Sunday, July 22nd, 9am Eastern Shanghai Time, our shipment from Austria arrives at our new address. All 92 boxes. As a six-man Chinese team looking more fragile than their Slovakian counterparts in Austria successfully unloads and unpacks everything from my grandmother’s Turkish antiques to our more “personal” items and stows them away most haphazardly, Patrick and I look on in excitement and bewilderment: pieces – small and large – of our home in Vienna are now in Shanghai! The feeling of comfort due to the amount of storage space available in our flat quickly dissipates as we see the amount of things overflowing out of each room! However, in a few days, we had organized everything to its appropriate place. We are now missing some drawers from the kitchen and bathrooms, and oh yes, living room furniture! The biggest setback, however, is that our dividing walls are too weak to hold the hanging pieces from our living room set (a shelving unit and a mirror). So we are really disappointed about that and are not sure how to resolve it.
In other news – a quick status report (I used to write those all the time for my clients – I can’t seem to break the habit):
– I opened by own bank account. Easiest thing in the world. Take a number, wait in line, go up to counter with passport, and watch as the nice bank man, who even speaks a bit of English, handles the millions of papers that have to be printed and stamped by five people, type in password (own choice) about 10 times, and then say thank you when you are handed your fully functional ATM card. The cost: 10 yuan for administration for a year (that’s like 1 Euro) and 5 yuan for the card. It’s a steal!
– I bought a bike. I am free as a bird now cruising around my neighborhood, taking in the scenes of every day life, feeling like I belong…until I hit an intersection and have to swirl my head like an owl rotating 360 degrees to notice the many things on wheels moving in every which direction. Yesterday, I literally had to stop and get off my bike in the middle of an intersection. I was completely stuck, which I am sure got a giggle or two from my fellow roadsters who never stop for anything. Now I just do as they do. I find a Chinese biker and follow. Blind faith. That is how I have decided to describe riding anything on the streets of Shanghai.
– I sent my first long distance parcel. This is no fun no matter what country you are in. At least here they package your items for you in pastel green boxes. Then you have to wait while others cut the line. When it finally your turn, you find out you have not filled out enough copies of the customs forms, so you have to wait again (or make others wait) as you do so. Then you pay an arm and a leg so that the parcel can be delivered within a week, and only an arm for a delivery within 20 days.
– I am on my second ayi (as Chinese household helpers are called here). The first lived a bit farther away and was not able to come as often as I wanted. The second seems really nice so far. The real problem here is the communication, although she makes a grand effort of reading my mind and my abstract hand gestures. So I think we will get along. I have yet to try her cooking, a service most ayis here provide for their clients.
– I am getting acquainted with the neighborhood. Everything seems to be very much within walking distance: international grocer, dry cleaner, tailor, post office, bank. Today I will be biking to the closest Carrefour (French hypermarket). I am curious how long/short that will take.
That’s it for now, folks. I hope I can write again before our trip to the US (flying on Sat Jul 28th).