Sunday, January 17, 2010

First day on the Eastern Front

Where in A Shrouded Sun Rises

I woke up the day after arriving with plans to meet my director at 9am. No problem considering that jet-lag allowed me to sleep hard-core through the night and wake up at around 5am. I fell back asleep without too much difficulty and woke up around 7am. Feeling once again like an adopted pet from the shelter, looking around my apartment to see if all the corners are safe, I continued the process of acquainting myself with my environment.

Nine O’clock rolled around and there came a nock at the door. Emily, the person I keep referring to as “my director” arrived, and so naturally I let her in. I got myself ready, coat scarf and whatnot and we headed back down the elevator, which can cover twenty stories remarkably quickly.

Before I get too much further, let me describe Emily for you. There is not a whole lot I can really say about who she is, because I haven’t known her for sufficient enough time, but I know that she is in her mid twenties, has been in Zhengzhou for nine months and just recently completed her masters degree. She is from Ontario Canada, and has a whole slew of life stories that reach far beyond your average canadian/american travel scheme. She has moderately long, light-brown hair, and enough adorable little freckles to upstage the entire Irish nation, as well as qualify as a Palomino. I say that with all possible respect of course. She cannot weigh more than 100lbs/45kg. Very skinny, but with more than substantial enough of an attitude to be a director at her age.

We head out of my building, dodging bicycles and pedestrians alike and she proceeds to give me the most important introduction to Chinese protocol,

“In China, you can walk whenever you want, but you also have the right to die if you are in someone else’s way.”

She wasn’t kidding. Driving rules are very similar. The lines on the middle of the road that we rely on in North America, really might as well not exist. The great fortune however is that traffic never really jammed. Now that I have had the opportunity to watch traffic, both pedestrian and automotive, I have noticed that even though it seems chaotic there are very few cars with major dents in them. Everyone is so attuned to watching all sides at all times that very few major accidents occur. Im still waiting for that fateful day when I see a cyclist eat it, but I hope it never comes just the same.

Across the street, I am then introduced to my first chinese taxi-cab experience. All of the red or green (often beater type cars) are cabs in Zhengzhou. The nicer looking cars are almost always private. I have seen a few upper-scale looking taxis, but they all still have the typical red or green paint. Emily flags down a taxi by extending her arm and fanning her hand up and down. Screeching to a halt in front of us, a nice red taxicab with a cage inside has arrived to ferry us to the next unknown part of Zhengzhou. Emily sits in the front part of the cage nearest the driver, separated by a barred partition (not all of the cabs have this feature) and gets ‘that’ look where you know they are trying to remember something taxing. After a moments pause, she says, “Jing San Lu (uhhh) Feng Chan Lu”... And were off! The driver clearly understood whatever she just said, even though I had no Idea what was going on. I later learned that ‘Lu’ is the chinese word for road, and that was the nearest intersection to our school.

We pull up to the afore mentioned intersection and I hear Emily say to herself -- “She is going to hate me... I dont have change.” I counter by asking in my most interested youthful voice how much it was going to be. It turns out that I had exact change from my part of my currency exchange in Vancouver - Seven kwai (the Chinese equivalent of ‘buck’) well that basically works out to a five minute cab ride costing $1.15 US. Oh my! I like this city already!

Fare paid, we stroll up the steps past all the parked bicycles and motor/electric-cycles and into our building - known as Fortune Plaza. We head past the elevators which were on the twenty-somethingth floor, and enter the dank and filthy stairwell. Another thing I would have to get used to evidently. The bare concrete steps were less than inviting, and I was told that our mutual friend Summer was planning on writing a novel where the murder takes place in a stairwell like this: great plan- bound to make millions... except in China, where no one would quite get it.... Emily stomped loudly and the next flight of stairs was light up by an exposed lightbulb (also commonplace). Lights in many stairwells are sound activated, and everyone has their own preferred way of triggering them. Some people stomp, some clap (something I enjoyed for the first few days, because I happen to be able to make thunder roll with these bear-paws of mine), some bellow up the stairs, and I like to whistle.

Reaching the third floor, we enter the domain of ESLI - by far more modern, inviting and chic than the derelict stairwell. We made our way through the rectangular office, meeting glass office after glass office in a very professional and urbane environment. I began with the introductions immediately, and thanks to the advice of “Names and Faces Made Easy,” I actually managed to keep the names in my head, neatly stored with the faces that already stick in my head. YAY! I love self-help skills that work. Heading to the back end of the rectangle, we arrived at the teachers office, and I was introduced to my desk. Something about meeting one’s desk in a professional environment is significant to me.

After a few more introductions, the cleaning off of my desk from previous residents, and getting somewhat settled, Emily decided to take me to see one of the many large supermarkets in the area.

A more full description of that experience will have to wait however, because more work needs to be done while this is being written :D

Until next time~

1 comment:

  1. Pedro Love the stories :D
    It's so much fun to sit in the common room with a cup of coffee and read your entertaining accounts.