i've managed to avoid squat toilets since coming to asia. i've seen them scarily peeking from the occasional public bathroom stalls, but so far haven't had the pleasure of using one yet. my luck finally ran out. i'm here in changshuo, in my company provided apartment, and the bathroom only has a squat toilet. not that i've never used them before, they were quite ubiquitous in my last jaunt through china 7 years ago. but i prefer the comfort of sitting when i make my daily deposit.
i tried using it earlier, but the weirdness of squatting over a glorified hole in the ground caused me to experience some anxiety-related constipation. the bathroom itself could use a good cleaning. the previous tenant must've been a woman with long hair because there are strands of hair everywhere. i'm not easily grossed out but that makes me gag a little bit. the toilet brush is pretty much useless too (it's more like a hairbrush - gag), easier just buying a new one. and of course there's no toilet paper. fortunately i bought a package of kleenex packets while i was in shanghai, temporarily stash until i can buy some household supplies tomorrow evening.
the lighting in the room is awful as well. unflattering compact fluorescent everywhere, with an eye-hurting blue-LED chandelier above the bed. there's also this tacky recessed mood lighting around the edge of the ceiling, which i've experienced before when i went to kenting. the building itself is still undergoing construction, so every once in a while you turn a corner and the place looks like a complete ghetto. my apartment apparently was recently furnished, but nothing matches, and the decor is garish, like the masterpiece of a tasteless interior designer. this place does have its own kitchen and washing machine, which seems unusual. i don't think i'll be doing any cooking the next 2 months (at most boil some water for instant noodle, but i don't have a tea kettle), but the fridge will come in handy and so will the washing machine. there's no dryer but people hang dry their stuff anyway.
i do have cable tv, but china cable, so no american premium channels like CNN or HBO. however, there's no internet for the time being, and i won't get it until sunday at the earliest. i don't really need cable tv but internet access is essential.
living in that fancy shanghai hotel for the past week has spoiled me. had i not stayed there, this apartment wouldn't be so bad. but having experienced daily housekeeping, it's not easy going back.
i woke up at 6:00. it was too early for breakfast, so after getting ready, i grabbed my things (2 carry-on bags and my backpack) and went downstairs to return the room card. michael wang arrived right on time. when he asked me if i'd checked out yet, i said yes. when he asked if i signed my cousin's name, i told him i scribbled my own name. he seemed kind of concerned, and went back to the front desk to ask. my cousin called me yesterday saying it wouldn't be a big deal if i signed, but maybe he still might get into some trouble.
michael said it'd take an hour to get to the pudong airport but we arrived in about 40 minutes. i was surprised to find out that he only recently got his driver license (a year ago), the reason being he didn't have a car until this year. he couldn't believe how easy it was to get a driver's license in the US. here it requires taking a course followed by a series of tests. when he took his test most everyone passed, but nowadays it's gotten more complicated and the pass rate is something like only 5-10%.
at the airport i had a hard time finding my flight until i realized the departure time had changed from 9:15 to 11:00. i went to the china airline information counter to make sure that was right. the woman confirmed it in a way that seemed like this is pretty routine, flights getting rescheduled. at least it didn't get cancelled.
it at 7:50 when a frantic-looking woman got behind me in line. i asked her when her flight was, and she said 8:20. i offered her to cut ahead of me in line, but there was still about 40 people ahead of us. she only had a small suitcase which she could just simply carry on, but she said she had some bottles of perfume and wasn't sure if that was okay. i saved her spot while she went to go ask, she came back a minute later shaking her head. she was pretty flustered, which got me all anxious as well. finally she asked one of the attendants who immediately put her in front of the line. the woman ran off to catch her flight, didn't even say good bye!
i forgot to ask for a window seat and ended up with an aisle seat. i realized the 9:15 flight to chongqing was being rolled up with the 11:00 flight to chongqing, so it should be pretty full. as an apology for the delay, the airline gave out a free carton of crackers and a can of soda for every waiting passenger. the gate was also weird, right at ground level, which meant a shuttle would pick us up and take us to the airplane parked farther out from the terminal.
there was also free wifi at the pudong airport, but it required a working cellphone number to receive a password pin. a portal directed me to a web ad before i could begin surfing, and after i closed up my tablet pc, i received an automated call featuring a recorded commercial.
since i didn't have a window seat, there was nothing left to do but to fall asleep. i actually slept through the takeoff, stirring awake briefly as the plane adjusted itself in the air. there always seems to be an in-flight meal on chinese domestic flights, even though the food isn't that great. after we were served our lunch, i went back to sleep.
a little boy puked in the aisle right behind me while we were all waiting to get off the plane. fortunately his older sister was in between us and acted as a vomit shield. of course the parents did nothing to clean up the mess. i just feel sorry for all those people who sat behind me (row 16) since they'll have to navigate across the puke barrier.
i managed to find my chongqing driver even though when i called his phone i couldn't get a signal. fortunately he was holding a card with my name on it. my first step outside in chongqing was greeted with mild soothing temperature. any they say chongqing is hot! i've been to some hot places during my trip, and chongqing is not hot. maybe it was just a fluke, and will get crazy shanghai hot tomorrow, but shanghai set the bar pretty high, i'd like to see chongqing try to top that.
my driver was actually surprised i spoke fluent chinese. when they told him he was going to the airport to pick up an american, he assumed i didn't speak the local language.
we never went through chongqing city, but instead went directly to the factory location in changshou. as we approached changshou i could see the substantial development in the downtown area. the factory was still a little further out. i figured i'd see all sorts of mechanization in the industrial park area but the place was pretty quiet. the only hint of something out of the ordinary was smoke rising from one of the nearby mountains, razing the land for cement material.
a woman greeted me when i arrived, spoke english even though i was able to demonstrate that i spoke chinese as well. you can tell a lot about the quality of a chinese institution by the english spoken and she spoke excellent american-accented english. she took me around and brought me to pansusu's office. i can't remember the last time i saw him, must've been 5-6 years ago at least. he looked the same, a little balding on top, but with black hair that i wondered if he dyes it. it was nearly closing time, so i sat there and read some literature about the company, waiting for the clock to strike 6:00.
he invited me to dinner, as well as 3 other folks from the management team. we left the factory in a chauffeured minivan. i handed back my visitor's pass. there was a construction guy waiting outside. apparently he didn't get paid and was waiting to ambush somebody from management in order to get his money. he was summarily ignored.
first stop was this apartment. the young man in charge of providing housing for incoming workers and the english-speaking lady helped me put on the new bedsheet, a girly pink number which perfectly matches the clashing decor.
afterwards we got back into the minivan and went around the corner to a large shopping mall for some sichuan hot pot. it was pretty good, they had fermented tofu as one of the sauce condiments. we ordered lamb and fish and duck intestines and tripe. pansusu lived right next door and went home briefly to change into shorts. one of the topic of dinner was what exactly would i be doing at the office. they definitely need somebody with real english skills to write legible copy and to do some proofreading. i could also help out with the company newsletter, and work on presentation material. typical office work, but something i can do and would probably enjoy doing. pansusu also told everyone about my blog, which i wish he hadn't because now i can't be as catty as i want to be.
afterwards pansusu went home while i walked back to the apartment with one of the management people who lived in the same building. he showed me 2 supermarket locations (both below ground for some reason) and said we'd rendezvous tomorrow morning for my first official day of work.