Monthly Archives: October 2007

Street Food

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We’ve discovered our block is delicious. We can get a couple different kinds of super loaded soup for just over a dollar. This is meal-soup; can’t finish the whole bowl-soup. We can get a bunch of different kinds of noodles with all kinds of stuff in them for about a dollar. Croissants, muffins and bread for about 50 cents, stuffed bread and fresh scallion pancakes for 20 cents each, etc.. We can also, if we so desire, spend $100+ on a crab and lobster dinner, or $15 on Indian food, or $8 for a crepe. It’s all within 2 blocks. It’s nice to have finally gotten over our fear of getting sick, so we can eat all this good stuff. After a week, though, I’m kind of jonesing for a sandwich.

All we ever have here at home is some cheese, maybe, and coke and yogurt. Also crackers and tea. Not really anything fit for a meal. We have one small saucepan, a knife (I brought with), and a cheese grater (also brought), so making food at home is still out of the question. Altogether? I miss cooking and baking (a lot), but we are really loving the tasty local fare. I don’t recommend it for a diet, though. Shanghainese tastes are famous for running towards the oily and sweet.

I’ll tell you what, though. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the sandwich of the month for me. It’s delicious, easy to have the ingredients around, and I can make it slap-dash while I’m working. Also, peanut butter on apple slices is good.

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On Display

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I’m sorry to do this, but, for the love of all that is KIND and GOOD, please STOP STARING AT ME! Why do you stare DIRECTLY into my eyes, is there something on my face? What? Why are you looking at my feet? They’re flip flops. DON’T LOOK AT ME ANYMORE! *pant*pant*

Things are going OK. I walked to a different part of town today (different part of city, I guess, as Shanghai has some 18 million people, there’s nothing “town” about it) and it was a busy street full of fruit stalls and old men shuffling along in pajamas. I was wearing a skirt and was obviously the most curious being to appear on said street in a decade, for all the grunts and startled looks at my shoes, head, boobs, hair, etc.. I think fair westerners who really love living in Asian cities must enjoy the attention. For all the enjoyment I get out of the fascinating culture, interesting food, crazy metropolitan-ness, glimpses of local life and history; it’s not worth the awful standing out and stares and whispered comments as I pass. I am always on display; a walking mannequin for everybody’s perusal.

It’s only been a month and a half, folks. Wish me luck.

The good thing is that I am easily distracted and easily calmed by things like the mocha that was soon in front of me, a very delicious one.  It’s a small bit of comfort, though expensive (at $4 for a small single), and worth the money as it truly does make me feel better.  So does shopping, a hug from Jesse, the sun coming out, a smile from a fellow pedestrian (not the gross kind of smile), a cute dog frolicking…any number of things make up for the small inconvenience of feeling like a freak.

Grump.

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Humph.  It’s Sunday morning, Jesse’s gone off to work and I started a load of laundry.  I ate some yogurt, got my hair out of my face and put on enough clothing not to scandalize the neighbors (who love to walk by and peer through the windows).  It was the perfect time for the rest of my plan, calling Momm and Dad, and then Erin.  I need to catch up with all of them and finally the time was right for a phone call.  Shanghai ADSL is down.  There will be no calling. 

It’s so hard to find a good time to call home.  I work and then have class right through the middle of my day, which is evening time the day before on the west coast.  I can’t wait until after school and work because when I’m done it’s 2am for them.

Grump. 

So instead I’m writing in word.  It’s weird to approach my computer when there’s no internet access.  It feels like it’s about a 10th as useful and only about a20th as much fun.  Using word to write out these rambles feels stark and cold.  Sterile, sort of.

It’s a very lovely day, though, and I think I’ll take off for a walk.  I’m going to try a new café today, mostly because they make their own yogurt, it’s unsweetened and they’re giving a free container of it away if you come before 10am.  And dang-it, I forgot about that small detail and right now it’s 9:54.  Ooh, I’m frustrated.  Am accomplishing nothing this morning.  Except laundry.  Clean towels will be nice. 

Grump.

Street Smarts

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As I was walking to get coffee this morning I realized I may finally be on my way to perfecting the art of sticking out. It’s probably obvious that I do not “blend” here in China. As I am fairly certain I never will, I’m concentrating instead on finding ways to become comfortable being stared at. I know this will be an ongoing process, one that I likely will not have mastered even when our year is up. Until I get used to the stares and adept at ignoring them, I’m working on my own way of dealing with it.

This “art of sticking out” so far consists of:

1. Walking Fast. If you look like you know where you’re going and time is an issue for this mission (coffee, probably), you are less likely to be approached by hecklers trying to sell you a fake LV bag or Rolex.

2. Listen to MP3 Player. This is actually partly for the illusion that you are in your own little world and partly to blend a little, as many others are tuned in.

3. Stare Back. This is a toughie. The stares here are long, focused and unapologetic. My latest tactic is (only when the stare has passed the initial “what is that thing” look I get) to stare back. I don’t think I’m being any ruder than they are and maybe (probably not) they won’t stare so hard next time. Sometimes, my gaze breaks theirs and I’ve won, but just as often they simply keep staring.

4. Wear Sunglasses. See #2

5. Wear Hair Up. Any day that I don’t feel up to the stares is definitely a day to put my hair back. You’d think I was wearing a huge fruit bedecked Carmen Miranda hat for all the startled looks my head gets.

6. Try Not to Trip or Drop Anything. Man, it’s embarrassing to be such a klutz when you know people are looking at you.

New Subject Alert

Have I mentioned yet that this is a damn cool city? I don’t think I have and it’s about time it’s been said. This place is exciting, metropolitan, loud, crazy, smelly, weird, bright, scary, tasty, hip, and many other adjectives. I stop every now and then and look around me and it’s unreal how very different it is. It’s like being on the very edge of life.

Our Quilt

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Jesse and I received an amazing gift for our wedding, a quilt made by my momm, just about the best gift of my life. I insisted on bringing it with us to China, sacrificing space for clothes and shoes so I could put it on my bed and make it home. In fact, I refused to put it on my bed in Portland because (this will sound weird to some) I didn’t want to lose the small dog hairs that were still attached to it. I wanted to bring those little pieces of my parent’s home to Shanghai with me.

This morning I realized that every time I look at the quilt I see something new – some other small detail I hadn’t noticed before. A new fabric, a different ribbon, or even a deeper complexity to the pattern that I hadn’t put together previously. This quilt is not just a bright spot in our still undecorated apartment, but it’s a bright spot in my day. I so look forward to snuggling under it every evening. Thank you so much, Mommy.

Heck of a day

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This morning I locked myself out. I left with Jesse, he to work, me to grab a cup-o-joe before going home to work. We left at 8:20 and I was back at 8:55, ready to work but instead I was looking through the door at my keys. This means that (assuming I’d like to get inside) I must walk the 40 minutes to Jesse’s work and then walk back. I had been 1.) going to start work at 9am and 2.) already getting a blister from my winter shoes (flip flops = summer shoes, everything else = winter shoes).

So, I walked (stomped, more like) and grumbled my way to his work, scraping the skin off the back of my heel on the way. Once there, I perked up a bit, as there were people to be social with. I asked around about a bandaid, but they don’t seem to be a common “helpful thing” to have on hand here. I was instead offered tape, yes, plain old tape, which I used and it worked! I made it home with no further damage to my heel, though the other one was a little worse for wear by the time I got back. What the heck? I wore these shoes all over tarnation last winter. I think I just need to toughen up my heel again.

Today I worked to the Beastie Boys and Bjork and they kept me typing away like a fool. When good music is on, I actually often end up typing in rhythm, which is awesome except I’m a terrible typist. I spend more time fixing my typos than I spend typing in the first place. It’s worse with rhythm because even when I can tell I’ve just gone all over the place, I can’t stop the rhythm, yo and end up with big messes to fix.

Oh, and the weather? That I complain about to an irritating degree? It’s like early winter here, all of a sudden. In one week we’ve gone from sleeping with nothing, all sheet and blankets shoved at the bottom of the bed, to clasping each other for warmth with a sheet and quilt over us. We need a blanket thrown in that mix, I guess.

Saturday = Cake

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Our house is still a bit bare. We’ve finally been provided a couch and chair, coffee table, TV and desk. It’s a small place, so any more furniture would make it quite crowded. The walls, though, are awfully white. The coffee tables are IKEA-plywood-beige, as is the couch. So it’s kind of stark and too modern-y for me. I’m thinking of printing up a bunch of our wedding pictures and, in a blatant blast of ego, plastering them all over the walls. Once it doesn’t look so white, I’ll have to share some pictures.

A few nights ago, Brendan came over for dinner and we took him out instead because we still only have one small saucepan and that will not a dinner make. We went to a small and perfect little Japanese restaurant near our house. It has most of our favorite little Japanese treats, yakitori, miso ramen, katsudon etc., and you can count on us eating there often this winter. After eating, he took us too a nearby very cool bar (he tells us, enviously, that we live in the very center of the city), where we sat outside in the perfect weather and sipped wine. We talked and talked and eventually, we figure out that he makes far more money than anybody, family or friend, that Jesse and I know. Go Brandon.

We’re going out again tonight to meet his girlfriend, who has just come back from a trip to Canada. I imagine we are in for a treat. He said something about a friend’s Italian restaurant that is on the top of a skyscraper.

He’s been working on a lot of publicity events for “stupid plastic shoes”, mostly they’re sponsoring sports events and stuff, and really wants us to attend. It’s all in another city near Hong Kong, though, where he’ll be spending the next few months. Despite his offer of free hotels, with Jesse’s and my schedule right now, it’s impossible. Too bad. I like fancy events.

It’s my day off. No work, no class, but Jesse will be working weekends here, so I’m hanging out at the europosh cafe next to his school. I had a piece of carrot cake and I must say, they did it well. The frosting was a bit orangey and the carrot was plentiful. It’s a good thing I don’t have an oven yet because I’d be very tempted to run home and duplicate it and then I’d have to eat a whole carrot cake.