Keeping up appearances in China is completely and totally unnecessary. Here, newly arrived, people could reinvent themselves however they wished. There was no longer a need to maintain any false pretenses and you possessed no obligation of allegiance to your former self. Here in China, we could all start over and be anyone we wished to be. It was a place for new beginnings.
As I pondered my new reality in this ancient country I now unexpectedly found myself in, I suddenly feel the phone in my pocket begin to buzz. I check my device and see I have two new messages. The first is directions to my accommodations for the evening– I’d been put up in Building 67 which, according to the map, contained the guest dormitories which was conveniently several buildings down from the cafeteria. And the second message is a meeting notice– I’ve been summoned to a gathering that’ll be held tomorrow at nine o’clock in Building 11, a small laboratory tucked away in the southwest corner of the campus. When I tell Erin about my newly assigned agenda, she raises an eyebrow.
“Building 11 just finished its renovations, last week,” she says. “I didn’t even know it was back open yet.”
“I thought this entire complex is new,” I say. “Isn’t it early for renovations?”
“Well, there was a horrible explosion last month,” Erin explains. “A terrible accident. I was over in Building 22 and had felt the ground shake from there.”
I frown. “There was an explosion? We’re in an office park. How on earth does that happen?”
“I dunno. But anyway, nothing to worry about, I’m sure.”
We finish up our dinner, chat a bit more, and then decide to call it a night. It’s getting late and I’m totally wiped. It’s been a long day. Before parting ways, Erin and I bump our phones to trade contact info. It takes me a moment fumbling around with my device before I finally get to the right screen to make the whole wireless exchange of bits and bytes work. But seriously, it’s the dumbest-looking thing I can imagine; I can’t believe this is how kids nowadays interact.
“It sounds like some kinda grotesque sex act,” I grumble. “Seriously? ‘Phone bumping?’ Please come ‘bump my phone?’ What the hell ever happened to business cards? Do you kids even know what those are? Honestly, this entire world’s gone mad.”
“Get used to it, old man,” Erin scoffs, when she hears my grumblings. “It’s the 21st century. Something called technology.”
Later that night in my guest dormitory (a simple room with a small twin-sized bed and desk; nothing fancy), I fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow. My first full day in China had come to a close. What would the next day bring?