Let the Evidence Speak for Itself

My mother is worried.

She’s worried that I work too hard. This is true. She’s worried that I’m tired. True again. She’s worried that I’m losing weight. Let’s stop there. Keep in mind that I run a three-ring circus; sometimes a howling, whining, crying, complaining, hitting, scratching, tantrum-throwing one at that. Like most moms, I feel a bit run down at times. But I can assure you, I am not losing weight. In fact, my problem is quite the opposite. I present the following:
Exhibit A. Carb loading. We took The Hubs’ boss to a Manchurian style restaurant where they serve steamed or fried buns, tortillas, meat pies and vegetables.

Deliciousness on a plate. A flaky tortilla.


Tastes like a spring roll. Not deep fried, just plain fattening fried.


A fried meat pie.


The only non-fried item. Dumplings.


Since we’ve moved to Shanghai, I’ve eaten so many dumplings, I feel like I’m turning into one.
Exhibit B. I recently celebrated my birthday with noodles. (Look Mom, more carbs.) That evening, The Circus begged to go to Johnny Moo’s, a Johnny Rocket’s type of restaurant. We ate burgers, fries and shakes. Is your calorie counter off the charts yet?

Pretending to be healthy.


Pu and J surprised me with a slice of cheesecake. I’m going to hear it from my doctor sister because of my gall stones. Dr. D, I promise I only had one bite. It was my birthday, after all. But I drank two glasses of Cherry Coke. Because it’s not every day that you find Cherry Coke in China.

Birthday cheesecake at Johnny Moo's.


Exhibit C. Yesterday, the Branch President of our church branch invited us over for dinner. His wife made me a birthday cake. I also consumed my pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, potato salad, 2 banana chocolate chip muffins and cake and cobbler. Boy, I sound like a pig, right about now. What can I say? I try not to be a rude guest.

Birthday cake. Sugar + carbs = delicious.


Exhibit D. Like most women, I like to present my best self, which means posting flattering photos of myself, with a skinny face. Here is a round face photo, just for my mother. (Everyone else can just ignore this. Thanks.)

Five pounds of happiness.


Dear Mom,
Please stop worrying. I’ve put on five pounds in the last month. Time to hit the gym. (As soon as I get a membership.) Meanwhile, I am turning into a little dumpling. They’ll be rolling me onto the plane when I come visit.
Love,
Circus Mom

Pearl Market

Pearl Market, Puxi, Shanghai.

Driving around Shanghai, you may come across high-end retail stores like Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Louis Vuitton and more. But for the more adventurous or perhaps budget conscious shoppers, the specialty markets are just as enticing and include a vast array of products such as electronics, “fake” knock offs, fabric and jewelry. Yesterday, The Circus headed to Puxi, on the hunt for pearls.

Multistory buildings housed shops full of pearls and stones. The shopkeepers offered their wares, each trying to outsell their competitor in the next stall, luring you in to their shop with “the best price.” Hours of haggling ensued. It’s part of the charm or obnoxiousness (depending on your mood) of the specialty markets. 180RMB for one suddenly drops to 100, then 80, no it’s 70, until finally they offer 60 for two. And as they say in accented English, “I give you best price. Really.” Or, “I haven’t sold anything today. Really.” Hmmm…really. Most of the shopkeepers speak and understand English, but pretend not to. It’s all part of the game and if you like bargains, you play along with them.

Choices.

Pearl Market, Puxi, Shanghai.


I'll take one of those.


Custom fitting.

Oh boy.

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, than pearls come in a close second…

Second best friend.

Especially if you’re Chinese.

Even Circus Mom needs a strand.

Chinese “Fog”

I never thought I say this, but…
Dear Salt Lake City,
I miss your kind of cold (nice and dry)… I even miss your kind of inversion. At least people are willing to follow burn codes to reduce air pollution. And at least it clears up after a storm.
Some days in Shanghai, it looks like this:

Is that Pudong in the smog?


Our driver calls it “fog” but this smog is just blech. Air pollution is a problem in China. Many people mentioned that the air quality was better during the World Expo when the amount of traffic was regulated. Even so, it seems that public transportation is commonly used here. The metro cars and buses are crowded. Frankly, I don’t know a good solution to this problem. There are twenty million people living in this city.

Hold on…between the smog and the clouds of cigarette smoke surrounding us tonight at dinner, I need to get an inhaler… cough, cough…Ok, I’m back. Smog aside, today was a busy day. The Hubs’ boss is in town and was gracious enough to spend time with us. I’ll post some pictures tomorrow of the Pearl Market.

Concordia Chinese New Year Program

In our household, two schools means double the fun. Yesterday, Miss M’s school celebrated my birthday…I mean, Chinese New Year. It was every bit as wonderful as the Dulwich programme. But the lion and dragon dancers were student volunteers who rehearsed for a month. As a parent, I greatly appreciated their performance, more so, because of their hard work.

Professional acrobats. Don't try this at home.

Students perform a Lion Dance


Students perform a Dragon Dance


Chinese Teachers in Tibetan dress

China dolls

Tonight, I looked out of our window and watched fireworks exploding in the sky. It has occurred all week long. All birthday joking aside, Chinese people are serious about their New Year celebrations. Just wait until you hear the firecrackers…

Jing’an Temple

After lunch in Puxi, we headed towards the bookstores, until this caught my eye…

Jing'an Temple, Puxi, Shanghai


Jing’an Temple, “Temple of Peace and Tranquility.” What can I say? I’m a sucker for historical buildings. The current temple was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). We paid our 60RMB entrance fee and were allowed inside.

Jing'an Temple

I need some of these.

Jing'an Temple, Puxi, Shanghai

Incense burner

Giant Buddha


I was told by the ticket salesperson that photos were allowed, in case you think I’m some sacrilegious lout.

Forgive the blurry photo, but it’s not every day you see a Buddhist monk reading a newspaper…unless you live in China, of course.

Jing'an Temple, Puxi, Shanghai.


We never made it to the bookstore. That can wait for another day. We headed back to Pudong to pick up The Kid and Miss M from school. It was a tranquil ending to a Rabbit’s day.

A Rabbit Celebrates Her Year

Today is my birthday. In case you’re wondering, I’m a rabbit.

Year of the Rabbit

In Los Angeles, I would be sitting on the beach, walking to “ghetto” Vons with my neighbor or enjoying my favorite salad at Fritto Misto. Or perhaps I’d catch a movie with friends or take a stroll down Third Street Promenade and window shop.

In Herriman, this day mandated a trip to Target. I’d also bake cookies in my kitchen and play in the snow with my Circus. Birthday cakes, lemon cake, in particular, would be devoured with friends and family, and then I’d attend karate class to burn off the excess calories. On this day, The Hubs would take me to the bookstore. And in the evening I’d watch Jane Austen movies with friends, while eating chocolate, of course. Forgive the selfish indulgences, but this day only rolls around once a year.

But all of this is besides the point. Because what I really should consume, above all else, is noodles. Since we were young, my mom and dad prepared noodles for us on our birthdays. Not pizza, not cheeseburgers and fries, but noodles. Sometimes store purchased, but more often handmade “la mian,” or pulled noodles. In Chinese culture, long noodles represent longevity or a long life. (Whereas a french fry represents high cholesterol, I suppose…and maybe “freedom.”) Occasionally, the noodles would be stir-fried, but more often they were served in soup: chicken, beef, hot and sour, whatever floats your boat…or noodle.

Longevity in a bowl. Beef noodles in Puxi, Shanghai.

Beef noodles keeps this man happy.

Today, The Hubs, Pinky Stinky and I celebrated with beef noodles. One year older and wiser, too…that’s my prayer, anyway. And long life, of course. But wherever I am in the world, I am celebrating with you. In fact, by the time my American peeps read this, it will be my birthday again…I’d better eat some more noodles.

Birthday Girl

P.S. Don’t be jealous, but China is throwing a big birthday party for me. You are all invited. It’s quite a grand celebration. I’ll have videos and photos to prove it. You’ll see dragon dances, firecrackers, fireworks, and all sorts of food. Even the International schools participate with parties and programs. It’s a national holiday. After all, it is my year.

The House That Yanlord Built

Twenty years ago, Pudong was miles of green farmland. Today it is home to Shanghai’s financial district Lujiazui with towering skyscrapers and high rises. It also has foreign housing complexes and compounds galore. Last week we moved from the service hotel in Lujiazui to Yanlord Town Apartments in Jinqiao District, Pudong.

A new room with a view.

High rise apartments, as far as the eye can see.

We also have a view of Century Park, a Chinese equivalent of Central Park. Almost.

Heaven and earth

Most of the apartments come “furnished.” It’s actually more difficult to have a landlord remove their furnishings. Like this beautiful, ornate dining table and chairs, complete with lazy susan. I love the square mirror behind it, representing the ancient Chinese symbols of Heaven (circle) and Earth (square). But I’ve already asked for the other rectangular table sitting in the warehouse. Sorry, Mom.

Master bedroom

Try to ignore the black upholstered bed and window coverings. I’m making a trip to the fabric market next week. We did splurge on new mattresses from Ikea.

Laundry

Think doing laundry is a pain? Try doing it in 0 degrees C. Most of the apartments have outside laundry facilities. Our landlord was kind enough to have glass panes installed to shield out some of the cold. But there’s no heat.

Glass panes and caulking separate me and 0 degrees.

3-burner stove kitchen

Our driver said our kitchen is considered extremely large by Shanghai standards. He couldn’t fathom that it’s only one-sixth the size of our Herriman kitchen. Well, it may be smaller, but my kitchen is always ready to cook for you.

There are a few more bedrooms, bathrooms and a living room. But I’ll save that for another day.

Playing Frogger

Crossing any street in China is potentially hazardous to your health. Apparently, the pedestrian light works more as a courtesy light. Unlike America, pedestrians have no “right of way.” While crossing the street, you have to look forward for the cars turning right towards you. But you also need to look behind you to spot the cars making their left turn towards you. Chinese people must have additional eyes in the back of their heads.

Front and back

Unusual sight. The taxi actually slowed down.

During our first week in Shanghai, a car came from behind at full speed and nearly hit me. (I’m going to hear it from my parents.) Fear not, I’ve since learned to look forwards and backwards while walking. How’s that for multitasking?

Almost Game Over.

The pedestrian light is just for decor.

Even school cross walks with crossing guards are not exempt from the ruthlessness of drivers. The other day as we crossed in front of the school with a large group of students, a motorcyclist came flying by at full speed, cutting through the crosswalk, past the crossing guards who had halted all traffic.

It’s a game of real-life Frogger. But you can’t afford to lose. Ribbit.

Huangpu River

Sometimes, even when the path seems crystal clear, it becomes clouded over or muddied and difficult to navigate through. This morning I knew exactly why we were here and what we were doing here. A mere eighteen hours later, I find myself struggling with a range of emotions, while I wait for the laundry to finish drying. Apparently, I am experiencing phases one through three of “Culture Shock.” Blech. Guess what else is blech?

Huangpu River, Shanghai

The Huangpu River or “Yellow Bank River” divides the city of Shanghai into two regions: east (Pudong) and west (Puxi). According to wikipedia.com, Shanghai gets its drinking water from the Huangpu. I’m a bit concerned about that. It’s highly polluted with garbage, human waste and who knows what else. It definitely tops the brown water from the tap in Los Angeles. Most of the foreigners here pay for bottled water service.

Back to our China journey…I truly believe that we are blessed to live here and have these experiences. There is much to be accomplished during our temporary stay in Shanghai. The Hubs and I were discussing this yesterday. The other stuff will sort itself out. Or be filtered out. Unlike the dirty Huangpu River.