Shanghai – China
So I’ve just arrived in Shanghai after 2 weeks at home in Ireland to celebrate my brothers wedding. It was a surreal time for me, coming from the hustle and bustle of Colombia to the chilled out town of Greystones where I live, and seeing all my family and friends again.
As I settled into my old bedroom, I opened my wardrobe to change my clothes and was completely shocked by the sheer quantity of t-shirts, shoes, and shirts I have. Not that I am a clothes hoarder or fashion guru, it’s just that after only having 1 pair of casual trousers, 1 decent(ish) t-shirt and 1 pair of all purpose shoes, it’s wierd to have a choice of what to wear. After being in countries where many people have pretty much only the clothes on their back, I realised the absulutely luxury that we live in.
Cooking for my family was another great but slightly odd experience. Tucking into a big plate of bangers, mash and red onion gravy was something that I literally dreamed about for many many miles. I’d imagine the taste of the sweet gravy, the soft buttery mash and sausages made of real pork and black pepper (a la Cumberland). But having a selection of gas hobs, electric oven and clean running water seemed so many worlds away from the remote towns of Peru and Bolivia where many still cook on wood fires, and have to walk miles to get gungy, brown water.
My time at home was busy to say the least, firstly I had to sort out our visas for China which turned out to be much more complicated than expected. But after 2 visits to the embassy, many hours making phone calls and sending emails, we are now in posession of our visas for China.
Visa in hand, I turned my mind on to wedding matters, writing a best man speech with my co-best-man; my brother Rob. Having not seen my family for 8 months, it took a while to get those stupid childhood stories about the groom back into my mind, but I think we succeded in telling some appropriately foolish tales. Getting dressed in a clean white shirt, linen suit, leather shoes and wearing aftershave was again, worlds away from the past 8 months, I well and truly felt like a king. As I stood in the reception, all prim and proper, I wondered how difficult it was going to be to revert to the smelly and dirty expedition regime.
The rest of my time was spent eating, chilling out with my family and friends, eating, swimming in the sea, eating, going cycling, eating, going for walks, eating…….
Between all the eating and stuff, I also set my mind to getting more music onto my iPod. Music has the power to lift your spirits if you’re feeling a bit low, or send you over the edge into an incredible high if all the factors are right. Most of my back-tingling highs, the ones that make the discomfort, pain, and boredom worthwhile, have been while I’ve been listening my tunes. So I’ve been going to peoples houses, grabbing their CD’s and ripping them onto me ‘Pod. Albums that seemed like dark holes in my collection such as Pink Floyds-Dark Side of the Moon and Daft Punk’s live “Alive” album are now sitting safely in my little black box.
I had a very long flight to get to Shanghai. Since for our circumnavigation I need to cross all 24 time zones, I had to fly back west, stopping in Toronto, Vancouver, then on to Shanghai. When the plane arrived in Shanghai, all the passengers had to stay in their seats until the plane was boarded by a group of Chinese health officials checking for Swine flu. They wore paper plumbers suits, masks and big plastic goggles; and used lazer scanners on our foreheads to take our temperature. I felt like a box of corn flakes getting scanned at a checkout!! Definately a surreal experience to end a surreal few weeks.