I’ve been in China now for five days. It’s been a crazy whirlwind and I’ve written many pages on the subject in a draft but after re-reading it I realized it was boring as fuck. So here is a brief summary of my adventures so far, and some pictures! Not enough pictures, I know. I am going to remember to take more.
Day 1, Friday: One of my roommates blew the power in our hotel room, causing to have to get moved and we ate all kinds of weird things on sticks in the hotel restaurant.
Day 2, Saturday: Found our offices, found the subway, had really good curry, had miserable jetlag, starting getting our work organized. Visited the first (and second, third and fourth) of many electronics markets. More power shenanigans.
Day 3, Sunday: Even worse jetlag, a couple trips to Walmart to start buying some of the basics I will need while living here and some actual work. Dinner with some other folks involved in the same thing we are and had our first experience with everyone wanting to take pictures with us. Power adventures related to blowing out my brand new power strip tower thingy.
Day 4, Monday: By most accounts it was basically just a work day. I came to work in the morning, got some dumplings for breakfast off a street vendor, had some great coffee from a Kopi Luwak coffee place downstairs and basically just programmed all day. More trips to Walmart.
Day 5, Tuesday: An almost completely boring (but wonderful) workday. Met some new folks here for similar reasons as us and had dinner with them. The waitress had the best fucking time of her life laughing and telling us no when we tried to order things. No idea if they were out of stock or what.
Day 6, Wednesday: That’s today. Today was the official kickoff of what I am here for, so I met a TON of new people, learned a lot and got very little work done. It’s 7:48pm now and I’m still at the office, typing this.
I’ve had brutal jetlag since I got here and last night was my first full night’s sleep. I’m hoping tonight will be the second but for that to happen I need to stay up till at least midnight, so I am just sitting here doing this and will do a little more work.
There are some things I really like about China so far:
* Food is delicious and cheap as hell. You can get a great huge plate of all kinds of stuff for $5 or less, in a nice restaurant, very quickly and without having to tip.
* Since there’s no tipping, the service is weird but cool. The wait staff pretty much leaves you alone. If you want help you yell. Often you pay as soon as you order, and then the food comes out amazingly fast. Like, strangely fast. Like… there’s no way you had time to cook that fast. But it’s all been great and no sickness so far.
* Since you pay when you order, when you are done you just get up and leave. Awesome.
* The subway is clean, fast, cool and wonderful. It’s honestly the best subway I’ve been on anywhere. Not even very crowded.
* Other stuff is cheap too. Beer is almost free, water (which you need to buy and not take from the tap) is just a few cents.
* People are generally nice and helpful. Not many people know any English but they are very willing to try to help you and understand you.
* The electronics markets are like something out of a nerd wet dream. They are endless and you can buy ANYTHING. I mean it. Anything you can think of in the technology, electronics, mechanical or consumer market and there is at least one stall full of it. There are probably 500 stalls full of it. There are entire stalls dedicated to stepper motor cables. It’s like my crimper died and went to heaven.
There are also some things I don’t like about China so far:
* Everyone smokes. It’s everywhere and completely unavoidable.
* People hack and spit CONSTANTLY. On the street, in buildings, in elevators, everywhere. It’s gross.
* There’s a lot that is just gross. No better way to describe it. Trash, dead things, slime, grease, human refuse, just gross. Lots of it.
* There is no personal space. People will just rub up against you in line. Bump you with their shit. Push you (gently) out of the way.
* There are no rules. Traffic goes anywhere it wants (more on this later), people smoke while standing right in front of the no smoking signs with the people who put the signs up standing right there not caring. People butt in line. Last night we were at a corner store buying beer and I guess two girls behind us decided we were taking too long and just pushed past us, walked in front of us and had the clerk ring them up first. We just kinda stood there stunned.
The traffic is incredible. There are cars and electric bikes everywhere by the thousands. They go whatever fucking way they want. Traffic moving too slow in one direction on a two way street? Drive up the other side of the street, honking at the cars who DARE come at you. Too many cars on the street? Ride your motorcycle on the sidewalk, dodging old ladies and children. Honk always.
If Shenzhen had a slogan it would be Always Be Honking. People honk to get you out of their way, to say thanks for getting out of the way, to let you know they are coming at you, to let you know they are going to ignore the traffic signals, to let you know they are going to drive their electric bike right into the fucking store, to say Hi or just because it’s a nice day and why not do some honking?
We’ve taken to just saying “Honk!” while walking around, just to fit in a little better.
I had a mini breakdown the third night. I was tired from jetlag, my back has been hurting, I had no privacy and nowhere to just relax and suddenly couldn’t figure out why the fuck I agreed to this. I fell asleep and in the morning I was over it, and I am excited now, but it was a low point.
So that’s the first five days. I know I should say more, but honestly it’s just been about trying to survive and set up some kind of normalcy. This isn’t like a normal trip where you are just living out of a bag until you leave. I have to make a life here for a quarter of a year and the transition has been difficult.
And finally, pictures! In that one of the very tall building, the thing hanging from the crane is a full size shipping container. It’s a very, very tall building.
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