Showing posts from April, 2008


Students were preparing for a quiz on baroque music history today. An Egyptian boy asked a Korean boy, what sounded exactly like "Orfeo and Daphne are two of the hairiest what?" to which the Korean said "What do you mean, 'hairy'?" Egyptian boy says, "I did not say 'hairy' I said 'hearliest'" to which the Korean says "It sounded like you said 'hairiest!' and we all were laughing by then. Egyptian boy was trying his best to say "earliest." I really enjoy teaching music concepts to kids who have widely varying degrees of English language ability. In a way it levels the playing field -- everyone has to be smart enough to start with to stay afloat in a sea of foreign language inside a foreign culture, except for the small percentage of native English speakers.


Last night after a sumptuous 5-star seafood dinner with a friend I was listening to some very good funky-blues musicians in a cafe thinking this is a really spectacular global hot spot for musicians and other artists. This was no "American" buffet. It was all the healthy stuff like raw, steamed or stir-fried. It also included a fresh-pulled noodles bar, excellent salad bar and an amazing Swiss-ice cream bar. And a few specialties like steamed chicken feet and bitter melon.

I feel lucky to have met several designers already, one of whom works for a major corporation in textile/garment productions all over the country. One designs bags and is from another province who came here looking for a boutique to sell his work. Also in my own place of employment, other teachers seem to be coming out of the woodwork who play violin and want to play at graduation.

Right now from my room I hear soft Chinese folk music being sung along with a zheng, a stringed instrument that is plucke…

school days

We have a lot of outdoor areas. The building is shaped like a blocky "W" so there are 2 inner coutryards with play areas and another play area outside of that, in addition to the track and field. We have no gym but we do have a basketball court and tennis court. My connections class is happily paddling away at ping pong, their favorite afternoon activity before the bell rings to take the buses home.
I really need to get cracking on looking at apartments. I know I won't find one if I don't get on it! Yesterday some colleagues who share a big flat nearby had a party, a barbecue in the rain as we got the tail end of a typhoon that hit further south. Nonetheless it was great to eat some grilled steak and have a few laughs over playing Dance Dance Revolution and Skattegories. These friends have a great view of the skyline as well as planes coming in and taking off from Hongqiao Airport. I felt right at home...I almost forgot. One of the funniest moments was after a friend had brought a few chicken feet along with wings for the grill, another American colleague attacked the chicken foot with vigor and seemed to be really getting into it!

One of the oddities of being an expat is the lingo that arises in the new environment. A word that has arisen among my network of native English speakers, beyond mouthfulls of unpublishable expletives, is "chillax" although I have …


Early this week I steeled my nerves and fearlessly entered a local hair salon for a trim. This shop was staffed by about 6 young men, I would guess around age 20, with varying degrees of puffy-hair styles. My stylist, Jiabo, said my 'foreigner' hair was much softer than Chinese hair. One country = one race in a big way; hair and skin types are pretty much the same with only a very small percentage difference among minorities, and even they are more similar than different.

The boys wanted to know if I wanted color or a perm, and they tried really hard to get me to agree to an afro! One difference in having a salon experience here is that they begin to wash your hair while you are seated at the mirror by pouring shampoo and a stream of water into your hair, just enough to get it good and lathered. After a good washing and scalp massage, I was led to the wash basin for the rinse and conditioner. The actual cut was not bad. It was another good opportunity to practice speaki…


No day is quite ever complete without a serving of snacks/junk food. I don't think the average American would go for this one but I actually really like it: gelatinous rice balls. Inside is some kind of red bean paste. So I took a bite out 1 to show what it looks like. Stay tuned for images. For some reason I'm getting a corrupt or unknown file error at the moment.

Now I just don't get this. Last Tuesday it rained. And it came down harder last Tuesday this exact same time of evening, when I was trying to get a cab and into a restaurant! The same thing is happening now, today, Tuesday again...How can this be? My colleague keeps reminding me of half-off teacher Tuesday night at an American style diner. And the place does a good vegetable omelet with real, fresh hashbrowns.
Does anyone else hear the sound through your speakers of sending photos from your phone to your computer? It weirds me out every time.

So these are mystery fruits: dragon fruit, I think, is the one with the black dots in the white fruit meat. The pink fruit is what it looks like on the outside. There is a weird drink sold just about everywhere too with these seeds in it. It's a China thing to have a fruit juice with real pieces of the fruit inside, bigger than pulp. The other fruit, I am less sure of. Hawthorn? Crabapple? It's popular, whatever it is. It's often sold candied on a stick.

And the yummy buns...I was buying some whole wheat bread and the service worker convinced me to try the yummy buns. I was skeptical, I have to admit, but there actually were raisins and bits of orange inside and it wasn't bad as an emergency snack.

The doughnut - it speaks for itself. It came from the same store's bakery. This is from Lotus Superstore, where I only shop if…

HomeMart Aquariums

OK, I don't normally go around shooting photos of fish, but this one is really for my dad who is not Chinese. He just loves aquariums and has recently set up his own giant one so I thought he might be able to get some ideas from these. There is a Chinese store, a lot like Home Depot, called "HomeMart" but it also includes a few additional home furnishings like aquariums and draperies in addition to all the regular fixtures. Much less here in the way of garden furnishings; the issue of space comes to mind because most people just don't have a garden space!

How I Spent Saturday Night

This is a friend who writes her own songs, sings and can do just about any cover. This show she included her friend Julian, another singer/guitarist and Nicholas, playing as sweet and sensitive sax as it gets. I am totally impressed!
Belly dancer at Istanbul restaurant for Phoebe's birthday party; view of Cloud Nine mall escalators looking downward (while feeling dizzy every time); outdoor market; and one of our 3 guard dogs at the school. Bad photos, I know. But great for a cheap phone that I bought before I even knew it had a camera!

my garden fountain

This garden is one of the reasons I might stay in my current flat. I can enjoy the greens and I don't need to maintain it. The pond contains a dozen or two koi. No construction zone view here, and much less noise as well. The traffic dies off around 11pm and doesn't get started again until 6am. No ghetto-blasting stereos shaking the houses here either. Last night I counted 73 6-storey buildings, each holding 12 families, plus 2 12-storey ones. The politeness of how quiet it gets at night really astounds me.

big boss

My boss has this habit of calling me during weekends and vacation times, saying "Hello *****, where are you now?" and wanting to take care of some kind of business. Friday I was at the beach. He was out apartment hunting because he wants me to live in a cheaper one. He calls again today, Sunday, and again I am out. But I decide to come back to look at this apartment he was raving about. Only it is nothing that impresses me. I don't get it. He goes on and on about how big it is, with a river view, and so on, and I get there and there is no river view. There is no desk. There isn't even enough room to have a dinner party for 4 people. There is, however a turquoise sofa and side seat set that is much too large for the "living" room. So afterward I tell him, sorry, this one is not for me. Then he tells me oh, the lease on your place where you are now runs out in about 3 or 4 days because it's only for 3 months. #%%&#$&8!! "And I r…

chicken clay pot

Chicken baked in a clay pot infused with
ginger...this was a memorable lunch. Never mind the smoke from the 3 men at the next table. This is China. There is a heirarchy of smells here. Lowest on the chain is probably that yucky eggy smell sometimes permeating the streets, but I would prefer the smell of cigarettes to that. Higher on the chain is coffee and great dishes like this one. The drink is "zhen zhu nai cha" or pearl milk tea, coconut flavor. Kiki's makes this at home.


The day following our art adventure, I met up with my friend, 3 colleagues and several of my friend's friends. We were 11 working professional ladies and found our way to this man-made beach. I would hate to go there on a hot, crowded, sunny day, but this day was mild and overcast so we had the place mostly to ourselves. And, with 11 of us, we had bargaining power. We went on a few rides, ate lunch and walked up a temple. One of my gripes about China is that even when something is built new, the workmanship is usually so shoddy that it appears to be 'old' before it is even finished!

Art Walk on Moganshan II

And on the way home my feet were so tired I stopped at my new favorite homestyle noodle shop and ate dumplings. This time I snapped a photo of the cook working up a batch of noodles for some students who had stopped in for a snack.

Art Walk on Moganshan Street

My friend and I spent a great afternoon looking at all kinds of art in individually owned galleries, some of which contained the artist working away. We started the day by having lunch at a special restaurant. If you visit me in Shanghai I will take you there! It is an extremely special place. A quick blog won't do justice to describe it. I can only say it is a restaurant with post-industrial fun house style. Here are some images from the day. Shanghai has a long wall in this area where graffiti artists show their work in public.
Man, could you please take your barking somewhere else? A bloke was actually barking at the top of his lungs on the street where I live. Some kids barked back at him. But he kept on. And on. And on. I think he may have stressed his vocal chords because finally he has stopped.

After a steaming bowl of dumplings, a small bottle of Coke and a bowl of soup, I didn't really mind. Now there's just the real barking dogs left...ruff ruff

qibao snack

The snacks were awesome. I ate dumplings and then, total decadence, I ate "basa cao mei" which is candied strawberries on a stick! (You can see one stick of strawberries in the upper left hand corner of the picture. Those other sticks look so yummy I think I will go back to try them too!) Afterward I was going to go to She Shan, a hilly forest area 3 subway stops away, but the weather turned windy and cloudy so I went to a cafe and drank green tea while listening to very vogue canned music of a French singer doing some of my favorites, like Moon River, Tea for Two, and On the Bayou. And looking at the map, I think I can take a taxi next time. Tomorrow I will have an outing with some local Chinese nurses to the seaside.

Qibao Ancient Town

Someone else did a fantastic bang up job of pictures from here, so I am posting the link. This is where I am going today, April 2, 2008.

So I'm posting some of my own pictures too.