October 26, 2007

T Minus ...

Five days and counting. I leave for Chicago at 6 AM on Thursday Nov 1st, then transfer from Chicago directly to Shanghai.

I got my passport and visa ready. I need to buy some more long-sleeve shirts because it's colder over there right now, and because I live in Austin, I have gotten rid of much of my non-short-sleeve attire.

I picked up a flu shot, some prescriptions, and some medical advice from the doctor's office on Wednesday. I also need to pick up some over-the-counter stuff like Immodium AD. Talked to some of the more experienced travelers at my company for some tips. I emailed my immediate co-workers and let them know I was going. I joked with one of them about getting "wigglies," our fun-sounding word for parasites and/or other creepy-crawlies just looking for a chance to set up semipermanent residence in my body. (Note to self: keep eyes and mouth closed while taking a shower.)

I got a nice Chinese history book that I'm reading (and even highlighting passages in!), as well as a travel guide to Shanghai itself. I'll have co-workers there who know the city, so I've made plans to hang out with them the first (actually, the only) weekend that I'm there. Because I'm a huge nerd, I also picked up a baseball rules book to read on the plane. If I end up doing an extended stay in Shanghai, I'm gonna try and travel to Tokyo and take in a Yomiuri Giants game. I've also got the latest issue of Wired.

I arrive in Shanghai around 2:30 PM on Friday Nov 2nd. To my body, this is equivalent to 1:30 AM Thursday. I'm supposed to try and stay awake for seven hours until it's actually time to sleep. I wonder how well that's going to work out :-) I think it'll only happen if I can sleep on the plane. When I went from Maryland to Alaska in 1999, I slept for like an entire day after I arrived.

October 20, 2007

The First Time

Here's a fun little story about the first time I can remember hearing about Shanghai (in a real-world context, not in a history-lecture context).

Those of you know me know that I am a big fan of electronic music: techno, house, drum 'n bass, et al. Well the nexus for electronic music is in England, where Pete Tong hosts a weekly radio show on BBC Radio 1 called "The Essential Mix." Every week he plays a mix from a different famous DJ - some are recorded specifically for the show and some are culled from that DJ's live sets.

Back in those halcyon days (the year 2000) when broadband + Napster = unlimited music, I was introduced to this Essential Mix phenomenon by a friend at school. He played me an Essential Mix from Paul Oakenfold (who I was into at the time, but not so much anymore). During the opening 30 seconds or so, Tong briefly introduces the DJ. His introduction for this particular Essential Mix included the following phrase:
Oakey plays the Rojam, a Chinese club in the province of Shanghai. I'll bet you've never been there. Well, he has!
My friends and I thought it was hilarious that Pete Tong was demeaning his audience by reminding them that they'd probably never traveled to an exotic location such as the Rojam, while the great and wonderful Paul Oakenfold obviously had been there at least once.
O you unwashed masses! You have never experienced The Rojam! You are not worthy to listen to Sir Paul's melodic trance music. But I'll play it for you anyway, because I'm just that nice.
From that point on, whenever we heard Pete Tong speak, we'd all facetiously shake our fists in the air and curse under our breaths: "Damn you Pete Tong! You're so arrogant!"

And just think - after all these years, I'll finally get to prove you wrong. Ha!

October 15, 2007

I've Been Around the World and I I I

Today I found out I'm staying in a HoJo in Shanghai. I laughed out loud, actually. I go around the entire world and end up at the same chain of hotels I used to see along the highway in Virginia. Good times.

Compare that picture with the one of the HoJo in Roanoke. See the difference? If it's true that on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog, then it must be equally true that in China, nobody knows you're a third-rate motel chain.

Wanna eat some clams?

October 12, 2007

First Post

Today I received confirmation of my flight for the initial 8-day visit to Shanghai, so I thought I'd set up this blog. I booked my seats on the Boeing 777 from O'Hare to Pudong, which was interesting. Everyone at work recommended a site called www.seatguru.com where you can see which seats have power outlets, which seats are likely to be noisy, and things like that. I'm traveling with an engineer friend of mine, so I got a seat across the aisle and down a row from him. I'm not too worried about not having a power outlet.

14+ hours on a plane, not to mention the time spent waiting in airports. I'll certainly buy some new books for the trip. I also plan on getting a Nintendo DS to help pass the time. Plus a notebook and pen for scribbling down random thoughts over the Pacific Ocean. And some earplugs. Definitely earplugs.

A friend suggested getting some eye drops because my eyes will dry out on the plane, and some lotion because my hands will dry out on the plane, and pretty much everything is supposed to dry out when you're sealed in a metal tube hurtling through the air for over half a day.

The longest flight I've ever been on was from Maryland to California. My current flights now are mainly from Austin back to Maryland, which is about 3 hours. I don't know, I think I'll be fine. But I learned a new phrase tonight: Economy class syndrome :-)