Monday, November 25, 2013

My Favorite Things: Shanghai Edition!

During the past month, I have had many friends who have decided to post things for which they are thankful on Facebook.   Instead of posting an item a day, I thought that I would combine them with information on how to experience awesome Shanghai.  Think of this as My Favorite Things: Shanghai Edition.

Here are my favorite things about living in Shanghai in alphabetical order.  (I have listed two exceptions at the end of the post!)

Chris and I have a new member of our family, and her name is Ayi.  Ayi is the wife I never had but always wanted.  She cooks, she cleans, and she does the laundry she pretty much runs the household.  She loves our puppies, and the puppies love her!  I am seriously thinking about trying to have her move with us back to the States.

Ayi is the best!!!

Blog Readers
My life in Shanghai has been significantly more exciting thanks to the blog.  I know my readers want excitement; so many times I put myself in crazy situations “for the sake of the blog”.  If the blog gets boring, that means that my life is getting boring.  Thank you so much readers!  I promise you there will be many more adventures to come!

Cab Drivers
Having no car is kind of like life before I got my license.  It sometimes sucks to have to wait for someone to pick you up and take you home like Mom did.  Nothing is better after a long day of work or a long night of carousing than seeing that little green light on top of a cab.  To the cab drivers in Shanghai who will more than likely not read this, I owe you one!  Big time!

Many of you would not believe half of the things I see in the city.  Thanks to my camera, I am able to capture and share these random acts of amusement!

Between American and Chinese holidays, we usually celebrate a holiday at least once a month!  I absolutely love teaching my international friends about Western holidays and learning about Eastern holidays from them!

Chinese Support System
Without my Chinese friends, I would be completely lost.  I am so grateful a handful of Chinese folks have taken me under their wings and have taught me everything from how to shop on Taobao to how to pay my bills.   It is comforting to know if I get a notice on my door I can snap a picture of it and send it to Ally or Mavis my work coordinators and they will translate it for me.  Jack and Chu from American Style Nails don't only give me the perfect pedi, they also hook me up with my hair appointments with Zina at I Salon.  I don’t know how my Chinese teacher, Sophie, tolerates my inability to learn Chinese.  Dr. Jenny Yu at Jialiang Kennels is always on call if Ditka or Leia need medical attention.  I also can’t thank the countless strangers who have helped me navigate the insanity I call Shanghai.

Mavis was a HUGE help during my first year of teaching in China.

Sophie is always so patient when I murder her mother tongue.

Sandy our relocation agent cuddles Leia.  Whenever we have apartment issues, she takes care of it stat!

DVD Store
I am happy to say I am able to keep up with Western Movies and TV shows thanks to the kind folks at Movie Feast.  For about 12RMB per disk ($2USD) you can get all of the newest flicks on DVD.  They are a tad pricey by Chinese standards, but I have never had a quality problem with their disks.  They are located right outside Tianzifang, across the street from the SML center.

They also have a nail salon if you are wanting a mani.

 While I have been in Shanghai, I have been spoiled with some pretty spectacular and exotic meals.  There are so many restaurants in this town that it is impossible to get bored with food.   For a list of everywhere to eat, check out Smart Shanghai’s Restaurant Listings.

Bi Feng Tang is one of my favorite Cantonese places!!  

I could live on dumplings!

Google Translate
While sometimes messages are garbled in translation, many times Google Translate will help me determine if the dozens of useless texts I receive are garbage or important. 

I'm not going to even try understanding this one.

I wasn’t kidding when I said my iPhone was my best friend last summer.  My iPhone is my translator, entertainer, GPS, and so much more.  I often wonder how folks navigated foreign lands without smart phones.

Kleenex Packets
I never leave home without at least two little packets of tissue.  Many times Kleenex is my toilet paper, my napkin, my hankie and more.  After living in Shanghai for about a week, I realized life could be very messy without them!

Don't leave home without them!

Everyone can be a Diva or Rock Star without being humiliated in front of the entire bar at KTV.  KTV is Karaoke in a private room with your friends.  I am thankful for the many nights spent rocking with friends at Big E Entertainment Center and other KTV Places.

We channel our inner Steven Tyler.

Learning Opportunities
I have learned so much more about international life and myself since moving abroad.  Thanks to a lighter teaching load and Ayi, I have had significantly more time to learn Chinese with my Chinese tutor and take other classes at the Expat Learning Center.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn photography and earn my EFOL certification.  I don’t think I would have had neither the time nor the energy to take these classes back in the States.

My photography teacher, Franc, chats with a kiddo on a photo shoot.  I highly recommend his class.

Lights at Night
The lights in large Asian cities are so beautiful!   The elaborate light displays make the Shanghai night seem magical.

This is the Bund at Night.

This is the Jing'An temple at night.

Sherpa’s, Mealbay and every other company that delivers food.
I often wonder how long I could live in my apartment without having to leave.  Delivery services like Sherpa's and Mealbay ensure that I don’t have to venture out to eat as long as I have a little cash on hand.  If I want to cook, stores like City Shop and Field’s deliver groceries right to my door.  These services are lifesavers; especially during the soupy, cold winter months.

Many evenings when Ayi doesn't cook, the Sherpa Man is our knight in shining armor.

Skype, Magic Jack and WeChat
Skype, Magic Jack and WeChat allow me to communicate with the West free of charge.  Skype is a video chatting application that allows my Mom to see me more frequently than when I lived in the States.  Magic Jack allows users to call American and Canadian phones free of charge.  WeChat is the social networking app of choice for many Chinese folks.  WeChat allows you to post status updates, send text messages, use your phone as a walkie-talkie, and video chat.  These three apps keep me in the loop!

Smart Shanghai and Other Helpful Online Expat Resources
Looking for something to eat, something to do, concert tickets, or  wanting to know how to get somewhere? Try these websites.

Thanks to these websites, we are never bored.

Spectacular People Watching
One of the most refreshing things about Shanghai is I never know what I am going to see when I walk out my door.  I am so thankful for the insanity and for the days I have my iPhone available to capture these moments.

I am glad to see he is comfortable in the middle of the road.

That has to hurt his head!

All dressed up....

How do these carts never topple?

One of the greatest things about being a teacher is I get to share my life with my students.  At times they are noisy, silly, and a tad naughty however they are one of the main reasons why I love my job.  They are sweet, smart and will always be “my kids”.  They always brighten my day!

My kids are awesome!

The Park
In the middle of Shanghai, there are serene patches of land known as parks.  Chinese parks are one of the best places to people watch!  My favorite is Fuxing Park.

Many folks love to cut a rug al fresco!

Others prefer to nap.

People practice Tai Chi.

People love drinking tea and playing cards near the teahouse in the center of the park.

Some games get extremely heated.

Tianzifang and Other Hidden Alleys
One of my favorite pastimes is getting lost on cultural streets like Taikang Lu. better known as Tianzifang.  You never know what you will see!

Travel Opportunities
Since there is a good chance Chris and I will live in Shanghai for 3 years, I feel a great sense of urgency to travel and see as many sites as possible.  We have vacationed more in the last 16 months than our first ten years of marriage.  We have seen Hangzhou, Suzhou, Beijing, Xi’An, Sanya, Hong Kong, Macau, and the Philippines.  If time and money permit, we hope to see Australia, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

It will not surprise many that China has pretty strict control over what is published online.  According to one news source, China has 500,000 more internet censors than soldiers.  Over here, The New York Times, Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube are blocked.   After living in a country where the government controls pretty much everything, I will NEVER take my first amendment rights for granted again. In the meantime, I am SO thankful for my VPN.  It allows me to access the information I need and stay connected with the world.

I would not be nearly as happy in Shanghai without the friends that have come, gone, and stayed.  My Bosch, Pacican, and Purdue crews have celebrated with me during the highs, and have supported me when I hit my culture shock lows.  Due to differing assignment lengths and visas, expats come and go frequently.  Regardless, words can’t express how wonderful it is to know people from all over the world who understand what you are experiencing.  It is wonderful to be surrounded by such diverse, smart, adventurous people!

Last and most importantly, I am thankful for the opportunity to experience everything with my best friend!  I wonder every day how we were so lucky to find each other and how we ended up on this amazing journey.  I could not do this alone!

Now that I am finished spilling my guts, it’s time for me to get ready to consume millions of calories thanks to upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations!  Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you have a warm, safe holiday season!  Stay tuned for more adventures!