17 Jan An hour is an hour….
Travel always warps my perception of time. I mean, an hour is an hour…until you’re cramped into an airplane seat, indadvertedly violating the personal body space of those settled beside you whilst feeling uncharacteristically hostile towards the individual in front who insists upon reclining to the point of perpendicularity. During those long hours in transit – between the novels, the movies, and unintentionally grazing the knees of fellow passengers like a particularly awkward pervert – the hours pass mercilessly slow. Eventually, however, there’s a swell around you as people rush to disembark and clamor around the luggage carousel before hurrying on their way. And, despite having counted every minute it took to reach this destination, it all seems very sudden that you’re outside in the familiar cab-rank being asked questions in an unfamiliar tongue.
Having missed the designated pick-up time, reaching my accommodation was to be an exercise in independence. I’d collected a fellow Absolute straggler, Krystle along the way and, together, we were able to immediately source a cab. Although it’s a city with more than twenty million inhabitants, I’ve never felt particularly unsafe or even lost in Shanghai; something I attribute, in part, to the abundance of taxis roaming the city. What’s more, the drivers here tolerate – sometimes quite affably – the idiosyncrasies of the overwhelmed tourist. Such patience might reflect Shanghai’s history as a port city with a transient population, perhaps it was finessed during the World Expo in 2010, or it may have simply been cultivated alongside the large expatriate community here. Speculation aside, it is perfectly acceptable to hand your driver the written address (in Hanzi/Chinese characters, of course) of your desired destination without otherwise uttering a word. Unfortunately for Krystle, however, I’m familiar with some very basic Mandarin and so fettered away the hour long journey with stunted conversation. This seemed to delight our driver, who took it upon himself to teach me a litany of new words, correct my pronunciation and even recite a few children’s songs.
Although the company was pleasant, by the time we reached our apartments, Krystle and I had, unfortunately, missed the Welcome Dinner. So, we took the evening as an opportunity to explore our near vicinity and, in the coming days, heartily avenged the missed meal at an Absolute sponsored all-you-can-eat dim sum banquet. Over the course of the weekend, a brief orientation – incorporating a seminar on Chinese business practices was conducted. Beyond this, the Absolute team had even organised the finer details of our stay, including both a SIM and transport card. Even my studiously marked map to the office proved superfluous, as a team member escorted me directly to the premises on my first day of work.
As a tangent, the location of my office – nestled between the commercial bustle of Nanjing Lu and the colonial antiquity of the Bund, was a pleasant surprise. The surrounding streets, however, are somewhat distracting; being able to overlook this constant hive of activity from the tallest building of Ningbo Lu has not tempered my penchant for people-watching! Fortunately, the others in my office have established an easy-going atmosphere. Consisting primarily of other interns, the office dynamics have thus far given the impression of camaraderie. This has allowed for a rapport that we’ve since consolidated over our lunch breaks…that fleeting hour that seems to warp everyone’s perception of time.