Thursday, December 27, 2012

Buddy's blog

Why do people here insist on treating dogs like..,er,..dogs?  I am part of the family!

Things I will never do:
1.  Wear shoes
2.  Color my hair - have some pride, please..
3.  Beg for anything - pizza does not count
4.  Wear anything called an "outfit"

Things I will always do:
1.  Eat all my food in one gulp
2.  Drool water from my bowl
3.  Bark at the mailman - my job
4.  Smell everything
Shoes and standing?
this is abuse
I had to go to the vet the other day.  She who is called "Mom" thinks I might have a bladder infection.  Don't ask me where I got it.  Heh, heh.  So I been pee-ing a lot - what's the problem?  Just making my mark if you know what I mean.  But it's a drag that I have to go outside to pee in the mud - it's been raining a lot lately.  I like the paw art I make when I come back in though - I didn't realize I was so artistic - hidden talents rise to the surface.
      Anyway, going to the Vet is the worst.  First they had to take my temperature - that is just messed up.  If you knew where they took it, you would shake your head with pity.  They had to hold me down for that one.  Don't like being violated, no sir, dog.
      There is a pet store next to the Vet that "Mom's" puppies Emily and Katie hung out in.  There were dogs there for the girls to pet.  These Chinese dogs have no pride.  Lots of begging, and yipping and generally doing anything to get the girls' attention.  Shameful.
      Now these girls are asking for a new dog!  What's up with dat!  Imma gonna put my paw down, and say NO more.  The one that smells like pencil led and toothpaste, Emily is going on and on about how they are cute, and cuddly.  What am I - fog?  Does she think I'm not listening?  Then the one that smells like candy and peanut butter, Katie even said she wanted a kitten!  A KITTEN!  Revolting.
       This is a one pet family.  It could get ugly.  Grrr.

check it

Holiday Vacation

      Emily and Katie have been out of school since Thursday, December 20th, and Chris has taken the week off.  On Friday, we made dumplings at our friends' the Jost's.  It was the night of Winter Solstice, and it is traditional to eat dumplings that night.  The girls were into it, and although the dumplings may not have been pretty, they were still tasty.

      We had a great Christmas, but very different from Christmas back in Pasadena.  We decided to come up with "new" traditions while we are here in China.  So on Christmas Eve, Katie got to pick what we have for dinner: Mexican Food.  It was actually very good.  Not as good as El Super Burrito on Colorado Blvd., but the best we've had in Shanghai.
       Christmas morning, we opened gifts (thanks to Nana & Papa, and Grandma, Jichan & Uncle Charlie!), and had sweet rolls for breakfast.
       On Christmas night, we went to see the Chinese Acrobats Show.  It was really great, like Cirque de Soleil, but less magical, and more acrobatic.  Less European and more Chinese - does that make sense?  The girls loved the show, and watched a lot of it peering through parted fingers.
       Today, Chris and Emily both had hair cuts.  The hairdresser shampoos your hair in the chair by piling it up with lather.  Also, Emily had her first manicure - very cool.  Later, we went to Tom's World at Super Brand Mall (like Chuck E. Cheese without the pizza).  Katie was sitting at a game where you lower a crane and it tries to pick-up a stuffed animal.  Chris said he could picture her in 20years at a slot machine in Vegas with a bucket of quarters and a gin & tonic.

I love tokens!
Slot machines are in my future
Things that are hard to find:
1.    Canned beef stock - hard to make a stew without it.
2.    Fresh tortillas - usually they are frozen, and sometimes stale.
3.    Craft supplies
4.    Planting soil

Things that are easy to find:
1.    Variety of really great oranges:  tangerines, pomelo, mandarins, all kinds  
2.    Good fake Uggs boots - $15 USD for really good looking fakes
3.    Lots of things with Disney / Mickey logos - shirts, mugs, purses, anything you can imagine.  All unlicensed, but hey, it's free advertising.

Thoughts on Shanghai...

      I think it'll take about a full year until we really feel like we have this Shanghai thing down.  Right now the weather is really cold, and we are so not used to it!  It may actually snow on Sunday morning.  This week it has been rainy - not heavy, but constant.  And when it's not raining, it's still very cold.  It will rain and be gloomy for the next few months, with January and February being the coldest months of the year.
      Our floor heater is working now, and it is very hot!  The heater gauge for each room goes from zero to 35, and I keep it under 10.  Sometimes the room so warm, that I have to open a window.  I've heard from people that if you keep the downstairs heat on, you may not have to turn on the upstairs.  That is what we are trying right now.  But it is nice to have warm floors in the bathrooms when we wake up in the morning - very toasty!
      We had some trees and hedges trimmed in our small back yard.  A gardener came first with a pair of hand clippers and hedge trimmers.  I told him that there was also a large tree in the back yard that was dead, and asked if he could remove it.  This lead to a conference of sorts.  He didn't really understand what I was asking, in my beginning Mandarin, so we had to call Marie.  Marie is our "butler", basically a person who works here with the Seasons Villas Property Management that is assigned to help me.  She is great and speaks very good English.  She had the head landscaper come out, and he agreed the tree was dead and authorized it's removal.
       Suddenly, 4 men showed-up to take care of business.  They brought a very rickety old ladder - looked like it was made by twining together boards and slats, and a bicycle with a flat trailer hooked to the rear.  They cut the tree branches from up on the ladder, but removed the tree trunk with a small hand-held saw.  The rake they used to clear the leaves looked like it had been handed down several generations.  It was held together with wrapped coat hangers.  So these men worked very, very hard and very, very quickly with poor tools and bare hands.
      This is such an example of China.  The people don't make their own decisions, they don't go outside the box and they do what they are told, but nothing more.  Maybe this is due to generations of following the status quo, and the population is not encouraged to take risks.  But once a job is assigned, they work harder, and faster than anyone else.  And there is no complaining, just perseverance.
      It's easy to admire the simple lives a lot of people have, until you realize they are stuck in poverty.  They live better than the previous generation, so they are proud and feel blessed.  Their children, the next generation of young Chinese are really the ones that will impact the world.  They are modern and educated and driven.  But they are still very close to their families, and very connected to their towns and villages.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holidays in Shanghai

Kuài lé Shéng dàn!

We decorated the Christmas Tree yesterday.  We decided to opt for a live tree instead of a fake.  The live tree was delivered in a pot that I can transplant at the end of winter, and next winter I can re-pot it and bring it back in.  It's a little scrawny compared to the big american trees we are used to.  It's more of a juniper bush than a pine, but it still has a lovely smell.  But regardless, Emily and Katie still decorated it with love and listened to holiday music all the while.  We brought most of our holiday decorations with us, and I'm glad we did.

This is a photo of the window alcove in our family room.  Emily made the snowflakes and hung them above the poinsettias.  Both girls have been working on a window gel craft of holiday decorations.

The girls will have a very long school break beginning December 21st.  Over 3 weeks off.  We may go out of town, but it all depends.  Chris has been working a lot lately, and may only be able to get away the week between Christmas and NYEve.  I may be too late to book anything for that time.  We might just stay put and explore Shanghai a little more.  The city of Shanghai is so huge, and we've really only seen our little pocket of it.

Da Boots
1.  Emily needed white shoes for the holiday show at school.  Only thing close I found were a pair of furry boots (abominable snowman?), and the only pair that fit her were on the window display model.  So in my beginner mandarin, I somehow explained to the sales person that I wanted those boots and could she get them for me.  Nailed it!
2.  SCIS Holiday Program:  Emily's 5th grade sang "We Go Together" (from Grease), Katie's 2nd grade sang "Singin' in the Rain", and all the kids ended with John Denver's "Country Roads".
3.  Packages received from back home - hooray!  The kids love having American snacks (Cheetos, fruit roll ups, etc).  They have them available here, but very, very expensive.  I can't see myself spending $14 on a bag of imported chips.  Thanks Grandma, Jichan and Uncle Charlie!

1.  SCIS Holiday Program:  Beginning guitar and recorder (really, the instrument) and "Smoke on the Water".
2.  Floor heater install.  First the boiler needed to be repaired.  Then we turned on the floor heaters, but still not working.  Sigh.  Very typical.  Will try again this week.
3.  Google map directions from online!  After back-and-forth arguing with our taxi driver, telling him to make a U-turn, how we're tracking our progress on our map, etc., etc., we were the ones that were WRONG and he was right.  Burn.
Me & E

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Buddy's blog - vacation

They went to Hong Kong for a few days and I had a much needed break.  Got to hang out with some of my own kind.  Don't get me wrong, my Lambs are cool and all, but sometimes a dog's gotta be with his homies.  I had to get back to my roots.  Went to a place in Shanghai called "Buddydog Pet Care" - awesome how it was named after me!  Met a coupla other canines, smelled a little, walked a little, it's all good.  The humans there even sent e-mails to my family so they wouldn't worry - that Mom lady gets all wound up.  She needs to chill-ax and take a deep sniff.  

Here are some pictures of me, looks good, eh?
That man in the picture took us for walks everyday, but I couldn't understand anything he said.  
He must've been speaking Sharpei!...get it, Sharpei?!'s a Chinese dog.....whateveh.  grrr.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Over Thanksgiving, we took a weekend trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.
We went on some of the newer rides, and checked-out the HK version of Disney rides we knew.

The Jungle Cruise was offered in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.  We rode the English version - not as good - jokes don't translate well.  But this version had an exploding volcano with flames on top of the water!
The shows and parades were great as always, especially the Lion King Show.  And the Christmas tree lighting on Main Street had the snow fall just like back home.
The best attraction was the Grizzly Mining Cars.  This was a roller coaster in a Western-theme town.  We rode it 3 times!  The town has erupting geysers, and western shows too.

It was really fun to see so many people of all ages having such a great time at the park.  We forget that living in SoCal we are lucky to have grown up with Disneyland, but many families here are experiencing it for the first time.  I guess I mistakenly thought of many Chinese as being very serious people, but they love to have fun just like anyone else.  The people who come to the park are from all over Asia - lots of Thai, Philippine, Indian and other Southeast Asian families along with the Chinese.
The food in the restaurants here reflected that as well.  Rice dishes with curries, noodles and roast pork are sold along with corn dogs, fries and cotton candy.

Sorcerer's apprentice fountain
Fountain at the entrance,
Mickey and his surfboard float up & down
Katie vs. geyser
Thanks Ali for giving us a great ride!
yum, pure sugar
Happy Holidays!

Shopping in Shanghai Part II

The holidays are starting here in Shanghai.  It's definitely not as big as in the US.  Businesses are not closed at all for Christmas, and people get only NY day off.  But, since Shanghai has a large ExPat community, the stores stock items for us.
Holiday aisle at Carrefore

Carrefore has an aisle with fake Christmas trees, decorations and ornaments.  VERY inexpensive, but I guess it's all made here anyway.  Went through the food section, and as always, took pictures.  The thing that always hits me first is how the market smells.  Lots of dried fish and seaweeds alongside tons of fresh produce.  Dried teas and all different types of mushrooms as well.  The seafood and meat sections are huge, but the prepared foods section is the largest.  You can go in and buy dimsum, noodles, roast meats and vegetables all ready to take home.  Many Chinese homes do not have an oven, and have very, very small kitchens.  Maybe only a double burner cooktop.  So all roasted / baked items are purchased outside the home and are considered a real treat.  In the late afternoon, I see people buying roast yams and squash from street vendors with BBQ carts on the back of their bikes.
dried fish and shrimp
dried baby squid

escape fail
not the pet section
entire aisle of cooking oil
A new UniqLo store has opened nearby.  UniqLo is a chain out of Japan that is very big in China.  There are some stores open in the US, in the NYC area and San Francisco.  They have really nicely made clothing for adults and kids - think Banana Republic but much cheaper.  The new store opened a week ago, and it was still crazy busy.  I went on a weekday morning, at 10:30 and the store opened at 10:00 - already packed.  Many people in Shanghai are very, very into fashion, but don't have the money to buy in the designer stores.  Stores like UniqLo and H&M are popular, and really successful here.

Yesterday, Jeri my plant lady came.  She owns a small plant shop and speaks some English.  She brought (6) beautiful, huge pointsettias, a new camellia bush and wood mulch for the back yard.  She planted the camellia bush, and spread all the wood chips for me.  Everything was $61.00USD.  She is also trying to find a real Christmas tree for me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Katie!

Birthday treat at school

Yesterday, Katie turned 8 years old.
We had a very busy, fun and exhausting weekend.

On Friday, I brought treats to her class, and goodie bags for Katie to hand-out.  The kids all sang Happy Birthday to her in 5 different languages.  English, Chinese, French, Korean and Swedish!

On Saturday, our family went to the Shanghai Disney Family Day.  There was lots of food, games and Chinese craftspeople.  The girls had sugar drawings made for them, and played foosball.  Did I mention there was a chocolate fountain?  The Disney characters were there and took pictures as well.

Imma gonna beatchu

sugar drawings
Monster High dolls from Uncle Charlie,
Granma and Jichan

On Sunday afternoon, some of Katie's friends came over with their bikes and had a play date.
They rode, and played at the playground here at Seasons.  Then they all came back and had pizza and lemonade, and cookies & cream ice cream.  Katie had a great time with all her friends.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about the Presidential elections, as well as other down ballot elections.  My strong support for President Obama isn't a surprise to anyone.  I've been following politics really closely, and see from the outside now how important this election really is.

I will not rant on this blog.  I hope that I will wake up on Wednesday morning and have a sigh of relief...and look forward to the next four years.

Political things I love:
1.   Barack Obama, and staying with the hard job
2.   Hillary and Bill
3.   The Daily Show
4.   Marriage Equality (Boy George said it all: love is love, baby)
5.   Chris Christie telling everyone to bite me and get over it.
6.   Immigration reform
7.   Affordable Healthcare for all (we will all get old, we will all be sick)
8.   The Washington Post, especially Dan Balz
9.   The National Journal, especially Ron Brownstein
10.  The Huffington Post, especially Howard Fineman

Political things I hate:
1.   Rush Limbaugh
2.   Koch Brothers
3.   Voter registration hoaxes in FL (so blatant- Romney won't even comment on it)
4.   "Heckuv a job" Brownie criticizing FEMA's response to Sandy (I want to remind everyone how incompetent I was during Katrina by saying "Obama acted too quickly" - whatanidiot)
5.   Fox News
6.   People who complain but never vote
7.   Tea Party self-righteousness and self-imposed blindness
8.   Mourdock, Akin and any other man making a rape/ reproductive rights judgement
9.   Arizona
10. Veiled racism, sexism and anti-gay hate

I could go on, and on, and on.
We'll see on Wednesday.  Hope and Pray.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another day in Shanghai...

One of the things I have noticed is there are many appliances here that don't work as well as in the US (dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners), but others that are far better.

1.   Mosquito killers that looks like a tennis rackets.  I tried one back home, but it didn't work at all.  The one we have here is a death taser for mosquitos.  I touched it myself and got zapped - lots of voltage stored on it.
2.  Electric hot water kettle.  This metal pot sits on a round base that looks like a hot plate.  You plug in the base and the water in the kettle will be at a rapid boil in just a few minutes.  I mean a rapid, roiling, hot lava-ish boil.  It's scary how quickly it heats.
3.  The water pressure here is really high.  No low-flow conservation here.
4.  We also have an adapter we bought for our Keurig coffee maker.  The adapter is the size of a small loaf of bread, but weighs about 25lbs.  It enables us to use the Chinese voltage with our US coffee maker.  But when it gets turned on, it sounds like a jet engine getting ready for take off.  Emily said "that's the most annoying sound in the world. ugh.", then I said "no, it's the second most annoying sound in the world".
mosquito swatter
super tea kettle

A few weeks ago, we went on a tour of the city of Shanghai on a double-decker bus.  It was really nice.  We toured around the city and relaxed while we listened to the tour audio on headphones.  We stopped for lunch in an area called Xintiandi, which translated means "new heaven on earth".  This is the historic site of the first Communist party meeting.  It has beautiful old architecture, and houses lots of trendy shops and restaurants.  It reminds me a little of Old Town in Pasadena, but without the teenagers.

happily waiting for the bus
Katie and her friend Sarah riding on top
skyline at the Bund

Chris went on his first long bike ride on Sunday.  They rode out into the country and saw lots of very poor villages and shamble housing.  The kids still all came out smiling, saying hello.  The air quality in China is not very good, and is a lot like it was when I was a kid growing up in LA.  We would have smog alerts, and if the air was bad, we would not be able to play outside.  It would hurt to take a deep breath.  In Shanghai, some days the air is healthy, unhealthy, or even hazardous.  That's why you see so many people wear masks while riding their bikes.  They are driving in traffic, and gasoline here is still leaded.
Bike stop
There is a concern in the Chinese media lately about the separation of the classes.  There is so much growth and money in this country.  China is the largest retailer of luxury items right now.  All designers have outlets in Shanghai, and everywhere there are high-end luxury and sports cars.  We see Maseratis and Porsches that are not even available in the US yet.  But there is still lots of poverty inland and in factory towns.  The younger tech-savvy workforce is really into designer goods, pop culture and fashion.  To them the future is bright, but they still have a duty to their families.  I think this is true in many developing countries where the younger generation has opportunities that their parents aren't able to imagine.

I think it's a really interesting time to live in China.