Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Riding in Shanghai

    Chris rides his bike everyday to the Kerry Center, 10 minutes from our house.  He parks in the underground bike lot.  An attendant gives him a token, and when he is ready to go home he gives his token and takes his bike out.  The bikes down there are generally poor, run-down and fairly crappy.  I was always struck with just how bad the bikes were that most people rode in Shanghai.  I thought they were rusty and rickety because of the weather conditions.  But I have since been told that any decent bike gets stolen so easily (no matter how many locks may be on it), that it doesn't pay to have a "nice" bike.  The underground lot is vast and packed.  Bikes, scooters and motorcycles are jammed in.  It is crazy when people are all trying to leave at the same time.


Chris goes on recreational rides on the weekends, and sees some strange things.  Lots of open construction sites, manhole covers open (with exposed cables and wires) often flooded with water.
He sees vendors selling everything: DVDs, clothes, vegetables, toys and even live chickens from the back of a bike.

called bing - an egg and flour cake
fish monger
so filthy I thought it was a picture of a machine shop

gimme a beverage

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cricket Fighting

I stumbled across this scene recently.  Men huddled over rows of tables with white round containers.  They looked like sterno tins, but I strained to look over them and they all contained crickets.  In ancient times, crickets were kept as pets and they were thought to bring good luck.  They would keep them in bamboo cages, and feed them apples with honey supposedly to help them sing sweetly.  But these crickets were being sold and traded for fighting.  The traditional time for this sport is around the late Autumn festival, coming up in a few weeks.

 I asked around, and was told that this is an "Old-Fashioned" pastime, mostly by people in the country. Locals catch crickets, and bring them into town to raise money.  Some will even try to breed them, and sell the smaller babies as pets.  The crickets fight and people bet on the fights.

this cricket is eating a leg
The crickets that bring the most money should have long antennae and longer harder shells.  The "handler" will take a long thin reed of straw and mess with the crickets antennae, and that's supposed to make it angry and want to fight.  Then they put two crickets in a container with a grain of rice or kernel of corn.  They fight each other over the food, and the loser is the one that starts to run away or tries to jump out of the container.  The handler will also keep weak crickets and tear off the legs to feed the winner.  This is to give the cricket the "taste of victory", and extra protein.  Really gross.
   There are ancient paintings of families with crickets, and the children's job is to use the thin stick to  tickle their antennae.  They would also tie the crickets to a string and fling it around like a kite.  The idea is to make the cricket feel like it is flying away, but really your just pissing it off.  So the madder the cricket is, the better he is at fighting.  Somewhere there is a cricket plotting revenge.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Starbucks in China

Starbucks is very, very popular in China but a little different than in the States.   Many of the coffee beverages seem the same, but might taste a little different.  I think because the milk in China is different.  Even though the milk is imported and safe, the cream content is greater.  So 99% skim, fat-free milk tastes like low-fat milk back home.  Whole milk here tastes like half & half - really rich, like a buttermilk.
     The inside of Starbucks looks exactly like in the US.  And just like in the US, people camp out here all day to use the free Wi-Fi.

The food for sale in the pastry cases are very different.  They are appealing to the different Chinese palate.  Pastries with sweet read beans are popular all over Asia, as well as savory buns filled with BBQ pork.

scone with red bean
BBQ pork buns
But I don't think the sandwiches sound very appetizing.... just sayin'

Thai Shrimp & Squid Ink Panini
Beef Cheese Prawn Danish

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Babies, split pants and signs

     In China, most babies and toddlers do not wear diapers.  They are carried much of the time, and supposedly their parents have such close physical contact with them that they are able to pickup the baby's cues.  They can then rush the children to a bathroom (or flower bed, gutter or trash can), where the child can relieve his or herself.  Yes, there are lots and lots of instances they just don't quite make it on time.  I have seen babies and toddlers pee and poop on the floor of a department store, on a busy sidewalk, into a cup that was for sale at IKEA.  Lots of children wear "split" pants so they can go to the bathroom easily - I'm not sure how clean the pants are at the end of the day.  
     Modern Chinese mothers think wearing split pants is "country" and "old-fashioned", and having them on your child labels you as "lower class".  They prefer Western-style disposable diapers.  But in villages and rural areas, split pants or being diaper-free is common practice.  People don't have money for disposable diapers and cleaning cloth diapers seems even more unsanitary to them.  I applaud "Elimination Communication" training, and I understand the crazy land-fill problem China would have if everyone opted for disposable diapers.  But the random peeing and pooping on the streets and bushes by children (and adults!) just make walking down road smelly and disgusting.  
split pants for sale

accident waiting to happen
Here are some signs that I think are obvious, but I guess not-so-obvious here.  

People spit everywhere - inside, outside, taxis, stairs, etc.  Once, Emily and I were in a taxi, and the driver spit out his open window.  Unfortunately, our window was open too.  Gross.
someone just had to add their own touches
The "No Explosives" sign was not at the airport or train station - it was at the fake market.  I think this was more about fireworks or firecrackers than anything else.


 These are at the pool in our complex....

little inappropriate if you ask me....

Friday, September 6, 2013

IKEA is different here....

    I have blogged before about IKEA and how in China, people really get comfortable in the showrooms.  This summer has been especially hot, and many people spend their entire day inside IKEA.  They take advantage of the air conditioning and the comfortable furniture.  I read recently that of the top five IKEA stores in the world, three are in China.  Since there is really not much that can be done, IKEA allows people to hang-out in the stores hoping they will like the furniture so much, they will purchase it.  It seems to be working.  

girls having a blast jumping on the bed
shhh...the baby's sleeping
impromptu day care center
 The IKEA cafeteria is very impressive.  I don't remember it being this nice back home and having this much variety.  I remember back home the food being limited to meatballs and maybe hot dogs.  The cafeteria is really busy here, but also very clean and organized.  It opens early before the store, and people can come in to buy coffee and pastries.  For lunch there are chilled salads, juices and smoked salmon.  And hot entrees include steak, spaghetti and crayfish as well as the IKEA meatballs.  The food was fresh and decent.  Not gourmet, but definitely a step above what they have back home.
cafeteria dining room
kiwi, papaya & mango smoothies
swedish crayfish
hot & sour soup
tofu & vegetable plate
these wings were really tasty