Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hi again all,

Feels like forever that I'm vented/spit out/shared some of the amazing experiences of Shanghai. Let's see, I finally got a chance to seriously adventure off the beaten path, albeit it's only 7 minutes from my apt., and head into one of the local neighborhoods. Now you've got to rethink...if you venture into a gated area with a guard hut, surrounded by 6-10 seven story apts., all of which all have their own gates, that have small pathways between them that allow a walking/biking path-if you know where they are, you have then entered a "neighborhood." The neighborhood's will often have every kind of store (10' x 15' on avg.) you can find on the main roads, along with 10' x 5' hardware stores, hair salons, fruit shops, restaurants-some scary, some adventurous, others...good...maybe...if I knew what to order or what some of the options were for the noodle soup. Hey, I'm done with pork knuckle tendons so I'm picky. Annyyy freakin' way, the neighborhoods also have wet markets. I hadn't actually seen one till last weak. Wow, Pike Place Market on steroids with no conscience. You can buy anything filleted; it's just fish, recently killed, and many that are still swimming or in a bag huffing and puffing around. The beef-mostly pork-is waiting to get the cleaver: raw, boiled, steamed, fried, seared, frozen, and there are no prices to be found. The veggies look very good. Everyone selects their own by handling each and every one. I calculated that each piece of fruit and veg are touched 7000 times per hour. If you set your mind to it, you can visualize the viruses interacting, having sex, and creating super viruses. We have a large bottle of vegetable/fruit disinfectant. I went through for the second time today and was astounded by what I ran into immediately upon entering. There was a guy about 25 yrs. old pointing to a cloudy glass encasing under the counter. The guy in the Nike t-shirt yanks out 2 live chickens. I took a closer gander at where they'd come from--OMG, there were 30 birds crammed into a space that may be deemed cruel by 100% of any animal lover on the planet. The cashier bound each chicken's feet with a specially tagged wire, tossed them into the weigh scale-digital I might add-and determines the $7 price, and then upon agreement, hands them to Frank. Well, he looked like a Frank. Frank inspects the binding, flips the first bird's neck into his thick fingers, and then out of nowhere his boning knife appears-I don't think it was a Henckel-and he slowly, as if hoping to spy the moment the blood spurts out, slices the throat just halfway open. I don't know, it must be part of the blood letting. But after this careful incision, he literally tosses it into a 20 gallon vat of bubbling oil. 2 minutes, then remove with tongs and give it to Alice. She has the big spoon and stirs them up until she's convinced that most all of the feathers have either burned off or been rubbed away. 3 minutes more and Johnny dips them in the good grease for a minute, bags 'em up, and they're ready for the Harvest Moon Festival celebration.

Later today, Anne decided we had to go to the hospital. Doc Brown from New Orleans thinks she developed some secondary bacterial infection from whatever her Imodium AD and Lomotil wouldn't clear up. Antibiotics is the cure all here too. While filling in paperwork, Anne had to give them history; you know, heart disease, cancer, typhoid, etc. and in the middle of the pack was "Bad Breath", I kid you not...I asked the nurse if she could give us the answer.

On a lighter note, I went to a technology learning conference in Pudong over the weekend. I filled out huge applications last spring in hopes of being able to go, to give me a jump in learning more about the Smartboard I was selected to receive in my room-it's an interactive white board for those that need to know-and share some of the ways the rest of Asia was using it in their classrooms; I mean surely our school must be on the cutting edge! Smartboards(I used a similar ActivBoard every day last year for 2-3 hrs./day, document cameras, overhead projectors installed in the ceiling of my room, decent big screen, 6-12th grades are one to one with new Mac laptops, multiple rolling carts full of Mac laptops for classroom use. This could be fun! The week before I leave, the portable carts are dead/dormant, 2 computer labs have not been running yet, the projector in my ceiling has been transferred to the music room along with my big screen, and I was left with a cheap document camera that hooks upto an LCD monitor in the front of the room. Anyway, I did come away with a FABULOUS list of technology tools for teachers, that are available on the Net. If you'd like the list, provided with descriptors and links, just shoot me an email and it's yours. Lots of geek man hours went into finding, filtering, and organizing them into categories. Let me know!

We thought about buying the cat. Too much hair-we almost adopted a cat that was hanging in front of our apt. bldg., but it disappeared before we could keep it from being mistaken as chicken. Anyway, the tiny little pet store wouldn't bargain down from $450 US!!!!!!! NO cat is that cute!

zai jian--dg ;)

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I am sick with the nasty Shanghai flu. I am currently in bed with my computer which I didn't know had a VPN account on it so now I can use it to access our blog. (Joey just told me!) Yeah, now I can blog in my bedroom where it is quiet instead of in the front room where the main computer and TV are both located. No one got Joey's nasty cold, but now I have introduced some nasty bug into our 16th floor flu bug; haven't slept for three days straight in a long time. Crazy way to lose weight; I just may try a bathing suit on tomorrow, I feel so skinny.

I've been asking around about the long pinky fingernail and the long thumb nail. The answer that I have gotten for the explanation for the long pinky nail is that the men use it to pick the ears. I have not found out the reason for the long thumb, to pick the nose? I didn't even think to Google it - Down in the comments Gwen says she found out it was a way of showing others that you don't have a manual labor job, that makes sense. I'll keep asking around.

On Friday, I was particularly cranky at work. My poor students could do no right and I was uptight. Come to find out I had a 100 degree fever and was starting to get the flu. As I was walking home from work by myself (Doug was at a technology conference in Pudong) at 5 PM, feeling so lousy, so tired I didn't know if I would make it home without fainting or having to sit on the urine filled sidewalk to rest, I started thinking all kinds of nasty negative thoughts about everyone I saw and everything I smelled. Tears were starting to well up in my eyes as I prayed that I would just make it home to a husband with a waiting hug, when God said to me, "Walk through the park." "No, I know I usually walk through the park, but I'm so sick and tired - it will take a whole minute longer, I don't want to today." He said, "Do it, you'll be glad you did." "No, really I don't want to today. I feel so sick." "Go," He said. "Oh, all right - I'll go, but this better be good because I'm at the end of my rope." "You'll be glad you did. You will see something that will make you smile." (Editor's Note: There was only one thing that was going to make me smile at that moment, besides a big soft bed and a cold gatorade...someone had left a little kids bike in our apartment when we moved in. It had been sitting on our patio for weeks and finally a couple days ago we carried it to the park across the street from our apartment (where the ladies dance) and placed it in the middle of the park in hopes that someone would take it and use it. IF I saw a little kid riding the bike that we dropped off - YES, that would have made me smile and it would have been worth the walk through the park when I felt so terrible. BUT NO! That did not happen! Read on....) So, I turn into the park and start looking around at the small children and their grandparents playing with them, not too many kids in the park, too early for the ladies to dance, not much going on..."Keep looking," He said. "I am, I am..." As I was nearing the end of the walkway of the park kind of happy that I had proved God wrong and had "won" our little battle of wills... I saw it.
I saw what he wanted me to see and I never would have if I hadn't walked through the park. It was a grandmother lovingly holding her granddaughter over a hole in the ground so she could poop. She had removed a green cover to a small "man hole" which revealed a pipe directly to the sewer. This is a toilet hole that one can use when needing to relieve oneself. I looked around and saw more green "man hole" covers in various places in the park. No outhouses or public restrooms, but just pipes that lead directly to the sewer for your convenience. No wonder people sleep in the park! No need to go anywhere else. No wonder so many kids playing there for hours. I can't believe that I hadn't seen it before. One would need to be careful, a small child could fall directly into the sewer. No wonder grandparents are so carefully watching their grand babies...always within arms reach. "See, " said God, "funny, huh?" "Yes, you were right...again." :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

River Rafting

Hi Friends and Family!
Correction: I wrote about the homeless men who sleep on the street each night. I found out a couple days ago that they are not homeless after all. They are migrant construction workers that live in the "shanti" area down the street. I guess their little cement block houses are so hot to sleep in that they prefer to sleep on the sidewalk. That makes sense now...they gather and talk on their mats, smoke a cig, some read with a flashlight and are gone early in the AM - off to work to one of the many construction sites.
OK, on to our River Rafting Adventure...Last Saturday we woke up early, got on a big bus (with no bathroom) for a three hour ride to Hangzhou with a bunch of other teachers and their kids. (150 people from all three campuses) We stopped once at some squattie potties along the way. We also bought some Chinese snacks - Pringles and sweet potato chips. Yum! It was fun looking out the window and talking with teachers near our seats. Hangzhou is beautifully green - countryside with lots of trees. As pretty as it is; I'm really glad we live in Shanghai. I'm more of a city girl than I realized. I LOVE walking everywhere -kind of like Kirkland x 1,000 (with no water and a lot more urine). Once we arrived at the river (don't remember the name)we jumped on some bamboo carts pulled by water oxen (or buffalo??) which took us down to the river. Everyone got a life jacket - made in China - with a few broken straps and one size fits all. (I was surprised they had life jackets at all...quote from Hailey "I love this place (China), there are no rules anywhere." Yikes.) Since it was another nice hot day we we happily walked onto our bamboo raft and took a seat on the bench. From this point on it was one big water gun fight. So strange and funny...the Chinese LOVE to play and play silly! Yes, there were 150 of us, but lots of other Chinese families and friends floating down this lazy river (hoping not to get Guardia) all spraying water at each other with cheap water guns. It was a hoot! Our raft rocked! With Joey and Hailey at the head - we were a force to be reckoned with! I was laughing so hard and trying to keep my mouth closed the whole time so I wouldn't get water in my mouth and get sick, all while being super spayed in the face. Got lots of river water everywhere far, so good - no sickness. (Joey does have a cold...or maybe it's not a cold after all. Just joking - it's a cold, Mom. He's fine. :)) We went down a couple little "waterfalls" all guided by our Chinese gondolier with a bamboo pole. Once we arrive at the end of the ride; we were greeted by big hamster balls that you can go inside and try to run around on the river. We bargained and both kids got a try for a couple bucks. After that we had a BBQ, went up in a hot air balloon ride (well, Joey did) and Hailey and I rode horses...all for a couple bucks. It was like some sort of Chinese amusement park - haunted house, carnival atmosphere...all in the middle of the trees - very commercial and silly - but fun. We were soaked the whole time and did not bring any cameras/phones due to the wet river ride, so we don't have any pictures to prove our crazy day is fact. We just used some soggy money to play. Long bus ride home - all fell asleep, stopped at the squatties again - and back home to scrub, shower, sanitize every part of our body. What a fun day!
****Question of the day: Why do many Chinese men, especially taxi drivers, have a super long thumb nail and pinky nail...they all do. What's up with that? I will find out and let you know.
*****Another question of the day: Can we just take the "apartment cat" from outside and will no one care? (We'd take it to the vet first...he/she is a real lover kitter!?!?)
OK - off to bed. Work is crazy busy and I don't want to talk about it. We love our principal and all is well - we just feel "behind the eight ball" since we could only get into our room a couple days before school started...having to make up for lost time in the classroom, but would rather just play all day. xo Prayer Request: Healing for Joey and hope that no one else gets his nasty cold. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Living the Dream

Hi Fabulous Family and Friends,
School was canceled at 10 PM last night due to the approaching typhoon. We all did the happy dance to celebrate a day off in the middle of the week. Joey and I then headed to school to get my computer that I left there and some "school stuff" to do at home while we hunkered down during the typhoon. We weren't sure we could get in at 10:15 PM, but we thought it was worth a try. As we approached the guard booth, we noticed the only gate into our school compound/campus was closed, but NOT locked - the guard let me pass after passing my electronic ID card over the scanner and we were on the campus in the dark. Our buildings are never locked, there are no security alarms, but the guards are always there - about 8 of them. When I asked if there was a security alarm, I was informed that there was high security on the campus, in the form of the school cats. There are a few SCIS cats that hang around all day and are the "mascots"; they have had their shots so we can all pet them without fear of getting rabies or some nasty disease. You know we all love the school cats. Hailey wants to take them home, along with the cat outside our apartment complex.
While walking home from school, we passed by the homeless men settling in for the night on the sidewalk near the park (where the ladies dance). They lay out mats, have little pillows and sleep in their shorts. While we passed, one took a leak on the sidewalk down stream from his mat. He didn't seem to mind that Joey and I had to jump over his stream. Gotta love this place!
We all went to bed knowing that we got to sleep in - found out about 9 AM when we checked our email the next morning that we were asked to report to work, just in case any kids came. OOPS! Missed that midnight email - we rushed to school to find no children and teachers given the day to plan/prep with free coffees from the Cafe and free lunch for the inconvenience of coming to work. Gee Whiz, what an inconvenience - going to work and getting paid for it. Oh, the typhoon never came - it was 90 and sunny! A snow day with no snow...we all know those days. (Note: the storm has hit now - so fun to watch the lightening and super heavy rain...maybe no school again tomorrow???)
The kids got to sleep in (well, they tried to sleep in...there is construction going in the apartment upstairs) and spent the day with their peeps. Joey has started a group of "teacher kids" - it's a special club and they have their hang out at "Frankie's" - it's a 50's style restaurant like on Happy Days. Their club has a day called "McWednesdays" where they all go to Mcdonald's and get Mcflurries. Today was McWednesday all day. They had a ball. The other three girls are Australian (but two just came from Gahana).
After being blessed with a work day without students, Doug and I headed home to chill and run the stinky stairs of our apartment building. (18 flights with the faint or not so faint hint of urine in the cement stairwell) It was fun to run the stairs (or walk them in my case) during the storm with the lightening lighting up the stairwell. What a treat to look out over Shanghai and see the city lights while sweating to my music. After sweating, Doug and I went downstairs in the rain to have a salad at the European Bistro at the bottom of our complex. (The bistro is a bit expensive since much is imported...we spent 13 dollars for our two salads, bread and drinks.)
On our way back from dinner, we noted the gushing water coming out of the manhole...we looked closer...what was that white stuff? Is that really toilet paper all over the sidewalk? Yes, the large gushing water, making the huge flood on the side walk was full of toilet paper...yikes,it WAS the sewer and I was wearing flip flops - the "water" got on my feet!!! So I know why you never wear your shoes in the house. (I hand sanitized my feet when I got home.)
Time for bed now, it's curriculum Night tomorrow - can't wait to meet more of the parents of my students. I do a 25 minute presentation two times. I'm as ready as I can be, thanks to our "no snow, snow day" today.
Oh, we are going to fire our Ayi (maid) tomorrow - she sure doesn't clean like Valentina did. We decided we would meet with her today and teach her how to clean our home before letting her go, but she never showed up for work today. She threw Joey's retainer away and doesn't know how to iron which is very important, as we don't have a dryer and hang all our laundry in the enclosed lanai area. Everything gets very crispy and in this humidity, takes a long time to dry. The bathroom mats have been out for over two days now. We definitely will spend more time front loading and showing the new maid exactly what and how to do it - so she will be successful, just like our students. :)
I hear the cockroaches come out after the rain so I look forward to finding a few around school. There was one in the bathroom last week and one in my classroom. When I discovered the one in the bathroom, I did a little "yelp" and pointed it out to a student...She said, "What? that cockroach? Oh, they come out all time after it rains, it's no big deal Mrs. G." Ok, no big deal; I'll remember that tomorrow when they want to join my math lesson.
Prayer Requests: Protection as we cross any and all streets :)
Love to you all - take care - thanks for supporting our dream. I was told today that we are in the "honeymoon" phase of living abroad, we think every and all things are interesting and cool - I hope this honeymoon phase lasts forever... xoxo Anne