Showing posts from March, 2008

Saturday, March 29

The weird thing is, if I set my phone down near the speakers connected to my laptop, it picks up the sound of the information being sent when I send pictures over the internet from the phone. Saturday was a big day of shopping for me. Not that I needed much, it is just that Shanghai is so big, this took all day. My mission was to buy a good shower curtain. Ikea was a mad house, hot, sweaty, crowded, confusing. Then I ventured to the south railway station to ask about tickets to another town, where the answer was, no, there aren't any. Then on to another part of the city to look at cloth. But it was getting late, I was tired, hungry and needed a restroom. On these day ventures even in town, I tend to avoid consuming beverages to try to not have the problem of searching for a toilet. After another long walk along a nearby old street, I found a public toilet. My first squatter in 2 months. And a steamed bun and a pineapple stick later, I was OK. On the way home I also pick…

A Day Is Done

Nothing in life is perfect. I knew setting out today that my chances were slim to find an old friend in the Opera House and, at his former workplace all they could tell me was he doesn't work there any longer. But it was a trip down memory lane nonetheless, and another old friend's apartment building is still standing. The (formerly) vacant lot behind it is now a high rise building though. The construction scheme in China should be "what can be knocked down today will be rebuilt tomorrow." Just in case you were wondering about Shanghai's skyline, here is a link to the descending order of skyscrapers in town:

So I set about finding Ikea, but I didn't have the exact address so I gave up. I did go back to the amazing Xijiao State Guest Hotel park and sat in a pagoda reading a magazine for a while this afternoon, until it became too breezy. And I managed to order a ceasar salad and pumpkin soup from a delivery servi…


A colleague at work was raving about this "hidden" wonder of a place not far from where we live. I walked past it a few weeks back one night, wondering what was on the other side of a 15' brick wall, seeing trees towering above it inside. I took my bike out after work today and wound my way around and through a sports complex, through the back worker outbuildings, along a narrow path and suddenly popped into a vast and unimaginable fairy tale of a park. This place was gigantic -- lush and green, trees, bushes, birds and fish, flowers, and hardly a soul per hectare. It turns out to be the ground for Xijiao State Guest Hotel, but it may as well be a secret nature preserve inside Shanghai. I rode around for a while, getting lost and feeling great with the green surroundings, ponds and bridges and decided I had better find a way out as the sun had set. I would say this park is at least a few miles wide and deep. Here is t…

Sunlight Boy

People comment on the Engrish signs here and there...but really, if more Americans' Chinese were as good as some of these signs, well, there would be a lot more cultural communication. On my bed, the comforter cover has writing on it. The best part is "Sunlight boy" like it is a poem by Sunlight boy. So I sleep with Sunlight boy every night.

The following is an actual personal ad placed in an English Shanghai paper:
Lost and Delirious
Young, vaguely intelligent, considerably attractive British-Chinese girl looking for some harmless, no-strings-attached banter and hedonism....

Dirty Sisters

The wind is blowing the wrong direction today. Gusts or steady, I'm not sure, but 25mph headwind sux while riding bike home. I ventured out to find TianShan Tea City today. I finally found it after being lost for a while, when I asked a man where it was and he pointed me onward. It was nice, but not like the tea mall in Beijing. I was really hoping for the accompanying ceramics pieces but there was not so much of that here on several floors. When I arrived at the 3rd floor and the elevator doors were opening, there was a service worker skipping rope right there in the middle of the shopping hall. She really didn't mind that I needed to get around her either.

Last night 4 other ladies and I had a very successful meet-up to trade stories, compare things to do in Shanghai and basically make friends. The ring leader online calls herself "Dirty Sister" so we decided we are kind of a dirty club. I am dirty older sister. We just put "dirty" in front of ea…

magnolias and hats

The magnolias are blooming this rainy Saturday as I listen to Michale Buble sing Cuando Cuando Cuando. My chief complaint about this apartment is that it is dark, cavelike, especially when I am inside on a rainy day. In this case I light some candles and put on soft music.

I recently lost my favorite hat. I owned it for about 13 years and loved it every winter. It came to me while working in Cambridge, MA at Harvard University Extension, left for months in the lost and found. Eventually we would have to clean out the box and anything older than 6 months was up for grabs. Actually I have another nice, fitted brown jacket that came from there. Anyway this hat has been around the world with me, to China and back several times, so it shared many great adventures and knows many, many secrets. Now it is in the hands or on the head of someone else. I'm inclined to have another one made just like it. That means I will have to adventure out to the Lujiabang fabric market to see whe…

Mar 20 08

I was just thinking about the variety of English our students listen to in a day. Our teachers hail from many different countries: Ireland, Wales, Australia, Israel, Canada and of course, the US. There is wave of new students entering during the spring. Our enrollment is projected to reach over 200 by the end of the school year. This has caused a change in new contract offers: bonuses at the end of next school year based on overall enrollment. Korean schools ended recently so many come to our school just for somewhere to go. Others arrive just temporarily because our school is the only one letting kids enroll this late in the year. There are adjustments for what kind of credit they can and cannot earn, of course, and the hope is that many will re-enroll for fall based on their positive experiences. Yesterday I was offered to choose the colors of paint for the new music classrooms, which will entail a large room and five smaller practice rooms. The room is scheduled to be finished by t…
Went to CreekArt yesterday, which is a gallery and restaurant on 5 floors in a remodeled old building on Suchou Creek here in Shanghai. Brunch was a welcome repast of western enjoyments, wood-fired oven baked pizza, spinach raviolis, smoked salmon, crepes, fruit, muffins, salad, coffee and juice.

Watch what's happening out west ... a lot of the news is being blocked by the Great Fire Wall (GFW) now. Yesterday I could not blog, today all of Yahoo! is out. It is pretty random.

random spring

It's nearly the perfect weather season...if you're coming to China do it in the spring, like anytime mid-March to May and also fall is great too. It is the time of year we don't need heating or cooling. But it is also the sneezing season, where the sycamores are all cut back and the branches with their itchy bombs smash into the streets and no one is immune to the irritation. It isn't bad though.

So China/Tibet angst has heated up; we have received warnings about that, especially to change travel plans to Tibet. I would like to go but not until maybe next fall, maybe when the world's most luxurious train opens for business. Well, maybe I will just take the regular first class train to Tibet if it is safe and save money for Via Rail in Canada, also on my list.
I am happily enjoying a serving of one of my favorites: green tea ice cream. Here are a few photos from my housing complex. Lost my favorite hat this week, but I can have a new one made. Tomorrow, a middle-school field trip to the Shanghai Museum. Imagine a school where the entire middle school fits into one classroom; a bit squished but maybe only 37 kids! Lovin it.

first foot massage

After dinner last night my colleague Sarah asked me if I wanted to go for a massage. I told her I'm not really a fan of getting a full body massage right after a meal, but I was interested to find a decent place. Then when I saw the menu of foot massages, I gave in and tried the "cao ni" foot massage which was supposed to mean sea mineral foot massage. In Chinese, at least the pronunciation for that sounded just like what translates to "f*ck you" foot massage so I was a little curious to see what it would be like, thinking this is my really bad bad bad Chinese just hearing the tones wrong, or not hearing tones at all. It turned out to be quite nice, in a comfy chair with chrysanthemum tea to drink from a tiny teapot and cup; tv if I wanted or just music. The girl told me she is 18, which in the west means 17. Frankly it was a bit more "Chinese" style than I like, that is, quite heavy on pressure and I had to tell her to lighten up. She told me …

student progress

When I taught in China my first year, this was my first real professional job. Perhaps this is part of the attraction that leads me back to China again and again. I never forgot the pace. That year, I was responsible for guiding the English language development of many levels of students: freshmen, sophomores, post graduates. Out of this varied group, a few really stood out and one became a friend, eventually visiting me in the states. Weihua has never given up easily and it was no surprise to me when she was admitted to Bristol University in the UK on a full PhD fellowship, and has just in the past few weeks completed her programme. In the same few days as finishing, she received her much anticipated visa to move to the US where she is getting married!

Yesterday at work I was enjoying the writing on one of my Japanese student's sweatshirt. Maybe it was just random, maybe it was someone's ode. The words were "Roman/ Shave your style/ I would escape and recreate/…
In search of identity, a universal human problem, I enjoyed this (very Chinese) article from China Daily:

and for the bibliophile epicureans among us -- you know who you are:

makes me want that level of fluency that is not yet in my grasp! I'm feeling a bit stranded today as the rain has arrived earlier than I expected. Cabs are hard to come by around here even when it is nice; if I get out today it will have to be by foot/umbrella or combination with subway. Hence the references to the above articles. But I am in search of tortilla chips to go with my fresh salsa...and I'm in SHANGHAI where you really can get just about anything! It may be time to invest in a handy rain slicker to wear on the bike; the coated material also covers the handlebars while riding. Then again it may be the day to catch up on my stack of DVDs.


I just realized last night, after getting into a taxi, riding along in heavy Friday evening traffic, one thing I really do not miss is the blaring stereos from cars back home. This part of US culture is nonexistent. This is relief! I always thought that was the ultimate rudeness when people blared their crap music so loud that neighboring houses would shake. The loudest obnoxious music here is mainly in large grocery stores, which I have started to avoid, and in small DVD/CD shops trying to lure customers in.

I managed to find a concert venue last night with the help of the taxi driver. Sponsored by the Shanghai Symphony, each Friday night is a chamber music concert in their concert hall. Some things did not change in 10 years. Like unheated performance halls. It was a bit chilly but I really felt sorry for the cellist's fingers. The most musical inspiration I got was from a Liszt Ballade in b minor for piano and Beethoven piano sonata 11. The way the wooden chairs were s…

coffee, anyone?

I was perusing an aisle for coffee in a supermarket, and slowly filtering the options. One did stand out after I read its flavor: 'Charcoal Reach'. I think it was supposed to be almond, because later I saw packaged almonds with the word 'charcoal' on it.

I almost had a heart attack when I couldn't find my lesson plans book and mid-term progress reports for all of my students today. I looked and looked after a staff meeting and finally went back to the dance room (where I have most classes) where a judo class of 4 and 5 year olds was taking place. The teacher saw me looking agitated and stopped the class, calling little 4-year old Maria over. Little Maria had put some of my stuff in drawers in the desk and moved some things around! I had been afraid it was the naughty boys who had been expelled from school for smashing my computer monitor and dvd player who had returned to school today. Maria had to apologize and the teacher also apologized for her. I think …

March 4 08

The neighborhood I live in is on the far western edge of Shanghai, near the old airport called Hongqiao. My street is fairly developed; my apartment complex is paved with green, pink, yellow and white cement tiles. I am spoiled to have several grocery shopping options within a mile radius, even Starbucks, McDonalds, Papa Murphy's and KFC amongst many fine Chinese establishments. But just a few blocks away, under the outer ring road freeway, is a more traditional Shanghai. Some would call this a slum. And in a way it is. But it also represents life like Chinese have known for centuries, with most business conducted in the open on the street, one or two-storied housing, crowded, bustling, life. Tiny restaurants with 2 or 3 tables with stools for chairs. Coal being burned for fuel. Garbage tossed to the side of the street; not enough room here for cars. Only pedestrians and the occasional bike and moped. Bad smells, polluted canals. But earthy smells as well and fresh str…


I don't normally frequent the site because I really don't need to due to the Engrish realities of my every day life. But a friend forwarded these to me and I did laugh, especially since I have posted the poll on the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

It is a BEAUTIFUL day for bike riding today. Upper 50s, light breeze, sunshine. My bike salesman's wife told me my tires didn't need air (they were about 25% flat) but that my seat needed raising because I'll get tired if it's too low. I argued with her on the air issue, and finally we agreed to add a little air AND fix the seat. I am in a very happy mood to get those things done and to have found a new grocery shop where I am sure I will do a lot of my shopping. It is an international gourmet shop with just about everything I need, including organic foods and doesn't blast China-pop music during the experience. Some items are ridiculously expensive that I don't buy anyway, like sugary American cereals…

March 1 08

Saturday. Lovely day. A day for nothing but relaxing and taking care of me. Time to sharpen my eyeliner pencils. Plenty of time to bike. Time to check out the online grocery shopping with free delivery, thereby avoiding the massive grocery crowds. I learned something already today. A cantaloupe here is called a rock melon in English. Well it does look like a rock!

I do have a small bit of work to do that may take up the afternoon. I will go to Pudong (the area across the river) to a violin showroom to check on some violins that the school may purchase.

I've been invited to go along to a surprise birthday party for someone I don't even know. But since I don't know very many people it's hard to say no to the opportunity to meet some! The young woman who invited me is from Western Australia and her husband is from England. She teaches in my school though we never see each other. He subs there and I don't see him at work either. The few social outings I&#…