Your Career is in the Polish

If my next career is chosen by a nail polish color, I’m going to be an “intimate nurse.”

It’s amazing what you observe at a nail salon. The walls are covered by frames of gaudy nail choices – some with designs that resemble a glitter explosion, others look more like they belong to Hello Kitty – complete with wax bows (yes, they are glued on your fingernails).

I guess I didn’t really think a lot about nails until I moved here.

I always knew to keep my hands manicured, since they are part of your first impression – but this is a whole different level. Nails in China are about personality, character, wealth and well, your career.

Taxi drivers, men especially, will often be seen with a long pinky nail.

I wish I was kidding, but to my understanding it’s to show people they aren’t doing hard, manual labor. It’s a sign of wealth. Trust me, I don’t devalue their jobs – I keep cab drivers employed.

And just like their careers, I was surprised that I would choose my new profession at a nail salon.

I was looking at the polish choices. (Went off track from my usual OPI route.) I picked my color – a light pink, elegant, clean, neutral. I’m rather boring – no glitter, no faces on my fingertips.

 Then I realized as the brush strokes graced my just filed nails that I had picked from the professional pinwheel.

The ladies at the nail salon had made a faux nail pinwheel – the color you choose has a job title.

I am now an “intimate nurse” according to it.

I’m not sure what that means. I don’t think I want to know.

And for those of you wondering where you may fall into the category – here are some of the polish color options and job titles:

  • Blue, black, green, white – Office Lady
  • Light brown, light pinks, nude – Little Housewife
  • Different version of nudes, neutrals, white – Air Hostess
  • Pink, light pinks, lighter neutrals – Intimate Nurse
  • Bright pink, bright red, bolder colors – Fashion Designer

Where do you fall into the color spectrum?

I wish I had a photo of the actual pinwheel, but my nails were wet.

You can be anything you want to be in China. Yesterday, I was an intimate nurse – what will today bring?

Shanghai Symphony

Honk, honk, beep, HONK, vroom.

It didn’t take long to hear the Shanghai symphony: honking horns. I have never heard so many in my life. Mind you I live 16 floors up and the sound is still blaring. It took a few restless nights to get used to the noise. Obviously, my last city of a mere one million people had cars with horns, but now with 23 million in my world – it’s a little louder.

It wasn’t just the orchestra from the cars though. It was also the mopeds, motorcycles and bicycles. Horn or no horn, there would be some kind of ringing – whether it was a bell or a yell. And there’s one thing that cyclists have never heard of WD-40. Wow, it would make a killing out here with all these rusty bikes from the Shanghai rain.

But there’s an octave I haven’t gotten used to, just yet. The noises of burping in public and blowing your noise (without tissue). I remember riding in a taxi one day, observing my surroundings and thinking:

Now, that’s a cute older fella walking arm-in-arm with his wife. Then he stopped, and blew two snot rockets. Holding back my dry heave – the two continued their conversation without even skipping a beat. What?!?

Then there’s the burping. I mean tiny, 90-pound Asian women really get after it. It’s like they are releasing demons. It’s deep, not petite like their frame. I didn’t realize someone so tiny could make that loud of a sound.

The tunes carry on – and despite those belches, the excessive honking – there are those instances of prettier music.

I was walking down the street at the local antique market and there was a man singing opera at his cart. He was just belting it out. It just made me smile and say – wow, I wish I could sing like that. I listened and carried on.

Even though the symphony is of strange music – it has character. What I’ve learned is that people just don’t care, and although I’d like them to have more manners – I understand that sometimes you just have to let go. Although, just because they’re burping and snotting in public doesn’t mean I will.

No Words, Just Clamps

Is that clamp really checking my heart or my bra size?

That was the voice inside my head as I was getting the Chinese version of an EKG.

Welcome to China, as part of becoming a resident of this new world – you need a mandatory health screening. Everyone has to go through it. It’s a more uncomfortable experience than going to the DMV. This time you take a number and enter the assembly line. You grace the halls in your hospital gown – staring at other awkward-looking foreigners and demanding Chinese nurses pointing you from room to room.

And just as soldier-esque nurses point and make gestures there’s a real assertion with needles. No warning for the needle phobic or the weak stomachs. There isn’t any chit-chat – just efficiency. Stick. The voice inside my head:

Don’t faint, please don’t faint. You don’t want to be here longer than you have to. And who is really going to help you out if you do? Deep breath. Deep breath. It will be over soon.

You go into another room – eyes and ears checked. Of course, I have abnormal eyes – after all, I wear contacts. Clearly, I’m part of the population that has looked at too many computer screens and has watched too much TV (guess journalism does your eyes good).

Then it’s followed by an ultrasound, x-rays and the EKG. The EKG, besides the needles, freaked me out. I felt like I was being hooked up to jumper cables not a medical device. The voice inside my head:

I really hope this doesn’t conduct other metals, like my bracelet.

No shock, just clamps in all the wrong places. Seriously, that’s not my heart. That hurts. And why do I have cables on my ankles – what the hell does that test? I don’t have cankles. I’m not a doctor, clearly. M.D. is not after my name for a reason, but this is weird. At least in the US doctors tell you what is going on.

No words, just clamps.

Ready, Set, You’re Here

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My bags were packed, I was ready to go – you know how that song goes, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Well, this time – it was real.

Light packer, but not all the essentials.

Reality didn’t set in until putting my feet on the ground in Shanghai.

With a jet lag induced state, I was ready for an adventure.

I had wanted change, I was ready to explore the world and excited about making a new life in a place I never even imagined traveling to – China.

I wouldn’t be doing it all by myself, as independent as I’d like to think, my boyfriend – Adam, already lived here for five and a half years. He’d make the transition easier. I’m not sure I could have done it alone, but I commend all those expats – like himself- who have done it. I’ll keep the love life portion, private – but I will say this:

It’s the best decision I’ve made.

The lights aglow, the city bustling – there’s a sense of excitement that there’s always something going on. The city never stops, time never sits still – and yesterday seems like four weeks ago.  It’s a pace I haven’t experienced. It is chaotic, but thrilling.

The Bund

After having a conversation with another expat (foreigner), he shared with me this insight:

“Living in China is like living in dog years, even though you’ve been here for one year, you’ve practically been here for seven.”

It seemed strange hearing that, considering I had just moved to Shanghai. Although, soon – I would understand that statement.