Happy New Year!

Ah , a nice refreshing 3 day break from work (Jan. 1st-3rd), now it’s Saturday morning and I’m on my lunch break. What? This must be a typo! Lunch breaks are not needed on the weekends. Surely in China one must be able to choose a time and place to eat on the weekends? This break must refer to the amount of effort it takes to get up from the couch in between pirate DVD episodes of “Game of Thrones”! No , no , no you must pay for that three-day holiday by working two days on the weekend in addition to the next week. Tuesday , Wednesday , Thursday off , and Friday to Friday on. The Chinese holiday schedule is not content with , you know, actually cutting people some slack. Great. As much as I loved those days off , it just doesn’t seem worth it with 6.5 more days looming ahead on the horizon. ( rainy, snowy, cold next 6.5 days) Happy New Year! WORK MORE.

On a happier note , the days off were really great! The first day of the new was the warmest it’s been in weeks, and the sun was shining! I took this opportunity to get out of my smelly little box that serves as an abode and ventured far off into the never never lands of Songjiang District.The end of metro line 9 is a long, long way from downtown. I rode all the way to the new terminal station (opened Dec. 29th), Songjiang South, looked around , and then hopped back on the subway one station north to the also newly opened Zuibai Pond station , home of Shanghai’s oldest classic park Zuibai Chi (醉白池). The 醉 means drunk. This garden was the retreat of a famous poet who liked to come , drink, and write poetry. Awesome.

From there I walked to the other touristy places in the area, Xilin Pagoda , Songjiang Mosque , and Square Pagoda (fangta) park . I was the only non-Asian I saw all day which incidentally made me a tourist attraction as well. After all was said and done it was getting dark and cold , time to take the nearly one hour subway ride back home. Let on the “Game of Thrones” marathon begin! I’m late jumping on the bandwagon but am glad I did. I would love to read the books but sadly Season 1 and 2 on pirate DVD come up to a whopping 72 rmb ($11.42 USD) while the real editions of the books (only ones I’ve seen at the Fuzhou Lu foreign language book center) hits the wallet for more than 100 rmb a piece ($15.80+).

When dawn broke it was time to venture out again. This time I went to one of those place you hear about and always mean to visit , to be a tourist in your city again, Longhua Temple. This complex is located close to the city center and is totally worth the visit. It’s a peaceful oasis from the outside gray area where intense construction of the middle portion of the metro line 11 has the ground all ripped up, and safety walls erected everywhere.

Admission is 12 rmb and you get a free pack of incense! Everyone is just strolling around and bowing before the various deities and shrines. The temple interiors are quite impressive. I like Gods with hundreds of arms and swords. I would like to think the Gods were pleased by the pomelo and apple sacrifices. (I certainly would be). Comparing these shrines to their Vietnamese counterparts ,however, makes me wonder why the Vietnamese offer fruits , beer, and liquor to the heavens while the Chinese don’t give booze to the mighty ones above. Maybe drunken Gods have a mean streak in China?

After blissing out in the temples , and petting the fat temple cat , it was time to a nerd and ride the brand spankin’ new metro line 13 just for the sake of riding it. The terminal station’s , Jinyun lu, surroundings are a barren wasteland. A giant shopping mall looms above the surrounding low rises , a center of sterile fun in a bleak gray world. Billboards abound with messages about the great new west city business district that will have sprung up like a weed and pictures of vast green lawns are interspersed with shiny glass towers, the skies are photoshopped blue, and the people are way to happy to be in a business district. I certainly do not smile like that on my approach to the office. More the like inverse of that. My smile proportionally decreases with the proximity to work.

One cool thing in the area (maybe the only) was that you could see the Bottle Opener (Shanghai World Financial Center) Shanghai’s tallest building looming from the misty (smoggy) distances like the eye of Mordor. That was intense. OMG! Reference to an intense medieval fantasy epic , must return home for more “Game of Thrones”….

Day three was cold and little flakes of snow floated from the skies. Curses from the Gods for not receiving their alcohol rations (doesn’t snow in Ho Chi Minh does it?!?). Twas a day for cleaning, preferably in the 1 foot radius around my radiator. Sigh , now back to the work marathon.

The Changes The Changes

Let’s see if inserting an image from a url will work.

I’ve recently started to spend a lot more time on Weibo. Weibo is the Chinese version of Twitter, just as RenRen stands in for Facebook.
It’s a good way to practice Chinese reading comprehension , an indispensable look into the Chinese news world, and a great way to become better acquainted with Shanghai. There are tons of cool things about Shanghai that can’t be found in English language websites.
I’ve started following this amazing user “摄影师陆杰” who shares great old photos of Shanghai.

Here is a picture of East Nanjing Road overlooking the Huangpu River. Virtually unrecognizable from the Shanghai we know today (no Pearl TV Tower , Lujiazui is still all farmland!), and this picture is only from 1988! It reminds me more of Hanoi and Phnom Penh than anything (especially the red and green roofed houses at the bottom/center of the photo).

http://ww3.sinaimg.cn/bmiddle/6b9d9522gw1dtwt1mdrnaj.jpg

Eh Kinda Back But Not Quite

I’ll start out with the obligatory “MERRY CHRISTMAS” greetings to everyone today! The grumpy cashiers may be wearing Santa hats , the shopping malls decked out with over the top Christmas trees , and haunting images of Santa follow my every moment down the street , but it doesn’t really feel like Christmas. This is most likely due to the lack of family and the fact I had to go to work today. Nothing says Christmas like a 7:30 am alarm and the trudge over to clock-in.

The technical issues that have been keeping me from even accessing wordpress have magically cleared up. I think my experiments with sacrifices of paper money to the internet gods worked! However, I’m still stuck with the original problem of the nifty wordpress 3.5 add media into your post being completely broken. My “Macau : PhotoTour” , my “Check out this photo of this nasty bruise I got when a Shanghai taxi ran over my foot” , and my “Wow, This Chinglish add claims there is semen in this drink” (Yes, these are all real) posts have to sit on the back-burner for Buddha knows how long. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE WORDPRESS FIX THIS!

Hmmpf , anyways here are the major updates to December 2012.

1. Yes, a taxi ran over my foot. I was less amazed by the fact a taxi ran it over than that by the fact that my ankle did not break.
2. My kitties had their girl parts removed. A week of moping around with cones on their heads ensued. (You need to see the photos to really see the pathetic state they were in)
3. Hopefully (fingers crossed!) I’ll be assuming the position of Social Media Editor for Sherpa’s food delivery service! Beijingers, Shanghaiers, and Suzhouers get at me! I can’t wait to do something not teaching related!
4. The subway wars are heating up! According to the exploremetro blog, “Beijing and Shanghai are fierce rivals. Both cities have dramatically increased the length of their subway networks in recent years, especially around Beijing’s 2008 Olympics and Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo.
Shanghai has 425km of track (excluding the Maglev and Jinshan Railway), making it the longest subway network in the world, while Beijing currently has 372km. Traditionally, the main metro networks in Mainland China open new lines in the last few days of December. This year is no different, with both the Shanghai Metro and Beijing Subway scheduled to open new lines in late December 2012. The metro operators rarely release information about exactly which lines will open until a few days before the end of the year, which leaves an intriguing conundrum: what will be the longest metro system in the world at the dawn of 2013?” Just recently on line 9 , the interior subway maps were updated showing a brand new Line 13 , a brand new Line 12 , the completed Line 11 , extensions to Line 9 , and a completely new Line 16. I’m kinda of a nerd. These things excite me! The new male English voice on Line 9 ,however, does not! Check out more info at

Man , it feels good to write again. I survived the Mayan Apocalypse , now I just need wordpress working right again.

WordPress 3.5 Problems

Anyone notice the new WordPress update that rolled in a few days ago?

It’s a pretty radical change and one that seems a hell of a lot better.

I really enjoyed using it for a day or two until the functionality totally broke. Is anyone else having problems with this?
Now if I try to upload images into a post the first image will start and then hang. I also cannot load the media library from inside the post. However, I can view my media library and upload things into the media library if I use the new Media section on the left hand toolbar. But I can’t put images inside my post!!

I’ve tried clearing browser caches and cookies to no avail. I’ve been scouring the internet for fixes and haven’t stumbled upon anything remotely helpful. What to do?!?!?

I want to keep on the blogging!

UPDATE – I should probably add that since I’m behind the Great Firewall of China I use a web based VPN service , Securitales , to access WordPress. This didn’t cause any major problems previously though.

Continuing Technical Difficulties

Well everyone , sorry for the lack of posts recently but my wordpress is on the fritz. The media uploader is not living up to its name and consequently I’m stuck with words and no pictures. Seeing as how a picture is worth a thousand words this is simply no good.

I’ll be posting with pictures as soon as I possibly can 😦

Anyone else in China accessing wordpress through a vpn having problems?

Wait a Second….

Hahaha , Shanghaiist says it right , ” high on ambition but low on creativity”. China is loaded with copies and fakes . Architecture is no exception. I’d say screw the European villa copying. China had mad style in the past. Make my house resemble the Forbidden City.

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/12/03/photos_jiangsu_city_has_four_fake_u.php

Interesting how the architects adopted the U.S Capitol building for their own court houses. Something is disturbing about seeing that familiar building with the red stamp flying the red flag.

Reality Check

Walking down the gorgeous , verdant , tree-lined streets in the former French Concession , one can sometimes forget they are in China. Yueyang Rd during the late evening/early night is a calm oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. You still might be killed by a speeding car driving the wrong way down the street with headlights off, but hey , so is life in Shanghai.

Walking by the triple intersections of Yueyang Rd , Dongping Rd, and Taojiang Rd , we are greeted the smells of freshly roast coffee, pungent Mediterranean food being grilled, and people eagerly seeking out the warmth and protection offered by the bars from the damp cold outside.

Signs advertise a proliferation of animal named sports bars : The Camel , The Beaver. Really , where in the world am I? Not exactly the first images that pop to mind when one thinks of China. I’m yanked out of my pondering by the appearance of a strange man in tattered , beaten clothes ahead. There is something in front of him , pulling him forward. It’s on a leash and headed my way!

As we near each other , I lock eyes with the man. He grins, and as if he sensed my initial state of bewilderment , and sought to answer me , to calm my brain, he answers and confirms what we both know to true.

He breaks out in a wide grin and exclaims “MONNNNKKEEEY” and unleashing a deep , booming laugh. He has used one of the three English words that he probably knows , the others being “hello” and “money”. I enjoy this sight very much. Some of the novelty of living in Asia has worn off and I’m not amazed like I would have been a few years ago. I’m not lost in my mind thinking “Was that really just real?” but instead am wondering “Shouldn’t that monkey have a little monkey coat? It’s nippy out here!”.

The monkey spell is broken a few paces later as an older woman beggar with a rent-a-child implores us for cash. I don’t like how the children are used to try to whip up sympathy (it’s not her child) plus I’d already given my change to the old guys sipping on some instant noodles in the Lawson doorway.

Yup, reality check. Still in SH.

Mmmmm Macau!

Mmmmmmm….Macau. More about the country/Special Economic Region aka Casino later. First, on to the food!

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As a former colony of Portugal , the European influences are obvious. Egg Tart meet Mouth.

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Going with the colonial theme we can sneak some Brazilian cuisine in there. Meat anyone?

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This simple pork on bread with Siracha is simple but great. These things along with Egg Tarts are ubiquitous in Macau.

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There exists a Thai-town in Macau , this restaurant had inexpensive , amazing , eats , prepared by a crew of authentic Thais. Sa-wat-dee! We were exhausted from wandering around town by this point . It was amazing to simply sit in air-conditioning, eat spicy food , and drink Beer Chang with Thai condensed milk coffee.

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There are also ample opportunities for grabbing fresh veggies. Also , check out that behemoth winter squash!

Yummy!

Fall Shots

Well it’s been a busy week plagued with technical problems. Our internet got up and running yesterday. I saw my landlord about 6 times in one week. Got my entire toilet switched out for another one , which hadn’t been installed properly , and now waiting on that to get fixed ( I swear , our landlord must love seeing us. He never seems to fix his crappy stuff which he claims is all new , hah!). Another typical week in Shanghai.

Anyways , I’m going to try to get this stupid side of life out of my mind ( even though I’ll probably see my landlord with his repair man dogging his heels tomorrow, and the day after , and after…… ahh ok enough!)

Though it’s almost December, the fall colors are really bursting right now. Helps break up the monotonous gray. I’m not looking forward to winter!

These shots are from my window / street . The 梧桐树 (Phoenix Trees)which line the former French Concession streets are lovely at this time.