Tuesday, March 22, 2011


What is the meaning of “home”? This is a tricky, confusing, and delicate subject among some people. Is your “home” where you were born? Your country of origin? The country of your passport? Where you are now? Where your family lives? Where your parents live? Where your children are? Where your heart is? Where you hang your hat?

Can “home” change? Does it go with you if you move or does it stay back somewhere? Is home a place? A house? An address? A country? A city?
Is it a feeling? A state of being? A people or a person?

When I lived in Kirkland, WA and if someone asked me where “home” was – I would say my address – “221 8th Ave. West.” (Side Note: We are currently selling this house if you want to buy it.) If they didn’t want my actual house number, then I may say the city that I lived in – “Kirkland.” If that didn’t make sense, I’d say the city I was born in – “Everett.” All those places were “home” to me. At least they were all in the same state and even the same country. If I was out of state - “Washington” was home. Out of the country – “the USA” was home. But now, I don’t live in the US anymore. Once we officially sell our house, it won’t be our house anymore either. SO, where is “home”? Is it here in Shanghai, China?

I was surprised at how quickly our small modest apartment could become like home. Does it “feel” like “home”? Yes. Does it “look” like “home”? Sure. Is it “home”? I guess so. I don’t really need it to be, and I don’t want to grab onto it as “home” out of fear because it has to be or else I don’t really have a home which would leave me “homeless” and that wouldn’t feel very comfortable. If China is not “home”, then is it back in Kirkland or Everett or Tulare Beach or Maui? I asked Doug a few months ago where “home” was to him, he said after some thoughtful moments… “here”. How quickly we adapt.

Maybe it depends on how you define “home”. Where is my soft place to fall? Here. Where is my family? Here. Where is my address? Here. Where do I hang my hat? Here. Where is my heart? AAAHHH>>>>here, BUT it’s also back in Washington state with my parents, sister, family and friends. It’s in Colorado with my brother and his family…it’s in California with my friends…it’s in…

The “heart” piece of “home” is going to get really confusing as I am falling in love with new friends and they are going to live all over the world in the next few years. I’m already starting to miss them and they haven’t gone anywhere. A matter of fact, they are just in the building next door and across the courtyard, and down the block. (And I was worried about making new friends…HA! – just took some time, energy, patience, fun times, a little tequila, and love.) If “home” is where my heart is then I’m going to have a lot of homes.

I see the concept of “home” is confusing to my students as they often have many. Dad is from France; Mom is from Holland, born in England, lived in Thailand, Singapore, and Japan, but lives in China now. Where is “home” for kids like these? In all those places? None of those places? A little bit in all of those different countries and cities and houses?

A friend shared with me that “home” to her is where her immediate family was. They are in Bangkok now, so that is “home” because they are currently living there. Another friend told me that her “home” is wherever her mother lives since she, herself, is constantly moving around the world, teaching.

I used to think that my definition of home could not change and had to stay in one place, but I think I’ll take it with me as I travel. If my “home” does not come with my family and me, then it will always be somewhere that I am not. I don’t think I like that feeling. I think I would be perpetually “homesick” or “away from home” which could be unsettling. However, at the same time – I realize that I am a guest in the country that I live in. It could be a “host country” or I could be a “long time visitor” or I could call it a “temporary home.” Especially here in China, I am reminded that I am a guest on a daily basis and need to act as one to keep myself here. If I make myself an unwanted guest – I could be sent packing…back “home”?

This is my blog. I get to write about my definition of home, but I know that this is such a personal subject to each of us. Where is “home” to you? Where you are now? Where you were born? Your country of origin? Where your parents live? Where you grew up? If you moved from where you live now – would “home” go with you or stay back?

For now, “home” is Shanghai, China because it’s where Joey and Hailey sleep. Before I know it, that will change and I will have to change my definition of “home” yet again. Until then, my home is here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13--It's warmin' up!

Anne just had to roll up her sweats today as we sat sipping' a mocha at Starbucks. 60 degrees or so and clear skies (or some facsimile thereof). No one here really likes the sun. If you get tanned, you look like you're a street worker. If you just show some skin to cool down and/or tan, you look like you're trying to draw attention to yourself. Police were lookin' at her, locals were craning their necks, and of course, the street workers.

We went down the street to shop a bit before getting back to our report cards when we saw a car try to squeeze in, to take a left, a bit early. He crunched the side of a taxi. It occurred to us that most everyone just decides then and there how much it'll cost to get fixed-especially if it's obvious who was at fault. Money is exchanged, and I think the car that gets dented must make a bee line to the nearest body shop. I don't think we can remember EVER seeing a car with a dent. Crazy driving and no dents; go figure. I love it when the lights turn green in big intersections and I'm in a cab that needs to turn left. By rule, those turning left, ironically, have the right-a-way. When the lead car goes 3-5 trailing the play use that lead car as the screener and take a 45 degree angle into the cross street while all the on-coming cars wait a bit. No horns, no crashes, no problem. That's probably another reason for no dents--you always expect the unexpected.

Now how about the cardboard recycling truck that loads up after all the 3 wheelers deliver broken down cardboard boxes to the local center. Do you think a piece or two might fall out on the long freeway trek?

Joey and Hailey went to the big Usher concert here last night. It was much anticipated and was reported by the kids to be a pretty good show. Joey's friend couldn't wait to get a shirt. You have to try shirts of any size on here in China, as the listed size usually is arbitrary and means nothing. XL wouldn't fit Joey, and he's a large at best. Anyway, his friend found one for sale outside the venue, but before buying it, Joey wanted to note that it said, "Usher" "Beijing 2010". Perfect example of how you need to shop in Shanghai. One-they wanted $7-10 U.S. at first, but all of us locals know that if something's on the street, you bargain, and/or just "know" the price. This price was to be 10 RMB, or what is $1.25. Two-wrong year. Three-Usher has never been to Beijing. It sounds like a valuable collector's item in the U.S. Here, it's just English.

Joey said that there was guards at the concert that were hired to spy on all potential photographers, which wasn't allowed, and blind them with high powered green lasers-you know, the ones that are blinding pilots miles in the air, that you can buy here for 3 dollars-until you put your camera away. But just one or two guards had them! Clever stuff for a 12,000 seat arena...It made me think of the 15 soldiers that were marching in the neighborhood early this a.m. Not really making that mark among the 15000 that could step out of their apartments, within a 3 block radius, and quickly fill the streets, making them appear to be a sliver in the wood pile.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Real Shanghai

Sooo, on the street, we often see jewelry, hats, toilet seat covers, books, corn, phone charge cards, CDs, sweet potatoes, strawberries, street meat, DVDs, but today, we stumbled upon some tiger paws and claws that could easily be hack sawed off for any type of creative necklace you could imagine. Or, just use some of the marrow from the bones in your tea to improve your health. I don't think tigers grow in China, but hey, this just proves that you can get ANYTHING in China. You just have to find out where to get it. I'm also pretty sure this would be illegal, along with underaged drinking, prostitution, copyright violations, and spitting. All of these things aren't really paid much attention by the authorities, unless of course it somehow gets into the local media.
The whole day to day, still, after 7 months is still intriguing, shocking, hilarious, fun, amazing etc. These subway pics are from one of my newest experiences; heading to a basketball game (Shanghai Sharks-they have one or two ex-NBA guys, that can only play 3 quarters here) at 5:30 at night, needing to make a few connections on the subway, one or two in some very busy parts of town. Anyway, it was shocking to approach this sea of humanity and see that they were all waiting patiently in line. Most places have more of the cultural flare and complete disregard for personal space, they cut in line at will. I get it why they cut, you get to where you want to be and go to where you want to go because that may be the only way you're going to get there.

We ended up, literally, 25 people deep. You've got to realize that these subways are over 200 feet long. The place was packed. The doors open, and it's like a syphon pouring into the train. I've only seen it in Tokyo. People finding every nook and cranny, pushing to squeeze their backsides past the doors. Everyone sees where the point of no return is and that's where the next person just waits for the next train. At that point, there's about 5 people in line, but soon extends back to 20 or so. A friend told me it was going to be like this, but I thought there was a bit of exaggeration....nope!

Sharks win comfortably in front of 3000 or so out of a possible 8-9000. The ticket booth was smaller than our bathroom. $20. They recently installed a concession stand in the fairly modern building-What is Yao Ming thinking? Aren't they supposed to try to make some money? No hats, shirts, hot dogs (oops, "sausage"), etc. other than popcorn, candy, and a warm can of beer, that they pour in front of you for $1.20 (they ran out by half-time). I can't remember the name of the famous guard from Oklahoma State that really lit it up for them....maybe because they don't have programs or rosters....good shooting display by both teams, which was fun. John Lucas' kid....he ran up the back of all those 6'7"-6'10" guys all night long. Speed kills, I know, as I've been dead since seeing it first hand at age 18.

This here, is what Anne and I saw as we walked by a popular spa that lots of teachers frequent to get their hair "done" or get a massage. It is what we see on a daily/weekly basis. It could be a remodel, a new business, or a makeover. You never really know until later. Somehow, all of the city worker bees find, get called/notified, sniff out where businesses are gutting property, and they sort and recycle materials onto their individual 3 wheelers until the frames bend. They will then pedal towards the recycle station until they can't move the load, then they'll continue on foot with ropes around their shoulders. It is amazing to see their will and determination in the midst of their smiles. It's a tough way to live, I'm sure.

I just had to put this in--one of the things that make us feel comfortable here. Coincidentally, I had to teach customary (95% of the world uses metrics, of course) units the next week. I have 2 kids from North America, and they recognized many of the terms/measures, but still didn't really understand it; the numbers really are ridiculous! Well, everything you see at a Starbucks in the States (except the food choices), shows up here in Shanghai-I doubt the reciprocal is true. Let me know if you want a "Shanghai" Starbucks mug! I had to laugh when I saw these mugs. No one knows what the numbers are for, they can't read English, so they can't say, "ounces", and there's no connection for short, tall, grande, and/or venti--Joey wants all to know that venti means 20 in Spanish...it's the same for me when a vendor on the street shows me Chinese characters representing prices for what they're selling. I have no idea what he's talking about! I say, "Wo ting bu dong!" (I don't understand)

Anne and I were shopping for Lamborghinis last week and we couldn't decide between the stylish green or spicy butter yellow. Fortunately there was a Rolls Royce dealer right next door. The newer hip versions really make you think about about practicality and safety. We're going to hold off for awhile as we are clearly conflicted. We're gonna head back to West Nanjing Rd. where we can compare Porche, Mercedes, Ferrari, and the newest Aston Martins all within a rock throw of each other. It's cool how they have their flagship stores inside hotels like Hyatts.