Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Merry Little Chinese Christmas: Our Christmas in Pictures

Chris and I have officially survived the 48-hour cheer fest known as Christmas. 

Christmas was going to be a little different this year. In China, Christmas is not an official state holiday, so I had to teach on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   Since I could not celebrate at home, I decided to bring Christmas to my kids. 

On Christmas Eve morning, I was greeted with this fabulous tree at school.

My students had a fun day of singing Christmas Songs (can’t call them carols here), and playing holiday games.

After work, Chris and I headed to Shanghai Slim’s for a Christmas Eve Dinner.  The food was as good as it looked.
Everything on the menu looked so yummy!

This was dinner after we ate.  Needless to say, we had a lot of leftovers. 
After dinner Chris and I went to Christmas Eve Mass at St. Ignatius.  I can now say I survived my first inter-species midnight mass. 
This stray cat gave new meaning to all creatures giving praise.

The next morning we woke up to find that Santa had visited us in Shanghai!  I was SO happy that he brought me Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix and many pairs of shoes! 

Oh Hidden Valley, how I have missed thee!
After opening gifts, we listened to my Dad read my niece the Nativity Story from the Bible via Skype.  I was so happy I did not miss this family tradition.

I was so thankful for Skype today!  It was wonderful to see my family.

Chris and I then had a yummy pancake and bacon brunch, and set out to spread more Christmas cheer in my schools.

For our first stop, we watched the “Little Red Riding Hood” dress rehearsal at my middle school.  

The Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood chat in the forest.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see the final performance because I had to teach at my afternoon school.  St. Nick was going to visit my kids! 

I sneak a kiss with Santa before class.
My friend Meg made it on the nice list.

Many of my kids had never met Santa before today.  Some of the kiddos did not know what to think of him.  Every student had to introduce him or herself and tell Santa if they were naughty or nice.

After meeting my first graders, Santa was beat.
One of my students, Michelle, kept asking me if Santa Claus was my husband.  I was mentally kicking myself for teaching her that vocabulary word.
Michelle was obsessed with Santa's beard.  She is such a smart kid!
I am happy to say my kids are now Santa fans.
After work, we headed to Christmas dinner with some new friends, Skyped my Griffith and Philly families for their Christmas mornings, and finally went to bed. 

Overall, it was a great Christmas!  Merry Christmas everyone!  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

To Market We Go…

After my Easter experience, I was afraid that Christmas in Shanghai would be like Whoville after the Grinch stole all the trimmings and trappings. I am happy to report I was wrong; the Chinese know how to spread Christmas cheer (in an extremely secular way).

One way the Chinese celebrate the holiday season is by housing European style Christmas markets.  Once I spotted these markets on Smart Shanghai, I needed to check it out!

The first market Chris and I visited was the Christkindlmarkt on Fenyang Rd.  
Welcome to German expat heaven.
According to Chris, this market was extremely similar to the German Christmas markets in Stuttgart.  I think every German living in Shanghai came out to experience a bit of home.  For a couple of hours we got lost in the land of Christmas trinkets, brats, and gluhvein.

Many of the vendors had all sorts of Christmas goodies!

Nutcrackers were very popular at the market.
I suddenly feel eating like a slice of pizza...
Gluhwein is warm, spiced, red wine. It is like Christmas in a cup!
The potato dumplings and kraut were tasty!
This was my lunch.  The brat was AWESOME!
This little guy was loving his hot dog!
We picked up a couple of these ornaments for 6RMB (about $1).
While we had a great time at Christkindlmarkt, we didn’t find the decorations we wanted.  So the following weekend we headed to Yu Gardens to check out their loot.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Yu Gardens looked like the North Pole had bombed it.  Garland and ornaments were everywhere. 

After taking our first lap around the market, I took Chris to the restaurant where I had my first Yum Cha date.  There was a little more talking than my first time dining here.

He's much cuter than my first date.

After lunch, it was back to shopping.
There were boxes of garland everywhere.  I was amazed that none of it got tangled.
Some of the reindeer lost their antlers, bless their hearts.  
Luckily we were able to pick up some decorations for our door.
It's not the Grizwalds, but it will do. 
While Yu Gardens was nice, there was one more market we wanted to visit, the Shanghai Christmas Market at Xintandi. 
The lights were very pretty.
The carousel at Xintandi park was dressed up for the occasion.
This was the first market where Santa Claus made a visit.  Apparently visiting Santa is a very American custom.  Notice the kids don't sit on Santa's lap, and there is no line to see Santa.  The kids just mob around him.
Chris poses with one of the creepy candy mascots.  He wasn't happy that I made him  wear his new (free) Santa hat.
Chris picked up a couple of champagne flutes from a vendor that was selling candles and slippers that you can heat in the microwave.  
While the lights were nice, many of the vendors were not exactly festive.
Ice Cream at an outdoor Christmas market?  That made no sense to me.  At least it wouldn't melt in the cold weather.

One of the high points of my night was when Chris bought me measuring spoons.  These are VERY difficult to find!
Yes, I am sure people were Gangman Styling it at the birth of Christ.
Overall, we had a good time at the markets.  They put us very much in the holiday spirit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Shanghai Style Thanksgiving

One of the perks of being an American English teacher in Shanghai is I have been encouraged to teach kids about American holidays!  So, what had previously been a two-day holiday of eating and shopping turned into a four-day celebration of gratitude! 

The party actually started on Thanksgiving Day itself.  The idea of teaching on a day when I should have been basting a bird did not put me in the best of moods, but I got over my attitude pretty quickly.   For the entire day, I showed a PowerPoint containing pictures of a glistening turkey, recited the poem “Ten Little Turkeys”, and even passed on the tradition of making hand turkeys!  It was difficult to stay grumpy when teaching about gratitude. 

Two of my fourth grade students create hand turkey masterpieces.

It's not the Macy's parade, but I will take it. :)  I love first graders. 
After a full day of teaching, Chris and I decided to celebrate Turkey day Shanghainese style.  We went out for Beijing Duck at Lao Beijing! 

We pretended this amazing lotus and bean dish was mashed potatoes.

The chef served the duck skin with kiwi on a Pringle.  It was AMAZING!

It's not turkey, but it was tasty!

For the first time in my life, my Thanksgiving dinner was staring at me. 

I was so thankful for the festive decorations.

The next day, I completed another round of Powerpoints and thankful hand turkeys so I was ready to celebrate by the end of the day.  We kicked off our weekend with an Elton John concert. 

On the way to the concert, I bumped into the author of one of my favorite expat blogs, Donuts to Dumplings. Her blog was one of the first that I read before moving to Shanghai, and her posts have been extremely helpful with getting settled.  If you would like to see another family going through what Chris and I are experiencing, I would take a look.

I take a moment to pose with cardboard Elton before the concert.
The man knows how to put on an awesome show!
Sir Elton was in fine form.  For a little over three hours, we rocked out to classics like “Bennie and the Jets”, “Crocodile Rock”, and “Saturday Night”.  Both he and his opening band left us wanting more.

After sleeping in on Saturday, we headed over to my friend Meg’s place for Thanksgiving part one.  Her meal was nothing less than awesome! Too bad we didn’t have enough food. J 

I was so excited to dig in to the meal I described to my students.

Chris and I dined with Meg, Danny and some new Dutch friends.
It was fun to pig out on turkey and pass out while watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but we had to pace ourselves.  The next day would be Thanksgiving celebration number two at our house for more of our expat friends.

This turkey day gathering was one of the easiest I have thrown.  Since ovens are hot commodities over here (pun intended), many grocery stores and restaurants deliver full Thanksgiving dinners.  So I cooked my turkey by ordering it online.  At 10:30, a nice man delivered a big juicy bird, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pies, and rolls in a Styrofoam warmer.  Throw in a salad, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, roast veggies, home made pierogies, cranberry sauce, apple cobbler, some home brewed beer, and some great friends and you have the recipe for an awesome Thanksgiving. 

This was the easiest Thankgiving dinner ever!  Thank you, City Shop for a taste of home!
Dinner number 2 was super yummy!  So many homey dishes made me feel like I was back in the Midwest.
Chris defoams one of his bottles of homebrew.  His Belgian beer was a hit!
After consuming tons of calories, we had a great time chatting and playing games.
Our friend, Uwe selects a piece of Jenga.
Vivian successfully blows a few cards off the top of a bottle.  

After 10 hours of food, fun and games it was time to hit the sack.  I can say that my first international Thanksgiving was one I will always remember.