Sunday, October 22, 2006

Inaugural Post: Recycling a Mass Email

The story so far:

Despite having almost missed my flight out of Minneapolis, I completed the transit to Shanghai with ease. The flight from L.A. to Shanghai went by more quickly than I expected. I was met in Shanghai by Steven Weathers, who was my contact in Luoyang, and recently moved to Shanghai to teach at a university there. Accompanying him were his friend and student Gary, and Mr. Gu, a tax collector in Shanghai. Gary had arranged for Mr. Gu to pick us up by car. It took us about an hour to reach the middle of the city. As we crossed a major bridge into the city center, I was in awe o the sheer size of the place. I recall having a similar feeling crossing the bridge into Manhattan some years back, but the Shanghai skyline easily dwarfs New York's.

We went straight to a restaurant in a hotel. I was expecting a meal, but Mr. Gu had arranged for a private dining room in what was clearly a high class establishment. I was presented with a pack of Chungwa cigarettes, the smoke of choice for the Chinese elite. I was smoking before the food came, an ashtray having been made available for each of us at the table. We ordered several bottles of TsingTao beer, and then the food starting coming out. There were too many dishes to enumerate here, all delicious. As is customary in China, someone had to propose a toast before every drink. I was in a delirious state of bliss, no doubt exacerbated by the jet lag. The meal must have lasted well over an hour. After the meal, Steven brought me to the hotel, and were I slept in two increments of about 4 and 2 hours.

Steven picked my up early the next morning to bring me to airport to catch my plane to Zhengzhou. After a short breakfast, I was off. I lamented my all-too-short stay in Shanghai, but Steven graciously offered to house me were I to visit, and I'm sure I'll take him up on that.

I was met in Zhengzhou by Tracy and Steven Li, the owners of the Joy English School in Luoyang. They were in town to send of the stuff for Steve's (yes, you Steve) visa application. After a delicious lunch in Zhengzhou, we began the two hour drive to Luoyang. Tracy and Steven have a very luxurious car, so I was able to view the landscape in perfect comfort. Henan is one the poorer provinces in China, and the landscape between Zhengzhou and Luoyang gave me a peek at the "other China": small farms, tenement villages, all evoking the nineteenth century, instead of the forward looking, frantically paced scenes of the cities.

The outskirts of Luoyang we encountered were mostly dilapidated, and I briefly wondered if I had bit off more than I could chew in coming here. The inner city is considerably more modern, though hardly comparing to the glimmering facades of Shanghai. The streets are something all of you have seen on TV- a bustling, seemingly chaotic fluid mass of bicyclists, motor scooters, all types of anachronistic driving machines.

We arrived at the complex of apartment blocks which was to be my new home. I was apprehensive when ascending the grubby stairway, but once Tracy opened the door to the place, this was replaced my glee. The apartment has three bedrooms, one of which serves as a study, a for China large kitchen, a large living room with a couch and several comfy chairs, with a large TV with a DVD player. My bedroom contains a queen sized bed and a sliding door to an enclosed balcony. There is a large bathroom with a bathtub, as well as an additional half bathroom by the bedrooms. In short, by Chinese standards this is a massive and luxurious place.

Well, I'd like to keep going, but I have an appointment for hotpot I have to get ready for. I'll send another email soon with more about Luoyang, my new job, and some of the other folks I've met here. Till then:

To be continued...


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