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!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Last Day of Teaching!

Tomorrow (Monday) will be our final teaching day of the year. This year has flown by and yet, it feels like such a long time since we were home with family and friends. Still, this last day really crept up on me and will be bittersweet, as Jeff and I have both really gotten to know and like our students.

Though it's our last teaching day, we will still have a week and a half of work to go - finals on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, followed by a few days of entering grades and comments, parent-teacher conferences, and administrative odds and ends.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Noodles

Once it started warming up here, the local noodle shop reintroduced this cold noodle dish. It's an amazing concoction of chilled noodles, veggies, peanuts, and a chili peanut sauce. (It can also come with meat, although I usually order it without.) It makes for a feast of a meal and costs a whopping 8 kuai (just over $1.) Add it to the list of food I'll miss!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Moganshan Arts District

On Monday (the first of our three-day break for Dragon Boat Festival), Jeff and I went with our friend Bradley to the Moganshan Arts District, located off of Moganshan Rd., in the northern part of the city. It's a maze-like complex of abandoned warehouses and industrial buildings that has become home to many artists and their work. It was fun to wander in and out of studios and galleries, which were filled with diverse collections of recent work by Chinese and international artists. The work ranged from gentle landscape painting and Japanese origami to edgier, more political pieces.

More pictures here:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Country for Tall Men

Though there actually are plenty of people Jeff's height here, he has had to deal with more than his fair share of low ceilings and other obstacles this year.
I snapped this picture of him while we were walking around the Moganshan Arts District yesterday.

Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup Fever

In such an international city, there's been a buzz of excitement about the World Cup for a while. Jeff and I joined a group of friends (all teachers at our school) to watch some of the first games on Saturday night. This picture was taken just after Korea beat Greece. We have so many Korean students that it was fun to cheer the team on. A few of the teachers stayed on that night to watch the US - England game, which aired at 2:30 a.m. our time. With both British and American teachers at our school, there was a healthy rivalry leading up to the game (and continuing since it.) Fun that there are still many games to look forward to!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cubicle Life

After promising a glimpse into Jeff's office space a while ago, here it finally is. This is his desk in the middle school, which is located in a large office shared with six Chinese teachers and ten foreign teachers. His desk has gained character throughout the year, thanks mostly to sweet - and sometimes a bit strange - gifts from students.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eighty Steps

That's how many steps we climb to get to our fifth-floor apartment. With no elevator in the building, there's no other option and we usually trek up and down them several times a day. I think it's been good, actually, as it's a little extra built-in exercise and anything else will now feel luxurious by comparison!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Food on a Stick

Much like at a good state fair, food on a stick is plentiful here. Street corners are often occupied by a vendor with a grill and a wide selection of raw meats, seafood, and veggie on a stick. Here are two treats that Jeff bought on the way home from our Metro station recently. On the right is a regular favorite, eggplant (heavily seasoned and spiced), and on the left is a new adventure, octopus.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Qibao (Again)

Before our dumpling-making party on Saturday, Dave, Jeff, and I spent time walking around old-town Qibao. It's an ancient water town outside of Shanghai. It's close enough to be accessible by subway, but still feels like a departure from the city. Though small, it offers plenty to explore. There are mazes of narrow streets filled with shops and interesting street food, all centered around the small river and its many crisscrossing bridges.

Jeff and I had visited Qibao early on in our time in China, but it was fun to visit again. It makes for a great afternoon adventure. More pictures here:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Full Week of Work

Today was Day One of our seven-day work week. Because we have off for Dragon Boat Festival next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the government is requiring workers to work seven days straight, from Monday - Sunday, this week. We're in the home stretch of school and it's going to be a challenge to keep the students' attention for this many days in a row (not to mention the teachers'!)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dumpling Party

One of our friends, Heidi, is from Qibao, a town just outside of Shanghai. She's married to our friend, Dan, and soon the two of them will be moving to the U.S. where Dan will be starting culinary school. (Currently, Dan and Heidi both teach at our school.) Yesterday, Heidi's parents hosted the two of us and another friend, Dave, for a dumpling party. They patiently coached us on how to create the dumpling skins, fill them, and close them up. Meanwhile, Heidi's mom cooked a feast to go along with it - braised catfish, sweet ribs, sauteed greens (she called them "morning glories"), and caramelized sweet potato.

It was such a treat to be welcomed into someone's home. We left feeling spoiled and stuffed! More pictures here:

Saturday, June 5, 2010


It's that time of year - yearbooks are out. The yearbook includes the entire school (1st - 12th grade.) Staff members are all given a copy, though I think we'll probably just bring one home. (They're heavy!) Students are as intent on getting them signed as I ever was, really helping to reinforce that end-of-the-year feeling.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Soong Ch'ing-Ling's House

After brunch with a friend on Sunday, we walked over to Soong Ch'ing-Ling's house. (Sometimes written as Song Qing-Ling.) She was the wife of Sun Yat Sen and played a significant role in the founding of modern China. She outlived her husband by over fifty years, during which time she served briefly as Chairman of the People's Republic of China. Her house was given to her by the government and inside were gifts she'd been given by various Chinese leaders and international heads of state. The car pictured above was a gift from Stalin. Also in the house were a tea set given to her by Nixon and a rug given to her by Mao. Her house sits on a large plot of land with a beautiful expanse of green lawn behind it. It's well-maintained, from the still-active dove house to the clear booties that we were required to wear while touring the interior.

More pictures here:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Celebration Dinner

Tonight, I took Jeff out to celebrate his accepting a job in the Twin Cities! (He'll be working as an 8th grade teacher at the Global Academy, a charter school just north of Minneapolis.)
We went to Whisk, an Italian restaurant in Shanghai whose motto is "Where Chocolate Has An Address." It's known for its chocolate desserts, which definitely did not disappoint tonight. We shared a bottle of wine, a mushroom/onion/basil pizza, and two desserts - warm chocolate pudding and "upside down cake" (pictured) which reminded me of my mom's chocolate pudding cake.
So fun to have a great reason to celebrate. Yum!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Madison in Shanghai

We saw this restaurant while out to brunch yesterday. I'm not sure if it specializes in anything beer, cheese, or cherry-related, but it was a nice touch of home anyway.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

World Expo

After much anticipation, we finally made it to the World Expo yesterday. A modern day World's Fair, it is being held in Shanghai for six months, from May - October. The theme is "Better City, Better Life" and the focus is on sustainable urban living. More than 190 countries are represented - many in individual pavilions and some in shared buildings (i.e., the Africa Pavilion, the Caribbean Pavilion, and the Central and South America Pavilion.) Over 70 million visitors are expected during the Expo's run and the entire city has had a major overhaul to accommodate them.
We weren't sure what exactly to expect, given all of the hype we've been hearing since getting here last summer. However, it easily lived up to all of it and made for an incredible day. We walked through all of the country sections (grouped loosely by continent) and along the Huangpu River, where they've turned old industrial buildings into arts and exhibition centers and the banks of the river into beautiful gardens (see the middle picture above.)

The crown jewel of the Expo is the China Pavilion (the red structure behind Jeff in the top picture), but many other buildings wowed us as well. In the picture with Jeff, you can also see the Israel Pavilion, which is meant to represent waves crashing against sand. The bottom picture is Russia's pavilion. Other amazing buildings included the UK's, which looks like it was modeled after a porcupine; Spain's, which is made of giant baskets; the Netherlands, a Seuss-like maze of houses called "Happy Street", Denmark's, which had a spiraling bike track; and, South Korea's, which was a giant geometric configuration of cut-out shapes. Most of the bigger buildings had wait times of several hours just to get inside, so we were only able to get into Lithuania, Canada (styled by Cirque de Soleil), and Columbia, as well as the Africa and Caribbean buildings. We're planning on going back, though, before we leave, so will try to get inside some of the others (including Japan's, which is supposed to have the world's fanciest toilet.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mastering Gatsby

Today was the last day of our second-to-last unit. For this unit, I had my ninth grade class dive into The Great Gatsby. It was one of the most challenging things that we've read all year, especially so given so much of the cultural context that needs to be understood for it. They went from telling me that "it's too hard" to writing incredibly thoughtful, eloquent essays on who was ultimately responsible for Gatsby's death. I'm so proud that I wanted to share a couple samples from their work. The first is a sample of my student Aruha's depiction of the story as a graphic novel. The second is my student Ye Chan's attempt at diagramming the convoluted relationships between the characters. Not bad!
Monday, we'll start our eighth, and last, unit of the year!

Monday, May 24, 2010

EA Diamond League Meet

Thanks to some tickets from our boss, Jeff and I were able to attend a world-class track and field meet last night. It was the East Asia (EA) Diamond League Meet, featuring a wide variety of events. We were seated in the 3rd row, with a perfect view of the steeplechase, the pole vault (where Australian Steven Hooker, the 2009 World Champion, was competing) and near the start of the 200m, where we got to see Usain Bolt blow away his competition. Other highlights included seeing Americans Jeremy Warner win the 400m, Carmelita Jeter win the women's 100m, and  David Oliver beat Chinese favorite Liu Xiang in the 110m hurdles. All in all, it was pretty amazing. Our seats were so good that every time an athlete came around for a victory lap, we were able to yell their name and get a wave. Oliver was especially friendly.

The pictures are of the two of us at the stadium, Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, and one of many sets of "Bolt Arms" in our section. More pictures here:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Glasses Market

Yesterday, we went with a few friends to Shanghai's glasses market, a multi-story maze of glasses vendors. There are literally hundreds of stores and as we walked by each, salespeople would call out to us asking us to take a look at their store. Bargaining is expected and it's possible to get a new pair of glasses (frames and lenses) for as little as $20. Despite it being a little overwhelming, we had a very successful trip. Jeff got this pair of prescription sunglasses and a new pair of "regular" glasses. They were able to copy his prescription perfectly from his current pair. More proof that anything is possible in China...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Noodle Bowls

This dish takes comfort food to a whole new level. Brothy noodle soups are easily found in local restaurants and are a daily option in our cafeteria. They usually consist of noodles served with hot broth and a variety of topics (meats, veggies, bean curd) topped with vinegar and spices for flavor. This particular bowl was one I ordered at a Japanese noodle chain that we frequent. It comes with carrots, mushrooms, scallions, corn, and cabbage. It's meant to be eaten with chopsticks and this giant spoon for catching broth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Expo Fireworks

A couple of weeks ago, I was out to dinner in a restaurant with a great view and was able to capture these pictures of some of the fireworks that we being shot off over the Expo grounds (which spans both sides of the river.) The Expo has now been open for a little over two weeks. We've yet to go, but it's been fun to see how nice the city looks lately!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Congrats, Cait!

One of my good friends here is getting married in July so a group of us organized some bachelorette festivities to help her celebrate. These included some spa time, mimosa's, a pot-luck, games, gifts, and a marathon pub crawl with a list of things for her to accomplish. This picture is from the first bar we visited. Meanwhile, Jeff was out with her fiance and some other guys doing, among other things, some karaoke. We all met up eventually and made it home just as the sun was starting to come up. (The first time we've managed that here - I'd thought we were getting too old for so much fun!)

Jeff and I have both been able to make some great friends here - one more thing we'll cherish about this year. It'll be fun to keep up with them once we head to different corners of the world.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hangzhou Tea Fields

On one of Beth's last days in China, we took a day trip to Hangzhou. This was our fourth time there, so Jeff and I were able to show her around some of our favorite areas. Those, of course, include West Lake, but also the National Tea Musuem. The above are a couple of pictures that we took while roaming through the tea fields. The area is famous for green tea and, beyond being beautiful, it smelled wonderful to walk among the plants.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beijing Photos: Part III

Our last day in Beijing was another full one. We started with our (by then routine) street food breakfast. The top picture above shows some of the treats available. More pictures of the neighborhood are in the photo album.

After loading up, we headed to the Summer Palace, where emperors went to relax. The Palace is famous for having been enlarged in the late 1800's by the Empress Dowager Cixi. Reportedly, she diverted money from the struggling navy for this project, which resulted in China loosing ground to Japan. Evidence of her extravagance is best found in the marble "boat" that sits on the shores of the lake (pictures of this in the album, too.) The Palace is beautiful - ornately built and huge, spreading over lake shores and lush gardens. However, the day that we visited also happened to be a national holiday and it felt like all of China came to join us. For fun, we took a rickshaw ride the few hundred meters from the subway to the Palace and then spent a few hours shuffling along with the crowds to see the sites. (Can you spot Jeff among the crowd in the second picture above?)

From there, we went to the Temple of Heaven, on the other side of the city, where we found a lot more open space and relaxation. The Temple is surrounded by beautiful gardens and park space, which was full of people singing, dancing, and enjoying the beautiful weather. The Temple was also built for the emperors and has a very similar style to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. The flowers were in full bloom while we were there - see the last picture above.

We finished the day with some fake market shopping and then a picnic in our hostel courtyard. More pictures here: