Thursday, March 27, 2014

Greetings from Shanghai, China!

Okay, so it's been about two weeks that I've been here in China.  And the damn China internet firewall indeed is doing its job because I can't post to my blog directly.  Heck, I can't even see the blog because Blogger is blocked, just like Facebook.  Even WITH a VPN, I have immense difficulty accessing these sites.  VPN = Virtual Proxy Network.  Basically, I pay to login to another computer in France, or New York, and then it's as if I am actually located in those countries, so I am able to access the blocked sites.  But I can't do it here, despite all my efforts.  I am able to access Facebook sporadically from a VPN on my iPhone, but I get kicked off within minutes, and uploading photos is out of the question.  So how did I post this on Blogger then?  Via email.  I remembered that I had set up a long time ago a way to send a message to my blog from my email, and the message itself would post on the blog.  The subject of the email would become the subject of the blog post.   If this worked correctly, you are reading this message, and the title of the blog post is, "Greetings from Shanghai, China!"

Wow, so where to begin.  I'm in my apartment right now.  13th Floor.  4000 RMB (Ren Min Bi) per month.  Or 4000 Yuan.  Or 4000 Kuai.  They all mean the same thing.  Comes to $649/month for an amazing brand new apartment that has never been lived in, with an amazing 270 degree curved window view of People's Square on one side, and the Wusong River (Suzhou Creek) on the other.  Truly gorgeous.  Brand new Ikea furniture.  Wifi pre-installed.  Kitchen with microwave, fridge, oven, and stove.  Bathroom with a washing machine.  Bottom line: I feel like I am in the United States in this apartment.  I almost succombed to the pressure of trying to find a place and nearly paid 3500 Kuai for a dumpy place far away from any metro stops; old; decrepit; with no view whatsoever.  I am glad that I decided to wait a few more days: the wait was worth it.  And yesterday I registered with the police station.  You have to do so within 6 days of renting an apartment.  I think it's a little overbearing, but hey, I'm in China, and I don't want to find out what happens if you DON'T register.  So: Apartment? CHECK!

I had my IPhone unlocked before I left the states, so when I got here, it was pretty easy to swap sim cards, and get a Chinese number.  For any of you who want to write to me, the best way is to download the app WeChat and add me using the username: MonroeMann instead of my number.  I will come up.  Send me a message.  WeChat is like the Facebook of China, and EVERYONE has it.  It's the only way anyone communicates here.  So if you want to feel like you're living in China, just download that app.  Then you'll be one of us. :)  So cell phone: CHECK!

As for my job: having a blast.  It's actually hard work, working at Wall Street English.  It's the most prestigious and well-known English school in Asia.  There are 17 locations alone in Shanghai.  I am teaching at the largest one, in XuJiaHue.  I am one of 9 teachers.  I teach 6 classes a day.  But not yet.  I first went through one week of training.  Then they started me off with 3 classes a day this week, giving me enough time to plan each class from the lesson plan book prior.  Next week, it will be 4 a day.  The one after that, 5 a day.  Finally, 6 a day.  Some will be 4 person Encounters.  Some 8 person Complementary Classes.  Some 12 person Social Clubs.  And some, 20 + English Corners, where I can basically talk for an hour about any topic I want: awesomeness.  Soon these Chinese folks are gonna learn about Break Diving, Time Management, Entertainment Law, Moving Making, and Making Dreams Come True!  We are advised not to discuss the three T's.  See if you can figure out what those three T's are.  The job itself is challenging, and also fun.  And the people I work with are really great.  A year here is going to be a great time.   So, job: CHECK!

I started my Chinese lessons at Mandarin House this past Monday.  It's a short 10 minute walk from my apartment to 650 Hankou Road, which is where the lessons are held.  I studied Chinese on my own before I arrived, so I already know the basics, and have found that I am able to communicate basic things already: How are you?  I'm fine.  Where is this?  What is this?  How much is this?  What time is it?  Etc.  So I'm surviving at a very basic level.  I'm signed up for Chinese lessons for a year, and I am trying to figure out how to add a set of 100 private lessons too.  By doing so, I will reach HSK Level 4 by the end of my one year here, which means I will be allowed to work in Chinese organizations, go to Chinese universities, and even read newspapers and write basic papers in Chinese.  At least that's the goal.  If I could leave at that level, that would be amazing.  And I think it's possible.  With my studies at school, my private study in my self-study books and courses, and by forcing myself to speak Chinese every day, I think I've got a pretty good shot at success.  So, Chinese lessons: CHECK!

Chinese Culture: Yes, they spit a lot.  It's pretty disgusting.  And you see spit everywhere on the sidewalk.  On the streets.  Even inside sometimes.  But overall, the Chinese people are really wonderful.  They all stare at me as I'm walking around, and when I get on the subway, I'm usually the sole white person in a see of asians.  But as soon as I say, "Ni Hao?!" with a big smile, their eyes light up, and they reply, "Ni hao!"  So I have realized that the stares are excited curiosity and not antagonistic in any way.  I should note too that not everyone spits.  But there are enough people hocking up loogies every day for you to clearly recognize it as a part of the culture.  Most of the people in the streets don't speak any English at all.  So when I do speak in Mandarin, it's like a breath of fresh air to them.  I can only imagine how accepted I will be once I can actually have conversations.  The doorman downstairs (one of them anyway) is a very old Chinese man.  He knows maybe ten words in English.  I know about the same in Chinese.  But somehow we had a 30-minute conversation the other night, and we agreed that we're going to have a chat every week: partly in English; partly in Chinese.  I'm like the Karate Kid and he is my Mr. Miagi (and yes, I know, Miagi was Japanese---besides the points!)  Did you know they don't speak Mandarin in Shanghai?  They speak Shanghainese.  It is a completely different language.  But everyone also learns Mandarin in school.  In Beijing?  Beijingese.  But they learn Mandarin in school.  So when I speak to people here, I am not speaking to them in their true 'native tongue'.  Interesting, right?  

Shanghai itself: It is New York City, in Asia.  I have traveled all around the world and have seen almost every major city, from Moscow, Helsinki, Rome, Paris, and London to Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and DC.  There is only ONE New York City.  And no city even comes close.  Well that is... until I arrived here in Shanghai.  Everyone with their infinite wisdom told me I was going to have such huge culture shock here, but ha, as soon as I arrived, the first think I thought was, "Hey, I'm home!"   And all the street signs are in English and Chinese.  All the signs in the subway are in both languages.  The voice on the subway even mentions the subway stops in both English and Chinese.  The big differences: more pollution here; very few people speak English here; very few whites, blacks, and hispanics here; the streets are wider; in NYC, a crosswalk means people crossing whereas here, a crosswalk means, "vehicle crossing, so watch out pedestrians!"; and there is more defecation on the streets here.  I have no idea if it's from people or dogs, haha.  Other than that, I absolutely feel like I am in New York City.  So for all of you who say, "I love NYC, but I really have no desire to visit Asia..."  I say: "COME HERE!"  You will be absolutely blown away!

Pollution: yup, it's bad.  I downloaded an app called ShanghaiAir to keep me up to date on how bad the pollution at any given time.  I am going to order a ResPro particle filter mask from London for about $60 and have it shipped here.  I went for a run the other day, against the counsel of many, but I wanted to see how it would feel on "Dangerous for Sensitive People" pollution day.  The app uses data from the US Consulate here.  The different levels are: Good, Moderate, Unhealthy for Sensitive People; Unhealthy; Very Unhealthy; and Hazardous.  While I have been here, it has never been "Good" and has once been "Unhealthy".  It usually hovers around Moderate and Unhealthy for Sens. People.  Though everyone has told me to be prepared, because it will hit the hazardous level at some point.  Yay.  I'm wondering about this summer, with the air conditioner.  What if it's a high pollution day, but it's sweltering outside?  Do I choose to keep the AC off and suffer in the misery of clammy and hot and sticky yuckiness, or do I turn on the AC and breath in the PM2.5 pollution in cool and breezy comfort?  Seems like a tough decision.  I have a couple months to figure it out: the weather now is still cool.and brisk.

Money: everything is relatively inexpensive here.  If you arrive here with $100,000, you could probably live in very nice comfort for 3 - 5 years.  As you saw, my super nice apartment only costs about $600/month.  My paycheck at Wall Street English is going to be somewhere around $2000 - $2500/month.  Back home, this wouldn't be very much at all, but here, I am one of the highest paid people in the city.  I'm definitely a part of the upper middle class on that salary.  Some of the MANY locals who support us at Wall Street English get paid only about 4000 Kuai/month.  That's $649/month.  That is my entire rent payment for the month.  And that is a typical salary for most people here in Shanghai, from what I am told.  So on my salary here, I will be able to live quite comfortably.  I have some credit card debt from my Eurotrip that I have to pay down, but I can't do that easily from here, because it's hard to transfer the money here into American dollars and then pay my US credit card company.  I'm going to look into whether I can link my Chinese bank account here (ICBC) with my US credit cards.  I have a feeling it won't work.  No matter, though, because I am still making some additional income from book royalties; from legal work from the United States (mostly Entertainment contracts); and from my career, life, and business coaching clients.  I believe that I will be able to make enough from these part-time gigs to pay down my credit cards, since I am paid in American dollars for those services.  

Gettting around: Don't have a car, and don't want a car.  Don't even want a scooter, and I LOVE scooters.  But it's just too crazy.  The drivers here are crazy.  You have to look both ways constantly when crossing a one-way street because vehicles tend to come both ways, particularly scooters.  I used to think Rome was bad with all the scooters: Rome is nothing compared to the amount of motorized insects in this city.  At one traffic light there are sometimes 30 - 40 scooters waiting to buzz off.  THIRTY - FORTY!  Wow!  And no one really abides by the cross walks.  You have to weave through traffic like that video game Frogger, trying your best not to get hit by a car or scooter.  Fortunately the Metro system is fantastic.  And inexpensive.  Each ride only costs about 50 cents.  I have a Jia Tong Ka (metrocard) with about 100 RMB on it.  I ride the subway every day and haven't had to refill it even once yet.  And it's clean.  And efficient.  And very easy to find your way around.  HOWEVER: each stop has MANY exits.  In NYC, there are maybe four or five exits per stop.  Here, there are sometimes 20 exits, each with a different number, and each taking you up at a different part of the city.  Exit 1 is FAR FAR FAR from Exit 15, for example.  So you can't just 'get out'.  You have to get off the train and then make sure you are getting out at the right exit or you're going to quickly find yourself lost (if you didn't already get lost underground in these massive subway stations).  

Friends; I have already met some really cool people at work, and also at my language school: I met three Italians who actually prefer to speak to me in Italian!  How awesome that my Italian is that good now!  WOW!  That made me feel so great.  I went out to a dance club last week called Hollywood (thanks to my colleague in training Demi) and met a French model. He and I became good friends, chatting in French, and he joined me at this French meetup last week organized by this Chinese girl I met online.  It was great speaking French with this group.  She also runs a dance meetup, and I'm going to a Swing party this Saturday!  I ran into three French girls here in the building, and we may watch Pirates of the Caribbean in French together sometime.  And I also made friends with my apartment agent Lee (Chinese) and also some of the guys who work in marketing at Wall Street English (also Chinese).  And this Canadian girl who lives an hour away who showed me around the city on my second day here.  I'm happy that I have made the acquaintance of people from the US, from France, Italy, etc.  Great to be able to keep up my language skills in those languages too.  Well, except English haha.  I know that language pretty well.

It's 11:39pm here.  Have to be at Mandarin House at 9am for my first reading and writing class, and then work from 1 - 9pm.  Goodnight folks!  Hope this was interesting!   

Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA <--my consulting and coaching firm <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Battle Cries for the Hollywood Underdog" & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
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Art Brown said...

Awesome and inspiring - as always!

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