Monday, 18 February 2013

The flight and the first day

I chose to fly with British Airways, seeing as I've flown with them before and knew what to expect, unlike an alternative such as Aeroflot. In the end the price difference was about 30 euros for that specific day and time, so the decision was quite easy to make. My flight would start from Schiphol in the Netherlands, then make a stop at Heathrow, where I would have to get a connecting flight to Shanghai. In the end the stop at heathrow would take about 2 hours, which isn't that bad if you take off the time you need to walk from one terminal to the other and pass the security on your way.
Thanks to my brother, who drove me to Schiphol, we arrived on time, before I could even drop off my luggage. After eating something at the Burger King, I was able to drop off my luggage without any problem and we took the time to look around before I went past the passport control. The security itself offered no problems either and eventually we boarded the plane to Heathrow.

Just over an hour later, we arrived at Heathrow. I immediately went through security again and obviously didn't have any problems this time either. The area after the security was really crowded, with massive queues in front of every shop and restaurant. Eventually I managed to buy a meal deal at Boots and after eating that I went on my way to the terminal and was allowed to board the plane quickly after.

It was the first time for me to be on a big intercontinental flight, so the first thing I noticed was the third row of seats in the middle, which I've seen several times before on movies, but never on my own. When I got to my seat, I immediately played around with the entertainment system, finding out that it didn't work. Luckily it was just a headphone issue and I got a replacement right away. It proved to be valuable as there's only so much one can do during a 11 hour flight. My seat was also a window seat on the left of the plane, although it was really cloudy that day so I couldn't see much from there during the whole flight. Even when the plane was landing at the airport, I couldn't see anything until we were at 400 meters above the ground.

Around 14 February, 9:25AM (Chinese time) we arrived at the Pu Dong International Airport in Shanghai. I had to fill in a small paper, showing my reason for entering the country, if I had a visa and my place I was going to stay at. After that I went through the immigration check and was able to pick up my baggage. I then had to queue up in a line, to go through the customs. During all this I was relieved to notice that almost every sign was written in both Chinese and English.

After passing customs without any issue, I was welcomed by someone from the 2-Shanghai Agency. This is the agency that helped me with finding an internship and a place to stay in Shanghai. Apparently someone else was also bound to arrive in around 10 minutes, so we waited for her to arrive as we talked a bit about the time I would spend here. During our wait I went to a small convenience store called Family Mart, which turned out to be really tiny, to get myself a 可口可乐, known as Coca Cola throughout the world. :p

When the other student arrived, who also turned out to be Dutch, we went to take the Maglev train, which is one of those trains that easily go over 300 km/h through the use of magnetic levitation. After speeding away from the airport with the train, we took a taxi and I got dropped off in front of a compound and was told to go to building #9.

After waiting there for a while, I was greeted by the landlord, who luckily was able to speak English quite well. She took me to my room, which turned out to be all the way up on the 15th floor. In China they count floors starting with the first floor, like they do in the US, so it's the 14th floor for most of you. The apartment itself was a lot bigger than I had expected, with especially the living room having a lot of space. An overdone saying mentions that a picture says more than a thousand words, so to save myself some words... :)
 My room:

 The view from my room:

Living room:


View from the living room:

My agency organized a lunch for all the newcomers, so I pretty much enjoyed a minute of the view, dropped off all my bags and took the taxi to a place called Grandma's Kitchen. Despite the name though, none of the staff seemed to speak English, so the people from the agency just ordered whatever we required. Everyone that showed up at the lunch turned out to be Dutch and as it turns out, there are only a few non-Dutch that make use of this agency. The lunch itself was quite nice, with all different kinds of food being placed on a rotating tray. It quickly became apparent to me though, that I needed to learn how to eat with chopsticks, as I clumsily needed several tries to pick up the most simple things.

After lunch I was given a small paper with my address written on it in Chinese. The taxi drivers in China generally don't speak or read English, so this is the best way to make it clear to the taxi driver where you want to go. After arriving at my apartment again, I realized I still needed bed linen to be able to sleep. I asked my roommates, who were both French. (with a third French planning to arrive 2 days later) Apparently they really love their French supermarkets, as they immediately gave me an address to the local Carrefour. I took a photo of the address with my phone and headed off again, showing the taxi driver the address again like I did earlier.

At the Carrefour they ended up selling nearly everything, including turtles and snakes. Luckily there were a few English signs here and there, which allowed me to find the required bed linen pretty quickly and head out again, as the tiredness from my jet lag was really kicking in. I took the taxi home again with the same method as the other times and quickly went to sleep after preparing my bed.