Flying into Shanghai I was greeted with one of the most magical sunsets I've ever seen. I sat and marvelled at the sight for a few moments before a thought struck me - Oh God, is it like that because of the smog?
If I was being generous I'd call myself an optimist, but it would probably be more accurate to say that I'm just easy going and tend to assume that things will work out ok. When I told people about my plan to pack up my life and move to Shanghai for two years the most common reaction I received was a look of surprise and a comment along the lines of 'Wow, you're so brave'. My usual response was a shrug of the shoulders and some kind of explanation that I'd done plenty of traveling before and nothing can really go wrong. I genuinely didn't consider anything about it brave, but to say that I didn't have a few concerns would be a lie.
The plane landed and instantly the seatbelts came off. The flight attendants yelled at the passengers to sit back down until the plane came to a complete stop but their status as authority figures seemed diminished by the fact that they couldn't leave their own seats without themselves breaking the rule they were trying to enforce. Ok, I've been in Asian countries before. I know that rules are sometimes seen as more flexible . That doesn't mean that people are self centred or inconsiderate for trying to be the first off the plane.
As the plane taxied the pilot announced over the PA that we were headed to a satellite terminal instead of the gate where we were supposed to disembark and that a shuttle bus would be waiting outside the plane to take us to the main terminal. I stepped onto the mobile staircase and was nearly floored by the wave of heat that hit me in the face. By the time I reached the shuttle the humidity had already caused sweat patches on my T-shirt and was making it difficult to breathe. You're probably just adjusting from being on the plane. Besides, if this is a normal level of heat there's bound to be air conditioning everywhere.
I reached the terminal and headed towards immigration. At least that's where the signs told me I was heading, I couldn't actually see the gates over the sea of people filtering through the ad hoc corridors. I pulled my carry on bag up to my chest and moved forward half a step at a time with the rest of the crowd. Airports are always crowded. There's no way the rest of the city could be like this.
For the first time in my life I was organised enough to have copies of all my paperwork so getting through passport control was a fairly smooth process. I progressed to baggage claim and waited for the conveyor belt to start up. Thinking I should try to let my mum know that I had arrived safe and sound I took out my phone and connected to the airport Wi-Fi. For one of those mysterious, known-only-to-computers reasons my VPN wasn't working so I had to send an email in lieu of a Facebook post. I'll figure out how to get the internet working properly soon enough. I'm sure that was a one off.
Outside the gate I was met by Don who was the vice principal of the school, and our driver. I did my best to maintain a cheerful disposition as we drove to the staff accommodation, but the ten hour flight from Melbourne was beginning to take its toll.
Don showed me to the apartment that would be home for the next year and introduced me to Nickael, the super, who helped me with my bags and gave me a quick tour of the facilities before leaving me to settle in.
The place was much bigger than I'd expected.
With a sigh of relief I turned the air conditioner up, logged onto the Wi-Fi and stretched out on the couch. After sending a few messages and watching a couple of episodes of Bob's Burgers on Netflix I sat up and glanced at the pile of orientation materials on the coffee table. I picked up one of the magazines and flipped through a couple of the pages, then realised that it was published by the school. Wow, all of this stuff is so well organised and professional. If they're spending this much money on the school they must have high expectations of the staff. I'm sure I'll be able to handle it.
'Silhouetted Commercial Airplane Flying At Sunset Stock Photo' by satit_srihin courtesy of Free Digital Photos available at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/silhouetted-commercial-airplane-flying-at-sunset-photo-p346647
Luke Scholtes is a Science teacher with eleven years experience, currently working at the American International School of Bucharest.