Friday, October 06, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Jaded Mandarin

Today was a bit of a rough day. I knew that I'd have a couple of these but was hoping to stave it off a bit.

After having constant companionship last week, I went through withdrawals this week being completely on my own without even my Shanghai co-workers to speak to as I've been on break for "Golden Week."

Sure, I've been speaking to my U.S. coworkers via conference calls, to Andrea via WeChat, and to other friends via Facebook, but there's something to be said for face-to-face conversation

I hope that next week will be a little easier as I'll be around my Shanghai co-workers. I'm not expecting instant companionship but maybe one or two of them will take pity on me and we can go out to lunch.

What makes it all a bit worse is what I've been doing when I'm not writing these Shanghai entries which is transcribing some old journals of that trip I took to the UK when I was 17. It's uncomfortable looking back, especially when I'm confronted with what a little shit I was.

What made today worse was that yesterday I did manage to have a some face-to-face interaction and conversation. While I was at China Mobile, trying to get a SIM Card and data package for my time here, a very nice local woman, Serena, took pity on me and helped me speak to the clerk.

Hell, when they asked for 100 RMB and told me that their credit card machine was down, Serena even paid the money because I was so short on cash! For her troubles, I took her out for some coffee. I'm sure it was a sight to see, this little Chinese lady riding behind this big gweilo on his scooter as we went to the coffee place across from my apartment (because I knew they took Visa).

We sat and talked for a good long time, she helped me with a few questions I had about Mandarin, and we probably shared more than strangers normally do but I think we both felt safe that we are from separate parts of the world.

Again, going back to my self-reflection (being alone is dangerous sometimes), I realized that I'm a country of only children. My people! I'm the only child of an only child as is nearly everyone around me.

Ironically, Serena is in Marketing and she even worked on the Hilton account for the Hawaiian branch. Suffice it to say, we had a lot to discuss. We talked stereotypes of Chinese and Americans. I know it's simple to say but people really are people wherever you go and a simple conversation can really help understand where people are coming from.

So, after having some conversation yesterday, I'm back to cold turkey today. Add to that the rain and that my scooter died (just a dead battery, it's charging up now) on the way to breakfast and that I'm still broke... It made for a depressing day. I get paid again today but the check won't hit until tonight. Until then, I'm relying on the few groceries I've bought so far and the places around here that I know take credit cards. I've submitted and re-submitted my first week expense report a half dozen times. The system doesn't know I'm in Shanghai so I keep missing when it thinks that something is $180 US rather than 180 RMB. Quite a big difference.

I hope things will get better soon.

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