Part 2, THE BEGINNING: September 30, Day 1

Somehow we missed a day. Consolation for the missed day is that we will gain it back when we return home. First thoughts of China are, well Shanghai airport looks like any other airport except for the fact it’s not air-conditioned!

I remember there being a lot of smog out the window and being glad we weren’t at our final destination. I also remember an absolutely brutal headache and by the time our last plane landed in Jinan being thankful that it would be fifteen months of recovery before we had to repeat the journey.

We were greeted by a short Chinese woman named Lainey who had a sign with our names on it and her arms full with a giant bouquet of flowers, which she handed to me as soon as we met. Our first experience of the country was Lainey arguing loudly in Chinese with the cab driver, and then the driver pushing the car forwards with his arms, and then trying to shove all of our massive bags into the back of the trunk (it was only big enough for one). Little did we know that 15 months later we wouldn’t bat an eyelash at this sort of interaction. Finally after a second argument between Lainey and the driver about what bags should go where we found ourselves squeezed tetras style in the back of the car with the majority of our luggage, reaching for seat belts that didn’t exist.

Seat belts would have been nice. We careened down the street honking and cutting back and forth through traffic and in front of cars. A car ahead of us had black smoke billowing from its tailpipe.

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“This is building one, two, three,” Lainey counted our the buildings in our apartment complex for us, “and five, four, three, two.” She listed off the doors to our building, “floor five,” she said as we started to haul our luggage up the concrete steps. No elevator. Our apartment was 502. It had a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms. Old but all in all not a bad place,

and it was home from that moment forwards. We were surprised to find the beds not soft but rock hard, regardless we would pass out on them without difficulty after our long journey.

We got noodles, dumplings, and corn for dinner. We stood in front of the dumpling display for about 20 minutes with our phrase book open trying to figure out which kinds of dumplings were in front of us. The symbols weren’t matching up. Two guys, probably around our age, came up to us and helped us out in broken English.

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