So yesterday, after a 4-hour 250 km/u train ride we arrived at Wuhan, where two university associates were waiting to take us back to campus by cab. Whereas traffic in Shanghai seemed to mostly consists of bicycles and disturbingly quiet electric scooter bikes, Wuhan appears to be the exact opposite. Traffic rules here seem to be solely based on honking frequency. Lane marking and pedestrian crossings are nothing but decoration. But despite all the frenzy, everyone in traffic seems surprisingly calm. Old folks slowly wander the roads, sometimes up against traffic without even flinching as cars, trucks and buses fly by in a never ending series of near-misses. Bikers stand motionless in the middle of a 5-lane road, waiting for a chance to making it just a little bit closer to the other side. They all seem to realize that sudden moves are lethal, so instead they just take their time. All this while, I was just hoping that my dysfunctional seatbelt would also prove unnecessary. Another thing that you cannot fail to notice is the massive amount of construction. No matter what part of the city you are in, or in which direction you're facing, you WILL see a sky-crane. Probably a couple. It is quite overwhelming.
After we got to the hotel, the two associates (Hu and Hoey) and our hostess at the university (Xiaofeng) took us out for dinner. It still surprises me to see people smoking inside here, even more so when I'm having dinner at the next table. Again, it’s strange to see how attached we grow to things that really do not come for granted at all. Anyway, the food was pretty good! I had beef noodles and a local beer that seems to be served at room temperature only. After dinner we bought a couple of things for the hotel room. Check this out! We bought two pair of flip-flops (for the shower), four 1.5 liter and fifteen 330ml bottles of water, and a box of Strawberry Cakes at the mind-blowing cost of … $3.50. No, that is not a type-O. Just. Wow.
The first night was fine. I tried out our "shower", which just consists of a shower head that is mounted on the bathroom wall. No curtain, just a drain in floor. And then there is the bed, which feels like a wooden plank that has been topped with about one inch of cushioning. Did I mention the mosquito nets? But they work great, and we do have air conditioning! I know this all sounds pretty negative, but I am just trying to describe everything as it is, sometimes in a uncomfortable amount of detail. Don’t worry mom, I'll be alright! I don't plan on spending most of my time in this room anyway :)
At 8AM this morning we were taken to a local dining hall, were we got to eat some deep-fried dough with veggies in them and Soy-milk. This was very tasty! A solid base for what was going to be a pretty long day! After breakfast, Hoey took us to have a first look in the research lab. They have a very impressive driving simulator, but more on that will follow in the next week, I'm sure.
A little bit later we were picked up by Linzhen. She also studies at Northeastern University in Boston, but Wuhan is her home. So she offered to take us around the city for some sightseeing. She openly confessed that she is terrified of driving here, so she brought her uncle along to take care of that. Indeed, he turned out to be a champ at that, proven by the fact that I'm writing this blog right now! We went to see the Yellow Crane Tower, which is one of Wuhan's most impressive sights. This is a beautiful tower that was originally built in the year 233, and has been completely destroyed and rebuilt for an astonishing 22 times since. Just take a look at the pictures, I will let those do the talking for now (you're welcome).