Archive | September, 2011

An Afternoon Stroll

29 Sep

On a recent Sunday we went to lunch at a seafood restaurant that we have walked by dozens of times but never entered.  We had fresh grilled oysters,mussels and steamed fish with soy sauce and ginger.  While I was stared at quite a bit – “A foreigner is in our restaurant!” by this point I’m pretty used to that and after a while the waitstaff left us to our food.

After lunch we decided to take a walk – it wasn’t too hot and it’s always nice to take a stroll.  We wandered a bit and then I suggested we walk by the neighborhood temple that is close by.  The street was turned into an open market.  Each shop had its wares turned onto tables – children’s toys, backpacks and lots and lots of wrapping paper.  I took the opportunity to buy several sheets because wrapping paper is strangely difficult to find here. 

Because the area borders the temple the architecture is more classical.  Tiled roofs, low buildings – it called for a picture, but I didn’t bring my camera.  Turning another corner or two we stumbled onto a street full of book stalls – the books spread out, slightly dusty but full of bright pictures and so tempting.  School starts in September so there were stacks and stacks of textbooks, with dollies stacked high – children’s books, high school books, dictionaries.  I love the start of a new school year and the promise of autumn.  I wanted to buy books – test my Chinese ability against gradeschoolers, but I refrained. 

I don’t know if the book market is permanent or a seasonal occurrence and if I go back in a few weeks it may all have disappeared, fading into the past of the constantly changing Shanghai landscape.


27 Sep

We went to a film with a friend in one of the upscale shopping centers during the long weekend for Mid-Autumn Festival.  After we saw Captain America (which I’d recommend), we came out to a shopping mall full of barricades, policeman, glasses of champagne, paparazzi and a man in a cow suit.

Me and the cow - he said he was rapping

The sign on the window when we left said it was FNO – Fashion Night out.  It was pretty surreal.

Another night in Shanghai.

Profiles – My Housekeeper

25 Sep

One of the luxuries about living in Shanghai is that having a housekeeper is very affordable.  Even though the RMB is strengthening so it is getting more expensive, I can still have someone come to my house for about $2.50/hour.  I have friends who have full time housekeepers – they come every day and also cook meals, but I’m a pretty low maintenance gal.  My housekeeper only comes twice a week for two hours each time, but she is truly a gem.

My current “Ayi” is not a native Shanghainese, she comes from a small town in Jiangsu province.  Her daughter just started university this year in Nanjing and she is so proud of her daughter’s accomplishments – and she keeps me updated on her progress.  She has been my housekeeper for about a year and a half now and she lives very close by my apartment.  I’m her first customer of the morning – on the way to other clients.  She typically comes around 6:30 in the morning, right about the time I roll out of bed and then cleans for about two hours before heading out.  Typical tasks include dishes, laundry, bathrooms, dusting and ironing.  She also takes my drycleaning on her way to her next job.

As we have gotten to know each other she definitely lets me know her mind.  She comments on everything – whether my windows should be open or shut, what type of laundry detergent I use, if I look tired, that I need to buy garbage bags, that my dry cleaning will come back the next day.  She has a big heart and looks after me – I am lucky to have found her.  Those four hours that she comes clears my weekend which means I have time to exercise, or explore or just be lazy if I’d like.

Any thoughts on housekeepers?

Happy Birthday to me!

23 Sep

Today is my birthday.  I have survived another year.  I feel very lucky this year that I will be celebrating with family.  It also marks the three year anniversary (yesterday) that I officially transferred to our Shanghai office.  The cake in the picture above was a cake from a couple of years ago when I actually wound up celebrating my birthday nearly two months after as I just didn’t have time to celebrate on the day itself. 

Thank you all for your support and comments over the last couple of months.

Do you have any advice for me as I move into this next phase?  I’d love to hear from you all.

Views from home

22 Sep

I have lived in the same apartment for three years – it is spacious and airy, close to my office with room for visitors.  I have a kitchen that two people can work in at the same time and two balconies – one that looks south and one that looks north.  From the north if I lean slightly over the edge I can see the World Financial Center and the Jin Mao tower across the river in Pudong.  

Over the last few weeks I have been noticing how the views differ during different times of the day and weather systems.  The photos below looks north east towards the Pudong side and at the temple complex just north of my apartment.  I like to see the contradiction of the traditional with the new skyline that is this city.

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20 Sep

The weather has changed – a hint of autumn is in the air and it is now possible to talk a walk and not come home drenched in sweat.  With the cooler weather though have come all kinds of small visitors who trail me on my way to the office and even in my bedroom if the window is open.  I was counting and at one point last week I had 12 mosquito bites at the same time – large, red and itchy.  I haven’t had this many since I was in grade school and went to the Dahlem Center for camp.

I know I’m not the only one with this problem – at the bus stop the other day I saw a mom pull a bottle of bug spray out of her bag and methodically cover her child from head to toe.  I have a bottle myself by the door and I try to remember to spray my ankles before I head out, but it is a losing battle – my blood is just too sweet.

Two of my many bites

I’ve been bitten.

Exploring – Shanghai’s Jewish District

18 Sep

In November last year, my colleague and friend Cory came to visit.  He’s located in Hong Kong now (we previously worked together in Chicago) and we spent a great weekend exploring a different part of the city – Shanghai’s Jewish district in the Hongkou area.  There is a restored Jewish temple with a museum talking about the history of Jews in the city and the different waves of migrations that occurred.  In addition, if you look carefully there are still some houses with distinctly eastern european charm, even though today it is definitely a Chinese area.  We also explored in some very local areas – including a public park turned living room and a local buddhist temple as well.

I got the idea because “Time Out Shanghai” had published a series of treasure hunts with interesting walking tours and I managed to cajole someone to try one with me.  It was definitely worth it and I have done a couple of others since which I hope to post in the future.

Cory was nice enough to allow me to post some of the photos that he took that day we explored.  Enjoy!

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The missing crabs

17 Sep

I wrote a post earlier this week about Mooncakes – but I neglected to mention that occasionally there will be alternate gifts.  One company decided to gift live hairy crabs – which are a huge thing here in Shanghai.  I figured out how to redeem the crabs and chose the time today (Saturday) that they would be delivered.

An advertisement for "the real deal"

I woke up early, expecting a delivery, slightly nervous about how I would prepare them.  The hairy crabs should be numbered, indicating their lake of origin, and timely delivery is very important.  They were supposed to be delivered by noon, so I took my phone with me to exercise and was on edge all morning.  At 1pm, they still hadn’t arrived.  Li called the company for me and they said – there are no crabs.  When we asked why they said – they’re still too small – they aren’t big enough to travel yet.  You need to choose another date in a few weeks.

Since I’ll be traveling starting next week, I selected a date mid-October.  If they arrive the second time, I’ll let you know.

I’ve been on a bit of a food kick lately with the blog posts – three in a row!  Rest assured I will be writing about other things as well.  Happy eating.

Walnuts and Dates

15 Sep

Recently my other half came back from a business trip to Xinjiang.  His suitcase was full of food – he had brought back yogurt covered raisins, a large bag of doughnut peaches and two huge plastic bags full of dried dates and fresh walnuts. 

The yogurt covered raisins made me smile.  The Chinese on the bag very obviously said yogurt, dried grapes, but the English said “Health fashion recreation select.”  I’m not really sure how the two are coordinated but will accept on faith that in some sense they are connected.

The walnuts were so fresh that some could be shelled with your hands alone and the dates were longer than my thumb and made the entire kitchen smell sweet and spicy and homey.  We’ll be eating well for a while!


12 Sep

Every September Mid-Autumn Festival comes – this year it is September 12th. The festival can be summarized by one word – “Mooncakes.”  Every year I get piles to my office, as well as vouchers from the insurers (which then have to be changed into mooncakes or it’s against company policy). Flavors range from sweet to savory – pumpkin, egg yolk, meat, green tea, apple, coffee, sesame, red bean- even ice cream mooncakes.  Some have a marzipan consistency, others are flaky, some have chocolate.

There are so many flavors that there is one for everyone, but given a choice I’d rather have a piece of my mom’s homemade pie any day.

Happy Festival!

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