enter. Oh, did I mention that by this point it was about 12:45am or so, and that the distance of the van and gate to the apartment building was only 20 feet or so . . . I imagine anyone who’d been sleeping was made fully aware of our arrival after the 10 second horn blast at the gate!
We then unloaded the van, and the driver along with two other Chinese guys (soldiers/students from the university? Maybe…) helped us lug our stuff up to the fourth floor (the top floor) of our new home (no elevator, oh well).
At this point Julianne and I walked into the massive apartment we’d been assigned for our contract. Two bedrooms (one with a queen sized bed and vanity desk with mirror, the other with what we think is a king size bed and two warddrobes), a large kitchen with a two-burner gas range, microwave, fridge, and cupboards, a large size living room with three section couch, coffee table, DVD player and TV, a large bathroom, and another room with two desks, bookshelves, and two desktop computers–HOLY SHIT!!!
Hands down, of all the apartments I’ve had during my time living and teaching overseas, the new apartment Julianne and I have been given has to be the nicest of them all. There are a few cockroaches in the bathroom and kitchen, but that’s to be expected when living overesas. In general, Julianne and I LOVE our new apartment.
The only downside is a bit of noise from the street which is about 20 or 30 feet away. Sometimes the sounds of trucks driving past is a little loud, and of course, horns going off–but they’re not loud enough to wake us up much or disturb us while we’re in the apartment. And as for neighbor teachers below and beside us we don’t hear any kinds of sounds at all. No stomping of feet or the sounds of yell-talking like you’d hear from neighbors in a Korean apartment that’s for sure!
The university secretary handed us the keys to the apartment and we chatted for a minute before saying goodbye. Julianne and I explored the apartment for a few minutes, and I snapped pics of each of the rooms to send in an email to my parents and some friends.
I jumped on the computer and quickly realized that the speed of the Net in China was significantly SLOWER than back in Korea. And when I tried to sign in to facebook–no go.
I wrote an email saying Julianne and I had arrived safely, uploaded a few pics of the apartment, and then went to fall asleep with Julianne in the gi-normous bed we chose as our new bedroom.
We’d arrived in China, and everything was looking like it was going to be a great new beginning . . .
p.s. I’ve been trying to figure out how to tweak my computer and the Net so I can upload all the pics I’ve been taking to use with the stories I want to blog about . . . and haven’t had much success. Check out my flickr account for a few of the pics I took while Julianne and I were in Incheon International Airport, and some Chinese foods we’ve eaten so far.
I’m going to keep trying to figure out how to solve this problem . . . wish me luck.