I write to you today from Shanghai, China. I traveled here yesterday and it took me 22 hours in total to get from point A to point B. How exhausting! I knew the transition from New York to Shanghai was not going to be easy, but I could never have anticipated the kind of day I had yesterday.
I arrived at the airport at 8 am expecting to take off within the next two hours. I was accompanied by my 3 dogs, boyfriend, and my Mom, making it even harder for me to say goodbye. To say I was nervous to leave is an understatement. I was afraid of the culture shock I would inevitably face, I was afraid to leave my friends, family, and boyfriend behind, and I was afraid to travel alone. It’s because of these fears that I stayed outside the security line saying goodbye and crying until what seemed like the last possible minute. Eventually I crossed over the threshold into the security line, and as I stood in line still weeping and constantly checking Facebook in fear that it would be the last time I’d see it for 4 months, I made a new friend. A nice lady saw that I was upset and simply asked me if I was okay. That heartfelt question temporarily snapped me out of my saddened daze, and I realized that not only would I have a travel companion, but that I was going to be okay.
Her name was Fanny and she was traveling back home to China after spending her 2 weeks’ vacation in New York City. She immediately befriended me, watched my bags when I went to the bathroom, and ate lunch with me when our flight was delayed 2 hours. We exchanged numbers and email addresses and even though I thanked her multiple times, I don’t think Fanny will ever know how much her friendship and generosity really meant to me.
Stepping on the plane was just the beginning of the culture shock I was inevitably going to experience. Everywhere around me people were speaking Chinese, and they were speaking it fast. Men and women of all ages were pushing everyone and everything aside while trying to find their seats, so my second carry-on bag ended up being 20 rows behind me. Needless to say, this was nothing like any other flight I have ever taken within and outside the U.S. All these things aside, the flight went by surprisingly fast for a 15 hour ride.
Shortly after arriving in Shanghai I realized that Shanghai would be a better fit for me than Beijing. The first hint came from the fact that the bathroom in the airport had actual toilets instead of holes in the ground like they had in Beijing. Phewf! Customs went by surprisingly fast, and sooner than I knew it I was traveling through the rainy streets of Shanghai and arriving at my apartment.
I spent the rest of the evening unpacking and focusing on keeping myself awake. Unfortunately though, I woke up this morning at 5:30 am and never fell back asleep. I am posting this as the last thing I do today before allowing myself to finally hit the sack before another long day tomorrow. This week is filled with orientation activities informing us more about the program, about Shanghai, and about each other.
Tomorrow I take my Chinese placement test, wish me luck! That’s all for now, 再见！