I arrived in Chongqing this morning, and then took the train to Chengdu. A young Chinese intern picked me up at the airport, and he was instantly relieved when after he spoke a few sentences of absolutely unintelligible English, I said, “我会说普通话。Wo hui shuo Putonghua.” We chatted for the three hours we had before my train left about various things, mostly about how much he envied how much I had travelled. When I entered the station and sat waiting to board, I realised that I attracted a lot less attention than I could have. I was trying to just look totally chill and determined, rather than lost and bewildered. And given the opportunity I spoke in fluent Mandarin, so people seemed to quickly accept me.
Arriving in Chengdu, my colleagues Sally and Jack quickly spotted me. (I was pretty much the only foreigner disembarking, so I was easy to find. However, Sally told me, apparently another group was waiting for their foreign charge at the same station, but hadn’t found them!) We went straight to my temporary flat, to drop off my things. The plan was then to get me some food and a SIM card, but we ended up just getting food as I wanted to get a SIM card with a plan, and wasn’t sure if I needed a bank account to do so. I regretted not getting one upon returning to the flat, as my long-awaited shower was brought to an untimely end when the hose inside the shower burst, I assume from the boiling hot water. Luckily there were two showers in the flat, so I used the alternative (the showerhead didn’t attach properly and water was spewing everywhere, but these bathrooms are designed with squat toilets that double as the drain, and tiled on every surface: they’re meant to withstand water spewing everywhere.) Then the internet didn’t work. I don’t have a working SIM, so I can’t contact anyone until the morning. No matter, I’m exhausted and it’s 4pm, which seems like a suitable bedtime.