China was not a location I had dreamed of visiting, but when the opportunity arose to go over with all my expenses paid, it was something I couldn't turn down. Someone felt that my 30 years experience in the education system was worth funding my trip in order for me to provide some training for teachers learning to teach English to Chinese children.
This initial post will deal with my first impressions of the country and it's people. I was not going in completely blind, as my wife had visited the country on another educational excursion, and a friend had spent a month doing much the job I was doing. I'm afraid as well I was guilty of a bit of racial stereotyping of a very general nature, as I was expecting something similar to Japan where I had a very enjoyable trip last year. I shouldn't have done that, because all they really have in common is the Asian continent, but I still was basing my expectation on my Japanese experience.
My very first impressions of the Chinese people was on the plane from Toronto to Shanghai. The majority of the passengers were Chinese, and I have never been on a plane where so many people ignored the rules. Now to be fair, I couldn't really tell the native Chinese returning from a visit to Canada, and the Chinese-Canadians going on a trip to the homeland. They made announcements in English, French and Chinese about sitting down, putting on your seat-belts, putting seat backs straight, and tray-tables up, but the crew had to make more than one trip up and down the aisle reminding people, yet even after flight crew were settled for landing, people were getting up and moving around. I also had one of the “Little Emperor”Children sitting beside me, who was never told to sit still, or behave. He wasn't bad, he just did whatever he wanted, which included trying to change my video monitor, and laying down with his feet on me – hard to get any sleep during the flight with him sitting next to me.
I arrived in Shanghai tired and starting to get get sick with a cold on a cold damp dreary afternoon – not exactly the best way to start a trip after just getting back from Mexico and sun and 30C every day. We drove from Shanghai on a crowded bus through fog (or is it the famous China smog), so I couldn't even see much. Needless to say, my initial impressions of China were not positive.
I hardly noticed the next day, waking from sleep on the hardest bed I have ever experienced, with a splitting headache, a definite head cold, and a fever. My flat mate was not home, but I found some bread, peanut butter and juice, had breakfast and went right back to bed to sleep most of the day. I seem to recall looking out to another dreary wet cold day.
Being an eternal optimist I'm hopefull things will improve soon!