Friday, July 2, 2010

Winding Down

After parent teacher conferences on Wednesday, our school year is officially done. We've started packing and have already said goodbye to many of our friends here. We don't leave for India until Sunday night, but have sent our laptop home with a friend (instead of dragging it through the 110-degree Indian summer heat) and are turning in our other, school-issued laptop today. So, the end of this year is definitely in sight and feels suddenly very real.

We're soaking in all we can of these last few days. We visited the Expo again yesterday, are going to visit the Bund one last time this weekend, and are gobbling up all of our favorite street food treats. Sunday we take off for India and the following week we fly to London. We may update this blog while we're on our trip, but aren't sure at this point what our Internet access will be like.

Last night, at the Expo, we sat to watch the nightly parade and were surprised to see the USC marching band at the tail end. Then, on the Metro, a Chinese woman was wearing a "Property of Milwaukee College" t-shirt. Fictitious college or not, Jeff remarked that it felt like two clear signs that it's time to head home!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thank You!

Throughout the year, we hung up the mail that we got from home. It was a  tangible reminder of friends and family and helped us to both feel better connected while being so far away. It was fun to watch the collection grow and will be one of the saddest things to take down. (We also had a Christmas card corner, with many familiar faces smiling at us.) Thanks to all of you for making us feel so loved!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fruit Stand

Yet another thing that I'll miss from living here is the abundance of delicious and inexpensive fruit. Any given street is peppered with fruit stands like this one, where a dollar will buy you several pounds of all types of fruit. It's easy to get the basics here (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes), but has been fun to experiment with others, including dragon fruit, nashi, and lychee.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Civilized World Cup Viewing

I spotted these signs while on the Hongmei Pedestrian Street today. They were hung near outdoor seating encouraging World Cup fans to "be civilized." Other signs included "Civilization is the most beautiful scenery" and "Greater understanding and make less noise."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Makings of a Great Afternoon

One of many things to love about Shanghai is its abundance of cafes. (Thanks largely to the heavy European influence here over the last couple of centuries.) Jeff and I are trying to savor our last week here and did so yesterday by lingering over these treats at one large French Concession cafe. It was a great spot for reflecting on this past year while getting in some good people watching.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Four Star Driving

Cab drivers in Shanghai are ranked on a star system - from zero up until five (although there are some urban legends about six-car drivers out there somewhere.) The ranking system is based on experience, skill, and, supposedly, English proficiency (to help all of the Expo tourists!) In our whole year here, Jeff and I have only gotten a five-star driver twice. Both times were amazing. They easily understood our stilted Chinese and quickly and safely got us where we wanted to go. A handful of other times, we've lucked out with a four-star cab, like the one picture here.

Between very inexpensive cabs, the extensive Metro system, and buses on every corner, it's been easy to live here without a car. I'm going to miss that!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Di Shui Dong Ribs

I'm not much of a meat-eater, but these are an experience not to be missed. Di Shui Dong is a Hunanese restaurant located in the French Concession. (Hunan is a southern province of China famous for its flavorful - and spicy! - food.) The ribs (ziran paigu) are the restaurant's best known dish and come covered in whole cumin seed, chili pepper pieces, and other spices. They are best eaten with a washcloth (provided) and a tall, cold beer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This is a belated post, as this day trip was last Tuesday. But, better late than never...

We had a great trip to Xitang last week. It's an ancient water town (meaning lots of canals and bridges) a couple hours outside of Shanghai by bus. The entrance to the town opens into a wide open park before snaking into a maze of narrow alleyways, bridges, and shops along the canals. The water is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, and is pretty well set up for tourists.  But, because we went on a Tuesday, the villagers were busy going about their normal lives, hence the pictures of all of the laundry hanging out to dry. It was a great town for wandering, which we did a lot of. We also enjoyed an incredible lunch in a small restaurant with a view of the water.

Despite its hundreds of years of history, Xitang is currently best known for being the site of some of the filming of Mission Impossible III, and large signs with Tom Cruise's picture can be found all over town. The movie actually tries to pass off this sleepy little town as being residential Shanghai. Certainly idyllic, and definitely far from the truth.

The most exciting part of the day was getting home, though. We were told when we bought bus tickets there that there would be ample return tickets available for sale when we get into town. However, it being a national holiday, the tickets sold more quickly than usual and were gone by the time we got there. Instead, we spent a long time haggling with private cabs before finding one who would drive us to the nearest Metro stop (thankfully, Shanghai's system stretches far beyond the city itself.) It was the most expensive, and longest, cab drive we've had here, though. And, our driver went out of his way to avoid the toll road, which meant a lot of meandering through tiny country roads, past curious farmers and their fields. At one point, the driver got lost and had to retrace his steps to get his bearings. All in all, not too unpleasant, but we were both very happy to make it to the stop!

More pictures here:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At the Movies

As the school year is winding down, we're soaking in all of the opportunities we have for fun adventures with friends. Tonight, we joined a few other people for Vietnamese food followed by a 3-D showing of Toy Story 3. Fun fact about movie theaters here: you're given an assigned seat when you buy your ticket!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lions, Tigers, and Bears!

Oh my! On Wednesday of last week, which was our last day of vacation for Dragon Boat Festival, we went with a group of friends to Shanghai's Wild Animal Park. It was 35km outside of the city and it took some haggling with a mini-bus driver to get us there. Worth it, though.
This country does not have the best reputation when it comes to zoos, but this park was highly recommended and lived up to that. It had a large section that could only be accessed by "safari vehicle," where lions, tigers (white and orange), bears (grizzlies), gazelles, giraffes, etc., each had their own massive area to roam. The rest of the park was more like a traditional zoo, which could be walked around to see the other animals. There were stations where you could pay to take your picture with an animal - usually baby tigers or bears - that seemed a little sad, but otherwise, the park was very well done.
Definitely an interesting way to spend an afternoon! Plus, I couldn't have left China without seeing a panda!