China 2006

Jet-lag and deadlines

Nate DiMeo Jan 7, 2006

This is my third trip to China in four months, and if I’ve come to understand anything about this fascinating, enormous, staggering country, it’s that I’ve got to take a sleeping pill on the third night.

It’s the same thing every time: I get off the plane, I force myself to stay up till a realistic bedtime, I take half of my doctor-prescribed, heavily-advertised sleep aid, I sleep through the night. I feel sort of miserable all day the next day. I do the same thing the next night and I hit my stride when you wake up. I get all of my work done — I’m a foreign-correspondence machine — I fall in love with travelling all over again, I feel great at the end of the night and I settle in after a long day ready to sleep the sleep of the dead. And I forget to take the half a pill.

So I spent the hour of 4:45-5:45 a.m. yesterday morning wondering why I never learn. Then I spent all but fifteen minutes (a frozen walk to the convenience store down the block) of a day that finally ended with a 1:45 a.m. e-mail to the office in L.A., here at the PuJiang hotel, working to get ready for the big day-one broadcast on Monday. All the while feeling brutalized by jet-lag.

Today, I woke up at mid-morning (having not repeated my sleeping pill mistake of the night before)and took a quick walk to find a late breakfast before starting what I knew would be another long day in Room 206 working at the computer.

I bundled up against the cold and walked out of the hotel thinking I was glad I’d been able to see a lot of Shanghai on my previous trips to China, because who knows what I’d get to see this time (what with the deadlines and all the work to do).

I was out and about for an hour tops. And I was reminded of just how much you can see in an hour here: I saw men defying all manner of international treaty by walking down the streets selling pelts of tigers and various endangered species. I saw billboards enclosing a construction site extolling the virtues of the new mall being built within: “Wealth! Team! Sparsity!” I saw a businessman get a straight-edge-razor shave in a barber chair in an alley (in 25-degree weather). I ate sitting at a plastic table outside at one of the tiny restaurants in the alleys in one of the city’s old neighborhoods. Had a huge bowl of noodles and and cilantro with a group of migrant workers from the “Wealth! Team! Sparsity!” construction site. Fumbled through the rudiments of a conversation in Mandarin. Lunch was 3 RMB — less than half a buck.

Had a couple of days worth of adventure in a little more than an hour. Now I just need a little sleep.

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