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From Boulder to Wuhan

Wuhan, China


Although most of the trip from Denver to Wuhan was smooth and uneventful, I will briefly note a couple of worthy observations.

1) For international flights out of the Los Angeles airport, you should count at least two hours layover time to complete the change from the arrival to the departure flight. You have to take an airport bus to reach the international terminal, and you will probably have to wait in the check-in line to get your boarding pass for the outgoing international flight. (Even though your bag may be checked all of the way through). I also had to go through security again, and because I forgot to empty Molly's sigg water bottle, I was directed to leave the security perimeter, where I drank the water and then proceeded to go through security a second time. (Odd I thought, since they usually let you drink it on the spot if you offer).

2) The passengers on the flight to Shanghai consisted of about 80% Asians, 10% business men, and 10% other assorted foreigners. I happened to be seated next to an American businessman who provided me with copious amounts of pestulence for fourteen hours straight. This alone turned the experience into what was by far my most unpleasant flight to date.

3) About a half-hour before our arrival in Shanghai, a video came on showing airline stewardesses and pilots doing exercises while in their seats. I was amused and surprised to see that the majority of the passengers on the flight began imitating the characters in the video, stretching, flexing, limb-smacking and bending every which way with virtually no qualms about looking positively silly!

4) We arrived in Shanghai one hour ahead of schedule (I'm not quite sure how,) and I was pleasantly surprised to find that customs did not require me to retrieve and re-check my bag. After going through security to reach my gate, I still had a couple of hours until my flight to Wuhan. I promptly settled down for a nap. Unfortunately, I slept right through the cell-phone alarm I had set, and awoke to what I suppose was an unusual quietness in the nearly empty room. As it turned out I was the last person left to check in and go through the doors to reach the plane! Phew, I came about five minutes from missing my flight! On this plane, I was the only white person.


AND THEN I arrived in Wuhan. As I walked out into the public area of the airport, I was relieved to hear a friendly voice exclaim tentatively, “Nooo-ah?!” It was Rachel Qiu, the one and only person I knew in this city of 9 million. Boy what a relief! Apparently, Chinese people don't hug, they don't give a greeting kiss, they don't bow, they just sort of stand and wave timidly to say hello and goodbye. Rachel guided me outside to an awaiting taxi, and as we exited the airport, a wall of thick, hot, muggy Florida-style air hit us in the face and enveloped us with stickyness. Professor Stephen Li wasn't kidding. In the summertime Wuhan is HOT. The ride back to the hotel at midnight was about an hour long. At the hotel we found that a room had not been reserved, and no rooms were available. So it goes. Fortunately, this was the same hotel where other summer interns were being housed, so Rachel and I managed to find some friendly British interns willing to share a bit of floor-space for the night. (Rachel's dorm locks her out after 11pm). The first thing I was told when I met one of the many interns was: “your in for the worst four months of your life.” I felt embarrassed for Rachel, but was otherwise not too concerned. As I suspected and quickly confirmed over a midnight dinner of sketchy fried rice, the experience really depends on what one makes of it. Judging by the break-neck driving and relaxed disorganization I have seen so far, I already have a strong suspicion it's going to be a blast.

Sept 7th
My first morning, Rachel said she would come get me at 9:30 to show me around the area. I set my alarm for 9:30, and as my alarm was going off, Rachel knocked on the door. She accompanied me to a food-market/cafeteria/shopping-mart, where I bought my breakfast of sweet bread and soy-milk for 3 yuan. (7 yuan = 7 cuay = 1 dollar) I was then turned over to another @er. (@er is short for AIESECer, which is short for something else. AIESEC is the name of the student-run organization that connects students with international jobs. They're the ones who found a job for me here in Wuhan.) Her name is Karen, and she took me down a long and busy hectic road, to buy a local sim-card for the Chinese phone that Molly is loaning me. On this same expedition we made a trip to an ATM, where it turns out money can be easily withdrawn using all of the same normal U.S. Plasic. More interestingly, this trip was my first opportunity to get acquainted with the local traffic.

Excluding massive numbers of pedestrians, the traffic percentage breakdown is about 30% automobiles, 30% mopeds and motorcycles, and 30% bicycles. Random weird stuff comprises the other 10%. It seems that, at least in this part of China, the traffic rules recommended by stoplights, traffic lanes, traffic police, and conventional traffic directions, are just that-- “recommended.” Although I would consider I have seen a fair amount of disordered driving in my few years of life, this level of chaos was undoubtedly a step up from past experiences. As Alejandra warned, crossing the street can prove a tricky task, and on one of my earlier attempts I learned an important lesson. Rather than considering the roads to consist of individual lanes with traffic in separated directions, it is more accurate to consider the traffic as a “flow” with general trends of movement, like a large thick flow of lava slowly easing around obstructions. However, in spite of this general flow, at any given time there remains a finite and significant probability of encountering a vehicle of any size or shape, moving in an entirely arbitrary direction. I suppose it's a bit like quantum mechanics. I said this was an important lesson, because I almost learned it the hard way, (or maybe I wouldn't have learned anything at all). As I diligently looked down the road to my left in preparation to cross the closest, “first lane” of traffic, a blue truck approaching me from the right made a valiant attempt on my life. But that's okay. It's a very good way to remember the lesson. I might start wearing a helmet around town too, just for good measure you know...

After completing our errands, Karen and I went to a cafeteria where we put 30 cuay worth of credit on plastic/magnetic cards, purchased our fill of typical Wuhan “dry noodles,” and then returned our cards for the 20 cuay we had not used. A bit confusing really. It was time for a nap, so I took a healthy five hour one. I would blame it on jet-lag, but considering my preferred napping habits, that may be somewhat of a half-truth. The good news is that Chinese people are very understanding and encouraging when it comes to naps. I like Chinese.

permalink written by  smartwater on September 29, 2009 from Wuhan, China
from the travel blog: The easy way. Wuhan, China, fall 2009
tagged PicturesForEntryFromBoulderToWuhan

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Noah---I'm thrilled about the Blogabond and enjoyed reading your first installment. Please keep them coming about where you're living and if your Chinese students are teaching you any Chinese as you endeavor to teach them English. I knew Wuhan had to be a large city since I found it on the map in my encyclopedia, but 9 million I never suspected. Take care in the traffic! Love, Grandmama

permalink written by  Vivian on September 30, 2009


Hi Noah,

Very entertaining! I think your ability to improvise that middle school class was pretty impressive...

I'm so glad the blog is up, and look forward to keeping up with it!

Vivian

permalink written by  Vivian Gettliffe on October 4, 2009

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