Airlines, Crazed Drivers, and Sleeping at Odd Hours

I got the chance to spend a month in China this past April. I hadn’t gone in about 2.5 years, so this trip was long overdue.

I took a morning flight from Los Angeles with China Eastern Airlines, the airline works with my company, and so I was upgraded to business class, which is always nice. The service on board was pretty good, better than what you would get on an American airline. The attendants were all young Chinese women, all in their 20s, and all quite polite. I only say that the service was “pretty good” because it’s a lot better than what you would get on American and European airlines, but not as good as the service I’ve gotten on previous trips to Asia.

So what did I do on this 11 hour flight? Well, I have a penchant to fall asleep right when the safety video turns on (honestly, that video can cure insomnia). Thus, when I woke up, I found that it was already lunchtime, and was served the meal I picked out of their menu: a pork dish that I found to be surprisingly good. I ate that while attempting to watch Rachel Getting Married, one of the movie choices that China Eastern has for their customers.

After finishing the movie, falling asleep again, getting woken up for dinner, watching another movie on my laptop, eating yet another meal, and watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on the video monitor, I finally arrived in Shanghai. We landed at about 5:30 PM, just in time for rush hour (note my excitement, please). I was met with people from the company’s Shanghai office: Christina, who works in accounting, and a new hire, Xiao Lu, or “Little Lu.” Xiao Lu is our new driver; he transports our customers to and from the airport to their hotel. We piled into the company minivan, quite spacious and the first time I’ve seen a Buick in years, and headed towards the company apartment. In Chinese rush hour traffic. With crazy Chinese drivers.

An important note: if you’re thinking of driving in China, please don’t. I don’t want anyone to risk a car accident.

Chinese drivers cut. They honk. They back up on the highway. They have no regard for pedestrians. On the one hand, it’s an incredibly horrifying experience sitting in the passenger seat of a Chinese car (I recommend sitting in back, behind the driver). On the other, it’s especially mesmerizing to see your driver maneuver a minivan through certain vehicular maiming. I’m a pretty good driver, and I would rather set my hair on fire than switch places with Xiao Lu.

We arrived at the company apartment on Yan’an Xi Lu, a very major street in the Changning District of Shanghai. There’s nothing much in Changning; it’s mostly residential, although there is a lively evening scene of mainly locals and some expats. The rock club Yuyingtang is located close by, next to the Yan’an Xi Lu Metro Station. This club, alongside Mao Livehouse, is one of Shanghai’s premier rock venues, so if you want to check out some local rock bands, that’s where you’d go.

Anyway, when I got up to the apartment, I was treated to a nice home cooked meal left by our aiyi, our housekeeper that comes a few times a month. I must say, it was a delicious meal, I got a taste of this delicious broad bean called zedou, I don’t know what it’s called in English, or Mandarin for that matter. The bean is a local Shanghainese dish. I wish I had a picture of these beans, but I’ve just got to say that in the month I was there, I asked our aiyi to pretty much make that every day. It’s that good.

After filling myself up, jetlag set in and I basically crashed into my bed and slept…until 6 AM when I woke up.

To be continued in a later post…

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