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Published: April 11th 2016
After the GEA event was over we took a cab to Shanghai's other airport to the west, Shanghai Hongqiao International, where most of the city's domestic flights depart from. I would be flying China Eastern Airlines, China's second largest airline and a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, which includes Delta, Air France, and other more well-known partners. Wuhan, with a population of over 10 million, is the capital of the neighboring Hubei Province and the most populous city in central China. It's also a transportation hub and as such is known as the "Chicago of China, or at least Wikipedia seems to think so. My coworker had told me that the city was known for two specialties - "hot and dry" noodles and duck necks. I already had two clear goals. And I would fail at both!
As luck would have it, Jackie received some sort of text promotion that enabled us to wait in the VIP lounge for Eastern China Airlines. The free snacks and magazines made the delay a bit more tolerable, as did the expedited security check. I was pretty much out like a light the second I took my seat, and by midnight we had landed
in Wuhan. Unfortunately the hotel was nowhere near the airport, so it would take another hour or so before reached the Ramada we were spending the night. They updated us to a business suite of some sort, but it wasn’t anywhere near as nice as the Intercontinental in Pudong and the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable. In 5 hours I had to be up for the recruitment event so it was straight to bed. I’d be seeing pretty much none of Wuhan – oh well, it is a work trip despite it being Saturday.
Waking up and looking outside the city, or at least the part where I was staying, looked a hot mess of construction – not the most scenic view. The dirty hotel windows didn’t help. At 7:30 I met Jackie for breakfast, which once again was a massive spread of both Asian and Western options from seaweed salad and scallion pancakes to French toast and smoked salmon. I scarfed it all down, grabbed my bags, and it was already time to leave for the event. We first met our co-presenters in the lobby, Admissions and Recruitment representatives from the University of Delaware, the University of Bridgeport, and
SUNY Oswego. By pure coincidence the presenter from Oswego was an old colleague from EC whom I’d spent time in Malta with, so it was great to catch up and see him after such a long time. We had figured this out a couple weeks prior, so he was also delivering a knock-off Hermes back, a Chinese specialty, for my friend and former co-worker back in Boston.
The event took place at a local high school, and 11th
grade students and their parents were invited to come learn about the 4 universities with the idea that they may eventually apply later on. The school master/director was horrifying to say the least, and was legitimately screaming into the microphone before she basically lost her voice, hacked up a lung into the mic for a good 5 minutes until passing the mic to her colleague. Jackie and I were second to present with a dual-language Chinese-English overview of the University of South Carolina for around 30 minutes. It felt a bit rushed, but at least I wasn’t dripping sweat like the day prior. Once done, our hosts, the educational agency that arranged the event as well as the high school director,
took us all out to lunch nearby. We were seated in a large private room, and despite the glittery magenta fabric used as table decoration it was apparently a higher end place. Plate after plate of food began to come out – spicy chicken feet with Szechuan peppers, steamed lotus with pork, and a mushroom soup to name a few. I was excited to try the “Squirrel-shaped Mandarin fish”, which is actually a giant fish scored and fried to look like a squirrel. I can’t say it was particularly reminiscent of a squirrel (pictures online at least were given eyes via sesame seeds, etc.), but it was tasty and doused in a ketchup-like sauce. This was all washed down with warm juice – date juice and corn juice – a bit odd, but good. By this point I was accustomed to drinking everything warm, including water, since in traditional Chinese thought cold beverages are detrimental to one’s health. There’s also the fact that you can’t drink water in China without boiling it. We also stood up to raise a toast about 500 times – I mistakenly stood up for one that was meant for the girls, which was awkward. I’ll
need to work on my Mandarin. Hopefully next time I’ll find out I’m going to China more than two weeks in advance!
Once lunch was over it was already time for my car to the airport, an hour and a half journey back across the city. I slept most of the way, and I managed to check in, etc. without a Chinese travel companion without any issue. The plane right was short, only an hour and a half or so, but I had a chance to have Chinese airline food which was fun, but nothing special – pork with rice and vegetables, a sweet bun, seaweed salad, and an unknown package of a salty, savory mush that I had with some of the rice. The worst part was deplaning, since it’s a complete free-for-all and there is no concept of going row by row, just every man for himself barging ahead. A driver was waiting for me at the exit, and so began the slow crawl back toward Pudong in bad traffic. My driver was a bit on the intense side with his honking and swerving, but it at least made the ride more interesting.
Back at the
hotel I re-checked in and had the same room but a floor above. It was just after 7 so I’d have a few hours to venture out and do some shopping. Heading back to Shanghai SuperBrand Mall, I first headed downstairs to the Lotus supermarket to clean up shop with some of the things I’d been eyeing before. I picked up assorted Lay’s chips – roasted squid, cucumber, numb and spicy hot pot, green tea, etc. - some unknown dessert, floral tea, a KitKat, and packaged duck’s feet. Hope that’s cool with customs! I spent the next two hours attempting to do some shopping for myself, hoping to find some fun Chinese-brand stuff. I ended up with three shirts at a place called Selected, but upon researching the brand letter I learned it was part of a Danish group of stores – fail. The stores I think were actually Chinese had stuff that was either too eccentric or with odd phrases in English that were just meh. I tried on a bunch of shoes
It was almost 10 at this point and I hadn’t eaten, so I seized the opportunity to try something I’d been considering since my arrival – Chinese McDonald’s! The menu to be honest wasn’t all that crazy as I’d hoped, and most of the options mirrored what we have in the states minus a pretzel bun and some kind of ham sandwich. There were, however, a few Chinese rice bowls, so I went with one with chicken. I concealed it in another bag since I was embarrassed to be the American walking around with a McDonald’s bag, but back at the hotel I had it and it was decent. And with that I went to sleep for the last time in Shanghai, with hopefully a full morning of running around on the horizon.
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