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!