I am currently living in Shanghai with my wife. She moved here back in August to start a job teaching elementary school. She is not teaching English, although her Masters degree is in ESL, I can't tell if this is ironic or everyday coincidence, but it works for us.
In the weeks leading up to me traveling here, I was tasked by my wife with the following:
Sell the house.
This one I think I succeeded at (fingers crossed) my wife just sent in the power of attorney so that her mom can sign any paperwork left.
Sell the car (Not really, just get the car somewhere else). I bought a used car last year, and I still have payments on it. I will have to use some of the house money to pay it off then sell it via proxy through a family member.
Pack miscellaneous items for China, including makeup, clothes, and other goods. I failed at this. Hard. My wife is mad. She had a list I thought I did good at packing it, but I just didn't I packed the wrong clothes, almost none of the makeup she wanted and was unable to procure various items from the U.S. to bring over. I wish I could have paid more attention to this aspect.
I took a plane from DTW to Boston, for my first and only layover on the 13th.
It was hard to do anything but think about where I was going. Once I got to
Boston, I had to go through the international terminal, and started the
process that I'd have to get the most used to, which was keeping my passport
at the ready and open it up when asked. When traveling, this is common, when
in China, doubly so.
I rode on Hainan Airlines after my Boston layover, where I was treated with a
personal television set with some pretty recent movies and television shows,
though none that I'd actually watch on a plane.
They served me 2 dishes, one was a Teriyaki chicken dinner. Complete with
brownie, a side of cole slaw, and a roll. It wasn't bad. Actually I've never
had bad airplane food. Maybe it's just me.
Throughout the trip, the person next to me, a younger teenage Chinese man, had
an impatient leg that would not stop. I did not know how to address the
situation that I needed to sleep, so I did absolutely nothing and sat with my
head on the seat in front of me and my Kindle underneath. I am currently
reading "Harpo Speaks" which is an autobiography of Harpo Marx, I've been
reading it here and there for a while, I'm determined to finish it soon.
When I got to the airport, my wife was not there. This was not her fault. It
was due to a miscalculation and time difference. So I sat there and we used
"WeChat" to update each other.
In the meantime multiple people were asking me if I needed a hotel room or
taxi, the airport staff asked me if I needed anything multiple times, I
suspect they were just looking to practice their English.
When I saw my wife, my heart grew. It was better than seeing a long lost
friend. I am sure that we had the biggest smiles in the airport. On the taxi
drive home we held hands and she told me about what we had planned for the
On the 14th, which I refer to as the "Day of a thousand papercuts", we were to
get all of our bureaucratic stuff in check.
When you get a visa to stay in China, you are required to register with the
local police station, to tell them where you are living. This requires a
Chinese phone number, your passport, a copy of your passport and evidence from
your landlord that you are staying there. (Usually in the form of a note)
We had my passport. Because this is such a regular occurrence I think the
person at the desk gave us a lot of leeway. This was a pleasant surprise.
Next I went to my health check. Have you ever seen the movie "Brazil"? Where
every function must have a person sign off before the next? That is what this
was like. I used almost all of my documentation (including copies of things I
did have) to gain entry, and paid 590 RMB ( about $90 ) and was told to go to
In room 109 I was told to take off my tee shirt and put on a robe. So I did. I
then was told to put my teeshirt and belongings into a locker. I then was told
to go to room 111.
Room 111 was the x-ray examination. I handed the technician my paperwork, and
after some mimicking with hands, he was able to tell me where to stand. I got
my x-ray and he attached his work to my pile of paper and told me to go to
Room 106 was the blood testing. A nice Chinese nurse told me to sit and wait
for the person currently in there to be done. I am not nervous about needles,
so I did not anticipate being so nervous after walking in. But the technician
was professional. She probably does hundreds of these a day. After a prick, I
was done she attached my paperwork and then off to room 105.
Room 105 was an ultrasound room. I've never had an ultra sound before. It was
interesting. The technician checked out my lungs I am assuming as she told me
to breath in and hold (which I interpreted as breath in and out, which made
her just a bit angry). After cleaning the cold jelly off my stomach, I was
told to go to room 102.
Room 102 was where I got my generals checked out. The person in here was
clearly a "head doctor" checking over everything and asking me questions about
my general health. She attached an EKG machine to me and checked out my heart
then put my paper on the back of my stack and sent me back to the front.
After all of this, I get an envelope to fill out with an address. The results
of my tests will be sent to me this week, I'm told.
Next my wife and I had to go to the consulate to get a notarized paper so that
she can give power of attorney to her mother. We arrived approximately 30
minutes later than our appointment, but they were nice enough to let us in.
There was a man there in the booth next to us, who could not speak English.
Through the clerk, he asked me if I could help him fill out a form in English
about returning to the United States as his mother had died and he had
business to attend to as soon as possible. I obliged, and wished him well.
Keeping count? 3 bureaucracies down, and 1 to go! The FEC (Not the Federal
Exchange Commission) was our last stop.
This building had no English signs what so ever. We had to basically just
guess from the paperwork we printed where to go.
When we got to the 4th floor, there was a ticket queue, but since it was all
in Chinese, we decided to just walk up to someone who seemed welcoming.
The purpose of this last trip was to get myself listed on my wife's residence
The person we approached scoffed as he looked at our paperwork "Who exactly
sent you here" he said. My wife said it was her employer, and he had this
smirk like "How the hell did they get this far?"
After we got some copies from downstairs (4 RMB for the set) we went back to
the 4th floor and he completed our paperwork for us.
That, was my day of 1000 papercuts. It's not too bad in retrospect but being
jet lagged and poked and prodded made it feel like some dystopian novel.
We ended the day with pizza.
So what is China like? To be honest Shanghai to me is what New York would be like if one were illiterate. It's a hard thing to describe, there is a lot of English here, and everyone speaks a little bit at least, but I am mostly finding myself pointing and trying to interpret other people's body language.
Today I went to a KFC, this was quite the experience. First off, the Saturday afternoon KFC crowd is maddening. If I were anywhere in Detroit I would expect this to be a bar with a Michigan/Ohio State/MSU game. Here though, I just expect that they really want some damn chicken.
What I am most happy about, is that my wife and I are together again (we were
never separated by relationship just by distance, I want to be clear about
that). I feel refreshed, I would say that the stresses of actually getting to
traveling here, the house, the car, the job, weren't reasons to stay, they
were reasons to let go. I am happy I let them go. I have gained so much in
just a couple of days.
We have a lot of plans, I can't wait to keep you updated!
Thanks for sharing! It sounds like an amazing life experience. Apologies if you've already explained this on hubski, but how permanent is the move? I look forward to future updates.