Showing posts from August, 2012

This is China

In Macau, there's a saying to describe all the crazy little things that happen on a daily basis which are so unusual but end up becoming comically normal: This is Macau. The bus schedule says the bus comes every 10 minutes but you've been waiting for 50, and then when it comes it blasts right past you? This is Macau. Your house has been wired in such a way that using your hair dryer in the bathroom will trip the fuses for 75% of your flat, so you have to blow dry your hair in the living room? This is Macau. Calling for a taxi for 20 minutes to be repeatedly told "sorry no taxi" only to walk a block from your flat to find a line of 20 idling taxis anxiously awaiting fares? This is Macau. I could go on all day, but I'll stop. Because I'm not in Macau. I'm in China. And China is just as bad, if not worse. And within a week of being here, I heard a couple people sigh at something weird and say This is China, which was strangely comforting.

Let me share a co…

Three Months

Last Friday we hit the three month mark in Shanghai. And like I wrote back here in this post, there was a flood of misery, as if on cue. Problems with the house (gas leak), issue communicating to maintenance, trying to figure out who is responsible for repairing the typhoon damage (landlord vs. maintenance vs. builder), sudden very loud construction above or below us, and a particularly long and brutal bout of insomnia were taking their toll. It certainly didn't help that I spent Friday at a farewell lunch for my two closest friends in Shanghai who are both repatriating back to their countries in the next week or two. Couple that with having to cancel a planned trip to America in October and let me tell you, tears were only a blink or two away at any given moment this past weekend. But Monday came and this week brought a flood of lunch invites with new friends.  Michael and I went over the calender to see if a trip to the US in spring might be a possibility (looks like February mi…

Dragons are real.

My son Nathan asks me at least once a week if dragons are real. Born in the Year of the Dragon (also the current year), I tell him yes, and point out the many, many dragons all over town. And remind him of the Komodo Dragon. He is largely unsatisfied with this answer, hoping instead of a lifelike topiary bush carefully carved into something like a dragon, for something with wings and fiery breath.

Today we saw two dragons. Neither had wings, but both could fly, if you count "flying" through the water. We visited the nearby Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, which was quite impressive. Especially in comparison with our last aquarium experience across town, with the 3-D movie in the storage closet... This closer one is on a one-way path, and boasts the world's largest underwater viewing tunnel. We took a lot of photos, and grimaced through a lot of people taking photos of us (really? I'm more fascinating that the incredible jellyfish displays?). But this is China and they were …

Heroes Next Door

I found an amazing collection of photographs by Chow Kar Hoo placing superheroes in locations around Hong Kong. The series is called Heroes Next Door. My favorite is Wolverine, cutting up meat and smoking in the wet market. He'd fit right in.

Not good with chili

Corn Bread. As in bread, with corn on it. Not the strangest combo we've seen featuring corn throughout Asia (in Japan all pizza came with corn mixed in with the cheese). But certainly the only one that makes me crave a different type of cornbread, smothered with whipped honey-butter and served with spicy chili...


So our first houseguest in Shanghai departed today.

He says he had a good time, and I'm going to believe he was telling the truth despite the many calamities that happened during his three week stay:

One chipped tooth. (His, done right before he left for the airport. He took it home in a baggie).

Two car accidents. (Yep, Andrew and I managed to be in yet another car when it got mangled. But we were not mangled. I promise. And surprise, surprise, it wasn't in a Volkswagen!).

Two whining, crying, complaining rotten kids. (Mine, unhappy with the lack of routine and all the crazy changes being thrust at them in the last month with the addition of constant sightseeing and lots of getting lost in 95F heat).

Three typhoons. (And a wet apartment and power loss to go along with them).

Four colds. (Nathan was the only one to escape getting sick this month).

Five (or more) hours spent wandering, lost, looking for things that have moved,  no longer exist, or were mysteriously hidden fro…

Cannot Evade This Heart

****Edited to add: This is just a shopping bag I got with my purchase at the fabric market. I shoved a white calender in it to make the words pop enough to be legible. It confused a considerable amount of people, if the dozen emails I got about it this morning are any indication. Sorry!

Comfort Food

We've been in Shanghai for just shy of three months and I just came down with my first cold/sinus infection. Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long, with all the hacking and spitting and coughing that goes on around this town. If you're a germaphobe, this is not the town for you.

Since arriving here, we've had about a hundred soup and meat-filled dumplings, the cuisine that this region is most famous for. And I love them, they are great, both cheap and filling. But I've been missing the cuisine more popular down in southern China, Cantonese food. Specifically I've been missing the BBQ pork that hangs in every shop and restaurant window in Macau and Hong Kong, generally alongside a goose and a few ducks complete with feet and bills. This pork is served sliced up with a sticky-sweet sauce that almost makes it a dessert. I've been craving it!

My cravings were fulfilled yesterday when we found a tiny restaurant in the basement of China's tallest buildin…

Just keep moving.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving ~ Albert Einstein

Thursday we visited Tian Zi Fang, a little area in Shanghai which was formerly an artists' enclave. Today it is much more touristy, but many artists still live there and sell their wares in the tiny, charming shops that weave throughout the tight alleys.
It was just a quick visit and I only picked up a few things (a silver necklace, a journal made from an old propaganda poster), but I know I'll be back.

(It's right off Metro Line 9 at Dapuqiao Station, directly across the street from Exit 1 if you're local and trying to find it).

Typhoon Haikui

We survived a Level Red typhoon in Shanghai. Of course, it stayed at Level Orange until Michael got into work, and then bumped up to a red. At that point he was "requested" to stay where he was instead of being sent home.

The boys, our guest, and I sat around the house, marvelling at the empty river. At Level Orange, all tour boat operation ceases and ships are sent into a safe harbor, but the ferries still operate. At Level Red, the ferries stop. Even in the dead middle of night, I've never seen the river without a boat or two, heading out to sea or returning with containers or soil. We had plans for the day, but most places close down at Level Orange, so we just stayed put knowing Level Red meant getting anywhere was going to be difficult. Some of the bridges closed and the Metro trains began running at 50% speed.

In the afternoon, it finally decided to start raining and we were so glad we didn't try to go out! It rained so hard and so fast, filling the intersect…

Typhoon, Shanghai Style

Shanghai has been subject to three different typhoons since Friday. The first two did nothing except bring the temperature down and give us plenty of cooling breezes. This third one however, Haikui, is a bit more powerful.

We're currently at alert level Orange (the only thing higher is red), and all public parks and schools are closed, and the river cruises have all been suspended which means the river is wide and lonely and very quiet without the normal loud sounds of the boats signaling as they pass.

We got to experience some crazy wind today as Ben and I ran to the grocery to get a few things, but not much else. I hear the rain pattering a bit on our 38th floor windows, but that's it. The windows in our flat in Macau weren't sealed so tightly and typhoons there were noisy affairs. In fact typhoons in Macau and Hong Kong were more powerful altogether, being as exposed as they are in the Pearl River Delta.

Doesn't matter though. For a family and a guest who are all…

Capital D for Door



I have been in three major car accidents in my life.

The first was when I was about five, in my father's Volkswagen Beetle. A car going the opposite direction pulled into our lane and we slammed into him. My Dad's nose was almost completely cut off. I cut my head, and my brother hit his head hard on the handle attached to the glove compartment. That day marked my first ride in an ambulance. The ambulance guys pulled a sheet over my Dad's face to hide the gore from my little brother and I, but thanks to cartoons and television, even a five year old knows a sheet over the face means the patient is dead. I screamed louder than the siren and didn't stop until we got to the hospital where my Mom met us and assured me he was fine. His nose was reattached, but he has no feeling in it! I remember that night my Mom dragged mattresses into the living room and we all slept together there, where she could see all of us at once.

The second was the second day of school my junior ye…

Dear Young Self

While searching Google for something, I found myself among the search results! More on that in a second...

I admit that as I watch my kids struggle in areas that I too struggled with as a child, I want to make things easier for them. But just like helping a baby bird escape its shell will cripple it from ever flying, so too will me stepping in to smooth their path. They need the struggle to give them the motivation and freedom to go where they want to go.

My oldest asked me a week ago in a late night taxi ride home what I would do if I could do anything. Without hesitation I told him I was already doing it- living internationally, traveling every chance we get, learning another new language, and writing all about it. I'm reminded of conversations with my Mom and Dad in my early years when I would drive them to distraction and they would lift their arms in frustration and ask me "whatever are we going to do with you" with a deep sigh. My cheeky answer was, "Send me t…

Minty Fresh

I've never had gum in my hair, even as a kid when I had hair so long I could sit on it. My kids have also been spared that fate as well. But our dog? Not so lucky.

Someone's gum didn't make it in the trash as they claimed. I didn't use ice cubes or peanut butter (Lucy Rocket hates to be cold and she eats peanut butter with relish, which might've hindered the process), but I did rub in some olive oil to work out the biggest bit, and then carefully clipped out the rest.

Good thing she already has a scheduled appointment with the groomer tomorrow. Sigh.