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Friday, April 30, 2010

Picked Pocket

It had to happen sooner or later. I had just gotten money from the ATM in the middle of People's Square, the bustling center of downtown Shanghai. I normally carry my wallet in my front pocket, but this time I clipped it to the inside of my backpack. They got about $50, but since the wallet was anchored, they didn't get my bank cards. Count my blessings. I hope that guy's happy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Ma!

Hope you had a great day!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blue Skies!

I can't remember that last time I saw the sky in Shanghai. It's been overcast almost every day since I got here in January. Too bad I have to work inside today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

National Day of Mourning: Earthquake in Qinghai

April 21st was designated a national day of mourning here in China to honor those that died (more than 2000 people) in the Qinghai earthquake, which hit a week ago. All of the TV channel & radio station broadcasts were preempted for an all-day national fund raising effort. All entertainment outlets were closed - no movies, no arcade games, no karaoke. Even the mall where I work turned off the mall music. We still held English classes though. I guess that's not considered frivolous entertainment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Soy Milk

I guess I was spoiled by all the freshly made soy milk in Vietnam. Here in Shanghai, I've only been able to find powdered soy milk in the grocery stores, which turns out tasting... powdery.

But the other day I was shopping in my corner quickie mart when I found actual liquid soy milk. They had two kinds: regular & black. The black soy milk was a little grittier than the white, but still tasted great on my morning cereal :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shanghai Museum

I went with a fellow couch surfer to the Shanghai Museum last Friday. Wow! Now *that's* a museum! It had four floors of really cool Chinese stuff - from painted calligraphy scrolls to old Chinese coins to examples of indigenous clothing. All of the information was both in Chinese & English - awesome! They even offered audio guides in several languages. & it was all free!

My CS friend & I "rushed" through the museum & still spent four hours there. By the time we made it to the gift shop, we were both too tired to browse for trinkets. I'll definitely have to go back to see what I missed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Winds of Change

Whew! It's been really windy that last few days here in Shanghai. I wonder if it's finally going to turn warm.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Line 10!

Line 10, the new subway line that stops right next to my apartment, is now open! The line is only open from 9:00am to 4:00pm right now but will extend to normal hours in May.

The entrance at my stop is still under construction, but still grants access to the subway system. Today I took the subway to People's Square - a trip that normally takes me an hour - & arrived in 25 minutes! So excited!

The seats in the cars are color coded to match the subway line - in this case they're purple! 

In case you're curious, the subway map is here. I live at Jiangwan Stadium.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I can't remember when I saw stars last. Was it in Vietnam? Or was it even before that? The sky here in Shanghai seems to be permanently overcast. I think I'm due for a trip out of the city.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Shoe Fits!

I've been looking all over this city for a decent pair of shoes to wear to work - the pair that I have been wearing is wearing out. Of course it's not easy to find women's shoes in size 41 in Asia, but there are thousands of foreigners with big feet living in Shanghai. There had to be something in my size.

I went to all the stores in the foreigner area of town that specialize in large sizes, but none of them had anything bigger than 40. I tried a few of them on, but they were just too small.

I was on the verge of asking for shoes from home when I stumbled upon a shoe shop right near my apartment. I went in & on the shelf I found this pair in my size for 128 RMB (about US $18). Yahoo!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grafitti Advertising

In Vietnam, these numbers (above) are painted on the outside wall of buildings everywhere. I just assumed that they were permit numbers.

When I saw similar numbers painted on the walls here in Shanghai, I asked a Chinese co-worker about them. She laughed & told me that they are actually phone numbers advertising various services. This one is outside my apartment door. Can anyone help me with the translation?

Monday, April 12, 2010


Living in another country helps you realize just how different cultures can be. I'm often surprised at the honesty of people here. Students think nothing of telling me that I pay too much for my apartment, or that what I'm eating is not delicious.

People are also surprisingly open about their personal issues. The first time I met her, one student told me that she was engaged to be married, but she thinks she'll leave her fiance because he's not good looking. Another student said that he cries every night because he feels lonely. How do you respond to that?

In the US we'd keep these things to ourselves, but here in China, it's all part of a normal conversation. Sometimes it makes me uneasy, but I'm learning how to take it in stride.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Putting on a New Face

The city is all a-buzz about the upcoming World Expo which will take place in Shanghai this summer. With less than a month before opening day, workers are frantically finishing up hundreds of projects all over the city. Flowers are being planted everywhere, all the buildings are getting spruced up, & they're putting in a new subway line that will stop right next to my apartment.

Right now the city looks half finished because everything is under construction or getting a facelift. They've almost built a completely new city in just a few years. It's kind of ironic that the theme of the Expo this year is sustainability.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Local Music

I love all the local  music offerings in Shanghai! Last night I went back to Yuyintang on the west side of the city to see Zheng Quan play some traditional music. It took me over an hour to get there by bus/subway, but it was well worth the trip. Listen here.

The photo above is mine. The much better one below is off the internet.

Does anyone know the name of that stringed instrument?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hymenolaimus Malacorhynchus

Just in case you're not sure,
Hymenolaimus Malacorhynchus looks like this:

& Cordycepin looks like this:

What would we do without Google?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stair Master

I've been in Shanghai for almost three months now, & haven't done any sort of exercise since I got here. At least in Vietnam I rode a bicycle everywhere. But here I just walk five minutes to work & that's it. I'm starting to feel squishy.

So I decided to take advantage of my surroundings. I live on the 22nd floor, right? Why not climb the stairs for exercise? The other day I got myself all psyched up to try it. I put on my workout clothes & my hiking shoes, grabbed a bottle of water, & took the elevator down to the first floor.

I was at the top in five minutes. Huh? I was pretty sure I didn't skip any floors. I was definitely breathing hard by the time I got to the 22nd floor, but how is it possible that it only took me five minutes?

I took the elevator back down to the first floor & climbed the stairs again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

That's So Cow!

How do you say "cool" in Chinese?
"Niu!" which literally means "cow".
Crazy kids.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pirated... Noodles?

My favorite DVD store has suddenly turned into a noodle shop. Same owners, different goods. Shanghaiist says that inspections for contraband are becoming more frequent in anticipation of the upcoming Expo. They want to clean up the city to give all those Expo tourists that will be here this summer a good impression. I guess I'll have to find something else to do in the evenings for a while.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tomb Sweeping Day

Today is Qingming Festival (清明节) or Tomb Sweeping Day. It's a national holiday so I get the day off from work. It sounds similar to the Day of the Dead which is celebrated in Latin America. Hoping to get some insight into Chinese traditions, I asked some of the other teachers at my school what they usually do to celebrate Tomb Sweeping Day. Nothing, they said. It's just a day off.

Wikipedia says that Qingming was banned by the Chinese government in 1949 (probably as part of the campaign to eradicate religion), but was reinstated as a national holiday two years ago. It could be that the day has no meaning for people because no one has really celebrated it in over 60 years. It really is just a day off.

Or it could be that people simply don't get excited about holidays here. I got a similar response when I asked people what they do to celebrate Chinese New Year. Nothing, they said. Just stay at home. So that's what I did.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Leading the Blind

Most of the sidewalks in Shanghai have a row of bricks down the middle that is different from the surrounding pavestones. They're hard to walk on because the pattern is raised, making you wobble a bit. Apparently, the stones are there to help blind people find their way around the city. They act as a tactile guide for those who can't see where they're going.

The whole city is paved with these stones. Even so, it's not exactly a blind-friendly city. Pedestrians are lowest on the traffic totem pole here, with taxis & busses whipping around corners & buzzing over crosswalks against the light. I'm sure it was a well-intended gesture, but seriously, no blind person in their right mind is going out there alone.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chinese Chicken

There are lots of people living in Shanghai who are from some place else. It's a very transient city. Not only do foreigners come here to live & work, but also many Chinese people from all over the country come here to try their luck in the big city.

The other day a student at my school was describing to me where in China she was from. "The head of the chicken," she said. Huh? You know, the chicken. Oh... Now that you mention it, China *does* kind of look like a chicken. Does that make Taiwan an egg?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bed of Bricks

When you rent an apartment in Shanghai, it will most likely come furnished, which is great for people like me - a traveler temporarily settling in a foreign city. Most of the time the furniture that comes with the apartment is decent, but sometimes you wind up with a really hard mattress.

The other day I was telling one of my co-workers that the mattress in my new apartment has to be the hardest mattress in the world. It's like sleeping on bricks, I said. She told me that when she was growing up in the northeast part of China, she really did sleep on bricks. She said that her bed made of bricks (called a kang) was built next to the cooking fire, which would heat up the bricks so that when she went to bed, covered by a thick quilt, she was nice & warm. Craziness.

Here's a photo of a kang that I grabbed off the internet: