Mandatory , It’s More Fun!

Happy Teacher’s Day everyone! This upcoming Friday will feature a dinner gathering event at my school! Free food , some games , and little prizes to be won.

Attendance : MANDATORY.

That just sucks the joy out of it for me.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s sort of a fun event . In any case there is free food and some small prizes to be given out. Can’t beat that. But just the whole ATTENDANCE REQUIRED thing just gets me thinking how much I would prefer just to clock out at 4pm on Friday , relax , chill out , and hang out with friends instead of co-workers. On the much coveted Friday evening now I have to sit in the office and wait an extra hour before trudging upstairs to listen to some boring speeches , and then eat with a bunch of people whom I don’t really share a lot of cultural common points with.

Oh you were born under the red rule of Mao Zedong , revolutionary hero and extreme idiot, who got millions of his own people killed? That’s great! I was born in the dark days of George H.W Bush who uhh Gulf War…….

Nah , nah , I’m exaggerating things a bit for the comic humor but yea this dinner isn’t quite like kicking over a BBQ back home with some brews.

Lots of Chinese companies have this kind of mandatory forced fun. My girlfriends company has monthly dinners. Sounds good right? Well now the stingy bosses are deducting 5% out of everyone’s commissions to pay for said dinner. Before it was free. Now all the coworkers have to pay to have the right to eat with people they don’t really want to hang out with. Great.

Out in the countryside where there isn’t much to do, and everyone lives in communal dormitories at the factory , things are a bit different. Perhaps the company dinner with KTV (karaoke is super popular in Asia) is a great thing to ease the dullness of 6 day a week 14 hour a day mindless work while sleeping in a room with 5 other people. I don’t know . I’ve never experienced anything like that. I’ll just count my blessings and make it through a slightly elongated Friday. It could be worse.

Photo of The Day – Anti-Drug PSA

真爱生命 远离xi毒品
Cherish your life , stay away from (physical act of doing)drugs. Oddly enough the xi character is traditional Chinese and I can’t locate the character on my computer. The rest of the characters are the standard simplified Chinese used on mainland China.

An interesting PSA slapped on the back of a bus stop on Jian Guo Xi Rd.

The four drugs focused on included:

Methamphetamine
Ketamine
Ecstasy
Yaba (A southeastern amphetamine pill) in Thai literally Crazy Drug but Chinese doesn’t use the literal translation, they adopt the sound. Ma Ji , instead of the Chinese characters meaning Crazy Drug.

Like most of Asia , the focus is on the speedy drugs. Interestingly enough the two drugs most popular with the foreign communities , Weed/Hash , and Cocaine are left off the list.

Typhoon Haikui

Well this week’s typhoon certainly made things interesting in Shanghai. The city’s first red-level warning -highest in a 4-tier system- kicked in , ships were called back to port , and nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from the storm’s path. Just after midnight early Wednesday morning the soft pitter-patter of rain started on my awnings and it had intensified to more of a machine gun sound by sunrise. At 7:20 a.m , my alarm clock started blaring causing a bleary-eyed me to lurch up and try to gather my bearings. Yup , even with the typhoon warnings and threats my kindergarten’s teachers had to report to work. However , there were no students. Give the cute little kids the day off. (Aww she could be literally swept by the gale winds!) The teachers?! Hah! Not cute anymore, off to work with the lot!

With a little bit of preparation the whole no students thing made my day pretty awesome. Pack a few books , some DVDs , my laptop, and I’m set. I spent my entire day at work chillaxin in the office , alternating between reading , writing , watching a movie , and staring outside my window as particularly intense wind gusts caused rattling from the awnings , railings , and clothes lines on the tattered old buildings outside.

The weather reports only called for more of same for the next few days. The teachers were released thirty minutes early with cautions to get home and stay safe and don’t come back tomorrow. Can’t work anymore if we’re dead , yea?

I awoke the next day expecting lightning , hailstones , and terror raining down from the heavens. I was greeted by light cloud cover , rays of sun poking through , and a pleasant breeze that occasionally escalated into a slight gusts. No work for this? Awesome.

I was hoping perhaps it was the eye of the storm and things would pick up again but didn’t even see as much as a drop of rain. I’m the kind of person who enjoys watching a summer thunderstorm out the window, and to be honest I was kinda let down by the typhoon. I’ve been in the middle of a hurricane in Florida before and damn was that intense.

On the way home from work during the day of the typhoon I was trying to assess my neighborhood for signs of damage. We were pretty lucky, minor flooding in my street and a few branches were knocked off the trees. Above ground lines of the subway also experienced closures and delays. Other parts of Shanghai (particularly those near the coast) weren’t so lucky with road closures and property damage. The scaffolding on the new Shanghai Tower wobbled a bit but was a-okay.

I heard that things were much worse in the Philippines with Manila being described as a “water-world” by Filipino officials and close to sixty deaths. I’ve spent some time in Manila and am trying to imagine what it must be like now. My thoughts go out to all those affected by the typhoon and I thank my lucky stars my city didn’t get hit too badly.

Sherpa’s and Free Beer

Key Words- Free Beer. As in zero dollars , renminbi , yen , pesos, and shekels . Zip , nada , zilch , mian fei.

I am most certainly down.

All thanks to Sherpa’s , the orange and black clad food delivery warriors that any ex-pat worth his or her salt in Beijing , Shanghai , or Suzhou knows.

If you happen to live in one of those places and (naughty naughty) have access to that bane of Western Civilization , Facebook , log on and follow the official Sherpa’s Delivery official page (on facebook? Naughty naughty!). Funny updates and a ton of prizes being give away (hence my free brewski but damn I wish I would’ve won the home entertainment system!). This may sound like a sales pitch but then again maybe I’m still crunk up off my prize dranks!

Whatever , sign up and try to get some prizes! Woo wooot!

Walk

City getting you down? Sick of the rush hour subway ride, and the legions of shitheads shoving their way onto the train , standing directly in the way of disembarking passengers, and not letting you get off the train? Are you about to deck the next person who whispers “laowai” to a friend, and then laughs? Next time a taxi cuts you off when you have the green light as a pedestrian are you going to smash the window in?

Big city life can strenuous. Sometimes you need to get out or break the rat-race routine you’ve locked yourself into.

Don’t just blindly hop into the metro and go home just to flick whatever new $2 DVD you recently purchased. Go for a walk. Explore. Head down into that little alleyway to see the a new part of town. Tuck your head into the dusty little shop , who knows what you’ll find? Dig into that street food. Sit and watch the people go by.

It can really help to de-stress , and help you to remember the love for the big city that is currently hiding somewhere deep inside yourself.

I love just walking and gazing out upon the massive , living , breathing , concrete jungle that provides shelter for me and 23 million others. Something new is happening everyday. We just gotta go out and find it.

Here are some random flicks I snapped while walking around at Middle HuaiHai Rd and Chongqing Rd.

In other news, there is a typhoon buffeting the city right now and quoting Shanghai Daily (newspaper)

“Shanghai banned all outdoor group activities, closed all city parks and suspended summer classes. It also stopped all outdoor construction.

The city government said summer schools and training classes should be suspended and companies were being advised to give their employees time off. ”

Well ok , there are no students at my school today , however all the staff is here. I’ve been sitting in my office since 8:15 am and will continue to do so until 4:00pm.

I’ve purchased some books , brought my laptop and some DVDs , and made sure my coffee supply is full. Bring it on typhoon! (Updates and photos after I get off work.)

Construction

While it was just yesterday I was extolling the virtues of the city and how I eat better than all of my friends back at home, but now I being hit by one of big city life’s negative aspects , construction.

Living in the city you can’t get away from noise . It seems worse living in a city like Shanghai. A city caught in the violent, chaotic, spasms of self-improvement and development. Not content after building up the world’s longest subway system by miles (errr by kilometers ) but committed to doubling that. Not satisfied with the 20 year buildup of Pudong’s skyline from farmland to a world-class view, and now currently building the world’s second tallest building. Sometimes you get unlucky and your apartment is situated next to a metro construction site. (Good luck sleeping for the next 10 months!) Sometimes it’s just a two week stint to replace the ageing piping under the street. My last apartment matched the former situation, and my current apartment runs with the latter.

It appears the workers are under some pressure to get things done as last night they were burning the midnight oil (as well as the 1am , 2am , 3am, 4am , 5am, 6am, 7am…..) Seriously the entire night I was hearing jackhammers , metal plates moving , and other heavy equipment as I drifted in and out of bizarre construction induced dreams.

I think (hope) the worst of it is over. Love it or hate it , we gotta live with it! At least my noise tolerance has gone up as well as my maximum sleep decibel allowance! Woo hoo!

Something’s Wrong

Something is up in Shanghai. Something is odd , strange , not quite right. It’s …….. blue skies and white puffy clouds! Holy crap! I don’t think it’s looked like this in a year. The entire winter is usually entirely cloudy and depressing (much like Northeast Ohio) and the summer isn’t that much better. Keep the clouds and the humidity but swap the cold for the heat. I’ve been quite surprised by this last weekend until now. Seriously , blue skies and white fluffy clouds?!? With just barely a tingle of grey pollution on the horizon. May I be excused from work to go out and play? Please??!? Now I just need a proper park to go to…..

Doing my Service for the Expat Community

Yesterday , on what just happened to be my big 2 years in Shanghai, I got the chance to take a bullet for the team , to do my service for all you expats here. It was a serious matter , one of life and death. A good many of you know what I’m talking about here. Too lazy to get off your couch and turn off the dvd player with pirated dvd inside , with the prospect of starvation and actually getting up quickly arising ,  who ya gonna call? Sherpas!

As a foreigner living in Shanghai you will quickly learn about the food delivery company Sherpas. They work with tons of different restaurants throughout the city . You can pick up one of their menu’s and choose from the world’s cuisines and have it delivered right to your door. Awesome.

Anyway, there was a new Italian restaurant to be tested and judged to see if it was worthy of working with the orange and black clad motorbike warriors.  My one friend who would normally be in charge of that was in Beijing on business . So I bit the bullet and the crack taste testing team was formed!

The dangers were many and I was fraught with many uncertainties as well as a long and arduous journey. I faced insane taxi drivers speeding through the city , had to make a long journey to a place called Pudong (Where is this place? Why is it so high-tech?)  , fought through the metro tunnels during rush hour (braving broken bones and crushed limbs) , and then had to deal with the risk of hot melted cheese burns , death by pasta , and perhaps even food poisoning. I did my service to all of you!!!

Haha , the restaurant was super awesome and if you glance at a Sherpa’s menu in the future and see Acqua e Farina listed , you’re welcome.

(Alternately just go to Room 2 in the Basement of Shanghai One at 1138 South Pudong Rd. It’s really good and pretty reasonably priced.)

 

Two Years in Shanghai

Hard to believe but 2 years ago today I arrived in Shanghai. I had just gotten off a domestic flight from Qingdao with my lovely Ohioan friend Lindsay who was my first visitor from back home in the States. It was supposed to be a few day stopover and then it was off to Malaysia. That never happened and bam now two years later I’m still in Shanghai.

When we arrived the city was in full World Expo mode , with Haibao statues dominating the landscape , tons of domestic and international tourists , and not a single hostel dorm bed or cheap hotel room available. Oh yea and a nice 30-50% price hike at all the hostels . We spent our days sweating and scrambling around the city looking for dorm beds. In between all that we enjoyed our time with some new found friends from all over the world. I love that aspect of backpacking.

In a mere two years I’ve seen a lot changes in the city . New buildings have gone up , old ones torn down , there was the 28 story JiaoZhou Rd apartment fire , new metro stops have been popping up , and probably the most exciting is the skeletal form of the new 632 m (due to be the world’s second tallest ) starting to take shape and loom in the  horizon  over in Pudong.

It’s an exciting time to be in this city and I’m glad to take part in all of it!  (Except for the pushing on the metro and insane drivers. Yea , I’m pretty done with that.)

Here are some flics from that fateful day 2 years ago!

Red , White , and Blue in June

With the 4th of July (American Independence Day for those of you not in the loop) coming up in Shanghai there are many bar/restaurant beer and BBQ events being planned. Last weekend (June 30th and July 1st) had some events going on , this week on the 4th has still more , and still more BBQ’ing (and a hot dog eating contest) will be going on.

Last Saturday I went over to one of my favorites , Boxing Cat Brewery , for a day of good ole’ Brew , BBQ , and Blues music. 200 rmb for entry and that got each person all they can drink Micro-Brews , all you can eat BBQ , and a live Blues band to boot.

Sitting outside by the BBQ we were hit full blast by the oppressive Shanghai humidity, there were no fireworks , and I was hearing a tad too many British accents to be back at home , but it didn’t really like I was in China. While the place was pretty busy the entire estimated American population in Shanghai of 23,600 definitely didn’t show up.

Although I’m not particularly patriotic in the end it was a great night. I even enjoyed the drunk rendition of the national anthem the dudes wearing the Back to Back World War  t-shirts gave when they hijacked the Hellhounds (Blues Band) equipment during a break.

 

WOO HOO AMERICA!!