Monday, July 29, 2013

Hot Times in the City

One of my first items of business after my great American adventure was to charge my phone.  Since I do not read Chinese, each month I trek the two blocks to Family Mart where I pay my phone bill on the bilingual China Unicom atm.  Usually this is a quick, easy errand.  Last Wednesday the chore felt like a marathon.  After paying my bill, I returned to my apartment sopping wet and breathless.  I figured the trip was rough because I had gotten used to running errands in cars during my trip to the States and I was out of shape.  I pulled out my freshly charged phone to find the following:

I am not completely out of shape…it is HOT in Shanghai!  One of the most frustrating things about living in the Shanghainese heat is not having a car.  If I want to leave my apartment, I have to suck it up and melt in the tropical humidity.  I made the decision that this summer, I will face the heat like a Chinaman.  I know there are many people out there who are working and living in this oppressive heat without AC.  I will follow their lead and battle the heat like a native.  Here are some of their solutions I tried.

The Umbrella

The majority of Chinese women have incredibly beautiful porcelain skin.  From a very young age many ladies protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays by using special sumbrellas while walking outside.

Many of the sunbrellas have fancy lace...

and sequins too!

I gave in and spent 50 RMB on a frilly, pink, “This (shopping) is my first passion” parasol to see if I could get any relief.

I always wanted a frilly, pink parasol!

Unfortunately, the umbrella did not provide the much-anticipated shade.  So I went to my plan b.

The Hat

Many folks around these parts try to stay cool by wearing straw hats. 

A Chinese woman beats the heat while pedaling to her garden.

Perhaps one of these would work.
Personally, I was never a fan of wearing a hat in the summer.  Hats just trapped heat on my head, and made me even sweatier. Maybe Chinese hats are different.  Perhaps Chinese caps are cooler, so I revisited the the idea of chapeau as heat buster. 

This hat is hotter than it looks.
Unfortunately, I was still broiling.  It was time to pull out the bigger guns.

The Hand Fan

Since the second century BC, Chinese folks have used lightweight hand-held fans to cool down. 

Fans: they're not just for dancing!
Unfortunately, our church does not have heat or air-conditioning, so I decided to pull out a fan as soon as I entered our church-sauna .  I was not the only one who had that idea.

Mass in the summer is a sweltering experience.

This portable fan comes in very handy!
The fan and a few prayers for a breeze helped!  However, my wrist started cramping halfway through the sermon so the hand fan was a temporary solution.  I needed something cooler…

The Popsicle

Some of my favorite childhood summer memories include slurping banana popsicles.  So, I knew gourmet popsicles in Tianzifang would definitely hit the spot.

Finally, I had found something to keep me cool…for about five minutes. 

The lemon popsicles at Chance Cafe are by far my favorite.

The kiwi pops are really refreshing also!

Many of the pops are made from fresh fruit.

I enjoyed the cool, creamy tiramisu goodness.

This kiddo agrees that the popsicles are tasty!

Mind you, not all of the popsicles were as yummy as the Lemon and Kiwi bars. Chinese folks have some of their own favorite flavors.

This stand featured saltwater, green bean, red bean, and sticky rice pops.  

Chris tried a sticky rice popsicle.  It tasted like vanilla ice cream with rice. 
FYI, Many Chinese folks believe that green beans are a vegetable that will naturally cool you.  Chris says that Bosch serves Green Bean soup everyday at lunch during the summer to cool down their employees. 

Not all folks go for popsicles, however.

The Bellies

Many Chinese men try to cool off by pulling their shirts over their stomachs. 

A bare bellied man enjoys his late night snack.

Before you jump to conclusions, there is a good reason for these semi strip-teases.  According to the book It’s all Chinese to Me: An Overview of Culture & Etiquette In China, men are,

“Aerating their navels to cool down and improve their overall health by absorbing their inner chi through their exposed bellies.”

Why not cool off while surfing online?
I have the feeling that this practice is not meant for women, so I tried to find the most extreme way to cool off outside my apartment.


After a long, hot day at ChinaJoy, I was fed up and ready to cool off. So a few friends and I went to the coldest place in Shanghai, Sno-Bar.

Sno-Bar is a vodka bar that has a temperature of -5 °C.  Mind you, I was not visiting for the vodka, I was going to see if I could really cool off in what was supposed to be a snowy Shanghai oasis.

Tiff and Brita take a break from the heat.

Yes, I am wearing a parka, shorts, and flip flops.  Sno-bar provides the coats so patrons stay warm.  FYI, unlike many other ice bars, the tables are plastic.

The silk flowers in the shaved ice added a nice, decorative touch.
It was nice to have my toes feel a little numb for a few minutes.  At the end of the time in the fridge/ bar I was ready to warm up.

I guess the only way I will stay relatively cool for a while is by staying in my apartment during the day.  If you are reading this in a steamy climate like Shanghai, please stay cool and hydrated!  Also remember to look out for our four legged friends!  High temperatures may lead to blistered paws.  Hopefully cooler weather will be here soon!

Or maybe not.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Home Trippin!

After a year in Shanghai, Chris and I were ready to make our first home trip back to the States for some friends, family, food, and fun.  For three weeks we caught up with our people in Chicago, St. Louis, Charleston and Philadelphia.

Stop one on our three-week tour de US was the Windy City.  It was wonderful to spend the week of the fourth of July with family and friends.

I was so happy to spend the week with my father in law, brother in law, sister in law, and my 17 month old niece Annabelle.  She had a great time playing on her swing set and wearing her new dress from China.

Each 4th of July, the family gathers in front of the Griffith fire station to watch the Independence Day Parade.

Uncle Steve drives his family in an old time firetruck in the parade.

Cousin John waves on the fire truck.

Then he got a cool surprise from cousin Scott.

After the parade, the fam came over to Casa Wilcox for burgers and brats.  I think there are more people each time the family gathers.

Annabelle double fists her corn on the cob.

At sunset, we set off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.  I especially liked the H7N9 fireworks.  

Crystal and Sam help Annabelle set off her very own confetti popper.  She had comfiest seat in the house!

Happy 4th of July!
The next day, we went to the Shed Aquarium with the Gleim crew!

Annabelle had a great time joking around with Uncle Chris.

C had a great time petting the stingrays while G looked on.

It was fun to share this experience with our friends!

Annabelle enjoyed pretending she was a penguin!

After seeing all of these fish, I was ready to eat this guy!  So we headed to the Ameristar casino for the all you can eat crab leg buffet.

Chris was super excited to go to Three Floyd's, a local brewery, the next evening.

We had a great time catching up and debating with friends!

St. Louis
After a whirlwind week in Chicago, I was ready for some down time.  Mom recently had knee replacement surgery, so I took this time to visit with her at home and fill up on local delicacies.

Mom was a trooper!  She would exercise her leg on her machine for 4 hours per day!

My brother, Dan, came in town for the weekend.  He demonstrates how to use the machine in this picture. 
Pasta House toasted ravioli was a must!! 

We also filled up on White Castle hamburgers!!

On Wednesday night, Chris took me to see Dave Matthews at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Dave played a GREAT set!  Photo Source: Dave Matthews Band Website

Next on our itinerary was a four-day stop in Charleston.  While Chris met with his Bosch colleagues, I had a busy few days meeting with friends and stocking up on supplies. 

I caught up with my Windsor Hill peeps at LaHa.  It was wonderful to see everyone!

Mel, Kristin, Chris and I then headed out for hibachi.

Chris and I headed to Cypress Thursday evening for a farewell dinner.  I once told the waiter that if I was to be executed,  the Almond Fried Goat Brie Salad (pictured above) would be part of my last supper.  The salad is that yummy! 
We drove by our old house.  It looks like our tenants are taking great care of it!  Oddly, it did not feel strange to stay at the Residence Inn rather than the house.

The final stop on our trip was Philadelphia to visit my brother, sister, brother-in-law and niece. We spent the weekend catching up, celebrating the princesses' birthdays, and playing Trivial Pursuit.

My 2 1/2 year old niece, Amelia, models her Chinese dress.

Let's tickle Uncle Chris and wake him up!

Amelia had a great time copying Uncle Dan at dinner.
On Saturday, Amelia did a great job of showing us the Camden Aquarium.

She had fun goofing around in a shark.

Amelia and Uncle Chris went camping in the living room.

They also had a good time playing Beauty and the Beast in the dancing room.

After three weeks and millions of calories, we are back in Shanghai, and ready for another couple years of Chinese shenanigans.  Let the fun begin!