Yes, my friends, I have reached the Promised Land, otherwise known as Shanghai. And I get to stay here in this magical wonderland of Mexican food, highly walkable streets and unicorns for two and a half weeks!
Lest people start reaching for their pens to write to their nearest congressperson, outraged at the amount of vacation time we government flunkies are getting, I’m not actually here on vacation. The short story is that some posts here in mission China are having problems getting their visa interview wait times down, either because of the unprecedented numbers of applicants or due to space and personnel issues. My post, fortunately, isn’t having as many of those issues, so we were asked to farm out a couple of people at a time to various other posts in China.
A friend and I actually thought we were going to Beijing together, but as it turned out, we were more urgently needed in two other posts. One was here in Shanghai, and the other was somewhere, uh, significantly less cushy. We did rock, paper, scissors, and yours truly won. I bought my friend lunch as a consolation prize.
I don’t actually have lots of time at the moment to talk all about Shanghai, but a few brief observations:
• It’s clean. Like, really freaking clean. I mean, I saw someone (a Westerner) use a public restroom yesterday and emerge looking quite pleased with the experience, as opposed to gagging and looking like he’d just seen the Cryptkeeper. What madness is this?!
• Speaking of madness, the cab drivers here? Awesome. I had one this morning that had to turn around (because I don’t know where anything is, and he was headed in the wrong direction), and as he did so, he actually turned off the meter. It also happened to a friend yesterday when her driver got lost. It would not happen where I’m posted.
• It kind of reminds me of Japan; maybe the combination of alleys, lower, concrete buildings and skyscrapers or something.
• However, there are still slow walkers. This is how I know I’m still in China. I was also keenly aware of being in China Saturday night, when the urbane gentleman next to me at Harry Potter spent about half an hour rustling hundreds of shopping bags and slurping and burping his way through what had to be five pounds of chicken feet. Thankfully, a girl further down the row lost it and yelled at him.
• They have Marks & Spencers here. Marks & freaking Spencers, people. Complete with a small grocery section that carries hot cross buns and scones.
• They also have a Muji. It’s located quite close to where I’m staying (along with the aforementioned Marks & freaking Spencers), meaning that I’ll probably be broke by the time I leave.
• There are foreigners everywhere here. I mean, we have them back at my posting, too, but the other day I was standing at a crosswalk with about twelve other people, and they were all foreigners. You just don’t see that where I’m living. It’s a little surreal, actually.
Anyway, Shanghai is awesome, the people I’ve met are all very friendly and helpful, and my only worry is that I may not want to leave in a few weeks. And really, between the Mexican I’ve had two days running and the falafel I had for dinner today, can you blame me?