Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another classic sign

This sign is at the entrance to the Pearl Tower in Shanghai. See number 1, in particular.

"The ragamuffin, drunken people and psychotics are forbidden to enter the tower."

Our bar

We had a bar made. We've had other furniture made, including a hope chest and book shelves and plan to have bunk beds, dressers and more made, but this is the one piece of more traditional Chinese style furniture we will be bringing home with us. It is great. To show it best, I made a video.

Having it made was a classically Chinese process. Tom had checked around to find the one place that did the best job, as far as he could see. He went to the shop to place his order and gave his specifications since he was altering the design a bit to suit our taste. After completing the order, he asked the woman at the shop when we could expect to have it finished and delivered to our house. He was given an answer to which he replied, "ok, now tell me when I can REALLY expect to have it because if you tell me one date and I don't get it, I will not pay the full amount. Just be honest and tell me when it will be ready." She added 10 days.

When it was delivered (on time) there was a small nick on the top of the door where it was obvious that the pin that stops the door from spinning had nicked the finish and dented the wood. It was a small defect that we did not care about fixing but when the person delivering the piece saw us looking at it, she explained, carefully, that if we have a brown pen, we can fix the problem by filling in the spot...

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Bell Tower

This is the bell tower playing "The East is Red". Sorry the video is on its side, I forgot that I cannot rotate it, but you can still hear it.

Go to the first Shanghai posting at the bottom of today's postings to see a detailed entry about the trip and a video of Zeke and his paparazzi.

Food in Shanghai

This guy had a nice setup to cook food on the back of his bike. He did a fair amount of business!

This food stand was very busy. YUCK!
Tom and I ate at California Pizza Kitchen rather than take our chances and he still got food poisoning somewhere between there and the hotel buffet breakfast.

More Shanghai

We came across this bride on our walk.

That is the Shanghai Pearl Tower in the background.
The bells in this tower play "The East is Red" every hour. Nice!


Tom and Zeke riding the Chinese way, without a carseat, in Shanghai. Scary.

An interesting name/concept for an eatery!

Bamboo scaffolding.


This was the view from our hotel room the day we arrived. The air was not much different than in Beijing.
This was the view from our room the next day.

This is another view from our room.

Shanghai Video of Zeke and his fans

Zeke and I went to Shanghai with Tom on Friday. He had to work there and I'd never been, so with only 9 months until we leave China, I decided to seize the opportunity of a weekend trip. Tom has to be there for 11 days, so we flew down together and Zeke and I flew back on Sunday. Jack, Jed and Huck happily stayed with Ayi. I am sure she was much more fun than I am and she let Huck sleep with her so while I won't say I wasn't missed (they were eager to talk when I called) they were quite happy in her care.

Shanghai is a very interesting city. Its architecture is quite modern mixed with very old. I've heard it referred to as an architect's playground because one can do whatever he/she wants and not worry that it won't fit in there.

My friends all told me to shop like crazy while I was there but really I just wanted to see the city's new and old sites and enjoy a little time with Tom and our youngest son. It was a really nice weekend. The weather was in the low 70s, the sun shone and luckily, Zeke loves to be out and about, so spending the days wandering suited everyone. However, I can't say it was a relaxing weekend since Zeke was not too happy with his temporary accommodations and therefore did not sleep much. Tom and I, on the other hand, were quite happy with the hotel. We stayed on the 25th floor of the new Hyatt on the Bund. The view was lovely once the fog/pollution cleared and service was very nice.

On the first night we were there, we had a work obligation for Tom. A Brazilian ship was visiting the port and they held a reception on board. It was not appropriate to take Zeke so, this being China, the land of the ayis who love children and the land of tight security where nothing goes unnoticed. We asked at the desk for babysitting services for 1 hour. I was not thrilled with the idea of leaving Zeke with a stranger, but knowing that "big brother Wang" is everywhere, I felt more at ease. So, a 50-65 year old woman happily watched our little one for an hour while we walked across the street to the pier for the reception. She even almost had him asleep before we returned but a hotel employee rang the doorbell and startled him so he was crying when we returned. While many things are ridiculously inexpensive here, the babysitting at the Hyatt was not. We paid 230 RMB for 1 and a quarter hours. ($34) This was difficult, considering that if we were not in a hotel like that here, we'd have paid about $2.00. Oh well.

People were very friendly, Zeke was a real show stopper. We spent about 2 hours walking on the Bund on Saturday and were stopped no less than 10 times by groups like the one in the video. I had taken a few pictures of the groups but realized that the only way to convey what it is really like was to take video. This video was taken the final time people stopped us. Zeke had reached his limit by then, as you can hear. You can also hear Tom talking to people in the group. Most of the people who stopped us were not from Shanghai but from areas less apt to see westerners. Still, it took us by surprise each time since the reverse would never happen in America. In America, we have such a diverse population. On any given day we will see people of many ethnicities and races. Here, though, it is more rare to see a face of a different ethnicity. Men and women, young and old were attracted to Zeke. A vendor came running to join a group of onlookers, his table of knicknacks in hand! A 30 something man said Zeke was just like an angel. It was really a unique experience.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Visiting with Ayi and Shu Shu (auntie and uncle)

When Xing Ayi was getting ready to leave on Tuesday, I said "thank you," and "see you on Monday." She said, "Monday? It's so long!" I said Monday because Wednesday-Friday was a Chinese holiday so she had the days off. She said she would miss Zeke because he changes so quickly now. So, I told her that if she misses him, she can come get him and take him to her house for a visit if she'd like. Her mother lives near them now, so I knew she'd like to see Zeke. I've told her she could do this before, but she never has, so I didn't expect to hear from her.

On Saturday morning, just after I put Zeke down for his nap, Xing Ayi called and said, "Hi Erin, is ok if I come take Zeke, go to my house? Maybe 11 or 11:30? I think he wake up then." I said no problem and she asked if Huck could come too. Jack and Jed were at a friend's house. Xing Ayi and Xiao Shang (her husband and our driver) arrived just after Zeke woke from his nap. At first, Huck did not want to go. He wanted to stay with us but I didn't want their feelings to be hurt so Tom and told Huck he could have a treat in the car and gave him a new star wars ship and off he went. While he waited outside for us to get Zeke's bag together, he ran around playing with Xiao Shang, whom he calls 叔叔 Shu Shu (pronounced shoe shoe). Tom snapped this great photo.
That's Xiao Shang's car in the background. He drives our car for us and leaves his at our house.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


At Hong Qiao we visited our friend, Fenny. She is our pearl lady in stall number 96 on the third floor. She has become a family friend and always asks to see the boys so we took the boys to see her. Her brother, sister and inlaws work there as well so we all go to see each other. We've given English names to many of her family members so it was fun to see them. Here is a picture of us with them.

We walked from Hong Qiao, across the bridge to the Temple of Heaven where we walked around and enjoyed the day. Everywhere we walked, we could hear people speaking about us. People assume we don't understand what they are saying but we do. We lost count of how many people uttered the words "si ge" which mean "4 of them) referring to the boys. After a while, we sat down so I could feed Zeke and before we knew it, we had a crowd gathered around us. They asked about the boys and what we are doing in Beijing. Some foreigners are bothered by this sort of attention but I figure that I enjoy my kids, so if others do too, that's great!

The funniest part of the outing was when a preteen girl shouted to her parents as we walked by, "kan kan, waiguoren!" "Look, look, foreigners!)


On Wednesday we decided to take advantage of the holiday and go out and about with the Lao Bai Xing (Old 100 Names). We ventured to Hong Qiao, the Pearl market; and to the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven. On our way down to the sites, we saw no fewer than 12 wedding processions. I photographed two of them so you can see how people drive tfrom weddings to receptions and so you can see the air on that day. It was bu hao- not good.

The bottom picture is the entrance to the market, Hong Qiao.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The corn season

I took these pictures as I walked around our community 2 weeks ago. 3 or 4 times per week, I walk with friends from our compound, around Jack and Jed's school and back. It is about 5 miles around. You can see there are still leaves on the trees and the bushes are green.

The corn is out on the roads again. I love this time of year. The weather is usually below 80. We've had some lovely, blue sky days (not today, though), and people are out enjoying the days. As I've posted in years past, this is the time of year, like in many other places around the world, when corn is harvested. Here, however, there is a different practice. They lay the corn cobs out in the road to dry, then they scrape the kernels off the cobs, by hand as you can see here, to dry further. Later, it is collected and the waiguoren (foreigners) debate what we think is later done with the corn. I have a friend who refuses to eat corn here, for fear she'd eat something that has lain on the road for weeks.

My theory is that it is used for flour and animal feed. I think it's probably best not to think too much about it.