Category Archives: Shanghai

Shanghai and Early ZJG Picture Highlights

Just to start things off because I feel like I’m going to die from severe franticness, I currently have 28 bug bites.  8 of which literally just happened in the last ten minutes.  Most of which are on my leg.  See picture number one.

With that out of the way, back to Shanghai.  Aside from taking more Chinese classes and getting lectures on what to expect when teaching English (most of which has not actually been the case!), we also went to the Shanghai Museum which was pretty awesome.  My favorite exhibits were the seals, the minority clothing and the calligraphy.

We also went to Old City and on a cruise where we could see Shanghai at night best.  And finally, the Chinese acrobats show, where we sat in the first two rows.  I “lucked” out and ended up first row, dead center.  Which was awesome except for when they wrapped their arms in long ribbons hanging from the ceiling and swung out into the audience…I don’t think I’ve ever ducked lower in my life.

The last few pictures are from around Zhangjiagang.  I realllly like it here.  It’s a lot bigger than I expected, but still pretty quiet and smallish.  I would just really appreciate for the bikes, motorbikes and cars to STAY OFF the sidewalk!  I almost got run over a few times today because they don’t always honk to warn you!

A closing comment:  I may or may not have eaten five slices of processed cheese last night.  I was craving cheese and browsing the snack section of the corner store not really expecting to find anything cheese flavored when lo and behold: sandwich cheese.  And while the food we’ve had here has by no means been lacking, when you have a craving and aren’t really expecting it to be fulfilled, processed cheese suddenly tastes like extra sharp cheddar.


Food Highlights

The first night we went to a Sichuanese restaurant, read: HOT 辣là。 Like, make your lips fall off hot.  Here are some pictures of some of the less fiery ones:

Course one

Yin Yang dish

This was actually full of chicken

Eaten with some regret because the yaks we rode last time I was here were so beautiful...turns out they are also incredibly tasty!

The Sichuanese restaurant also included a performer who changed masks at lightning speed:



If you look closely, you can see the back of the mask changer, he walked out into the restaurant

No Mask...but within like a half a second

And here’s my roomie and I outside the Sichuan restaurant:

We also ate at a vegetarian restaurant that did a fantastic job of making everything taste like meat:

Fish at the vegetarian restaurant

And finally, in the Old City we had the following:

The alley smelled like horse manure outside this restaurant and so did this soup

Corn flakes and popcorn...we wondered why

I feel like I’ve been eating a huge amount of food, but when I actually think about it, it has been more that we have been eating for longer periods of time than I’m used to, but not really huge portions of scum food.  Over a two and a half hour dinner, I usually end up drinking some 18 cups of tea and eating a handful each of green beans, asparagus and cucumbers, a few pieces of various kinds of meat in various kinds of sauces, a dumpling (Shanghai is known for their 小笼包 xiǎo lóng bāo, which are soup dumplings that you nibble a corner off of, suck out the soup and then eat, super super delicious), three little slices of watermelon, some sort of doughy or glutinous bread roll type thing that usually has a hint of sweet or a hint of meat in it, two pieces of scrambled eggs and usually an attempt at one choose your own adventure type dish (I confess that I haven’t been super adventurous past the yak meat…but it’s hard when you truly hate seafood).

They actually had French fries at breakfast this morning and I had to cave and get some and ended up getting more because they were some sincerely sensational fries.  They weren’t soggy, they were lightly salted and honestly besides loving fries in the first place, it was nice to have something that didn’t have sauce on it for once.  We stopped at a truck stop on our way to ZJG, and while it was some seriously classy food compared to truck stops back home, it waaas a bit cold and all kind of in a lot of water…

One of the English teachers here that we live with taught here last year and showed us this little Uighur  restaurant literally a 3 second walk off of campus that has a huge variety of really good food for about a dollar each dish.  I would imagine we’ll be eating there very very frequently.

To end on, here is a link to one of my roommate’s blogs, she has a video of what our rooms look like as well so definitely check it out!

Random post of Random

Orientation week was monster busy so the following post includes some random thoughts I wrote down throughout the week…I’m now in Zhangjiagang so I have lots to report on that as well, but for now, here is a week full of thoughts:

Sooo China.  Hello!  Let’s start with the airport terminal in Chicago and how silly I felt when I had pictured in my head that I would be on the plane with mostly non-Chinese people…why I made that assumption, I’ve no idea, but it was certainly not the case, and it was kind of nice because it gave me my first taste of being surrounded with the language before even leaving the country.

The flight actually felt quite short to me minus one very long minute when I half woke up in whatever REM cycle it is where you’re kind of paralyzed and freaked out in my head a little bit because my half-dream state had me thinking I really was paralyzed, that the plane was going down and that, well, that really wasn’t a good thing.  Otherwise the flight was good and I even watched an adorable movie set in China/in Chinese.

I brought the most stuff of everyone in my group….I was already embarrassed by my one massive suitcase but was hoping I would see others with the same…not the case.  Everyone else who I met at the airport in our program had less luggage.  Oh well…on a fun note, walking out of customs you kind of felt like you were famous or something because you walk down a roped off path lined with people holding signs, I’ve never had a sign held for me at an airport before!

I spent much of the rest of the afternoon/night sleeping and then woke up at 4am, went for a walk with my roomie around 6 and then had breakfast at 7 (this has not happened since…now we wake up at 7:30).  I had forgotten how many flavors I missed from my last visit to China!  However I will post a “first week of food in China” entry later with pics of food and more about restaurants.

So there are about 40 participants from our program, four of us going to Zhangjiagang and about six who are staying in Shanghai…one poor girl is going to the middle of nowhere by herself and she doesn’t know any Chinese…as you can imagine, we’re all tryin to be extra nice and helpful to her…

And oh right, it’s monster hot here.  It doesn’t help that it was all lovely and cool in New York just before I got here, but even if it hadn’t been, it’s  never typically this horribly humid there.  I am actually looking forward to the wet and cold winter at this point just as a reprieve from my hair fluffing up into a giant fro and my face melting off.  However, I have been hearing more and more from people here that it snows very little and that it doesn’t even get much colder until the end of October!

So here’s something great, my Chinese is 80 times better than last time I came to China!  Last time I could read about 25% of the characters on signs around the cities, but now I recognize about 60% and can figure out another 10% from context.  I’m still complete rubbish at tones but these are actually better than last I was here as well.

I currently have a habit of formulating sentences in Chinese in my head to say to people and then find that either I end up standing mute or English comes out of my mouth instead.  Frustrating, but it’s getting better.  My roommate in Shanghai has helped because we’re about the same level of Chinese and so I’m really comfortable talking to her.  She’s a bit better at actually putting words to sentences in the presence of Chinese people, I’m better at characters and vocab.  So we make a pretty good team when trying to talk to anyone.

I am best at Chinese when I am isolated from everyone in our group and confronted with a stranger actually.  I think it’s because I know I don’t have the crutch of some of the others in the group and I’m less nervous because this stranger doesn’t have any expectations of how well my Chinese should be.  We had our physical exam today and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to communicate with each of the doctors (we had to see literally six different doctors who all did different things, including an ultrasound…)

I will try to make less scattered posts in the future, but I’m trying to make up for the past week without overwhelming everyone by jumping back and forth!

I will leave with a picture of our house here in Zhangjiagang:

Some good news!

My visa has arrived!  This is beyond exciting because there was about a week where my adviser wasn’t sure if the government in my province was going to allow my school to send an application for my visa and I am very happy to now be holding it in my hand!

My cast (fingers crossed) is coming off in 9 days!

Not only is there a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Shanghai, but also Gaelic Society.  In addition to these, which were already fun news, there is also an all Chinese “Irish Tap” group called “Celtic Storm”!

St. Patrick's Day parade in Shanghai

Path which led to this information:  One of the founders of Chinesepod is from Dublin and started the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Shanghai (Chinesepod headquarters are in Shanghai).  So I googled the parade, which lead me to the Gaelic society, which then inspired me to email the president of the Gaelic society to see if, perhaps, she happened to know of any Irish dancers in Shanghai that I could swap steps or even just dinner with.

I received a very very happy response.  She told me that she was copying the president of Celtic Storm on her email, and also that “there’s an Irish pub, ‘Blarney Stone’ in Dongping Lu, where there’s great Irish music every evening except Tuesday.”

I die.  Then immediately look up Celtic Storm.  Apparently, the group formed and learned to dance from Riverdance dvds.  I would normally be wary of this because of a less-than-accurate reenactment that one of my ballet schools did when I was 12 of Riverdance after my ballet teacher had watched the dvd (granted, it was equal parts how-is-this-irish-dance, equal parts fun…aaand she taught Russian ballet, so she blended some of the Russian dancers’ choreography from the dvd in with the “Irish” stuff…) .  However, as I read further, I saw that Celtic Storm had met the cast of Riverdance when they toured in China, and that the director was impressed.  Whether or not Bill Whedon really was impressed or not is beside the point because I’m fairly confident that they at least were/are twenty billion steps ahead of my 12 year old dance recital.

SO what’s even more exciting, is that the president of Celtic Storm emailed me back.  And said that he would “arrange my colleagues in the dance group to meet take you to our training and introduce you to the group members”, that ZJG is not too far from Shanghai by train so I could easily drop by on the weekends, and that, dance aside, he’d love to help me as a friend if I needed anything.  Sooo, not only do I potentially have an Irish dance group to dance with, but also both a reason, direction and friends to visit in Shanghai!

This is exciting on about a billion levels.  It’s exciting because I may be dancing in a parade on St. Patrick’s day…in China…It’s exciting because it’s an all Chinese group, so potentially I could learn some Chinese vocabulary for teaching Irish dance, and in this regard, use it when teaching students in ZJG…pluuuus, it would be cool, if I really do get excited students, to bring my Irish dance students from ZJG to Shanghai to dance in the parade or to meet Celtic Storm.

I mean, how much more exciting can this get??  Of course, I’m getting kind of waaay ahead of myself seeing as I first off, am not even in China yet and don’t know how my (and any potential Irish dance students’) schedules, transportation etc will work, and second, I don’t actually have Irish dance students there yet…but still, it’s an overflowing ocean of opportunity and I can’t wait to see how it pans out!

Some words to leave you with:

踢踏舞 tītàwǔ : tap dance (kick, stomp, dance)

建力士 Jiànlìshì : Guinness…FUN note on this one, if anyone knows the history of Guinness advertising, “Guinness for strength” was one of them.  The literal translation of Jiànlìshì is 建 jiàn (to build/construct) 力士 lìshì (a strong man)

爱尔兰 ài’ěrlán : Ireland