Saturday, July 2, 2011

The End

It’s hard to believe our first year in Shanghai is coming to a close.

We have a big paper on the wall that we’ve been writing our favorite and not so favorite things about living in Shanghai, China. Here is what we’ve discovered throughout the year:

Things we LIKE about living in Shanghai, China:

• ***No tax! (on any items or our income, our school pays our Chinese income tax)
• ***No tipping!
• ***Inexpensive to live here in general (unless you buy all imported/expat items)
• ***Can walk everywhere (my #1 personal favorite!)
• Great public transportation! Subways, taxis, buses
• Taxis are easy to get and are cheap (unless it’s raining)
• Can buy knock-off goods at Pearl City
• DVDs are sold on the street and are cheap
• The Mandarin language (it’s so logical…ask Joey and Hailey about this one)
• If you go out of your way to be friendly – the Chinese will be friendly back (but we must initiate friendliness first – they look out for “self” first – have to, it’s a cultural thing not to be taken personally)
• Chinese New Year is cool! Love all the fireworks!
• Love living up high on 16th floor – great view for fireworks, no bugs
• ***Love our ayi (maid – “auntie”) laundry, cleaning, cooking…
• Music on the sidewalk
• Neon lights everywhere!
• Soft toilet seat covers during winter
• Cool sunsets because of all the pollution (if you can see them between the high rises)
• Inexpensive haircuts/highlights (haircut = $3 - $8)
• Don’t need a car
• No Yard!
• ***Inexpensive massages
• Inexpensive manicures
• Inexpensive flowers
• Don’t need/use postage stamps
• Can download movie/songs for free on computers
• Inexpensive cell phone service – just buy minutes/data from local 7-ll each month ($15/month)
• Make good $ at our school (can save a lot each month/year)
• Good health care insurance coverage, decent health care services for basics
• Inexpensive teeth cleaning/dental work
• No guns allowed (not even the police have guns – only the military) Very safe to walk around at night/day = safe place to live
• Shanghai is a BIG city – the largest by population in the world; I’ve discovered that I love the BIG city and city living. (Who woulda thunk?!)

***Top 6 Favorites! (according to me – Anne)

Things that “BUG” us about Shanghai, China:

• ***Stinks like sewer
• People pee/poo on street/sidewalk/parks (the main reason it stinks like sewer)
• ***People hauk loogies/spit/farm blow nose a lot on sidewalk and in public places – no sense of “private/personal” business
• Boyfriend/girlfriends pop each other’s zits in public (subway/bus) (example of above)
• No sense of personal space – people get “too close”
• People cut in line (especially in front of Westerners)
• No traffic rules (or very “loose” rules that are very “different” than US rules) Buses are boss!
• ***Limited seatbelts in taxis (only in Expo taxis) (no car seats or helmets of any kind = uniformed, don’t know they are important and can save lives)
• Can’t drink the water (it’s not that it’s dirty, just that it has a lot of chemicals in it because it has to be clean because it was really dirty)
• Very little, if any, English spoken here (Thank God I am not afraid to play charades all the time! = BTW, it works most of the time)
• The Great Firewall of China! S L O W internet! Many blocked internet sites (Have to use an internet proxy called a VPN – Virtual Proxy Network - in order to access blocked sites like Facebook and uTube…it’s illegal so don’t tell on us, please)
• No stars (too much pollution)
• No skim milk (well, that comes from a cow and that I like the taste of…)
• No drinking age (18?) so our kids have had to make smart choices and have learned the meaning of peer pressure
• No bath tub (for us anyway)
• Poor heating & cement walls = very cold in winter
• Chinese eat very interesting animal parts and products – it’s quite fascinating, really - but not in my food pallet
• Not advanced Health care = need to go to Hong Kong or Bangkok for surgery or important tests
• Pollution!

***Top 3 for me.

Overall, we like more things about Shanghai than we dislike so all is well. I’ve also learned that a lot of how we view the city depends a lot on our attitude and remembrance to view the culture with fascination, not judgment. This will be remembered as the year I learned to EAT (Shanghai Dumplings), PRAY (for comfort, patience and courage), and LOVE (the Chinese culture and my new SCIS friends). My own personal story of EAT, PRAY, LOVE.

What am I most looking forward to doing in the US?

• Hugging my Mom and Dad and family
• Seeing friends, talking
• Taking a bath
• Drinking TONS of skim milk until I explode
• Eating Mexican food (any and all kinds)
• Eating Thai food (Thin Pan and the place near Walgreens)
• Eating Chinese food (American Chinese food is WAY different than Chinese Chinese food.)
• Purple Café and Wine Bar in Kirkland – baked Brie!
• A good cheeseburger (Red Robin?)
• Any home cooked food from anyone willing to cook
• Clean air!
• Blue sky (it better be blue!!!) and seeing stars at night
• Seeing Puget Sound, the Beach house, the still and quiet of the beach
• Seeing green, nature, flowers, smelling nature (Shanghai is nicknamed “The Concrete Jungle”- there sure is a lot of concrete)
• Taco Del Mar – make my own burrito! (Mexi again)
• Subway – BMT with ranch dressing! (No Ranch dressing in all of Asia)

Yes, lots of food items will be eaten. Can’t wait! Hope to see you soon. If you want to see us – we’d love to see you…just call the beach house…360-652-7770. We’ll be “home” July 3 – August 4.

P.S. We sold our Kirkland home last month so China is now our “home.” ☺

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

End of the Year

Fake beach with a view--$3 Anne and I got kicked out of the Marriott on a day off because a broken window's glass was blowing onto their pool deck. This is NOT the Marriott. Of course, the sun was behind clouds for the first time in a month....

Recycler with skills

When someone has a birthday party for their kid, they advertise--when you're only allowed one, it's special.

Chinglish garbage can. Also, this cool Lotus pond is in a park in the middle of the city. The people love the green.

I think this guy was selling this turtle for someone's soup. We took a 2 hr. train to see Nanjing's sights. One was an ex-leader's grave sight; up 300 stairs, after a 1/2 mile hike to the gate, which was closed, on a national holiday, and 500,000 others obviously thought it was open. We checked the web site, the paper, etc. beforehand. THIS is China!

This train could really move! And, here is the forbidden water, apparently. I took the photo at the top of a fountain. I think it's Chinglish for "Don't go in the water or else you could fall over the water fall and kill yourself, which of course would be your fault, so don't be stupid. You're in China."

The old meets the new all over the city. There is new construction 24/7.

This exit was looking like an entrance, but it headed down the hill away from the attraction. It's all very confusing at times.

See you soon!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Summer Has Arrived!

April 29 was a nice day on the Bund, the water front tourist magnet that has marvelous French Architecture and, as you can see, a fabulous view of Pudong. We live west of the river (Puxi) and east of the river is Pudong.

The second large sphere-looking observation area above Anne's head on the tower to the left, Pearl Tower, has plexiglass you can walk on-just like the one at the Grand Canyon! Holidays and weekends will bring a million people a day at the Bund.

Great costume on Easter for all the expats eating at their choice of 20 restaurants on the Pedestrian Walking Street. The bunny is just attached, if you can't tell.

There is a street called West Nanjing that ends at a huge park about a mile from the Bund; this large picture is the cross street. It turns into a pedestrian street-next picture-

where an average of a million people a day go shopping. That street, of course, is East Nanjing, which leads to the Bund. We have actually been here when it is much more crowded than this.

In the midst of this juxtaposition of sensibilities, you can sneak a quick left between a Bank of China and some rootie tootie department store to see some of the poverty that runs the day to day lives of the locals that work at the banks and department stores, clean the streets, and/or cook the myriad of street food that makes the rhythm of the streets hum.

This boat is just a ferry for $.30 to the other side of the river--Pudong. The people literally run onto the boat for a window seat. If you're in the way, you will gently get moved aside so someone more in tune with the nature of the beast will get the seat they want. This holds true at train ticket stations, banks, and grocery stores...

Or of course, you can just take a bit of a tour of the river on a tour boat. The water isn't exactly "clear", but you are on the river that leads to the Pacific. Unlike the rivers in Washington, this one had origins thousands of miles west.

Enjoy the many scenes of the city! I'll help you with some of the oddities Ü

This city bus has an extension that pops up at a recharging station before continuing on its runs.

As you can see, seatbelts and child safety is 50 years behind. We often see one or two toddlers-6 year olds standing on the floorboard of scooters while Mom or Dad drive, without helmets of course.

This city migrant worker moves from apartment compound to compound offering his services, sharpen any knives or tools you might have. He's just taking a break under a bush, on what is a pretty busy street.

This rollercoaster has a 90 degree drop. It stops for dramatic effect when the first two rows of people hang facing the ground!

This store, Hersheys, is a favorite hangout for Joey and Hailey. There's a restaurant on the second floor. The whole mall is pretty amazing. You get off the subway and there's Carl's Jr., Pizza Hut, Häagen-Dazs, and lots of other western restaurants.

Buy enough rolls and you get nail clippers free!

We went on a hike one day by a huge sculpture park, and this type of hazard was commonplace!

Nice spring day, so why not just get on the jammies and go play with the kids in the park! Wearing pajamas in public, along with having a dog, is a sign of wealth here. This guy has some extra shiny silk ones, just to strut his stuff.

This is the park across the street from our apt. Ours is 3rd from the top on the right. The spring colors are great. Ladies line dance in the morning and evening. It's a real community gathering place in the evening. When the weather's warm, there's a couple of hundred people there from 6-10.

There are employees of various apartment compounds and/or businesses that hire someone to be their parking attendant. They shoo away cab drivers from waiting in parking spots, literally direct drivers when parallel parking-which I'm sure is not something taught here, and are given some small token amount to "watch" patrons or tenants' car or scooter/moped. This guy needs a full view of 4 streets and so he just parks himself in the middle of an intersection!

I still can't get over this clothing company's name. It's the ultimate in "Chinglish".
I only know a few friends that would be so deserving to wear this shirt and be part of the Royal Club.

Anne and I saw a guy starting to clip a hedge in front of an apt. building, and noticed his extension cord system--really? THIS, is China!

I'll end with this cute children's wear. How sweet for this little punkin!

It's been a wild and wacky year. See you in July!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thailand "Vacation"

It sure was an interesting trip. Joey and Hailey got quite an eyeful; I've decided not to enlighten everyone with all of the cultural differences, but some of them are sure worth a look Ü As you can see, this woman's backpack and hat have been around for hundreds of years. This is the great part of the culture that lives with all the technology, traffic, and poverty.

The streets of Bangkok come alive at night; especially in the expat/touristy areas. When we stepped outside of our hotel, which had a "Manchester United" restaurant/sports bar, you could head across the street to a big Aussie restaurant, or sit down at a chair and table on the sidewalk and eat the street vendors' food. There were ATM's, two 7-11's, live music at local restaurants, a backpacker hostel with more ambience than I can ever remember seeing when I was on the circuit, lady boys, and alleys with every kind of food you can think of, and of course massage parlors every 10 meters. The main streets were virtually impossible to see, except at the corners, as the street vendors turn the sidewalks into tunnels. On both sides, goods are plastered everywhere. You could buy anything from the brass knuckles Joey bought to tasers to Gucci handbags. As you can see (there's another shot at the bottom of the page) one guy turned his van into a pop out bar! Anything you want to drink for about $2. He lit up the street, disco ball included. The ladies of the night loved being a part of his glitz and glitter.

Like China, motorcycles, mopeds, and bikes can use the sidewalks. Bangkok Post delivers to your doorstep!

On one of our touristy days, we went to the King's Palace, which was adjacent to the Emerald Buddha Temple. The temple and all the buildings around it are amazingly elaborate in architectural design and intricate tiling. It was about 95 degrees that day, so we could only hang out in the huge compound for an hour or so..

This is a shot of the front page of the newspaper. There were devastating rains in southern Thailand just before we arrived. The government brought out the soldiers to help clear the roads from massive slides etc. It was just mind boggling to realize that it was all being done with brooms made of heavy, think plant stalks. China's streets are cleaned all day with the same gear. As a matter of fact grass clippings are swept up with these types of brooms. They look like they'd be completely ineffective, but work just as well as any broom made in America!

Sorry some of these pictures aren't ordered better. I'm usually just picking and choosing from a long list. Anyway, one of our adventures took us to this snake show. People warned us that the animal venues wouldn't be on any animal lovers list of places to see, due to how they are treated. The snake master had already captured two vipers, which he's holding in each hand, and now he was ready to catch one with his mouth-he was successful. Later huge-10 foot, fast moving snakes with rows of razor sharp teeth trying to eat their handlers for lunch. After they were caught, they showed the audience the teeth and drained the venom into a glass. It was fascinating. Apparently the handlers train with snakes from a very young age.

When we were at the river, Anne spotted some fun shoes. They were unique and colorful and cheap, so she bargained, but to no avail. Later, of course, we saw the very same ones in many other shops on the street, for less. It's amazing how the exact goods in little stores and on vendors' tables, hours drive away from each other, just keep showing up.

We aren't sure how or where it happened. It could have been food, water from the Floating Market splashing him in the face, or just forgetting to use a straw when drinking a Coke from some vendor. Joey has a fever and was suffering from G.I. problems for a day, didn't look well, couldn't eat or drink etc. Fortunately, we were 5 min. from a fabulous medical center that we had all gotten physicals at just two days prior. We had his hospital card, check him in, and had him hooked up to an I.V. in 15 minutes, got some anti-biotics, and the next day he was feeling great! Thankfully, our insurance covered everything. The hospital was terrific, but the juxtaposition of sensibilities, having Ronald McDonald INSIDE the healthy living center INSIDE the hospital, was quite a jolt to the brain!

They don't mess around with their warnings if you want to buy cigars. Every type of cigar basically says that if you buy this, you are risking gross deformity, cancer, and/or death. The photos are gruesome!

Ok, this is where cost, cheap labor, poverty, and an over abundance of manpower ends up with men and women heating up asphalt (or not on 95 degree days) and carefully pounding out a pattern with a hammer and a bent piece of rebar. It was interesting looking at something that seemed so third world in the middle of a fairly well developed part of the city.

While walking today, Anne and I saw the police drive up toward a DVD seller on the street. The sellers are all over the place. We don't know why police target some areas on certain days, and then you may not see the big white truck that collects illicit material for weeks, unless they just decide on a big cash penalty on the spot. The poor 25 year old guy saw them approach his DVD filled 3 wheeler flat bed. He panicked and tried to instantly push his cart away from the police that were chasing him. Of course, he only got 20 yards. We didn't stick around to wait for the outcome: arrest, confiscation, cash penalty. It can take a short period or up to an hour. The seller's face looked like his world was ending. There was fear, grief, sadness, and pannick on his face, all at the same time. We continued down the street into what is the much more busy part of town, next to the huge shopping mall known as Carrefour. Those stores are all over SE Asia. Anyway, after grabbing a Starbucks, we noticed the cell phones going off and the sellers yapping at each other. All eyes were on the street that we came from. 99 days out of 100, the two blocks between us and Carrefour are teeming with vendors and sellers: Corn, sweet potatoes, hats, hair products, jewelry, beggars, perfumes, baskets, reproduced books and CD's. Well, by the time we started down to do some grocery shopping, the place was a desert. No sign of anyone selling anything. I'm certain that the police continued to the next main street to the west where there is a large mall that doesn't sell anything other than knock offs. We've seen how quickly the word spreads and stores shut down. Goods disappear from sight and lights go out. There are lots of rules/laws that are ignored, and no one cares on a daily basis; even the police. But for one reason or another, the political wheels start spinning, and we then see soldiers marching on the street, police appearing to be stationed on random street corners, raids, and people arrested without reason. Even real estate salespeople have to stop handing out fliers in front of enormous compounds. They back off 20 feet, show some submission, wait for the police to move along, then continue doing what they always do. Those young pavement pounders loiter in front of every desirable compound in the city 16 hours/day. Somehow, it all seems to work for everybody. No one will worry about it tomorrow. Life goes on. Everyone seems to have work. The people have great attitudes, the parks are full, everyone's busy, and the sun shines Ü