Settle down now!
I've had a day here now: I've been approached by hawkers; eaten my first street food; smelt that funny "Please let that be anything other than sewage?" odour that wafts out of drains in the city; and been pushed in front of by little old ladies. Yes, if the sign after customs hadn't said it already, I'm indeed in China.
The hotel was almost a joke the moment I arrived. The internet didn't work; the TV was misconnected; the clock is perpetually 11:40; the bathroom light blew within minutes; and though the room had a kitchen, it was short of almost everything. An intercom call brought a worker up to attend to all of the problems. Before I left New Zealand, I had been pleased to see that I had a breakfast provided with the room, and had a picture in my mind of a small scale buffet with some nice warm Chinese breakfast food, rice porridge, perhaps. In the morning, I descended to the lobby, hungry since about 4am and was faced with an unattended reception, so I asked the doorman who dialed a staff member. A sleepy-eyed receptionist came down and informed me that breakfast would come with the room cleaning people at around this time. So I headed back to the room to find two processed, packaged cakes and a bottle of orange juice: A let down of sorts. But it is a room and now that I've done some shopping, figured out how things work, slept well and had a wander around, I'm at least comfortable.
My neighbourhood is reasonably uninspiring, but it has a good supermarket nearby (with some organic products!) and it looks like it has a reasonable cafe opposite (stocks wine too, NZ labels only, buy them by the bottle at ridiculous prices!). The trees are pleasingly verdant; a big difference from the limp, grey "greenery" of Shanghai and Beijing when I visited. I haven't yet had to take any evasive action while crossing roads. My new shoes have now really met Chinese pavements, too, which really is the fastest way to depreciate an asset ever.
I headed out at noon on my first tentative journey into the subway network, emerging at the famous Guangxiao temple and then heading over to the shopping strip of Beijing Road.
"May I ask you a question?" I was asked in English by a young woman as I waited at an intersection.
I thought that there was no harm in allowing her the pleasure of a single question with me: "Hăo!" I assented. Her face collapsed: "Oh. You speak Chinese. Nevermind. I was going to ask you if wanted a guide," she replied in Chinese, disappointed and walked away.
Oh and the most unbelieveable sight of the day? Definitely the men selling tiger paws on the footpath. Actually, that might be the most extraordinary thing ever. I'll have to think back to all the wackiest things I've ever seen in this country. I also found a rather outstanding spelling mistake on a sign ("STSRBUCKA").
From tomorrow onward my world will become a bit more routine with work beginning. But not real work, just starting the settling in process and visa requirements etc. It should be fun!