I’ve been here for a four nights and three days now, and so far it’s been pretty darn busy! Naturally, moving to a new country to settle in and work takes a lot of preparation, so ever since the first morning my colleague, Rachel, and I have been running around the city of Dalian with our local guide, Victor, an employed alumnus of Valparaiso University, taking care of business. Having a limited capacity for speaking Mandarin would be a severe understatement, so to say that my listening comprehension abilities are non-existent is no joke. That being said, Victor has proven to be an invaluable asset ever since the moment we set foot in Dalian.
As you all know, on the day I left the U.S., I awoke at 4:45am EST (3:45am CST) to drive to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. We took off at 9:35am EST (8:35 CST) to land in Detroit about an hour later. At that point it didn’t take long before we had boarded the next plane for our international flight to Beijing. Due to various reasons however, we didn’t take off until sometime around 3:00pm EST! Things such as a “shorter flight plan” and “China not allowing us to land early,” as well as an issue with the plane’s chiller, which necessitated the acquisition of dry ice to keep the food cool during the flight, kept delaying our departure. Finally, we embarked on the 12.5 hour-long flight. I wasn’t able to sleep at all except for a brief period right before being woken up by the second food cart rounds. When we arrived it was 4:00pm local time the following day, or 4:00am EST, and soon enough it had been 24 straight hours of travel. Unfortunately, at that point we were dealing with Delta, having lost one of Rachel’s bags, as well as a delayed flight to Dalian due to bad weather. The flight didn’t leave until 8:20pm local time, but it was literally a brief puddle jump to get to Dalian and we were there before we knew it – had gotten our bags and were greeted by Victor holding up a “Valpo” sign!
He drove us to our new apartment buildings and showed us our lodgings, in which we quickly deposited our things before immediately going out to try and find some food. After passing a couple places which were in the process of closing, we were worried we might not find a spot. But fortunately, we rounded a corner and found a Chinese BBQ place. We were immediately served three large beers and then we had Victor order a bunch of food.
As I feared, and had already resigned myself to… most of the beer here is practically water. It was very refreshing when cold at least!
We started off with a cucumber and peanut salad which was great, and just a tad bit spicy. Then came a bunch of various skewered meats. The first item that came was an achilles tendon I think, then came some heart valves, then some “normal” pork and beef, some grilled and buttered bread, an oyster, some crawdads (or Chinese lobster as they called it, haha!), and I think that was about it.
Needless to say, we were so happy to have bellies full of good food finally, especially after Delta’s poor excuses for meals on the plane.
I thought this was pretty amusing! Obviously, this was their bathroom sign…
So anyway, after about 35 hours of being awake and traveling, we went back to the apartment…
…and fell asleep! Though not for too long. Being excited about the coming day, and completely out-of-whack after all that traveling, I woke up at about 6:30am. Though, I supposed this view from my bed was worth waking up for.
Sitting in the 27th floor, I am able to look straight down and see my office and place of work (the building with the orange balconies), as well as straight south for miles and miles (only because the air was pretty clean that day).
Anyways, right before parting ways we had agreed on a 10:00am meeting time. However, having woken up so darn early I was anxious to start doing stuff! Unfortunately, I couldn’t really do anything in my apartment without shopping first for cleaning supplies, and I was hungry, so I went out for a walk down the street just before our meeting time. I found a small little grocery store called the “Happy Ha Ha Store!” :’D It will be super convenient in the future I’m sure. Once we met up, we started walking to the (and yes, I’m aware of the irony) Wal-mart to pick up some essentials.
We then hauled our stuff back to the apartments, chilled out for a bit, and met up a while later to meet our landlords at the police station to let them know we are living there. It’s quite important to do all these thing by the book, just in case any issues arise. Then we went to another location to register ourselves at our new residences. After that, we went and got our bus cards. The busses here are quite convenient. You can’t look both ways to cross the street without seeing a bus careening around a corner towards you. Our street has many convenient methods of travel – the 25 and 10 busses, as well as numerous taxis. One of the greatest things I’ve noticed so far about living in China is that everything is cheap, especially transportation. A bus ride is only ¥1 per ride (~$0.17), and the base fare for a taxi ride is only ¥10 (~$1.67) – and the base fare doesn’t start going up until you’ve gone a pretty fair distance.
We tested out our new bus passes by riding down the street to get some Chinese sim cards for our phones, along with a basic phone plan. For just ¥55/mo we can get 500MB of data and 50 minutes. Not bad at all in my opinion!
Finally, after all our most important business was taken care of, he took us to look at our offices. However, since we didn’t yet have our keys, we simply got to look at the doors to our offices… -_-
After that, we took some time to relax and hang out in the air conditioned apartment before going out again to get dinner. This evening, we wanted to get one of China’s most famous meals – the Hot Pot!
After this, I probably should’ve taken more pictures to help illustrate how this meal works for those of you who don’t really know what a hot pot is. But in short, the pot shown above gets heated to a boil, we continually put whatever ingredients we want into whichever compartment we want, let it cook, then take it out, dip it in a sauce, and eat it! We had pork, beef, lamb, spinach, rice noodles, flour noodles, some sort of popular Chinese vegetable, cabbage, etc… The white sauce was really flavorful and not very spicy, the large red sauce was a Szechuan spicy sauce, and the small red compartment was filled with an even spicier sauce! They were all really, really good! And of course, Victor wouldn’t be fulfilling his duties as guide if he were not continually introducing us to new, unorthodox Chinese cuisine. Hence the picture below –
So to be honest, the cliche “it tastes like chicken” works perfectly well here. The chicken leg tastes just like chicken, however it was a little difficult to eat… You kinda have to eat it like a corn cob…
Anyway, after that meal we were all super stuffed! Before the meal when we were still at the apartment, we had been in touch with Delta regarding the lost luggage. We were told it would be there around 8:00pm, so after the meal, I took a bus home solo while Victor and Rachel went to pick up the bag at the airport. Unfortunately, it was still not there! Delta strikes again…
After a successful solo trip home on the 10 bus (!!!), I went up to my apartment and went straight to bed – the end of a very busy, yet very successful first day in China! The next day had plenty more in store for us, but considering just how much, I’ll save it for the next post.
Thanks for reading! 🙂 I’ll do my best to post again soon!