From the U.S of A to China

Before Shanghai I lived in a metropolis called Tianjin. Tianjin is a huge metro area outside of Beijing with 11.5 million people. This was my first experience at living in a big city. Hell, my whole state of Ohio has 11.5 million and interestingly enough is located at the same latitude as my university town of Kent, Ohio. (4 dead in Ohio baby!). Tianjin was my first leap into living in China and while I throughly enjoyed my time there and learned a lot, I like Shanghai much better.

I arrived in Tianjin, China on March 1st, 2010 after a hellish time trying to leave everything behind and depart from the U.S.A. Hellish due to insane snowfalls and madness trying to figure out new flight routes. Dang , I wasn’t planning on it originally but I have nothing better to do , I might as well add details. After saying goodbye to all my friends and having the most insane awesome goodbye party anyone could hope for (with the exception of Nate Dawg not coming) , saying goodbye to family , preparing myself to start a new life in a far far away land , staying up all night packing, and generally getting myself into a mindset of no coming back , my first flight from Cleveland to Detroit was cancelled. I was initially told that there was no other way besides waiting until next week. Huh?!?! , after getting into the state of mind of leaving , shedding my tears , and holding my life’s possession in my heavy suitcase there was absolutely no way that was acceptable. I stood in line for 3 hours while the poor workers went through all the possible options for me to make it to Beijing. After 3 hours finally an answer! , I was to fly to Toronto and make the connecting flight to Beijing but unfortunately mother nature reared her ugly head again. I waited and waited for the flight that would take me to Toronto to land but alas to no avail the runway had to be cleared first and the plane was stuck circling. By the time the plane had landed , it was too late to make the connecting flight and I was sent back again to the service center to wait in line for another 3 hours.

I send my love to the lovely woman who helped out on the next part of my journey, I literally stood in front of her counter while she worked out every possible angle to get me to Beijing. She was extremely grateful for my patience and I was equally grateful for her diligence in making my life changing move possible. I literally stood in front of the counter while she typed out and searched every possible connection for two entire hours. After her realization that the farthest I could make it today was San Francisco , I immediately called my aunt living in San Francisco to inquire about the possibility of meeting up with her. San Francisco also just happens to be my favorite city in the entire world so far so I was extremely pleased about all the line waiting and uncertainty. After getting in touch with the awesome Aunt Mary Beth and confirming that indeed I could stay at her apartment and BONUS! I could even stay at her slick pad for the night I was on my way to George Bush airport in Texas (laugh laugh) and then a transfer to good ole’ San Francisco. Finally I had a tearful totally unexpected reunion with my dear Aunt.! Woo hoo! Off to a grand start! I can totally overlook the weather delays for a day stop in San Fran and a hang out with my Auntie MB!.

Hmmm lets see. I think I will leave the trip to San Francisco for a separate post , maybe even for a post tomorrow. But finally after nearly 24 hours in airports and in planes I arrived on the west coast of the U.S.A. I had a day to relax in my favorite city and then it was time to leave the west coast , fly across the Pacific Ocean , and arrive on the east coast of China. More than a day after I should have arrived in Beijing I finally did. Bleary eyed , sleep deprived , exhausted , but very excited I finally arrived on March 1st , 2010. Experiencing a punch in the face as my language skills were very much not adequate for China I managed to purchase a bus ticket from Beijing airport to Tianjin. I travelled amongst a bunch of students returning to their respective universities in Tianjin. Being back in China after 3 years felt good. I once again experienced the chinese characters lit up at night all over the night and the still incomprehensible pop music blaring on the bus tv screens. Wow I’m back finally after dreaming for 3 years the day has finally come!

The bus ride was exciting though completely uneventful. Upon arriving in Tianjin I stupidly let the touts grab my bags and offer me the grand deal of 100 kuai to the university. Seeing as how I was exhausted from the 12 hour flight , waiting for delays , lugging multiple heavy bags , just wanting to arrive , and having no clue as of how far the university was , I accepted the offer and was very upset when the taxi drove for about ten minutes and let me off at my destination. It should have been like a 15 kuai ride. Grrrrrr! Nice reintroduction to China. An extremely tired introduction to the dorm managers , an intense realization of my Chinese was shit , and a discovery that my dorm was not in fact a single bedroom but a shared extremely tiny room later I was back!.

More on other details later but this is the story of the journey , over and out!

 

Science and Technology Museum

Last Friday ( my off day) took me to meet up with a friend to see an Imax movie at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and take a visit to Century Park (世纪公园).  The center is located in Pudong on metro line 2 at the appropriately named “Shanghai Science and Technology Museum” metro stop. The original plan was foiled by time limitations and a late arriving friend. So instead we decided to tour the Science Center. It’s a pretty cool place with some interesting exhibits but in terms of interactivity and fun things it doesn’t match up to the Cleveland Science Center I’m so familiar with. There were a few good interactive exhibits like a robot that plays a game involving setting stones on a board , and a face that interacts with visitors by getting them to do various things. Cooler if you can understand Chinese and what it asks of you ( like me hehe). Exhibits include Spectrum of Life , Earth Exploration , Cradle of Life , World of Robots , Information Age , Light of Exploration , and Space Navigation to name a few. The center also features an Imax theater , a 4-d theater , Imax 3d , and a planetarium. Entrance to the museum costs 60 kuai and Imax movies range from 30-40 kuai depending on 3-d or not. My favorite things about the center are the Imax theater and the Earth exhibits. The game playing robot was also very cool. The museum is something to check out once and the Imax movies are good to go see. After checking out the exhibits we ducked out of the museum and hung out in the big plaza outside of the museum.

The plaza is a good open site surrounded by pools of water. Skaters , rollerbladers , kite flyers , and touts come to congregate and hang out. Underneath the plaza as part of the metro system has a great fake goods market , where you can buy clothes, wallets , software , and various assorted things. Bargain hard here. They start super high and as a foreigner dawg you get especially high prices. 400 kuai start for a fake billabong hoodie later reduced to 100 kuai (which is still probably expensive) I hate bargaining!

So everybody go check out the science center , the  Imax theater , and then after take the quick walk to Century Park or hop on the metro to go one stop further. I will write about that amazing place another time. PEACE RATATAT.

 

Rooftop BBQ and Bonfire!

Wow like a blast from the past! Glad I made it to this party. My main dawgs Max and Lila told me about a joint amigos birthday party located on a rooftop , equipped with a big grill, and with a dj spinning some tunes. Sounded pretty good so after my part day of work (240-420 thanks to morning classes cancelled to a childrens’ day festival!) I met up with Maxy , Lila , and Oblivs at one of my favorite hangouts. An awesome import food and beer convenient store with awesome prices and outdoor seating to people watch and soak up the nice weather. After a view import brews there we went in search of some meat and veggies to grill. Fortunately Tianzifang has an excellent wet market. I don’t often go and visit the wet markets since the giant French supermarket Carrefour is only 2 minutes walk from my house and the nearest wet market is a bit away. These markets are awesome! Every kind of vegetable and meat available , fresh and cheap! Live turtles , eels slithering around , fish , caged chickens , and some kitties (not for eating) sleeping on the vegetables. We decided not to bring the typical fares to the party. The more ordinary boring  chicken wings(absolutely delicious wings) were combined with some squid , shrimps with heads (chinese style) and frog legs. Frog legs 18 kuai for 500g , squid 24/500g , chicken 22/500g , and shrimp 28/500g. All meats were marinated in amazing sauces yyyeeeaaa. We also met up with some ears of corn. After loading up on goodies we had to make it out there. Ughhh all the way out by Hongqiao airport,  Shanghai Zoo metro line 10 western burbs. There is a big expat grouping out this way in the suburbs. Its out of the main city and one can find nice villas and a more relaxed pace. Cool area but too far out of the city for me to live. I don’t wanna take a super long metro ride everyday to get to work.

Anyways the party was really fun. Very easy to forget what country you are in. People speaking English with all kinds of accents , hanging with Brits , Aussies , Canucks , and more. The party was on a rented rooftop on top of a 6 story building. Christmas lights ringing the outside fence , a giant grill , sound system , jacuzzi , and a firepit! I’m glad memorial weekend went down with some grilling even though no one was celebrating memorial day haha. From the rooftop there was a great view of the city center sprouting up , I could find the towering blue Renaissance hotel building , and a few other landmarks I can recognize. It’s cool to see how all of a sudden the city center just pops up with its towering buildings and lights.

I loved there because I got to have a bunch of things I haven’t had since leaving the USA. Here is a list :

1. Grill !!

2. Seeing a constellation! (We found the little dipper , you can see so few stars in Shanghai its sad)

3. Campfire!

4. Mashed Potatoes!

5. Delicious Bratwurst!

6. Corn on the cobb!

Yeeess the food was amazing! I do say the meats we brought were the best. Pre-marinated , seasoned, and spicy all the way! Some of the other foods seemed kinda bland without sauces and seasonings. The frog legs were definitely my favorites. Other peeps weren’t as down as we were , some thought frog legs were weird to eat but others tried and enjoyed. I’ll eat those buggers everyday!

The campfire was also superb. Sitting and getting lost in a fire was always one of my favorite pastimes back home and it was great to bask in the warm glow of a fire. Although the location on a rooftop with a megalopolis looming on the horizon was a bit different from the typical woodsy spot enjoying the fire was the same as always. Our Chinese friend Oblivs had never sat around a fire before and she was just as enthralled as me. Said it was beautiful. We also introduced her to the art of recon missions to find fun things to burn , cardboard beer boxes are a wonderful thing to watch go up. We also cracked some pyro jokes as we entertained the thought of having the deck chairs go up in flame. (not actually done but oh so funny). Left the place at around 130 am or so and had a long 42 kuai taxi ride back to my pad. Awesome that this long taxi ride with the more expensive night fares still only ran $6.50 . Alrighty kids I’ll leave you with some photos. I hope you enjoy all the memorial day activities. Don’t take those grillings , woods , stars , or mashed potatoes for granted! Some of us don’t have those opportunities as often as we like. Oh yea and go try some grilled frog legs!

 

Puxi and Pudong 浦西和浦东

One of the main orientations of Shanghai is that of west of the Huangpu river and east of the Huangpu river. The Chinese words for east and west are 东(dong) and 西(xi). The Huangpu river is 黄浦。 So the split of the city is literally east of the Huangpu and west of the Huangpu. I live on the Puxi side in JingAn district (静安区)and have made a few trips out to Pudong but don’t often frequent the area.

Puxi is the old side of town and Pudong is the new area. Prior to 1990 the area was little more than farmland and today is another part of the concrete jungle. I have pictures on the end of the post but try to wrap your head around the fact that in 20 years what was once farms is now a collection of shining and glistening skyscrapers that is the trade and finance center of China and hosts the tallest buildings in China. In a mere twenty years! , the pace of development and construction is crazy over here! I’ve read that the majority of the world’s cranes reside in China and the Chinese use more concrete than anyone else in the world! I’ve only been here since early July 2010 but it seems like every time I step outside something new is sprouting up. As I type a brand new metro line and station is being constructed right outside my building and the subway line (#7) I go on nearly everyday opened only six months before I arrived! I’ve seen massive road construction on Changshou Rd ( the street I live on) , a new bank pop up outside my house , countless stores/restaurants open and close by my apartment , and new walls built practically overnight. Quite a far cry from the lazy seemingly unchanging development of my suburb of Mentor, OH or the regression of my home city Cleveland , OH.

Pudong is mainly the home of the financial and trade districts , many wealthy business men , and many wealthy business expat types. It can feel a bit odd and manufactured . like a new shiny city that popped up outta nowhere in two decades (which it is). It seems a bit cleaner and snappier than Puxi but I feel it’s just wide avenues , suit n’ ties, pretty buildings , and shopping centers. It lacks that more true to life style of Puxi with our crowded dirty areas of cheap eateries I’ve come to know and love. It is certainly very interesting to check out Pudong though and there are a few good attractions. Whenever I take a trip over I enjoy it and have a good time. Some of the more important things to check out in Pudong are the JinMao Building , Shanghai Aquarium , World Financial Center, Oriental Pearl TV Tower , Shanghai Science and Technology Muesuem , and the awesome green space of Century Park. There are also loads of high quality international schools supporting the expat populations. Good to know if you are one of these said expat or if you are looking for a good teaching job. A few different metro lines service Pudong with line 2 being the prevelant line through. Pudong is also serviced by Pudong international airport and the super snazzy maglev train line to the airport! That thing is fun but more on that later.

Puxi contains the area of Shanghai considered to be old town and then all the new developments radiating out from that area. Another neat contrast between Puxi and Pudong occurs on the Huangpu river. Pudong side is all glittering lit up skyscrapers while the Puxi side shows the old of Shanghai. The Bund lies along the river , this area contains the foreign concession buildings. It’s quite a juxtaposition of the new shiny China with old European architecture. Puxi contains the buik of sights of Shanghai as well as the bulk of the population. Chances are you will spend most of your time in Puxi on a visit. An important factor to consider is living on the side of the river you work on , it can quite annoying and take a lot of time ,depending on your destinations, to make the journey across the river to the other side of town everyday. I will do further writeups and a city profile for Puxi and Pudong later but I feel this is a good intro post to the topic.

Anyways , Friday I will be dipping out to Pudong to catch an I-max movie at the science center and lounge by the lake in Century Park , with a pretty girl no less! Woo hoo!

Peace Grease!

Puppy Sittin’

We got to entertain our friends lil cute fuzzy ball of energy for the weekend. Maxy Boy and Lila headed to Nanjing for the weekend so we got to watch beastie. I’ve never had a dog before and I must say they are pretty awesome. We watched cutie Friday evening , Saturday , and Sunday. Beastie doesn’t have her shots yet so she can’t go outside for a walk but it was fun indoors as well. The lil gal is chock full of energy and constantly leaping and bounding around the room. I’ve always had cats throughout my life and dogs are very very different. It’s nice to be constantly loved instead of at a cats discretion. I also liked how excited beastie gets when I got home from work , cheers ya up when a little bundle of love gets so happy to see ya come home. Ok I’ll keave y’all with some pros and cons and pics of the bugger.

Pros

Fun to play with

Nice to have someone to come home to

Sleepy night cuddle time

Cons

Shit and piss on the floor ( not house broken yet and not my job)

Early morning energy and whining while im trying to sleep

Is teething so constantly is finding things to gnaw on such as chopsticks , bottles of olive oil , slippers , hands

Safety Safety!

Sometimes when I want to grumble , bitch , and moan about my job and the crazy loud kids I think of the jobs that are actually terrible around and that pay probably next to nothing at all. One of these less envious jobs is the metro safety worker. These yellow clad warriors operate the baggage xray scanners before the turnstile to enter the paying part of the metro. One person looks at the screen which displays the scanned luggage and usually one or two others stand by beckoning people to put their bags into the machines or whom smack your bag with those little metal detector wand thingies.  These machines are brand spanking new for the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. Before that there was absolutely nothing , the problem with this is that a huge percentage of people completely ignore these words and their calls of 安全 安全 (safety safety). The percentage is different between different times and different stations , for example rush hour has many people just breezing by. I’d say perhaps 70%-80% percent of people just go right on by. So this safety workers spends his/her entire day lifting an arm to point at the machine and saying safety safety to have 8 of 10 people completely ignore them. I feel bad for these people so I usually put my bag into the machine and sometimes receive a 谢谢 (thank you). Someplaces I never do this though , places like the Shanghai Railway stop I usually don’t. The workers really don’t care there and I’m always in a rush to get to my school. I have the schedule down so that I have to really hurry through the long transfer tunnels and can just make the train , if I don’t make the train I have to wait like 6-7 minutes for the next one , this is a real killer! Usually the complete ignoring of the safety workers is responded to with a complete ignoring of the safety ignorers (haha akward sentence) but one time after someone passed I heard the worker call out (in Chinese) Fine ignore the safety! You can die! This was all said in a laughing joking manner by him and I cracked up laughing after this. Remember folks a sense of humor is the best way to keep from turning into a grumpy old person. Words for the wise.

Peace Freaks!

MengQing Park 梦清公园

I’m working on a cool places in Shanghai page for this site so I figured today I might as well do a write-up on one of the many places I’ve come to enjoy here. This little gem of a park was a completely accidental find which I located after a little art session at Moganshan Rd. (More on this location later) . MengQing Park (梦清公园 , loosely translated as Green Dreams Park, is located at 66 or 130 Yichang Rd in Putuo district right near the meetings of Jingan and Zhabei districts. (宜昌路66号130号)。 A quick walk from Zhongtan rd on metro lines 3 and 4 , not that far from Changshou rd metro stop on line 7 , and a very quick walk from Moganshan rd art district.

This park is situated on a little peninsula surrounded by the Suzhou river ,where the river flows does a 180 and then drunkenly continues on its meandering path. The Suzhou river still isn’t the cleanest in the world but years ago it was completely and utterly awful. 11 years and a 14 billion yuan (a little over $2 billion USD by today’s exchange rate) has done a lot to swing that around. This park is part of the rehabilitation phase of the river. Before 2003 or so this little jut of land was a factory complex and is now an 8.6 Hectacre patch of green with lots of trees and bamboo!. Part of the river is diverted through a man built series of pools which filters the water through underwater greens and serves to oxygenate and purify the water. Pretty cool use of nature in the middle of the urban jungle. There is also a vast underground storage pool used to collect rainwater and then run it through the filters. Which is also a very good thing cuz well lets face it all that smog in the air gets pulled outta the sky and into the raindrops when the clouds decide to unleash upon us.

Continuing on the theme of being in a concrete jungle one definitely does not forget they are in the middle of a megalopolis. Sitting in the park surrounded by trees one has a great view of blocks of towering 28 story plus apartment buildings. The best time to visit the park is in the evening/early night when the all the apartments are glowing with the lights of their interior residents. The park itself is also lit up with an array of mind-bending color changing light displays. One of the things I really enjoy about China is the everyday light show! Not sure exactly when the park is closed ( ill clarify after a further visit of the park) but it stays open after dark for a while which is quite unlike many parks here in Shanghai.

This is a fantastic place to go to enjoy an intriguing mix of nature and urban , a place to ponder pollution and rehabilitation , also not a bad spot to take some brews and relax taking the light show and trees. With that I will leave you with some photos to enjoy! Hope to see you there!

-RatDawg5 Out