Arrival

September 5, 2018

My wristwatch says 4:55 a.m. I think it’s closer to 7:30 p.m. But the monitor in the minivan with the soft Chinese automatic voice says it’s 9:57 p.m. I’m a bit turned around.

We are met at Shanghai Pudong International Airport by a young national who goes by Gary—not his given name, which I asked for but would not be able to pronounce myself. He studies preschool education at the college, is the captain of the school’s soccer team, and likes Manchester United. Our driver, Mr. (J)ong is quiet. It will be two hours until we reach the apartment.

The first thing I notice upon arrival is the wet air. A few breaths confirm it in my lungs and send it back with curiosity. Will take some getting used to. And I’m sweating, but the van has air-conditioning.

A bus waits outside the Boeing 767, which traveled 510 mph at 38,000 feet (the plane, not the bus). Actually, there are two buses. The first one filled very quickly. Like, really filled. Crammed, you might say. There wasn’t enough space to our American eyes, so we—Cecilia and I—waited for the next bus. This one carried us and ten others to the terminal.

Inside, we are directed towards the fingerprint station. Scan passport, left four fingers, right four fingers, thumbs, OK. Then to Chinese Immigration Services and a long line. An informative video plays on the televisions: military, smiles, showing the foreigners that China doesn’t mess around. Passports stamped, we head to baggage claim. All our things made it, phew. Through customs, we roll our luggage to a parking garage, up a level, and find Mr. (J)ong.

A bit of small talk, I offer Gary trail mix that my mother sent with me and fudge from the flight. He accepts both, eats the fudge. Mr. (J)ong takes us to the highway. It is dark outside, which is odd for some reason because I don’t think it’s that late in the day. Or the sun operates differently in this part of the world. Or I’m a bit turned around.

There are buildings with lights for walls. Or lights on the walls. I haven’t seen that in person before. Lots of apartment complexes, some are tall and new, some aren’t. I see many air—

400-606-5500, jd.com, on a red van next to us on the road—

There’s a funny monkey—

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