Sun Sun Sun!

I am very excited to see the sun. It is finally out. This winter has been very cold and lately rainy and it makes me sad. My feelings have been verified, it has been reported that in the second half of February, there was less than 5 hours of sunshine total in Shanghai. 5 Hours! I sleep longer in 1 night than we had of sun in weeks. The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau shared it has been the most rain and the lowest amount of sunshine in Shanghai in over 30 years. UGGH!

Did You Just Call Us Fat?

Our boot camp trainer invited us and some other folks he trains to his birthday celebration with his family.  How sweet is he to invite us. Culture and language have no boundaries here, it is a celebration and wine helps.  His family doesn’t speak English our Chinese has grown to be able to say strawberries and I am showing it off,  we were all having a good time and then a late comer shows up. Todd refers to her as Bowler Betty for she wore a bowler style hat. She was another client of our trainer.  I like to call her something else with a B.

Bowler Betty comes in and says hello and then says being a party for our trainer that she expected all his guests to be buff and she is glad to see she doesn’t have that to worry about. Did she just call us all fat? I immediately dislike her. Am I overreacting? Was it lost in translation and didn’t mean what she was saying? Of course I had to ask where she was from. If she was Chinese, I would not be as upset for that stuff happens all the time but she is from Singapore. I will not accept this greeting. English is one of their native languages.  She was aware what she was saying. She called us fat.

Through out the evening we learned of her recent week-long detox and her bowel movements, I think they are measured? I was not really listening.  I did hear for a week you eat nothing but clay shakes and how these retreats are a great place to meet people. Grumpy, hungry, weak people? That does sound like a good time. I actually prefer to meet my new friends at a buffet. They are happy and enjoying themselves and if they go in for double ice cream, I just know we will hit it off. Although Bowler Betty invited us to join her at a retreat, I don’t see that happening, I disliked her from the moment she called us fat, never mind the rest of the sharing of information. Writing this makes me mad about the dinner, I need to go have some M&Ms and not count them.

Memory Triggers

As I walked through a metro station recently, I was instantly transported back to a warm autumn afternoon spent in the English Garden in Munich.

This past September, Rebecca and I went to Munich. We had lunch at the biergarten next to the Chinese Tower (how appropriate, I know). The weather was gorgeous, the food was tasty, and the beer was delicious. After lunch we wandered up to the Monopteros, a Greek-style stone temple at the top of a small hill. There were a few people sitting around enjoying the view, but mostly listening to this guy belt out some Coldplay. It was just him and his guitar. What he lacked in talent, he made up for with enthusiasm and volume. We made our way to the base of the hill, and I proceeded to take a little nap on the soft grass, enjoying the warm sun. Meanwhile, above our heads the sounds of Clocks by Coldplay radiated out in all their off-key glory.

Back here in the Shanghai Metro, there is a jumbo TV screen advertising everything from cooking oil to the new Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland. In the rotation of ads is one for some beverage that uses the distinctive melody from Clocks. I have heard it a couple times, and when I do, I am immediately taken back to warm autumn sun and the cool grass in Munich. Brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.

Neighborhood Relief

Something I really like about our neighborhood is the plethora of public toilets. Those that know me well know that I like to go. It’s not so much that I like to go, as I need to go. Often. Small bladder; too many liquids; whatever; I just go. A lot.

As we spend more time wandering around our new neighborhood, I have begun to learn where the various public toilets are located. Some are pretty basic, others are pretty big and fancy like the one in the photo. Good news is that you can usually find one within two blocks. They are usually fairly clean, as there is someone staffing them. And they are free!

I have yet to see another laowai using them, but hey, I’m paying taxes here, so I am going to avail myself of the amenities that are provided.

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Ordering Pizza for 2

2 adults as in me and Todd, we are still child-free. Although out of the US now for over a year I still don’t think daycare is yet free or mini-vans sexy so we will continue to stay that way for anyone who had their hopes up.

Last night we decided to have pizza for dinner. There is a Papa John’s across the street, NICE! You can only order ahead for delivery, if you want to pick up you have to go there pay and then wait for it. But if I wanted it to be delivered across the street, no problem. They charge a delivery fee, although minimal I think it is 7RMB ($1) with it right across the street I just can’t do it, so Todd and I went, ordered and walked to the convenience store to get ice cream.

Ordering the pizza, Todd asks what size, I said the large for I want left overs for lunch. We walked back across the stree with our pizza and watched Raising Hope. At one point I told Todd we must be really hungry and something like screw leftovers we are taking this pizza down. After thinking about it, it is because there are 2 of us! When I lived alone I could order a pizza and have leftovers for it was just me (although I think I can eat a whole pizza if I would allow such things). If I want left overs I needed to order another pizza. We haven’t had this problem yet with eating out at other places for we have either ordered 2 entrees or it has been family style where you always have lots. I have adjusted to Todd being here in many ways, like having to share a closet but pizza ordering I need to readjust my ways.

New job

I am now finishing up my second week at the new job. It is quite a change from my last assignment, something that will take continued adjustment.

To get to work I walk about 15 minutes to a metro stop. Pretty nice walk, only one really major road to cross. Once at the station, I take Line 7 straight to the office. Each metro line in Shanghai has a different signature color. The color is used to help identify the various lines. It is even used inside the trains for the color of the seats and handrails.

The signature color of Line 7 is orange. I really like orange, so it makes me happy that I have to use line 7. I take it 12 stops to one end, at Huamu Road. The station is in the basement of my office building. From the train, I wander through a shopping area, up a few escalators to the elevator lobby, and ride up to the office on the 6th floor. Super convenient.

My department’s office is currently in a very fancy building called Kerry Parkside. It just opened, and has tons of shops and restaurants attached, along with a regular and extended-stay hotel. From my office, I look out over the roof of the big convention center next door and can see the maglev track. The office is about a 15 minute walk from the maglev station, so every once is a while I can look up and catch a train headed to or from the airport. From here they totally remind me of the Disney monorail.

The lobby of the office tower is scented, much like the Aria at Las Vegas. I don’t know exactly why that makes me smile each time I go through. In the attached shopping mall, we have a nice variety of places to eat, including many western-friendly options such as CPK, Blue Frog, Cold Stone, Subway, Baker and Spice, Starbucks, and Element Fresh. There is also a small supermarket called Ole, which specializes in import products. The sushi there is quite good. Not Hawaii good, but you can have everything.

Should you need to spend some money, there are a variety of retail shops to help you out. In addition to H&M, The Gap, and Mothercare, there is a Watson’s drugstore, a Muji for all of your travel and home needs, an electronics store, a health store, and on and on. There is even a bookstore with a large English-language section.

Our offices are really nice, taking up 2 floors. There were thoughtfully laid out, with low cubes and tons of windows. There is a kitchen/break area not far from my cube, which has an interesting variety of snack cracker things in addition to coffee, tea, chocolate milk, and soft drinks. We have Coke Light, but not Coke Zero. Not a complaint, mind you. An observation. Need to make nice with whoever does the ordering.

I have to be careful not to get too attached to the office. If I had to guess, my work might take me out to a facility closer to the construction site sometime next year. All this fanciness is quite nice, but there was a certain charm to the Menehune Cage. Yes, I realize not many people will get that reference, but just roll with it.

One bonus of being at a terminal station of the metro is when it is time to go home, you are basically guaranteed a seat. Oddly enough, my line never gets crowded on the way home. I usually watch something on my phone or listen to APM:Marketplace.

Fancy electronic sign advertising all the shops in the building mall

The outside of my office building

Settling In

I am settling into Shanghai pretty well. It helps to have a spouse living here for over a year ahead of me already, but that is not a relocation strategy I would recommend. The day before I arrived, Rebecca moved into our new apartment. Yes kids, she coordinated and executed a household move by herself. In Shanghai, China.

I love our new apartment, for so many reasons. First is the location. We live in an area of Shanghai called Xuhui. More specifically, we live in the former French Concession. In the early part of the last century, sections of the city were conceded to different governments. While that’s all gone and the various conceded areas are mostly just a memory, our area retains some of its architectural feel from that time period. Lots of one way streets, tons of trees, and a big variety of buildings.

The second reason to love our apartment is the service. The building was once entirely serviced or corporate apartments, run essentially like a hotel. That has evolved over time, and some of the units (like ours) are owned by various individuals. There is still a front desk staff however, and their services are available to everyone in the building. The building staff is super helpful. Need a taxi? They flag one down. Need help carrying some stuff? The doorman is happy to lend a hand. If anything in the apartment needs repair, the building staff comes up and takes care of it.

Third apartment love, the Internet. Yes, our router is apparently hidden somewhere in the ceiling. And once in a while we have to flip a breaker to reset it. But the speed is acceptable and for whatever reason, it is not as restricted as we would normally expect. One of these days I am going to track down where the router is and see if I can relocate it somewhere more accessible. While WiFi is great, I am a fan of wired connections when possible.

The fourth reason to love our apartment is the full-sized, side-by-side Samsung refrigerator. That might sound silly, but try living out of dorm fridge for an extended period, and you will understand. It is quite common practice to go to the market every day or two, so larger refrigerators are not always standard kitchen equipment. While I enjoy having the option of various markets and shops close at hand, I also sometimes want to go to the big Carrefour and stock up.

Right next to the refrigerator is love number five, the oven. As in bake a cake, cookies, dumplings, or Ikea cinnamon swirls in, oven. It is not at large as a regular oven in the States, but it is fine for the two of us.

Our apartment was available furnished, but what came with it could only be politely described as Marriott hotel chic, circa 1995. Serviceable, but not really our thing. We had the furniture taken out, and have bought some basic pieces of furniture from Ikea that are more our style. We have already picked up a couple fun old chairs for the living room to give the place a more some more soul, and over time we will add to it. Picking out your furnishings is a bit of a pain and expense, but we plan on being here for at least 4 years, and it really makes the place feel like home.

The bathrooms are a little small, but outfitted in fancy marble. The fixtures are high-end, but very old school. It reminds me of a bathroom of a fancy hotel, in 1940. Good news is tons of water pressure, and the tankless water heater means you can’t run out of hot water. Why in the world haven’t  those things taken off in the USA?

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