Well, my friends, the times they are a’ changin. What a smooth flight that was. It all started with an air train ride to the airport with no one else in my car. It was so lovely I felt like I was on the Hogwarts express on my way to school that year. I got to the airport with three hours to spare so no stress there and the plane ride was easy breezy. The food was delicious and Cathay Pacific has the best selection of movies I’ve ever seen. Not only was I able to watch The Ides of March, two episodes of Louie, two different TED talks, The Imitation Game, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, they also had my two BIGGEST guilty pleasures, the movie FACE/OFF and the entire second season of Sex and the City. Unfortunately due to time constraints I was only able to watch one episode; you know, the one where Carrie dates the guy with premature ejaculation and Samantha sleeps with Charlotte’s brother. Classic Samantha. The woman next to me kept looking over at my screen and although she was wearing a white mask on her face I could tell by her eyes that she was enjoying what I was watching way more than what was on her screen.
I slept for a good four hours and landed in Hong Kong for a five hour lay-over. Then it was a three hour flight to Qingdao. Considering that I spend at least $15 every time I get a sushi lunch special, I thought I should splurge on my first day in China and spent $16 on an hour cab ride from the airport to my hostel.
China has a certain smell and it took me off guard when I left the airport because I hadn’t had that sensation since I was here eight years ago. It’s not a bad smell by any means, but the only way I could describe it is as though there was something burning in the distance mixed with some sort of a metallic smell. The rain was pouring all day yesterday so the street with my hostel kind of looked like a scene from Bladerunner.
The place where I’m staying is more of a hotel than hostel and everyone here that I’ve seen has been Chinese. I’m sleeping in a room with seven other people but there was only one guy when I arrived. His name is Chen hu xing, but everyone calls him “xiao hu” which means little tiger. He’s 18 years old and has never met a foreigner before. After shaking hands we spoke for a little bit in Chinese and he said it’s always been his dream to meet a foreigner and speak English as well as go to an NBA game. I had been without a shower for well over 28 hours and when I mentioned I needed to go buy soap, he insisted that I should rest and went out himself to buy me soap. I tried to give him money but he refused and instead came back with a bar of soap and two cans of grape juice that also had brandy in it. We talked for a little while about his home town of Chengdu, which I had visited back in 2007, and he told me about his family and girlfriend.
I had a quick cold shower and went to the bathrooms. Let me just take a moment to explain squat toilets because I think a lot of people don’t know they exist. It’s a hole in the ground, thats it. You just squat down like evolution intended and let it all go. Those pristine white thrones from home don’t exist in most places here. I’ve done considerable research on this and a lot of scientists believe it’s healthier and from my own experience it’s practically a ghost-wipe every time.
I was able to fall asleep at 8pm local time and woke up this morning around 5am. It was a good night’s sleep and I was able to walk around this part of the city before most people were out and about. All in all it was a solid first day.