Saturday, December 31, 2011

bye for now

Great Wall, August 2011 - I can't believe so much time has passed! 
Quick note: my VPN expires on December 31st, American time, and I decided not to renew it since I'm home in 11 days (!!!!!!) anyway. Psh, who needs Facebook and Blogger? So this is my last post 'til then, but don't worry - I have tons more in my little post bank to update when I get back, and lots of pictures to add to previous posts! I am SO excited to finally be going home. Lately, I've been sitting on the subway ride home from work daydreaming about the prospect of sleeping in my bed, walking Molly, going out for brunch with my parents, hanging out with friends, and finally seeing Wilson after 6 months. Crazy how when you're away from home for so long, the littlest things that you usually take for granted become the biggest things that you miss. But I'll stop there since I've probably said that, like, a bajillion times already. Thanks for following along with me, guys. See you at home :)

Hello, 2012!

Happy 2012 everyone! I can't believe a year has passed already - at this time last year, I had no idea that in a year 6 months, I'd be in Shanghai. So what a crazy year it's been. Super eventful - I met lots of new friends while teaching and traveling, and learned so much more about myself, my family and this country I temporarily call home. I think that you learn so much about yourself and how to really appreciate what you have when you try to carve out a life for yourself in a foreign country. Not that it doesn't happen at home, it's just more noticeable because the learning curve is much higher and you're kind of forced to go with the flow even when you have no idea what's going on. Definitely brings out parts of yourself you never even realized existed. Anyway, enough with my self-reflection, which leads to my resolutions for 2012:

1. Get started on my career. I knew I wanted to get into publishing before I came to Shanghai, but after not doing it for 6 months I am itching to get back into it. Teaching has been great, but I think publishing is just where I'm the happiest. I can't wait to write, edit and lay out again, so wish me luck on the job hunt!

2. Exercise more. Extremely cliche, I know, but while I take public transportation and walk everywhere in Shanghai, I know this isn't always the case at home. I'll definitely have to make a conscious effort to get out and move. Why is staying healthy so much harder at home? (And I vetoed the whole eating healthy resolution because I know for a fact that when I get home I'll be gorging myself on Mexican food, In n Out, and Nutella brownies for at least the first month. Possibly more.) Maybe I should pick up yoga or tennis again?

3. Get back into the cello. After 6 months of no practicing, I am already wincing at the idea of how this is going to go. It's kind of like going through the stages of loss - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance... I can already see myself emoting by sawing away unsuccessfully at some Bach. It's infuriating how out of practice your fingers can get at something you've done effortlessly for years :(

4. Learn something new, or get involved in something new, and hopefully be passionate about it. I'm not sure if this counts as a resolution, since this kind of stuff usually happens when you're not looking, but I don't want to fall into the whole work/eat/sleep rut again that I was in last year.

Time to write this on an index card and stick it in my wallet as a reminder.

Since I'm quite a few hours ahead of most of you who are reading this, have a great NYE, and happy 2012! I celebrated earlier tonight by going to the Bund and Nanjing Road. It was SUPER crowded, as expected. I almost didn't go, but then I figured what the heck, this is probably the only chance I'll have to be in Shanghai for New Year's. Verdict: I prefer celebrating with friends back in good 'ol California. I'd take champagne and sparklers in the backyard over a pyrotechnic spectacular in one of the world's most crowded cities, any day.

The fireworks, car alarms, and yowling cats outside my window finally stopped. Time for bed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

There is a Christmas tree right by the subway stop near where I work. Every time I walk by, there are less ornaments hanging on its lower branches. I can't help but chuckle every time I walk by, but it's also a little bit sad - do the people not realize that the tree is there for public enjoyment? I took a picture but the upload took forever and did not work (story of my life), so here is a placeholder for when I return to the land of fast and reliable internet connection (yes, that is my nickname for America).

 8 foot tree missing all its bottom ornaments

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in Shanghai

China is not big on Christmas. While the department stores deck themselves out with trees, lights and bulbs, the majority of the population does not celebrate. I asked my students if they celebrate, and what they know about Christmas, and minus Santa, Jingle Bells, and the birth of Jesus, they did not know much at all. They've never seen Elf or Home Alone (gasp!), decked out a tree, decorated sugar cookies, taken part in a secret santa gift exchange, or sung Christmas carols. They have no idea what they are missing out on! The holidays definitely make me more homesick than usual, especially since none of that stuff goes on here. Store windows are decorated and Christmas songs blare from mall loudspeakers, but its just not the same. There's no bustling Christmas shoppers and there's just not that 'spirit' in the air of anticipation and celebrating family traditions. People do get together with their families, or if you're religious, go to church, but mostly it's just another day. Most of my coworkers and students used it as another day to catch up on work, some ate with family, or went out with friends.

Luckily, technology allows me to participate in the Christmas festivities even though I'm far from home. I spent a quiet weekend at my apartment (well-deserved after that huge party) doing laundry, cleaning, and just relaxing. Melody webcammed me in for some present-opening, and Wilson was a sweetie and skyped me into his family festivities. I made mashed potatoes (been craving them for ages) and pork chops and finished it off with some yummy chocolate cake. All in all, Christmas was not as brutally homesick-triggering as I thought it would be; in fact, spending it alone wasn't all that bad. It gave me time to think and appreciate all I have in life and the people who are important. Most Christmases are so hectic that you don't have time to stop and reflect on why it's really meaningful. It doesn't matter that I'm far away, because I'm lucky and grateful to have so many people who love me and whom I love in return. And Skype makes home feel not so far away anymore. Despite this, I am promised a second Christmas when I return home, complete with candy canes and gingerbread houses!

p.s. Four Christmases is a horrible movie. What does it take to find a copy of Elf around here?!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Tongji IEC Annual Christmas Party

… is finally over. I never thought I’d be happy for a Christmas party, of all things, to be over. But when you’ve been planning the details of a party for 200+ students for over a month, you’d be glad when it’s over, too. Especially when there is free booze involved. Picking up prizes, handling the raffle, making sure the students are on track for the talent show/performance I can handle, but praying that nothing goes horribly wrong when the bar is handing out pitchers of whiskey? Thank god this night is over. Whatever happened to free (light) beer at college parties?

I'm feeling magnanimous since its the holiday season, so I'll share with you my secrets to throwing a successful party. Ingredients include: a coworker ditching the Santa costume for a Miffy rabbit one and not being afraid to dance on stage in it,  a mini Azn popstar/rap concert complete with a skinny guy in an oversized sweatshirt with fangirls draped all over him, the teacher's pet screaming his soul out to some Megadeth, and a poor boy who kneeled on the stage and professed his love with a ginormous bouquet of roses only to have the object of his affections freak out because she didn’t like him. Poor guy got rejected in public.

I’ll post more pictures when I get home – It’s hard enough at the moment to upload text without freezing my temperamental internet connection by trying to load pictures. Until then, I am off to enjoy my quiet, relaxing Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

China is bad for my English

Fact. Sure I'm teaching English, but most of the time this means making sure my students understand the grammar and technicalities behind the English language. Simply put, I end up explaining more complex subjects in simpler words, and hoping that they can read/write/speak at a 4th grade level. While my grammar has improved, one thing that has definitely slipped - and the same thing happened when I was in Paris - is my vocabulary. And I hate it! What I love about the English language is the expansive vocabulary available that you can use to articulate yourself so that you can convey exactly what you mean with just-right words. For example, why use 'fake' to describe the merchandise at the tourist shops in Shanghai when 'ersatz' fits so much better? Use dissonant to describe the grinding noise as the subway approaches the stop? I'm afraid that all the Chinese I'm trying to stuff in my brain is pushing out the English I already knew. Thank goodness for my Kindle-- I am that nerdy girl on the evening subway commute reading Fitzgerald and catching up with new vocabulary words.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cheating is NOT cool!

I’m not saying I’ve never done it – you’d make exceptions too if you grew up with the reigning UNO champion who plays by her own rules – but I never realized until yesterday how much it irked me. After taking a dip in the world of academia, I now understand why it drives teachers absolutely INSANE when their students cheat. As a student, I got that it was beyond unfair for one of my peers to get an A ripping off someone else’s work when the rest of us worked our asses off, but it never drove me crazy. Until yesterday, when I caught some (note: not ONE, but SOME!) of my students cheating during their weekly writing exercises. How it works is every week they are assigned a passage to memorize, and on Monday they have to write it from memory for me to take home and correct. It’s supposed to help them with their grammar, spelling and writing – although to be honest, improvement at the moment is questionable. I personally think making them write paragraphs and do grammar corrections is more advantageous, but that’s the Chinese teaching system for you – and I am totally getting sidetracked so back to cheating.

Yesterday afternoon, I caught a few of my students cheating during their memorization exercises. They were looking at their phones, at pieces of paper tucked into the side of their desks and into notebooks – you know, the oldest tricks in the book. I was – and still am – infuriatingly mad over it. When your student cheats, it’s like a personal insult. They don’t realize that A) I was not born yesterday and B) the only person they are cheating is their self. Even after taking away their phones, making them put away their stuff, and telling them I was not afraid to fail them, they still didn’t get how serious cheating is. I would rather them fail honestly then be sneaky and cheat their way to me giving them an A. I’ve been fuming about it ever since, and you know what? I’ve found a new pet peeve!!

This morning, I became that lecture-y teacher no one likes. And I held back my harsher words, because while I want them to understand that cheating is NOT okay, and in the States you’d be screwed for the rest of your career if you ever tried it at an institution of higher education, I did not want to insult their culture and upbringing. Harsh as that is to say, cutting corners is an ingrained part of Chinese society. Forget all the contaminated food scares in the news – I see it all the time in the classroom. Cutting in line is a fact of life for some of these kids, as is stealing information – I was pissed when I found a couple of students swiping my lessons of my USB without even asking me earlier this semester! The atmosphere is very first-come, first serve. I learned this first-hand when I brought cookies to share with my 6th graders over the summer. Long story short, I directed the class monitors to make sure everyone got a piece and ended up watching in horror as a riot unfolded before my eyes. I did not bring cookies after that, and while that was a class of 6th graders, I see variations of the same thing with these college-aged students. They don’t think twice about starting fights DURING class. It’s happened 4 times already this semester. Not in the classroom during study hours, mind you, but interrupting your teacher mid-lesson fighting. Where is the respect for your teacher and classmates? I always thought that kind of stuff only happened in the movies – I mean, a girl fight breaking out in the middle of your grammar lesson? Only in Barney Stinson’s world.

Looking at all this, I guess I can’t blame the individuals — it’s the system’s fault to begin with. How are these kids supposed to learn that cheating is never okay when the only reprimand they get is a slap on the wrist? There are going to be some kids upset with their grades this week, and I only hope that this will help the fact sink in before they learn it the hard way.

I know I’m being a negative nancy – teaching is actually very rewarding and fun, and I’ve been enjoying my time here, but it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. It’s funny how a couple of bad apples can make you forget that the rest of your students are trying hard – it’s always the generalizations in a moment of anger that lead to stereotypes, right? So let’s leave this rant where it is and I’ll go back to being a cheerful lao shr tomorrow morning. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

cute overload is on my doorstep!

In the States, we visit YouTube, or LOLcats to get our daily dose of heartmeltingly cute critters doing absolutely nothing except sporting a hat made out of a fruit peel or sleeping in a hot dog bun. In Shanghai, all I have to do is walk outside my apartment complex to the critter wagon and voila! Instant happiness. On any given day, there is a middle-aged lady with a bike wagon full of cute little furry creatures parked on my corner. In this wagon, you can find every cute little baby animal that is featured on a wall calendar, except at your fingertips! So imagine cages full of dwarf bunnies, ducklings, guinea pigs, hamsters and chicks — kind of depressing, no? Every time I walk by, I don’t let myself stop, because it’s just too tempting to take them all home with me. Wilson — please ignore my recent pleas for the pink teacup pig and tan non-flop-eared dwarf bunny. It’s just a phase, and I’m pretty sure it will end in 2 months. Plus, I could never cheat on Molly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shanghai on a dollar or less

Things you can buy in Shanghai with $1 USD or less:

6.3 RMB = $1

.10 RMB: 1 black and white copy from the copy shop
1 RMB: a pen or pencil, pocket tissues, piece of fruit from the fruit stand, 1 color copy from the copy shop
2 RMB: bus fare, a box of paperclips, sticky notes, an ink pen that will do the job, bottle of water, a slice of freshly baked bread from a street vendor, a pocket protector for my transit card
2.5 RMB: 4 dumplings or 4 soup buns, a bunch of in-season vegetables at the green grocer’s, a postcard (postage not included), a can of coke
3 RMB: an ice cream cone, Chinese breakfast ‘burrito’, a Dove candy bar, a plastic disposable shower cap
4 RMB: one-way metro ticket to most places around the city, Snickers bar, a bottle of soda/juice/gatorade, a baguette from Carrefour
5 RMB: your choice from an endless selection of instant noodles and Pocky, my one-way subway fare to work
6 RMB: a piece of specialty bread from the bakery, a donut, a bag of chips, a notebook, an ice cream cone from KFC

Sure beats the stuff you get in the States. I remember a cycle of laundry at the Muir dorms being 50 cents… but they’ve probably upped it by now. You can’t even get an hour of parking for a dollar anymore :( 

And just because I know you’re curious:
10 RMB: A cup of coffee or milk tea from a bakery/donut shop, average price of a bowl of noodles from a mom&pop shop, 2 potatoes/tomatoes or onions from the 'organic' section of the supermarket, a loaf of white bread
25 RMB: A box of cereal, a package of pork chops from the supermarket
30 RMB: average price of a grande blended drink at Starbucks (yes, they’re everywhere here, too, and the coffee is still horrid)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The tiger mother next door

There is a tiger mother in the building next door to my grand-uncle’s. I’ve never seen her, but she’s there — I’ve heard her kid. I go over to my uncle’s for dinner practically every night (at exactly 5:45 pm), and the kid is practicing the clarinet. When I leave at around 7:45pm, her kid is still at it. Poor kid. 

Boy, am I glad I am not their neighbor.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

B's Chinese friends

Hangin' out with some pandas while waiting for our flight to Taipei.


Chinese people and their love of firecrackers is absolutely insane but cathartic at the same time. They set off fireworks at the grand opening to any store or event, weddings, Chinese New Year, or basically whenever it pleases them. I will be watching the news at 7:30 and all of a sudden a series of explosions start going off outside your window. The first time this happened, I freaked. My exact words were “OH MY GOD there's a GUN FIGHT outside!!” (except in Chinese). Until I noticed that my relatives were unfazed and did not even seem to hear it. Kind of like when my dad’s beeper used to go off in the middle of the night when I was having a sleepover with friends, and I was the only one who couldn't hear it. The first minute it’s kind of interesting, like ‘ooh where’s the noise coming from? It sounds kind of interesting. I want to set me off some firecrackers too!’ and then after a moment it gets old really, really fast. To the point where I think I’m going insane and want to scream out the window at the village people to keep their racket to themselves. Only at that point – not before I want to pull my hair out – does the pandemonium finally stop! Too bad it sets off the gang of feral cats that lives outside my bedroom window. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

the best kind of company

You've all met Bartholomew. He's been my greatest comfort these past few months, because who am I kidding -- it gets lonely in such a big city. When the time difference is ridiculous and it is 4am in California, Bartholomew keeps me company. In addition to his ice cream-only diet (which is severely impacted here because of the questionable quality of Chinese dairy products) he also demands photographs with all the major landmarks of the world. Yes, I know how old I am and realize that I'm in the grown up world, but who doesn't love B? I realized last night that he deserves some recognition too -- I take him with me on my travels because he's like a piece of home. He makes strange places more familiar, is extremely photogenic and fits perfectly in my backpack. What more could you ask of a traveling companion? 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

did you know...

Some interesting things I’ve learned about China, gleaned from observation, reading the news and having conversations with my students/relatives/friends:

The imbalance of guys to girls in China is pretty widely known – about 116 boys for every 100 girls (quoting my second grand uncle, I/he could be wrong) – but there’s definitely a preference for boys over girls. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but my class of 30 students only has 5 girls. No kidding. Apparently, many parents are less willing to invest in girls and give them a higher education (past a bachelor’s degree) because they expect their daughters to marry at around 25 years old and then stay home to raise their children. Women who are around 30 and unmarried are called “shen nu ren,” which means left-over woman. Yikes.

You know how in the U.S., women still earn about 78 cents to every dollar a man makes? That doesn’t go on here – both sexes are paid equally for the same job. The U.S. needs to learn something from this. However, foreigners (say, if you are white and from America/England/France, etc.) are often paid significantly more than their Asian counterparts who do the same job.

On gender equality- I find that both sexes still aren’t really “equal” like they are in the U.S. For example, when I went camping (if you can call it that, at the Chinese military base), it was really apparent they expect all the guys to do the grunt work, but not only that, the girls are okay with it—okay with not being given the option to help out, while I was kind of offended. Another thing— I’m helping plan the annual basketball tournament for the students (about 140 students total), and there are 4 teams: all boys. When I was meeting with one of the administrative staff, she said that the girls had wanted to form a team too, but "nooo, we can’t have that." I was shocked and offended when she said that! They would have a lawsuit slapped on them quicker than anything if this was the U.S.!

Native Shanghainese are often preferred over people from outside the city (wai di ren, “outside land people,” basically people from the countryside who emigrated to Shanghai in hopes of making a better future for themselves)  for jobs such as nannying or housecleaning, because they can be trusted (aka tracked down in case anything happens). They have a reputation to uphold because all their documents are in Shanghai, whereas you don’t know if people from the wai di are trustworthy, and if they do happen to screw you over, you might not be able to track them down because they have fake papers (not that they do, but that seems to be the stereotype around here).

Guns are illegal here. No one owns one. Only a specific department of the police are allowed to have them, and they often abuse the privileges (or so I’m told). They are dispatched when there is social unrest, and well, you can probably guess the rest…

There is no minimum age for buying alcohol or cigarettes. Sure, you’re allowed to drive at 18, but when you’re 10 and want to buy some baijiu (white spirit, the stuff is disgusting, kind of like rubbing alcohol), no prob. In fact, the Chinese government owns the China Tobacco Company, whose popularity accounts for about 10% of the country’s annual revenue (read in The Economist) – so of course they’re not really going to educate their constituents in the harms of smoking!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend in Wuxi

I spent the day fighting crowds and traffic in Wuxi -- in the cold and rain. Now I know why people stay home for the national holiday - and that's what I'm doing for the rest of the week! I'm actually kind of excited -- I'm getting a permanent wave tomorrow (besides cutting it, I've never done much with my hair, so this is BIG), and I need to do some shopping for my inappropriate winter wardrobe. I underestimated how early (or late) it would get cold, as in, not this weekend. It looks like a lightweight jacket is not going to get me through until the 20th, but no worries -- another trip to the tailor's is in order.

Anyway, Wuxi is a 2 hour's drive by car to the northeast of Shanghai, where Tai Hou, a huge lake, is located. We went and saw the lake and this huge amusement park of a Buddhist temple. I'm not kidding you -- you pay about $30 USD per person to get into this walled religious complex where there are lots of gilded buddhas, temples and places to throw money and burn incense, except unfortunately, there are no rides. You are supposed to spend more money on food, incense, and luck, namely in the form of huge fountains/pagodas/bins they strategically place around the place so  you can throw all sorts of spare change in there. The pinnacle of the experience is trekking to the top of the hill, where the huge buddha is (think the Statue of Liberty) and then you're supposed to wait an hour and a half in line so you can rub her big toe for good luck. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was a place for the church (monastery?) to make money off tourists. And it is living proof that if you build it, they will come -- people were lining up by the hundreds, possibly thousands, to get in here. I had lunch in the most ridiculous, ostentatiously decorated building that reminded me of the Vatican. I mean, it looked nice and everything, but then you realize how much money it probably cost to build it and all the other better things they could have done with it.

It was a cold, wet and dreary day, but way better than sightseeing on a hot and humid day. I was so cold though, by the end of the day all I wanted was to go home (the one in Los Angeles), have a hot shower and curl up with my ridiculous pink fluffy robe with some hot chocolate and a puppy. Sometimes I ask myself, if I have all those wonderful things at home, what in the world am I doing here?  I need to get my head checked.

Also, I don't think I'm usually this pessimistic in my posts, but it might be the minor head cold and exhaustion from my religious pilgrimage today talking.

*note: I'll update with pictures when I get home and have access to my camera cord! I'm currently at my relative's house for the weekend.

Monday, September 26, 2011

the south bund: my new closet

I went to the cloth market last week in the South Bund, where all the tailors are located, and IT WAS AMAZING. Originally, the errand was to pick up a shirt my mom wanted copied, but it turned into a shopping excursion – not the normal kind, but the kind where you wander a boundless pit where all your fashion dreams come true. The possibilities are endless! You can get traditional silk chi paos made, business suits, formal dresses, winter coats, fur coats, leather jackets, you name it. I got fitted for a wool/cashmere blend cape for the winter, and it was so fun trying on all the different styles, getting measured, and picking out the color and cloth for it – all for about $60 USD! It’s dangerously addictive, and I already know quite a portion of my paycheck will – happily- go to the tailor’s. It’s so much fun, and the price to get it done in the states would be exorbitant. The dangerous thing about this process is that I have to go back this week to pick up my coat, which inevitably means that I will once more need to ponder if I really need a replica Chanel suit for my life to be complete (the answer is YES! - which will then lead me to return the following week to pick it up, and then the cycle will start again). Which makes me very excited.

A sign that I’m slowly assimilating to Chinese culture is the fact that I don’t mind bargaining anymore. Enjoyment is an overstatement, but I have to say that it adds an element of thrill to shopping, and then there is nothing like the elation when you score yourself a pair of black flats for about $10USD. 450* yuan for a leather belt? No way, I’m not paying anything over 150! I have a feeling that the shock of American prices when I go home force me into becoming a miser – but no worries, you’ll be able to find me luxuriating in my closet, eating Poptarts and barbecue (the latest in my list of things I miss. Goodness, I don’t even eat Poptarts at home!).

*note: the exchange rate is about about 6.5 yuan to $1USD, and Wilson is now the proud new owner of a sleek black belt, which I scored for 120 yuan! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hong Kong > Shanghai

I’m writing this as I wait at the terminal for my flight from Shenzhen to Shanghai — I went to Hong Kong for the weekend to visit my relatives. I ate delicious Chinese food – I still don’t get how they take the most ordinary food and make it into something better than perfect – hung out with my aunts and uncles who I sadly do not get to see often enough, and reveled in the overabundance of shopping malls. Both my wallet and daily caloric intake took a beating. Thank goodness I do not live here, or else my self-control would be nonexistent (as well as my bank account and waistline).

 In front of one of the most touristy destinations in HK - I made my uncles pose with me in front of the Bruce Lee statue, because that is pretty much the only thing you do at the Avenue of Stars (minus admire the skyline). It was fun and they were mortified (locals just do not get caught doing this, I had to beg them). Also, I enjoyed the ferry ride across the harbor immensely, Hong Kong is just so pretty at night!

Frozen yogurt with Ian, my little cousin. He just lost 4 teeth and is the most adorable thing when he smiles (or shares his opinions about anything in general). 

Hiked down a mountain to a fish market, this place is so removed from the skyscrapers and traffic of the city! 

Fast food in Hong Kong (I know, isn't it awesome?) I got curry and my uncle Eddie got pork and rice. If only American fast food were like this!

The view of the city from Happy Valley, the racetrack. One of the few open, grassy spaces you find in the city, how peaceful! 

Melody this is for you -- went to get milk tea and buns at Tsui Hua (notice the headline on the daily, haha!) 

After being in China for 2 months, it’s funny how I could instantly notice the subtle differences between Hong Kong and the mainland. I definitely think that Hong Kong is the more livable of the two cities when compared to Shanghai – the public transportation system is much more complete and convenient, the people more helpful and polite. Did I mention that its much cleaner and the food is safe to eat? There are normal toilets, and the people have actually heard of bleach (and use it)!!! Needless to say, Hong Kong was such a welcome break from always being on the alert in Shanghai. Having family around does make such a difference—I felt like I could relax and not worry about whether or not food was safe to eat, if I could trust someone, if I could find my way around without getting lost, or if I was ordering the right thing on the menu. Not that I consciously worry about these things in Shanghai, but I have to say that my stress level went down significantly this weekend. Now its back to the usual grind, but I’m sure once I get used to living in Shanghai (and my Chinese gets better) I’ll have a much easier time of it. I’ve recently made some friends in Shanghai that are also here from California, and a friend of mine will be arriving tomorrow to study until December, so I’m really excited to have some company! It’s amazing what a difference friends and familiar faces can make on the whole transition/adapting process - definitely makes it a lot easier.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I'm alive!

On the Great Wall with some lovely girls from England that I travelled with.

I am probably now known across the web as the girl who does not update her blog, ever. I have a valid excuse, I promise. Here it is: up until I got an internet card a week ago, blogger, twitter, and facebook were all blocked on my computer. Thanks a lot, vpn that I paid for! And by I, I mean Wilson, who I will pay back with silk panda ties (sorry love, I’m not kidding, it’s sitting in my suitcase) as well as a fobbed-out wardrobe when I return for being a dear and dealing with my wanderlust ways.

Hopefully you’ve all been getting my emails or emailing me in the meanwhile because you miss me so freakin much. Anyway, after a month in Haining teaching primary school/high school and 2 weeks traveling around China (to answer your questions: Hangzhou, Suzhou, Beijing and yes, the Great Wall was mind blowing, but more on that later), I am finally back in Shanghai and here to stay. My plan was originally to be here until October but I’ve recently decided to extend my stay until January because the position I was offered at the university was conditional on me staying until the end of the semester, and I figured, why not? I have a place to stay, a wage I can live off of, and yet-unknown but probably infuriating and shocking experiences with Chinese culture to have in the near future (there are so many stories to tell I don’t even know where to start). Oh, and I’d like to perfect my Mandarin skills, obviously on the forefront of my agenda in China. Now can you see why an extended sojourn in Shanghai won out against my better judgment of going home and being a grown-up?

There’s much to catch you all up on, and I’ll start tomorrow -- after I tell my students about college life in the states, because slideshows about the educated, partying youth of America do not make themselves.

Bartholomew in a classic Chinese watertown setting. He's on a [classic chinese river] boat!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2 weeks

...until I leave for Shanghai! 

Kind of looks like Hong Kong, except with some different buildings? 

You're all probably thinking, finally, she gets back to writing about more interesting things (as reflected in the title of my blog). It occurred to me about a week ago that I won't be able to access Facebook while I'm in China (the horror!!), so luckily you can find out what I'm up to on here.

So, until October, I will be teaching elementary/middle school aged kids, trying to learn how to write in Chinese, exploring my roots, avoiding contaminated food items, surviving the 90% humidity (I am actually dreading this one, but it will be worth it in the end!), and of course the many places Bartholomew and I will visit. Plus more, I'm sure. I've never been to China before and besides my ability to speak Mandarin and all the stuff I learned in my college days about world government/economy/politics (which is not saying much for the cultural adaptation necessary once I get there), I know next to nothing. Thank goodness I know Mandarin.

This time around, I'm going abroad to teach -- English, of course (I don't know what anybody would learn if I tried teaching Chinese). I've been saving up for the past year, will be earning enough to support myself, and overall this trip is much more un-structured than the study abroad program I did in college. My first teaching gig is for the month of July in Haining, in the Zhejiang province (about 2 hours outside of Shanghai), and then I'll have a few weeks to kill before I start teaching at a university/high school program in Shanghai until I leave in October. I'm hoping I'll make some good friends to travel with -- I haven't thought too much about where I want to go yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

In all honesty, the fact that I'm actually leaving in two weeks hasn't even hit me. With my deadlines at work and a hectic social schedule to try and see everyone before I leave (everyone is coming home for the Summer just as I'm leaving!), I've been shoving all my travel planning onto the backburner. Anyway, this is just a heads up to let you know that I'm going back to my globe-trotting ways -- Hooray!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Everyone, meet Molly:


Molly is a 2 year old miniature poodle we got in the beginning of May - her previous owners were moving out of the country, and she was almost on her way to the shelter until we found out about her from a friend. She's quickly charmed us all and assumed the position of family favorite. Her skills include escaping by jumping over the backyard wall (only to show up at the front door) and sitting on demand, and her interests are: being petted, human food, and watching/chasing (or getting owned by) squirrels, in that order. She is already up there on the list of things I will miss like crazy when I go to China -- like uncontaminated dairy products (i.e. ice cream) and arid climate -- I'm still formulating a plan on how I will survive without them. It's crazy how fast a little sheep in disguise can grow on you!  

I'm on my way to becoming the crazy dog lady. Watch, the next time I see you, I'll probably whip out some uber cute Molly photos that you did not want to spend 10 minutes gushing over. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

grad + bag

Congrats to my brainy boyfriend on his M.S.! Notice the distinctive gold collar (I kept calling it a "cape," which you have to admit sounds cooler) and what is peeking out from the bag.


And no, I am not one of those girls who subjects her boyfriend to being a purse-carrier, I just had to get a shot of Wilson and Bartholomew! 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

judging a book by its cover

Penguin Books commissioned Jill Tamaki to make embroidered covers for some of their Classics (printed of course, not actually embroidered ones, sadly), and this one is one of my favorites. I think I need to add this copy to my personal library.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

sweet succulents

This is the product of my afternoon (That is, after the extremely unproductive portion where I went out to run errands only to find out that EVERYTHING is closed on Easter... I swear the exact same thing happened last year). Fortunately, my mom is the owner of a variety of monstrous succulents, so I just went around snipping off tiniest ones, stuck them in the pot, and voila! This one may just have to go on my desk at work.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

puppy shopping

I'd like this puppy in the window, please. (also available in desktop)

I've been dog shopping lately, and I was so excited all week to see a Westie this weekend (see extremely heart-melting puppy above), except somewhere along the way, I thought about buying from a breeder vs. adopting from the shelter, and the shelter won out. (btw, what do you think about the whole adopt vs. buy thing? Animals at the shelter obviously need a good home so much more, but if no one buys the puppies, don't they end up there too? ) 

So today, we went to the SPCA and I met the cutest little standard poodle mix - and we can take her home on Tuesday if we want her. She's the most charming little Benji-looking pup with a slight shagginess about her. The slightly ruffled-looking ones always get me... so cross your fingers that I'll be updating my blog with a new companion on Tuesday! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm going green(er)!

How do you celebrate Earth Day? In honor of the holiday I'm evaluating my non-green habits and pledging to improve on them this year. So, to observe this year, I will:

1. Make a habit of taking my reusable grocery bags to the grocery store. They're in the car anyway, I need to stop being lazy/forgetting and go back to get them!

2. Carpool to work with dad whenever possible. Built-in pro: I won't oversleep my alarm.

3. Plant more vegetables in the garden this weekend. Flowers are nice and all, but since I've discovered that our garden is capable of growing monster zucchini, why not put that soil to work?

4. Start a compost pile. I've been meaning to do this -- now is the time!

5. Support more small and local businesses. I've been trying to do this more since Christmas shopping last year, but it's tricky sometimes with all those big box stores everywhere!

I've already started on #s 2, 3 and 5. Now it's time to establish these all as habits!!

EARTH, I'M COMING TO SAVE YOU! (hey, everyone only has to do their part - how are you saving Earth this year?)

something to remember

From The Great Chase by Natasha Noveski

The latter, I've found, is the story of life after college. Why wait for an adventure to come find you when you can embark on one yourself? Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and jump in. (and hope for the best)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Guess who got a surprise delivery at work yesterday? 
that's right, me!! 

What is it about red roses that spell out love and romance? Pink, yellow or white roses are just not the same. Counting down the days until I visit Wilson-- 3 more days! Thanks for the wonderful surprise, can't wait to see you!! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

one day...

I will see the Aurora Borealis. 

Photo from National Geographic, taken in Norway

Imagine looking up and seeing the northern lights above you-- just staring at the picture puts me in awe.    

(By the way, there is nothing more awe-inspiring than looking at NatGeo photos. It makes me want to drop everything i'm doing and go see the world. LIFE magazine issues, too.)

Friday, January 7, 2011


"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."

- St. Augustine

Photo source