Saturday, February 07, 2009

The day with two mornings

Here's a riddle for you: when does a day have two mornings?

Answer: when you fly from China to the U.S.

I woke up this morning—the first time—in Shanghai, right across the street from Chairman Mao's residence. After breakfast and a quick walk to People's Park and back, I was off to the airport to catch my 1:45 p.m. flight. Due to the weirdness of timezones and the international dateline (China is 16 hours ahead of the western U.S.), I stepped off the plane at 8 a.m., about six hours before I left. Today has been like groundhog day: two mornings, two afternoons, two evenings. Of course, the flip side is that when I flew to Shanghai on Sunday afternoon, I didn't arrive until Monday night.

I spent this week in China on business. Unfortunately, Apple is pretty tight-lipped, so I don't have any pictures of what I did, and I can't say much about it. Also unfortunately, I worked so much that I didn't get to see much other than my hotel, the building I worked at, and the road between the two. The only exception was this morning, when I had an extra half hour and took a short walk around Shanghai before I went to the airport.

China was an interesting place. My overall impression is that it's really smoggy, its driving rules are very flexible, and it's filled with nice people. I wish that I spoke Chinese so that I could talk to them. There's tons of major construction going on right now, and you can almost feel the country growing.

My flight was on a 747, and I sat in business class—both firsts for me. It's quite a different world up there on the top deck. My seat had enough legroom to stretch all the way out, and it reclined way back. Most of the food was closer to nice restaurant than TV dinner. I had really good filet mignon for dinner this evening (the first one; today's second evening was Taco Bell in Palo Alto).

When I arrived in Shanghai on Monday, I stepped off the plane, went through customs, and then found a Chinese man who didn't speak any English holding a sign with my name on it. I indicated to him that I was who he was looking for, and he grabbed my luggage and walked quickly to the parking area. Luckily, he didn't kidnap me or anything. Instead, he drove me to my hotel, where I was really happy to go to sleep after being awake for over thirty hours, minus a short nap.

The drive to my hotel was harrowing at times, and the best way that I can describe Chinese traffic is fluid. In the U.S., things are more rigid: people stay in their lanes, they stop at stop signs, and they take turns. It's a lot more organic in China: people go two ways on one-way streets, not everyone stops at stoplights, right of way is not a right, and lane boundaries aren't very binding. Everyone—cars, scooters, bikes, and pedestrians—just kind of goes wherever they want, and everyone else just flows around them.

Unfortunately, riding in a car was about the only time that I saw the outside world. I worked almost 60 hours in four days, and the work was stressful at times, but it was really interesting. I learned a lot while I was there, and I met some great people. Hopefully I'll get to see a little more of China if I go again.

Here are a few pictures, none of which are of the work I did during most of the week:

My flight from SLC to SFO early Sunday morning. I flew from San Jose to Salt Lake at 6 a.m. Saturday, then from Salt Lake to San Francisco at 8 a.m. Sunday, and then from San Francisco to Shanghai at noon on Sunday. I was really sick of airports after that.

Business class lounge at SFO where I waited for my flight: cushy seats, power and internet, desks, free food and drinks.

My ride to China: a Boeing 747-400. I sat on the top deck on the left side. (Yes, there are stairs inside the airplane to get up there.)

Hotel room I stayed in during the week.

View from the hotel room. The weather was partly cloudy, but I don't think that's just clouds....

(note the big gap here, where I did top-secret Apple stuff at an undisclosed location)

My hotel room last night in Shanghai, complete with room service! (I had a salmon omelette with chocolate truffle.)

Shanghai from the 33rd floor of my hotel this morning. Note my top-notch oral hygiene.

There are tons of bikes and scooters in China.

China is old.

Not quite sure what this is....

On the way to the airport this morning. These VW Santana cars are everywhere. Buicks are also popular, with a smattering of Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai cars. There are also some Chinese makes that I couldn't read, because, well, they were written in Chinese.

Business class.

Le menu. The smoked salmon appetizer was quite good.

Le food: filet mignon.

Japan. We flew over the southern tip.

Arriving in the Bay Area.

On the ground in San Francisco, ready to start morning #2.


Jonathan said...

Look at you- all business classy. Haha. That's so cool. Your pictures remind me of Korea, as well as the description of driving patterns. It is definitely a different world over there. I think you arrived a lot earlier than I did. I arrived only an hour before I left (or something). But yeah- that's crazy. You might as well be working for the secret service though. That would pain me not to be able to tell what I'm doing.

Kristy said...

"That's totally wicked!" (name that movie). But really, that's pretty cool, except the 60 hours in 4 days. That kind of stinks.

Silus Grok said...

Sounds like you had a WONDERFUL experience … next time, get out of your hotel more.

Welcome back, buddy.

amanda said...

China sounds awesome! Glad you had a good time and got to ride all business class and eat room service and stuff...and that's cool about the groundhog type day!