Tag Archives: durian

Guest post – I’m ready to move to China*

7 Jan

*except for that whole “speaking Mandarin” thing

I am pleased to announce that I’m starting the year off with something new on the blog.  My good friend and cousin, Matt came to visit me mid-October and before he left I gave him the idea of doing a guest post.  For my Christmas present he prepared three posts to provide his point of view on the trip.  Sit back, read and enjoy!

Greetings all!

This is Matt, cousin and friend (that’s right, I wear TWO hats!) and recent guest of your favorite Shanghai blogger. And now I’m guest-blogging my perspectives after spending a little over a week in China in October.  My Chinese knowledge upon touching down at Pudong consisted of 1/8 of the Rosetta Stone Mandarin Level 1 CD combined with everything I picked up from the “Learn a Language” games offered by Berlitz in the personal headrest screen on the flight over.  I confidently strode off the plane knowing numbers 1-10 as well as hello, goodbye, thank you, help, sorry, “I don’t know”, and uh, inexplicably “I love you.” (Apparently Berlitz feels this is a common enough travel phrase internationally to include it with the others I listed.)

Over the past several years, G has blogged about a LOT of aspects of China.  It may be difficult for me to mine new territory, so I’ll take the dual approach of both the “first-timer” perspective, with a little “engineer” perspective to boot.

With that said, here are my observations of Shanghai and China:

  • The Chinese do not care for hand-washing.  Or more specifically, using soap. In the various public/restaurant bathrooms I visited during my stay, I saw plenty of sinks but rarely a soap dispenser. Further dissuading hand-washing was the omnipresence of ineffective (uh, American-made) hand dryers.  So watch out for that next handshake!
  • Along the same line of thought: When I packed a couple of pocket tissue packages for potential allergy issues, I didn’t realize I’d be on the cutting edge of culture! Pocket tissue packs are the must-have accessory for the frequent restaurant patron, as apparently many Chinese establishments don’t supply napkins, or charge extra for the convenience. Charging for water or extra bread I can see, but napkins?! Betcha didn’t think of packing tissues on purpose!
  • In the parks of central Shanghai, stray kittens appear to be the Chinese equivalent of squirrels in American parks. They’re all over the place, and they’re not shy about looking for a food handout. I tried to tell one kitten I didn’t have any food in both English and Spanish, but she willfully refused to understand. Berlitz really dropped the ball, not teaching me how to tell a cat that I don’t have food in Mandarin! Maybe I should have told her I loved her instead…
The frisky feline

The frisky feline

  • Also in the parks, I noticed public-use exercise equipment, of the low-aerobic variety. Now, I assume the primary users are those most likely to be in the park during the day: the middle-aged to elderly. But I think that’s good, to give this group an opportunity to exercise for which they might not otherwise have the impetus (or financial wherewithal).  This would be a good idea for city parks States-side.
Ready to move?

Ready to move?

  • G took me to the intersection of Yan’an Rd and Chengdu Rd, and told me the story of how the feng shui expert recommended putting dragons on the primary pillar to ensure the structure would hold up. That entire elevated highway intersection is fascinating: the engineer in me wonders about all the designing and construction that took place in order to make that happen.
Here Thar be Dragons

Here Thar be Dragons

  • I also like the plants along the sides of the elevated roads. The greenery really helps to mitigate the coldness and grey that so often accompanies large concrete structures.
  • Here’s to the power of suggestion! We went to Wujiang Road and had some traditional Chinese desserts. I had durian and green tea ice cream in a cold vanilla broth. The durian initially tasted odd yet unassuming, but then she told me Andrew Zimmerman’s (of Bizarre Foods) thoughts on the infamous fruit, and well, I had a hard time eating much more of it.  It might be a while before I try interacting with durian again.
The durian is the lower of the bowls

The durian is the lower of the bowls

That’s all for now. When I sent the first draft of my writing, she observed it was less of a “blog entry” and more like a “short novel.” I can’t disagree. So my observations have been broken into more time-friendly segments. Until next time!

Any comments or thoughts on Matt’s post?  Please let him (and me) know what you found interesting or new!  All comments welcome.

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