Wow. It happened.
The second I stepped out of the plane and into Pudong airport, I realized that although the fact that I was moving to China had been rattling around in my head since late spring, I hadn't really taken the time to consider the fact that I was moving to China.
But here I am.
And it's nothing like what I had cursorily imagined. My first impression of the city was that it is unlike the China I had been prepared to expect - it feels positively European. Although there are forests of skyscrapers resembling an architecture student's wildest fully-funded dreams, they are interspersed with more traditional row houses and larger colonial mansions, set along wide boulevards or more narrow tree-lined avenues. The sheer scale of the city (and it's HUGE) forces the amount and size of the high rises into proportion, rendering it more balanced even than New York, with its often-overbearing towers shadowing the streets.
The architecture seems to reflect the paradox of the place: it's a bizarre balance of old and new, fast and slow. Temples sit next to megamalls; older gentlemen practice tai qi in the parks while their grandsons recover from a night in the clubs; KFCs sell congee (zhou) and soymilk drinks. Much as the Chinese like to talk about qi, the vital energy within everyone that needs monitoring for balance (yes, they have an app for that), every aspect of life here seems to be constantly in check, fluctuating between ancient tradition and modern life.
Only a first impression. Even after an intense week, I can barely order coffee, but I'm going to jump into living here with both feet - it will take energy, but this place feels worth working to understand.
A little housekeeping: to my incontinence-worthy excitement, I have finally, FINALLY, upgraded to an iPhone, which should hopefully upgrade the quality of my photos from the BBerry abominations I've been posting. This was primarily instigated, let's be honest, by the existence of Instagram - follow me on camdenhauge for photo updates on the fly.
I know there will be some adventures ahead.
Ni hao, Shanghai.