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