Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Back From India

Well, we are back from India and I have to say, it was an amazing trip. With over 500 pictures to go through, I regret to say it will be a little while before I can get our photo album posted for you to see. For now you can see the few pictures I put up to the right.

We arrived in Shanghai late Sunday evening after 24 hours in transit. Phil went into work Monday, and on Tuesday we celebrated Christmas at home. Christmas in Shanghai was a very strange thing. Being in India the entire week before, combined with the fact that we live in a country that really only started celebrating Christmas recently, made for a surreal experience.

I haven't even unpacked our luggage completely and I am already onto the next thing- planning our trip home to the U.S in February. The tickets are booked and we are on our way home! Phil and I are both really looking forward to it. It is definitely past time to see our family and friends and just get out of China for a while.

Well, just a quick update here. I promise to post many pictures and stories from our trip in India. Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

Phil and Jen

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mom Says It's Time

Just today my mother lovingly reminded me that it was time for a new post. She's right. I will try to stay away from telling you the same old "life is busy here in Shanghai story". I will try instead, to creatively and artfully weave together some delightful story that creeps up on you in the end and effectively communicates the very thing I had promised not to do. Alright, I won't do that either. Or did I already?

In any event... As I type this post, I am standing in my kitchen cooking dinner. I would love to say I am off in the city exploring areas untouched by foreigners, taking advantage of grand photo opportunities, having charming encounters with locals... but the reality of daily life prevails. And here I stand in the kitchen, trying a new recipe for pork tenderloin- an ancho chili rub of sorts. When I am done with these preparations, I will begin my studies for the mandarin class Phil and I have tonight.

Fatigue tempts me to cancel our class this evening and play hooky, but the desire to break through the communication wall that stands so firmly between myself and real conversation with locals, prevents me from doing so. I find that Mandarin class can feel like a necessary evil at times. It is after all, an integral part of learning this, or any other language.

Other than our daily life here in the city, we are preparing to go to visit our friends Uma and Moreshwar in India next week. I have a hunch that living in China has prepared us for some of the unique logistical and digestive issues that foreigners face while traveling in India. I can hope anyway....

I do have much more to blog as well as some photo albums that I want to post. I think realistically that will happen when we return from India. I intend to have many stories and pictures from that adventure as well.

We wish you well and hope that you are aware of and enjoying the blessings that surround you at this holiday time.

-Phil and Jen

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Short and Sweet

It's been a while, I know. Hopefully you all had a nice thanksgiving holiday. I just completed a 2 day cooking bender. We decided, at the last minute, to have a Thanksgiving celebration at our house over the weekend. Not sure if we would even find a turkey, I started my quest to find one. After the turkey was found (for over $100 US!), I began my cooking adventure for approximately 12 people.

After much cooking and eating, we played games well into the evening. It was nice, but exhausting! I think I want to go out for brunch next year and just come back to a clean house to play games after dinner.

Well that's all for now. Sorry for the short post here- we did want to let you know we are alive and well- just insanely busy. I have been really busy with school and work, so I will spend some time posting and getting some pictures up in the next few weeks.

Again- Happy Holidays!
Phil and Jen

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Morning gives way and a gentle haze floats over the city. As I watch blue sky struggle to make its way through the clouds, a cool breeze blows through the windows. It is rare in a city as polluted as Shanghai that one opens the windows, but momentary desire to experience the refreshing sense that comes on a fall day overtakes me.

Today the city beckons. The streets below beg to be explored. It is the first day in a long time that the weather cooperates with my time and desire, so camera in hand, I am off to explore the streets of Shanghai, and hopefully capture a bit of its life and people.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blog History in the Making

As some of you may know, I am a bit dramatic. While this may not be blog history, it is certainly a personal accomplishment for me to blog a third time in less than a week, let alone a month. For those of you wondering if I am sitting at home, bored out of my brains, having nothing better to do with my time than pontificate to what I suppose is an ever dwindling audience- fear not. This is not the case. I am instead, exercising my interest in writing by diligently doing just that- writing.

I have been learning and therefore putting into practice, the discipline of regular writing. As I sit at my laptop trying to concentrate on an article I am writing for a magazine, I find that I need a break. So I write to you.

I fear until recently, that I have not been so effective at keeping you all in the loop regarding life here in Shanghai. I have kept up on most big things, but as far as day to day life goes, I haven't done so well sharing those details. Currently, I am writing an article on Chinese tea for a magazine I am writing for here in Shanghai. Last week I had my first article- an article on Chinese wine based on a tasting I hosted- published. That was fun. I will include the article as soon as I can figure out how to scan and post it properly.

Otherwise, it has been a bit grey and chilly here in Shanghai. The sun is however, peeking through the clouds right now. I feel the fog clearing from my brain so I think I should take advantage of that clarity and get back to writing my next article.

(Feel free to comment and say hello here on the blog-that way I know if you really are reading ;)


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sunday Night Rambling

It is Sunday night here in Shanghai. As Phil plays his guitar in the study, I sit at our dining table turned temporary office space, attempting to concentrate on a writing class. My brain, swimming in a sea of pronouns, pronoun cases, pronouns with gerunds (??), seems to have taken a permanent break for the evening. Although my eyes read the pages before me, I haven’t taken in a bit of information in the last 20 minutes.

Instead, I find myself thinking about the end of another weekend. As always, it feels too short. It seems like the weeks and weekends run together in one seamless line. Today is really no different. I feel a little less rested than I normally do for a Sunday night, but I don’t mind. We had a very busy week. Aside from the usual Mandarin class and studying that comes with that, we had a particularly social schedule.

Monday night we went to our favorite Sichuan restaurant with our friends Alecia and Andy. Wednesday night I cooked a seriously American “comfort” meal for a friend of ours who has lived in Shanghai for over 10 years. Friday deserves a story of its own, but in the interest of not boring the brains out of you- I will say, with no exaggeration that I cooked all day long. (Living in Shanghai, there is no shortage of great restaurants in many different cuisines, but for some reason, until recently, there was no Mexican food here. Most Chinese people have never even heard of a taco! Needless to say, since Phil and I have moved here, we haven’t had Mexican food of any kind. Aside from the 1 Mexican restaurant we recently gained, 8 flour tortillas will cost you $11!) So a combination of wanting to make a favorite chicken enchilada recipe for our guests that night, and an absolute unwillingness to pay what it would cost to buy what I needed, I decided to take on the task of making flour tortillas, salsa, enchiladas, and a few other side dishes. I know I was crazy for doing all of it in one day, and although I was sore the next morning from rolling out 25 tortillas for 3 hours, it was sooooo worth it.

Saturday night I took a much needed break from cooking and we went out to dinner with our friends Sophie and Patrice who have just moved here from France. Along with 6 other friends of theirs, we went to a Chinese restaurant for some good old fashioned Chinese fare. It was nice to go out and be served, as well as meet so many new people. One of our favorite things about living here in Shanghai is meeting and getting to know so many different people from all over the world. It is really one of the coolest things. I never thought we would have to come to Shanghai to meet such a diverse community of people, but I am glad we have.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Sitting here trying to write, I find myself at a loss for words. I have been attempting to describe what life in Shanghai has been like over the last seven months, as well as give a single word conclusion to the sentence “life here in Shanghai has been___”. Well, I can’t seem to finish that sentence. I can say that life here in the “truly big city” has been an adventure, a challenge, a great blessing, and an enormous learning experience. If we were honest, I am sure that in our own private moments, Phil and I have wondered if we made the right decision. Eight months into this adventure though, I can say that we have. (Sorry mom and dad, I know you’re still hoping we will hate it and come home.)

After a few months of living here and getting comfortable, we were really ready to get out and explore all that the city had to offer. Right around that time, summer came and settled quite heavily over Shanghai. Many days were close to 100 degrees with humidity above 90 percent. If you were outside longer than 5 minutes and had to walk (as most city dwellers do), you were ready to take a shower and change your clothes. There were days we would literally change our clothes 3 times! Now that fall is here though, and the oppressive heat has lifted, the city has come back to life for us.

As if experiencing a re- birth of appreciation for this foreign land in which I live, I find myself just as fascinated and stimulated walking the streets now, as I did when I first arrived. With this re-birth though, came the realization that I had quickly, easily, and unknowingly grown weary of Shanghai. Shortly after moving here (some of you may remember my previous post), I decided that I didn’t want to become accustomed to the view from our 56th floor apartment. At night, you can see a myriad of colorfully lit cruise boats below, buildings and lights that stretch for miles, as well as the millions of lights adorning the buildings that so famously span the bund. It is a spectacular sight, but as with most things, we grow less and less impressed with that which becomes part of our daily landscape. Knowing that, I promised myself that I would work hard to avoid growing tired of the view.

It turns out that Shanghai as a city is like that as well. The crowds wear, the people annoy, their habits become less and less “culturally different” and more and more worthy of a good smack upside the head, and things just get tired. Most expats who have been here as long as Phil and I have, share many of these views. And although I understand why (as well as share those opinions many days myself), I have come to see that it is a waste of time, of experience and of life itself.

Like the decision I made to continually stand in awe of the view from my apartment, I have decided to stand in awe of the culture and city I live in. As many things in life, love, marriage, friendship, and commitment- we may grow tired and weary of the very thing we once cherished and worked so hard to nurture, maintain, and grow. If the view from my apartment hasn’t changed- what has? What is it in me that grows’ weary and tired? What is it in me that sees’ a once spectacular sight as commonplace? What is it within me that so easily bores and takes life for granted? I have many theories, but more importantly, is the decision to maintain a sense of awe.

Almost 8 months in, I am grossly aware of the blessings in my life, the sufferings of others and the selfishness within, that despite that knowledge, continues to fuel an apathy in me. I am humbled. Humbled and brought closer to that which Frees, Loves without condition, Hopes without fear, and Heals beyond measure. And so I continue a pursuit to see the country and culture around me with eyes of grace, understanding, appreciation and awe. Awe in the beauty of the people and this place. If I have been brought to Shanghai for this alone, it has been worth it.

Something tells me this is just the beginning.......

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oprah May Be Onto Something Afterall

It's Friday here in Shanghai and the weekend is underway. Yesterday I hosted a Chinese tea tasting and educational event. I'm not sure what else to call it, but I had a group of people at my house, along with the tea expert I found for Phils birthday (see previous blogs if you have no clue what I'm talking about), and we spent the afternoon tasting and learning about various Chinese teas from a health perspective.

As always our "tea expert" Brenton met and exceeded our expectations with the amount of time he spent on the subject, his willingness to answer questions, and the high grade teas he shared for tasting. We all gathered around the nicely placed table adorned with multiple tea pots, special mats, cups, snifters, and a variety of bags containing the teas we would learn about and soon taste. Brenton started with an introduction to Chinese tea history- turns out, there are over 300 tea varieties in China alone! But since we only had so many hours in a day, and we wanted to focus on Chinese tea from a health perspective, we would only address a handful of those teas.

The main teas we focused on were green tea varieties, red oolong and pu'er. As many of you may have heard (or seen on Oprah), tea is all the rage for weight loss. First it was green tea, now it is red oolong and Pu'er. Apparently, Oprah's favorite is the red oolong. Starting with the green tea, we learned about its antioxidant properties and immune boosting power. Then after tasting a few varieties of those and learning how to buy a proper clay tea pot and season it, we moved onto the red oolong. Now I have to give you all a little side note/ Jen observation comment here, and tell you that green oolong is also credited for having some amount of weight loss properties. This is the tea I have been drinking since meeting with Brenton the first time, and in all honesty, I have noticed a big difference. The red oolong is basically the super boosted version of the green in terms of its weight loss effects. Red oolong is also phenomenal for high blood pressure, antioxidants, lowering cholestrol, and detoxifying. The only side effect can be agitation, and if you ask my husband, I don't need help in that department. :)

Now Pu'er tea is an entirely different beast. This is the only tea that Chinese people will drink in the evening, because unlike the oolong teas, you can get to sleep after drinking it. (I spent a few nights wide awake until 1am before I realized I needed to stop the oolong after 5pm.) Pu'er is a "fermented", more accurately "aged" tea commonly found in cake- like round flat disks. In my opinion Pu'er is not the tea you drink because you want to sit down and have a tasty cup of something warm. For me, it's more like the, "this has got to be healthy- or nobody should drink this" tea. Okay maybe I am being a little dramatic. But after Brenton shared some of his top grade Pu'er tea, my dislike for this tea was had changed.

Today I started drinking the red oolong and Pu'er I bought from Brenton last night, and if I can keep my hands off the food, (due to the insane munchies one gets from this tea), long enough to notice any weight loss effects- I will report back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Check Out Our New Photos

Life in Shanghai was back to its frenzied pace as soon as our feet hit the ground. Three weeks after returning from our European travels, I was exhausted and ready for some down time. Phil and I have both been busy with work and day to day life here in the city.

I finally found a day to sit down, go through our photos and post them online. For those of you who do not know how to access our photo albums, just click on the photo album link on the right of the page and enjoy.

I decided to do a little story telling along with the photos.

Will blog soon!
-Jen and Phil

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We're Back

Phil and I have been back from Europe for a little over a week now. We are back into the full swing of life, so I thought I would take an opportunity to say hello while I have a minute. I have a lot of pictures from our trip and will update the blog within the next few days.

We hope all is well. Thanks for checking up on us.
-Phil and Jen

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Typhoons in Shanghai and Starbucks in Germany- What Is Going On In the World!

Fortunately for Phil and I, we are still in Germany, and have therefore avoided any stress or difficulty associated with Shanghai's Typhoon Wipha (who names these things anyway). I will admit that I only found out about this typhoon the other morning. I have been blissfully unaware of the goings on in Shanghai for the last few weeks, and am happy to say, will remain that way for a couple more.

Phil will be done working here in Germany at the end of this week and we have decided to vacation through Europe for the week after. I spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday sitting in Starbucks in front of a computer trying to decide where we would go, map out our trip, and book hotels- all of which are very difficult when you have no particular leaning and very last minute planning. Ah to have such a stress- really, I am not complaining.

Starbucks in Germany is an interesting phenomenon. For those of you who took pause and gasped at the mention of me sitting in Starbucks in Europe, trust me, I know. I avoided said establishment for over a week. There were a few things that threw me into the arms of Starbucks in the end though.

First, I will say, Germans do beer very well. They do not however, do coffee well at all. In the U.S., I would go into a Starbucks for an OK cup of coffee. In China, I go into Starbucks when I want to feel a familiar western establishment. In Germany, I go into Starbucks for a good cup of coffee! Crazy, I know. So, that combined with the fact that all cafes are smoking and all Germans seem to smoke (sadly even pregnant ones), the smoke free Starbucks was a nice break from all of the carcinogens I had been inhaling. Armed with all of those reasons and a need to find Internet that was less than 10 euros an hour, I entered Starbucks, head held high, ordered a latte, a month of Internet, and sat down.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Loving the Fresh Air

Based on the title of my blog entry and the state of air quality in lovely Shanghai, you may be thinking to yourself, where is Jen? One of those fancy oxygen bars? Perhaps a hyperbaric chamber (I don't really know what that is, but I thought it sounded dramatic).

Well friends, Phil and I are in Germany right now. Phil is in training for work and I mooched along for the ride. After his training, we are extending the business trip into a few days of much needed vacation for ourselves.

We will be staying in Burscheid for two weeks, and then off to who knows where for the rest of the time. Upon arriving in Germany last night, we hopped into a car and took the open road from Frankfurt to Cologne. Phil was definitely enjoying being behind the wheel again after so long. The sky was blue and the trees were, well...there were trees! It made me realize how much I miss nature and how much I am rejuvenated by it.

Upon arriving at our quaint little bed and breakfast, (not to mention the only hotel in town), we nestled in for some much needed food. On one side of the little restaurant there were a group of elderly women playing a mean game of cards, and in some distant room, we could hear the local church choir practicing for the Sunday service (not something you will stumble across in Shanghai). All in all, it was the perfect start to our escape from the bustling life of Shanghai.

Well, I am off to explore the town!

Auf Wiedersehen!

P.S. Did I mention you can drink the water from the tap! Unbelievable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All the Tea in China

Clearly, I have been absent for a while. Two weeks with a sinus infection explains only two weeks of my absence. What then of the other two? Well, before I was ill, Phil and I spent the entire week celebrating his birthday.

Given the fact that we are in a foreign land and without our family and friends, I thought it would be good to do something to make this celebration special. Taking a page from our friends Will and Jen’s book (thanks guys); I informed Phil on “day one” that we would be celebrating his birthday for the entire week. He didn't seem to mind, so I was off to planning.

There are a few rules to the “birthday week”. Rule one, and probably most important, is that the birthday person, enjoys veto power. Said birthday boy or girl gets to decide where to eat, what to eat, and what to do. It’s no surprise that Phil was in favor of this idea. To start each day Phil had a little gift waiting for him before he went to work. The first day, he got the new Harry Potter book (we were done with the whole 759 pages in one week!). Another day, he got a collection of rather hard to find M&M products made in the U.S. (ahh, what you take for granted until it's gone). On the Friday of his birthday week, we went to a concert, and I have to say, going to that concert restored my faith in a decent music scene in Shanghai (I will try to include a video I took on my phone). The big day, however, was on Saturday. After opening his gift, a book called, “All the Tea in China”, I informed Phil that I had arranged for a “tea expert” to take us for a day of tea drinking.

This is the part I was most excited about. I had been wracking my brain, trying to figure out what to do for Phil to make his birthday really memorable. Knowing how much he loves tea, I wanted to find a way for us to take part in traditional tea drinking, learn about Chinese teas, and have it all done in English. This was proving to be a bit difficult, until I came across an ad online for someone who did, among other things-"tea tours". After a week or so, I heard back from the person, and long story short- I arranged for this "tea expert" named Brenton to meet with us.

After meeting at a halfway point, we headed off to a park in the area. When we arrived at Guilin Park, we were greeted by a beautiful traditional style Chinese garden, with well groomed walkways, ancient looking structures, and not another foreigner in sight.(For pictures of our tea adventure check out the photo album link to the right and check out the album titled tea.) We eventually made our way to a restaurant/ tea house where we were able to sit and enjoy all of the tea Brenton had brought with him. We were accompanied by what I will refer to as a “tea girl”. The “tea girl” is a lovely young woman who sits at a small table off to the side of the main table and carries out the traditional ritual of pouring and serving tea.

All of the elements were in place for a great day of tea drinking. Here we were in a beautiful traditional style garden, in a very nice tea house, accompanied by a man who knows his tea, and a pleasant young woman eager to pour and serve tea in the traditional style. We sat and drank tea for hours. We learned all about different teas: green tea, oolong tea, red oolong tea, longjin tea, etc. I think we tasted approximately 10 different teas, comparing the different grades, tastes and scents. Half way through, I felt like I was at a wine tasting event. After great care and very meticulously timing each steep, we would flip a longer snifter cup over into a regular tea cup and begin smelling the snifter cup, examining and identifying all of the different aromas in the tea. We would then take three “slurps” finishing off the tea, comparing how each slurp tasted different from the other. This style of tea drinking is call kung fu style. No seriously. And you know those teeny tiny little cups you see and think, “Who drinks out of something the size of a thimble? Clearly, those are for decoration.” Well, they’re not! You really do drink out of those cups. All in all the day was full of great information and really tasty tea.

Five hours after our tea journey began, drunk on oolong tea, we were parting ways with Brenton and off to find some much needed food and massages.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Dis' (I don't even know how to spell that)

It's been almost a month since I last posted. You will have to excuse what seemed like disregard for those of you who eagerly await my every post. I won't bore you with too many details, but dis' you I did not. I have spent the better part of the last two weeks on the couch. The culprit- I have my theories (pollution, smoky bar, mass transit in a city of 22 million people, and the list goes on). The good news is I am feeling better.

This will be a short and sweet hello just to let you know I haven't forgotten about the blog. I will be posting more in the days to come.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

There are moments I am confronted with the reality that I really live here. These are the moments when I succumb to the same situations that every other person in this city faces. As an expat, it can be easy to avoid many of these realities, but some are impossible to completely escape. I have air conditioning, electricity, a shuttle service with my apartment, a dryer, a dishwasher, a refrigerator full of food- many creature comforts that my Chinese counterparts do not have. While I do have all of these things, I find I am still bound by the laws of physics, and therefore, largely affected by travel and the sheer volume of people in this city.

When Phil and I first arrived here, there were several things we marveled at. One was the amount of people on the subway at rush hour. While the number of people was astounding, more amazing, was how they got onto the subway. Rushing to get on, people push and shove, contort their bodies, and get far closer to strangers than they would otherwise find acceptable. I found it unusual that people rushed to arriving trains when another one would follow within 2 minutes. After all I thought, “What is another 2 minutes in the larger scheme of things?” I would soon learn.

I have been journaling since our first trip to China. It is interesting to look back on previous entries and read about the different things I found interesting, amazing, and outright strange. The subway situation has definitely been a focus of several of my writings. In one entry I wrote: “I rushed to my first subway today- I still refuse to body slam a large group of people to get on- so I wait.” I remember that moment clearly. I remember thinking I would never rush to the subway unless I absolutely had to catch the train. Two months after living here though, I found myself, like many other residents of this city, rushing to catch the train, desperate to reclaim any amount of the time Shanghai seems to steal away from you.

If you read my previous entry on T.I.C moments, you may recall my comment on “rush hour on the subway- when more people cram onto the subway then you thought physically possible- and throw a few more in there for good measure”. When I wrote those journal entries, I swore I would never cram onto a subway- ever. I still maintain there are good reasons for this. One- I am claustrophobic, two- I don’t enjoy having my head nestled in some stranger’s armpit, three- if a person is going to get bird flu, I happen to think this is a perfect environment for transmission, and four- if the subway ever broke down…..I hate to think of what would happen.

All of this said, I had to get to work the other day, and I found myself being that person. For the first time, I was the one who crammed onto the train at the very last second. I was the one who defied spatial reality and pressed into a crowd of people while the doors closed in almost clipping my nose. There I was, with no space to breathe, arms pinned down at my side, and my entire body and face smashed up against the window. If I could have moved my arms to grab my phone and take a picture, I would have. Instead, I laughed, smashed up against a door you should not lean on, let alone press all of your weight against, held my breath, and ignored the bodies pressing up against me in an all too familiar way.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Surviving and Thriving as a "Typical Housewife"

There is something brilliant and honest in the conversation between a person who speaks a language natively and a person who does not. If you don't have a fluent grasp on a language, you are forced to reach for simple terms and basic concepts, resulting in at times, a seemingly harsh assessment or opinion.

My first real encounter with this was in conversation with a real estate agent visiting our home. As we were standing around making small talk- "where are you from?", "do you like Shanghai?", and the usual surface get to know you banter, the dreaded "what do you do?" question was asked. It is dreaded for a number of reasons, some unique to Shanghai, others my own personal feelings, and others, just concepts lost in translation. So I answered the question. As if pleading my case, I tried to explain that while I was not currently employed, I was looking to pursue my passions and start writing, take classes, learn Chinese, and realize some long standing goals. The whole time I was talking, the real estate agent nodded along as if he knew exactly was I was talking about. Then, in one sweeping generalization, he said, "oh- so you are a typical housewife". Knowing there was no point in trying to explain to him that I was not what he accused me of, I nodded my head in defeat and said yes.

Now before all the "housewives" out there get irritated with me, let me explain some things that are unique to the culture and the foreign community here in Shanghai. This "typical housewife" label does not apply to those of you outside this community. It is however, a new and perplexing identity I have been trying to grapple with since I got here. I'd always known that we in the US are defined by our roles and our professions. Just how much wasn't apparent until I moved here. I had no idea, however, the extent to which they do the same here in Shanghai. As I am learning, this is a society very focused on hierarchy and position. So for 10 years I was defined as a business owner and a massage therapist. For the first time in 16 years, I had no employment, and therefore, no professional identity. I found myself, not only in a completely foreign land with nothing comfortable or known to relate to or identify with, but I no longer had a profession. As I struggled through my own emotions over that, I was being lumped into a group known as "taitai's".

Taitai literally means wife in Chinese. However, when an expat refers to herself or someone else as a "taitai", there is an entire lifestyle and connotation attached to that. The expat "taitai" is a woman who often comes here begrudgingly, sticks to her own kind, remains as closed to the culture as she can, shops, goes out for lunches, shops some more, then heads off to the spa. Within the foreign community here, we know there are differing degrees of truth to this, applying at times to our own lives, but to the Chinese, there are no varying degrees. You are either a working spouse or you are a "taitai."

In my quest to find my niche and my identity here in Shanghai, I find myself fighting against this stereotype less and less. When someone asks me what I do in Shanghai, I can tell them about my job and hide behind that as an identifying factor. More and more though, I find myself mentioning my place of employment as a side note and talking more about my interests and future hopes. There are many reasons such a concept does not translate well in China, but I will save that topic for a later time. For now I will be as I am, a "typical housewife", in a not so typical way.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

T.I.C Moments

I've decided it is time to blog on T.I.C moments. For those of you who do not recall what this stands for, T.I.C. moments are the times we here in the expat community lovingly refer to as, "This Is China". The moments I will share in the following list are not meant to paint the Chinese with a broad and unfavorable brush, these are just the occasional realities we from the Western world are faced with. These are the moments that jerk us back into the reality that we are in a very different place....

The following list may be a little gross, so don't say I didn't warn you. Utilizing discretion, I have left some of the more disgusting things out.

-Phil and I waiting for an elevator and some young woman comes out of nowhere, gets on the elevator and starts to push the door close button. We literally had to sandwich our bodies between the closing doors.

-Seeing someone farmer blow onto the street.

-General spitting (seeing the evidence of such an act in an elevator with marble floors is always strange.)

-Cutting in front of you in line. (Get those elbows out and learn how to use your cart if you don't know the language.)

-People staring at you- clearly talking about you.

-Strangers touching your hair just because they are curious.

-People pulling the food out of your grocery cart just to see what the foreigner is buying.

-Something I will call "Nasal Infirmities".

-Babies with splits in the butts of their pants- and there is no diaper....after some thinking, we wondered what kids did when they had to go to the bathroom, b/c clearly they wouldn't go to the bathroom just anywhere, right? WRONG!

-Which brings me to the next one on the list- children being held over garbage cans or the street to go "potty". I'd like to say it is only numero uno, but I'd be lying.

-Rush hour on the subway: Squeezing an unfathomable amount of people onto the subway and body slamming a few more into the mix for good measure. One time I saw a subway worker give someone's butt a little push so the door would close.

-Being asked to pose with perfect strangers so you can have your picture taken as the "token foreigner".

-Going into a market that clearly sells fake goods and seeing signs posted that warn people against buying and selling fakes, because it is "illegal".

-Squatty potties.

-No toilet paper- or soap.

-Someone smoking right under a non- smoking sign.

-There are times that if you need to find a toilet, you just follow the smell.

-Any vehicular situation you put yourself into will remind you that traffic laws are not only a good thing, but so is a society that follows them.

-Seeing someone on a bike with a woman riding sideways on the back, holding an infant, a couple of grocery bags and talking on a mobile phone.

Moments like these remind me that I am a stranger in a strange land. They also help me to remember that I do not have the world figured out, and that my way (although I often tend to think it is the right way), is not the only way. I think it is in these moments, when our beliefs and ideas collide with such a different thought process, that we have the opportunity to learn and grow. We can also, and often times do, close off further- never learning or sharing in another culture. Sadly I see many expats taking this road. At first I thought it was an easier road, but when I weigh the outcome and see the gain versus the loss, I conclude that it is the harder road. I see these people battling to stand still, constantly fighting the rush of water that is the other culture, and only growing tired and weary. Many of you who know me, know that I am strong in my beliefs. I am not saying there are not things worth fighting for or taking a stand against. I am saying there is a lot to learn from embracing and learning about another culture, where they have come from, and why they approach life the way that they do, So that is my lesson, the thing I am learning on a daily basis. I can embrace and be stretched as a person, or I can clench my fists and refuse to accept the reality around me. For now, I choose to embrace. After all, This Is China........

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mission Accomplished

It is a grey and dreary day here in Shanghai. Our friends have been gone for over a week now, but managed to leave a connection in the form of a head cold. Sorry Will, that's my theory- little bugs from the plane. Actually, a lot of people here in Shanghai have colds. It seems like such a strange time of year to have a cold. There has been no real fluctuation in outside temperature, just the usual Shanghai summer heat and humidity.

In the absence of health and parked on the couch, I have managed to finish the last of our pictures from our visit with Will and Jen. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures we have selected to share.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Check out some of our pictures

Well, I have successfully edited and posted some of our many pictures from our vacation with our friends Will and Jen. Check out the photo album link to the right and check out the Shanghai Wanderings album. It's just a start- there will be plenty more to follow. -Jen

Sunday, July 1, 2007

We're Back

Well, I am back to the blog. Our two week vacation has come to an end. I just dropped our friends Will and Jen off at the maglev station bound for the airport, and then onto the U.S. I have to say, Phil and I are sad to see them go. Seeing them was great, but having the time off to travel with them and hang out was just what we needed.

As we suspected, the two weeks they were here flew by. A few days after they arrived in Shanghai, barely over jet lag, we headed off to Beijing via overnight sleeper train. Once in Beijing, we went on a whirlwind tour of some of the major sites in the city. We have a ton of pictures, and thanks to Will, we will have them posted shortly along with stories of our travels.

Once back in Shanghai, we took a day off to rest, and then proceeded to explore the city for the rest of the week. It was nice being a "tourist" in the city we live in. We found some cool new places, but also revisited some places we had forgotten about. I am quite sure that you could do something different in this city every day for a year- there is just so much to do here.

As soon as I get organized and get all the pictures together, I will be posting pictures and stories of our recent travels.

Stay tuned- Phil and Jen

Monday, June 18, 2007

June 19th, 2007

I just found out that we are in the "rainy season" in Shanghai. That would explain the grey dreary days that have filled the last 2 weeks. I was informed of this by a local Shanghainese co- worker of mine just the other day. She explained to me that the rainy season lasts for approximately one month, and goes from the first part of June until the first part of July. Apparently, my colleague says, this season has started a little late. And all this time, I thought the rainy season was winter- the damp, grey, dreary, cold that fellow Michiganders would find refreshing, compared to our blistering, cold and snowy winters. This, I am told, would be the spring rainy season. Ahhh... the things you learn as you live here.

Today is a different day however. Slightly sunny and promising, I notice my mood follows step. I am preparing to travel to Ikea today to get some much needed provisions. I greatly appreciated Ikea in the U.S (okay I loved it so much, I created a song about it), but I really didn't think I would grace this blue and yellow behemoth with my presence so regularly. After all, I live in China. I can surely find what I need a lot cheaper elsewhere, right? Wrong. Ikea is actually quite reasonable, and also a very good place to go in Shanghai if you need certain household goods, chocolate bars, cheese, and even Swedish meatballs. You see, the thing I am learning here in Shanghai is there is China (cheap deals, low cost of living), then there is Shanghai (insanely expensive, moderate to high cost of living). So for most things, other than some furniture items, Ikea is very reasonable.

For the more astute who are reading this, you noticed that I referenced a co-worker. You are probably wondering to yourself if that means that I have a job, and you are correct. I have started working for a relocation company as a "field consultant". This requires that I meet people preparing to move into Shanghai and I take them around to show them the city. I take them to all of the necessary places like hospitals, schools, and grocery stores. I show them how to take the public transportation, as well as show them some of the more fun gems you can only find in the city after being here for a while. It really is an enjoyable job and I get to do something I love by showing people around.

Speaking of showing people around the city, our friends Will and Jen will be coming to visit us this weekend. They will be here for two weeks and we can't wait to see them. We are planning to do a lot with them, including take a trip to Beijing. We will be taking the overnight train there and back. One of the main highlights of that trip (aside from the adventurous overnight train journey) will be seeing the Great Wall. I should have some great pictures to share from this trip. Now I know I haven't posted in a while, but I have a ton of pictures that I am working on in photo shop. And I have been putting off posting the stories that require these pictures. So I promise- stories and a ton of pictures will follow our friends stay here.

Well, Phil and I hope all of you are well. Feel free to comment on this post or shoot us an email telling us how you are. Even though we are oceans apart, we still want to hear how everyone is doing. Cheers! -Phil and Jen

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Know, I Know....I Know

I know...I've been a very bad blogger. It's been a while since I've posted and I am completely aware of those of you who are unhappy with this fact. What I can say is, it has been insanely busy around here. Who would have thought that not being employed would take up so much time?

I'm finding Shanghai to be a city of opportunity and activity. One of the more recent lessons I am learning is, if you are not careful, you can busy yourself into insanity. Add a little culture shock into that equation, and watch out!

Phil and I have been doing a lot lately. I attended a fashion show for a local designer last weekend. The following day, we attended a Chinese wedding. Just yesterday, I went on a tour of a water town called Tongli. This weekend, we are going for a short little getaway in a nearby city called Hangzhou. Then Phil is going to Nancheng and Beijing in the next two weeks! It's been busy to say the least.(I will post in the next few days on the wedding and Tongli with a lot of pictures, so stay tuned for that.)

All in all, life is going well for us here in China. We are definitely starting to experience some culture shock though. I find myself hanging out in my house a lot more these days. I am very aware of the importance of needing space and time in which to breathe. For the most part, I am giving myself that. Phil, however, does not have that luxury. Each day, he has to go out, deal with the taxis, travel to and from work, and just face the everyday challenges of working and communicating in a completely and totally different culture. Did I mention completely and totally different culture? Yeah.... I think we are getting closer to being able to blog on "You know you're experiencing culture shock when...." (when .... you want to beam an elderly lady over the head after she has disgustingly cleared her throat onto the street).

We have been meeting a lot of new people and making friends. I think one of the biggest concerns for us when we were considering this move, was making friends and being part of a community. It has been really cool meeting so many different people from so many different countries. Phil and I will be hosting our first dinner party next weekend with some of the people we have met, so we are looking forward to that. The theme will be "cuisines of the world" so I am really excited to share some of our favorites and see what others bring to share. For those of you who don't know, Phil and I love food. So we thought, what better way to get to know some people we have met, than with food as a theme?

And so, the Shanghai adventure goes on, with the cast of characters growing by the day. I certainly look forward to seeing what more is in store.

Monday, May 14, 2007

On Learning Mandarin....or at least trying to

So we have lived in Shanghai for over 2 months now. At this point, I have stopped counting the days. I can finally keep track of what day it is, although the date still escapes me. I no longer feel so new and wide eyed. And although I don’t have the experience of one who has lived here for 2 years, I feel fairly confident and at ease with my surroundings. We are starting to meet more and more people. Phil got out this weekend to play Ultimate Frisbee with a group of people training for league competition. I stayed home and relaxed.

In an effort to meet people, I have recently joined an expat organization known as the SEA (Shanghai Expat Association). There are over 50 nations represented in this group. It is a great way to meet other expats, learn about the city, take trips, connect with other business people, or just join a book club. I was recently asked and agreed to join the board of the SEA, which means my involvement will greatly increase. I am starting to meet people and make connections through this group, which is nice. I have met a good mix of foreign as well as American expats through this group. I would definitely like to meet more locals though. The government here does not allow the local Chinese to be a part of the SEA, so while I get to meet people from all over the world, I do not get to meet people who are native citizens of China through the SEA or organizations like this. I really want to make sure I don’t surround myself with western comforts and people alone. It is an easy and tempting thing to do at times. I want to make sure I immerse myself and develop relationships with the community around me. To effectively do this, it will help to learn the language.

Phil and I are currently taking mandarin classes. We have a teacher who comes to our house for private lessons 2 times/ week, 2 hours each time. I haven't really shared what it is like trying to learn Mandarin, so I will take this opportunity to do so.

In order to learn Chinese effectively, there are several things you will need to know. First and foremost- you must have a sense of humor. Once you find that, arm yourself with unlimited patience. Next, take everything you know about learning a language and throw it out the door. Intonation to turn a sentence into a question- forget about it. Sentence structure- in the trash. Just when you think you understand something- it will change. Just when you think it makes sense, it won't. And when you grasp a principle and the teacher tells you that principle does not apply to a particular word or phrase, don't even bother asking why. Why, you ask? Because the resounding answer will be- "that's just the way it is". Learning this language is one big T.I.C moment after another. (If you are unfamiliar with T.I.C., please refer to previous post). Oh and I would suggest padding the table you are at during your class, because banging your head on the structure below is a natural response at times. Seriously.

Although the language is insanely challenging, Phil and I are both up to it. We have always had a strong desire to learn another language fluently. What better opportunity than this. And so.... we press forward, with a pillow padded table and a lot of laughter.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Path Less Traveled

The view today is remarkable. When I woke up this morning, I noticed an unusual blue in the sky. There are many "sunny" days here in Shanghai, but due to the profound pollution, it is rare for these days to be accompanied by blue skies. On a day like today though, it is wonderful to look out onto the city to a view that doesn't seem to end. The enormity of this city sprawls before my eyes. All the modernity, hustle and bustle, construction, and endless buildings reaching toward the sky seem transformed into an urban mountain view......

Phil and I have just come off a week long holiday that the entire country took part in. This particular week off is known as the Labor Holiday. The way China handles vacation is a bit different. China has 3 main holidays. One is for the Chinese New Year, another for Labor Holiday in May, and another is in October. The week before the holiday begins, all people are expected to work 8 straight days. They work through the weekend and the following Monday. The vacation begins Tuesday and work resumes again the following Tuesday. Apparently, the initial holiday was only 3 days long and in an effort to boost tourism, someone decided to essentially trade days. So people work their typically free weekend and get those two extra days, thus turning the holiday into a week long vacation.

During these holidays, all major business shuts down, fireworks explode throughout the day, and masses of people (unlike anything I had seen before) descend on the major cities and tourist spots throughout China. So yeah for us, we happen to live in one of those major tourist destinations! When we told our language teacher we were planning on staying in Shanghai for the holiday, she looked at us with some concern, then told us we should just stay in for the first 3 days because the city would be swarming with people. Let me tell you, when a local tells you Shanghai will be swarming (when isn't it???), you take note.

So we decided we would stay in the first day and take the opportunity to finish unpacking those last few straggling boxes of non essential items. You know, the ones that can end up living side by side with us for years, until one day we realize we still haven't unpacked from 2 years ago. After our day in, we decided to brave the city in all of its Labor Holiday frenzy and see if it really was all that crowded.

Our first day out proved to be a relaxed one. We decided to go over to Puxi and check out one of the "western friendly" supermarkets in search of a rice cooker that actually had English on the buttons. Since we were going to be in that area, we also decided to track down an Indian grocer that was rumored to be nearby. After quite a bit of walking, we found both. Our journey had been a success. I have to tell you, it was a great joy to find this Indian grocer so I could replenish my seriously sad spice pantry. It is still in a sad state compared to what it was in the US, but now, I can at least make some of our favorite dishes.

The next day we decided to travel to Qibao, one of the "old cities" outside of the booming downtown. We headed out in the morning, made our way to the end of line 2 on the metro and took a taxi the rest of the way. When we arrived, we were met by a quaint looking arrangement of old architecture, and a sea of Chinese tourists. It was early enough in the day to know that we were in for some seriously crowded tourism. We decided to walk through Qibao, take a little boat ride down the river, take some pictures, and head out before any more people converged on this place. It was nice and quaint, but not worth the shoving and crowding taking place to stay any longer. We figured we live close enough, we can go back when the rest of China isn't there on holiday.

Another day we did one of our favorite things and went for lunch at an Indian restaurant. After surviving a frightening ride in a man powered taxi bike thing, we arrived at Bukhara. We almost jumped out of the contraption when he stopped. We payed for the seriously over priced (30 RMB ($3.75 USD)) ride and thanked God for sparing our lives. Okay, maybe I am being a little dramatic, but seriously, it was scary. You can check out some pictures of this in our photo album (click on the link to the right). So back to the Indian restaurant. This was number 7 for us and by far one of our favorites. By the time our Indian food loving friends come and visit us, we will know the good from the bad, as well as the best. And for those of you who know what I am talking about, this place had the best Naan in Shanghai. Yum.

Any other plans we had to visit more touristy places, were nixed once we realized the mass of people we would have to fight through. And that was okay. We really just spent time walking and exploring new areas and shops, we hung out with friends, ate a lot of good food, got some foot massages, and relaxed. I would say we took the holiday path less traveled. Thankfully, even in this seriously populated city, that is still possible.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Farewell to the Trusty Wok

I hope to blog more regularly once we get more settled. It's hard to believe that 7 weeks in- we are not totally settled. The good news is- our shipment finally arrived. After a lovely bought with a head cold, I am off the couch and able to unpack the boxes that have been taunting and beckoning me over the last week. My kitchen is mostly organized, which is wonderful. I have a strange problem though. I have forgotten how to cook with multiple pots, pans and kitchen gadgets.

You see, over the last 6 weeks, I have been cooking with only one wok, one meat cleaver, a cutting board, and a colander. About 2 weeks in to my culinary adventure, something dawned on me. What if I didn't really need all the kitchen gadgets I owned? What if one wok was enough? It's crazy, I know. But really, I am mainly serious about this.

I remember when Phil and I were first looking at apartments here in Shanghai. I thought it was nuts when we would walk into a kitchen and see only two burners and no oven. I still maintain that no oven is nuts, but that's another subject. What if that sense deep within that tells me we are a people of “too much” is really true? With only one wok I found myself inspired by the challenge- creative with my cooking. Now that I am surrounded by all my wonderful kitchen gadgets, the Wusthov knives, the enamel covered cast iron double boiler I have dreamed of cooking endless curries in, the Kitchen Aid mixer that will assist me in the creation of tasty baked treats, the Kitchen Aid food processor, the ice cream maker (seriously), the waffle iron…….You see what I mean?- I find myself overwhelmed and quite frankly uninspired.

I would like to take this opportunity to remember the good times of old, the past culinary adventures of the wok, and perhaps find inspiration in remembering what was…….

The trusty wok......
Eagerly awaiting dinner...are those gouda smothered burgers?
Homemade soup, bread, cheese, and vino.
Not just any pasta...okay maybe it is.
An attempt at making homemade pizza sauce.
Mozzarella, asparagus, mushroom, fresh herbs...yum!

Smoked gouda, red onion, fresh pineapple..... need we say more?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Creature Comfort

We have been living out of our suitcases for 5 weeks now. It has been an interesting challenge awaiting the arrival of our creature comforts from home. While we sold a lot of our stuff before we moved, and didn’t ship any furniture, we did manage to have a sizable shipment coming our way.

When we arrived and moved into our house, we had to figure out what essential items we would need to get by while awaiting our shipment. I figured a wok could cover all major cooking necessities acting as a pot as well as a pan, so we decided to buy one. Beyond that, I figured a cutting board; colander and one serious meat clever would do the rest.

There was one more base I had to cover. For those of you who know me (Jen), you know that I quite enjoy coffee, so it was very important that I find a coffee maker. When I was in the US, I started using a one cup coffee maker known as Senseo. I first fell in love with this machine when I was visiting a home in Amsterdam and had a cup of coffee made from it. I was quite thrilled to find that 6 months later, it became available in the US. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

When we were trying to decide what we would ship, sell, or store, we initially thought we would sell all electronic devices and use the money to purchase the equivalent items here in China. After all, most of them are made here, right? Wrong. Well, most are made here, that’s correct, but to think they are inexpensive is wrong. Upon further research, we found that many of the items we wanted to replace were far too expensive, some being 3 times more than in the US. For example, my beloved Kitchen Aid stand mixer that was a wedding gift valued around $250 USD, purchased here in China, would cost well over $600 USD!

So instead of selling and replacing everything, we decided that we would purchase a converter (and not the tiny ones you can buy at target in the travel section, but a serious, 40 lb. converter) that would be used for the computer, Phil’s music equipment, and the occasional use of a stand mixer or waffle iron. There were several items I could not bring though. Any items that would be used every day, or items that had heat elements could not be brought, because they would require a much higher wattage than we could accommodate. This meant that I had to leave my Senseo behind. I looked online to try to find one with the right plug and voltage for China, but had no luck.

The first few shopping excursions in China were filled with note taking, getting an idea of the cost for common household items I would need to buy, looking at what was available, and trying to decide what I would purchase. Later in the week I visited a store called Carrefour. Carrefour is a popular French chain that you will find here in Shanghai. It is like a Meijer on steroids. For the foreigner with any hope in finding food they recognize and would actually eat, Carrefour is a welcome presence. This is also where I spotted the first signs that Senseo might exist in this country. Could it be true? Could the bags of Senseo coffee pods on the shelf be an indicator of a coffee maker close by? I quickly raced over to the small appliance section, and lo and behold, there it was- in all of its splendor and coffee making glory. Oh Senseo. I know you’re thinking “this girl is nuts.” Maybe I am. But the bliss I felt over finding this coffee maker was profound, and I think, an excellent example of the experience of an expat. Here I am, in this completely foreign country, looking at brands I’ve never seen, foods I wish I didn’t have to, just hoping to see something familiar. And there it was. I had found it. The joy and excitement that came from this find was odd, but I went with it, and bought it at 2 times the cost of one in the US. Now, I have my coffee and some measure of familiarity and comfort. Oh Senseo!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Journal Entries

Our first week in Shanghai was an overwhelming one. Fresh off the plane and battling jet lag, we faced some interesting challenges. Phil was dealing with a lot of chaos at work, expectations from people who could not comprehend the immense challenges of an overseas move, and a nasty bought with the flu. We expected to move into our new home the day after we arrived in Shanghai and take the weekend to move in and get acclimated, but the following morning greeted us with a change of plans. For various reasons, we found out we would not move into our home until the following Monday at the earliest, so we switched gears and took the weekend to focus on getting over jet lag, as well as figuring some things out in the city. The next week brought about some positive movement. We moved into our house, navigated our way through some local stores to purchase household necessities, and Phil started his first official day at the office. On Wednesday of the first week, we got to meet with our relocation representative for one last time. It helped us refresh our knowledge of the city and she also helped me do some shopping. Let me tell you, this was very helpful. One, I had extra hands to help me carry things, but two; we had a driver and vehicle with which to transport the new purchases. Shopping in Shanghai is no small feat. If you do not have a car or driver, simple day to day activities, become very challenging. Even having a car and driver can be challenging in this city with insane traffic jams and few parking spaces. A simple task like going to the grocery store for a few items can take half of the day to accomplish. Here is an idea of the time some “average” activities can take here in Shanghai.

- Picking up a loaf of bread: average round trip time is 1 hour 40 minutes
- Heading to you favorite bookstore for a cappuccino and a 30 minute read: 3 hours
- Going to Carrefour for a serious grocery shopping experience: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Having a driver: priceless

Thursday and Friday of our first week, we had our cultural training. Our trainer was an interesting man. He was originally from Mexico, but had lived in multiple countries, spoke 5 different languages, had a degree in marine biology, and worked in television. He has been living in China for the last 10 years, plans on making China his home, and most importantly, knows what it is like to be an expatriate in this foreign land. Of the many useful and interesting information he shared with us, one of the more amusing and true was an acronym known as T.I.C.

“T.I.C.” stands for “This Is China”. This sense of amusement, bewilderment, outright frustration, and indignation known lovingly as T.I.C., is an inevitable part of life when living in China. As an example, Phil and I were waiting for an elevator one day. We were the only 2 people waiting in this lobby for the elevator when someone walked up, got on the very elevator we were clearly and patiently waiting for, and instead of holding the doors open, she started to push the door close button before we could get on. It’s in that moment that “This Is China” echoes through your mind. Or, there is the ever common experience when you are standing 6 inches from an object in a store, deciding whether you should purchase it, and someone amazingly fits between you and that very object and decides they will purchase it in your honor (well, not really). Again, you think, “This Is China”. Then, there is the call you receive that someone is coming right now to deliver an item you really need, and they show up 4 hours later. I could go on and on and perhaps I will write a future blog with T.I.C moments as a theme, but for now I will stop a possibly endless rant.

All of this to say, China is full of surprises and challenges. Phil and I have faced many of these challenges since we have arrived. I will say though, that we wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. It has been stretching and amazing and we have only been here for 5 weeks. I know the future will hold challenges, but these first few months of an overseas move are full of so many new challenges. One of the biggest things I have learned is to keep a sense of humor and learn to move at the pace of your new country of residence. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Our House

Now that you have had a general introduction to this blog, I would like to bring you up to speed on our day to day life here in Shanghai. First things first, we should introduce you to our home.

We live in an area of the city called PuDong, on the 56th floor of a compound known as Shimao Riviera Garden. This specific "compound", as they are referred to here, caught our attention because it is spacious and has a nice sized kitchen. The kitchen is a decent size for the states, but it is huge for Shanghai. All of the other places we looked at had very small kitchens, typically no oven, and only 2 burners. You would be hard pressed to function in the typical Shanghai kitchen even if you didn't cook much. So, since I love to cook, and have had grand visions of spending days cooking and learning new and exciting cuisines, there really was no comparison with any of the other places we looked at. Shimao it was.

Shanghai is divided into 2 areas. Puxi (poo-shee) and PuDong, where we live, is divided by the Huangpu (wong poo) river. To give you an idea of how things tend to be named in China, Xi means west and Dong means east. The Chinese often name areas in reference to where they are in relation to a body of water. Thus, Puxi refers to being west of the river and PuDong refers to being east of the river. It isn't the most creative, but it certainly gives you a directional reference.

Puxi is more of the downtown area whereas PuDong is the newer more "rural" area of the city. As of 10 years ago, the entire area consisted of rice paddy's and the occasional apartment complex. When people refer to PuDong as more rural they don't mean the mountains of Tennessee. They just mean not so dirty, polluted, or bloody crowded. Despite the crowds and pollution, Puxi is a more desirable area to live in if you want to be in the middle of all the action and restaurants, with more access to mass transportation. It is also 3 times more expensive to rent in Puxi as a result.

We like PuDong. It is a bit far from the action, but it is noticeably less polluted with more green space. It is easier to bike around without being in constant fear for your life. Plus, Phil's company will be moving to PuDong next year, so it will be a strategic middle point for us to live in.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


We have arrived. Shanghai. A city of 22 million people and more buildings than one could fathom. We have now been in the city for 3 weeks. I still feel like I am in a time warp. Just last week I figured out what day it was without looking at a calendar. This week I can actually guess what time it is with some amount of accuracy. It has been a long journey to this point, and now that we are here, a new phase begins. It is an exciting time and place for us. Phil and I have done a great deal in this city already, and there is so much more to see. We hope this blog will allow you to take part of this journey with us. This will be a place where we share stories about what it is like to live, work, and function in Shanghai- all of the details, some interesting (I hope) and some of it probably even boring. But all of it will be an honest representation of our total experience here in China. Thanks for your interest and patience as I get this set up with pictures and stories.

-Phil and Jen

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Journal Entries

After all the time and energy, planning and packing, we have made it to Shanghai. It is a bit surreal being here. I keep reminding myself this is an amazing time and experience. It is so easy to get carried away in the day to day stuff and forget what is truly going on around me. It is far too easy to take things for granted. So I have decided to start with a simple daily discipline. I refuse to get sick of the view from our apartment. Right now it seems impossible that I could look out onto this enormous city with the river below and thousands of buildings sprawling before me, and forget that it is really amazing, but I know better. I know the time will come when I look outside with no sense of awe or enormity overwhelming me. It happens to all of us. We have some really amazing experience, but eventually lose our sense of awe over it. We come in contact with it only occasionally, and when we do, we promise ourselves to revisit that sense of wonder more often, but again, we get busy and forget about it.

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