What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been

Wow! , hard to believe but it’s here already. 2 years ago today , I touched down in cold snowy Tianjin after an exhausting 24 straight hours in airports/airplanes due to an extreme blizzard messing up travel plans , standing in line for at least 6 hours getting re-routed ,and  a bonus one day stop-over in San Francisco , all while lugging around a massive suitcase containing all my worldly possessions that were chosen to make the trip to China. I started out a student in Tianjin and now I find myself teaching at a private kindergarten after working with private weekend centers and being contracted out to various public schools scattered around Shanghai.

During this time period I’ve made it to Beijing, Qingdao , Xi’an , Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Taiyuan, Pingyao , Tianjin , Kunming , Dali, Lijiang,and Shangri-la. I’ve hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge , climbed two holy mountains (Taishan and Huangshan) , wandered amongst the sand dunes in the edges of the Gobi desert , puked and shat my brains out while in a hostel bathroom for 10 hours  after bad food in Sichuan,slept in a Mongolian yurt in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia , made many trips to the Great Wall , been fed mass amounts of baijiu and food by middle-aged Chinese dudes on an overnight train, hosted my amazing friends Lindsay , Will , and Amanda. Played tour guide to my family , gazed over Shanghai from the 101th floor observation deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center , and eaten soooo many amazing foods as well as strange foods ( donkey , dog, duck blood and intestine soup , and pig brains are some the ones that come to mind immediately). Now all this is only in China!

I’ve gotten out of the country three times , and I have spent 1 month in the Philippines, 2 weeks in Laos , and 2 weeks in Cambodia. I’ve managed to chill in mountain villages of the Philippines , eaten a meal of fish and dog with 2 Laotians and my Korean friend Mr.Kim , floated in the South China sea along the paradise of Sugar Beach, strolled through the colonial streets of Luang Prabang , stood dumbstruck with awe amidst the ruins of Angkor Wat, and swam in the Gulf of Thailand with a bunch of bioluminescent algae. Along the way I’ve consumed countless Tsingtaos, Red Horses, and BeerLaos.

The future is looking good with plans to extensively cover Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces on weekend trips from Shanghai , a trip to Taiwan next Golden week, wanting to visit Harbin for the Ice Festival next winter and a move to a new apartment in Xuhui district coming up. I’m going to get my Chinese drivers license this year and I’m eyeing an nice digital SLR camera to get some nice photos and planning on signing up for MatadorU’s writing course. I’m waiting (like always) for the next paycheck and spring to finally break through the rainy gray Shanghai winterscape.

Crazily enough these two years have been entirely in Asia. Hard to believe but I have not made it back to the States in two years.Two years of being in places where English is not the main language. I miss everyone at home but I’m sure you guys are used to my absence by now. I ain’t coming back for a while yet, the earliest would be July 2013 for a trip to the DMV to renew my drivers license. So mark your calendars!

Now I’m off through yet another rainy Shanghai evening (it’s been almost 2 consecutive weeks of daily rain) however, today is the first thunderstorm day (woo hoo!)  to meet my girl and eat some frickin’ good frog legs. Keep it real everyone! Love from Asia!

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Century Park (世纪公园)

Ah yes another park review , don’t worry everyone there will be plenty more to come! If you find yourself out on the Pudong side of town consider checking out Century Park. This park is a massive green space featuring a gigantic lake in the center. Originally it was named Central Park but the big guys in Beijing decided the name wasn’t aight and it was changed to Century. There are many activities to partake in such as : renting bikes , flying kites , setting up tents , picnics ,paddle boat rental, fishing , and having a dedicated concert area. This is one of the largest urban parks in Shanghai with around 140 hectares in the park itself.If a big music festival comes to Shanghai it’s pretty much guaranteed it will be here. A fantastic sounding (I was slow on getting the info about the concert but people told me it was quite awesome) festival spanning three days with bands from all over the world just happened a few weeks ago.

I know I’ve written about a few parks before but greenery is one of the things I really miss about living in Ohio. Slowly but surely I’ve become accustomed too and have really started to love city life but let me tell you it sure is nice to hop in a car and drive anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to find yourself in a dizzying array for different lush green zones. Lush green zones with dirt trails and few to no other people. Parks here in Shanghai are usually busy and bustling (even during the days those old people are crooning out songs , ballroom dancing, and loudly play card games. The parks are definitely vastly different but still much enjoyed by myself. When I come back to Ohio to visit expect to hang out with pretty much exclusively in the wonderful parks spread out over northeast Ohio.

This is one of the parks in Shanghai where one can find a quite little spot and partially forget where they are. There are some dense patches of trees and flowers where you can’t see any of the ubiquitous skyscrapers that characterize Shanghai , some peaceful sculptured gardens , and we can find examples of Eastern and Western landscapes. One little patch of the park was designed and given as a gift by the city of Montreal. I’m only mentioning this because my roommate is from Montreal and he confirmed that in fact it does remind him a lot of Montreal , kinda cool me thinks. One can spend hours wandering around the paths and checking all the different areas in this park. Enjoy it now before the insanely hot humid summer arrives folks when it can be difficult to drag yourself away from the cemented position on front of the A/C.

I guess I should put out some of other important details about the park , maybe such as how to get there yea? Fortunetly its pretty easy everyone don’t worry. Century Park is located on metro line 2 Century Park station and if you can’t managed to find the park after leaving the metro well its hopeless for you my friend. This metro station is one stop past the Science and Technology Center I wrote about previously, and is very easily walkable from the Science Center. Just go down Century Avenue.  Admission to the park also costs 10 yuan , around a $1.55 USD at the time of writing.

I’ve been to Century Park quite a few times but don’t frequent it so often considering it’s such a long hike from my house via the metro. My pictures from it are from when I just arrived in Shanghai as a traveler with my friend Lindsay , who was visiting me from the U.S.A , at the time. I especially love the fisherman picture with the highrises in the background. Enjoy folks!

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.

 

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