Yi Cafe in Shangri-La

Dinner tonight was a special treat at Yi Cafe inside the Shangri-La hotel in Lujiazui. Food stations included salad bar, cheese bar, sushi, pasta, American, Indian, Chinese and Mediterranean stations. Dessert bar, chocolate fountains and ice cream stations completed the meal. It was the most western style food I’ve eaten in six months, with phenomenal service. Did I step foot outside of Shanghai? That’s what a five-star hotel will do to you. Can you spot the difference between the two photos?
Service with a smile. The Pudong Branch Presidency and spouses (who happen to be the Young Women’s Presidency) at one table. What a fantastic evening, hanging out with people I care about and serve with in the Church.

The Underground

Welcome to the Kejiguan, or what expats call “The Underground.”
A dark and dimly lit maze of shops with people constantly approaching you. “You look. You wan’ copywatch? Copybag?” The air feels stifling down there with the sweltering heat and humidity and the smell is China.
Fakes galore. Prices are meh and quality is mediocre at best. Personally, I’d rather hit TJ Maxx or the outlets in Vegas, instead. Slightly more money for the real thing.
Cash only. Bargaining expected.
Jewelry at the Pearl Market in The Underground. Sellers hang out side by side, with similar wares, vying for your business.

“The Underground” sells it all: tailor-made clothing, luggage, underwear, shoes, fakes (copies of high end brands) of purses, watches, sunglasses, Tiffany’s silver, Rosetta stone programs (?) and tchotchke, knick-knacks and a bunch of other crappy or mediocre quality stuff I don’t need in my life.

Four days until I stroll through the aisles of Target, land of beautifully designed, better quality stuff that I don’t need in my life.

Steamed Buns Part 2

Remember the buns? We buy them at a franchise chain called “Babi.” Yep, Barbie.With savory or sweet fillings. Ordering from the menu. Either I haven’t noticed inflation within a week, or the location in Jinqiao enjoys price gouging their large expat community. The buns by my home cost under 1 RMB.
Pay and pick up.
Steamers. Babi is considered one of the more hygienically conscientious chains. I’m down with that. (Translation: Hep vaccinated.)

Countdown

The Forbidden City, Beijing.
Six days until we return to the U.S. for summer break. The Circus and I are doing cartwheels. The last six months have been challenging for me, bearing the brunt end of subhuman and racist treatment. But I’ve survived it thus far. The Hubs has taken several seven and ten-day business trips out of country and I’ve done my best to keep the household running, in this place. But I won’t lie. I am ECSTATIC to be leaving, even for six short weeks. I feel keenly the blessing of returning to a country full of beloved freedoms and just plain common decency.

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
-Thirteen Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dragon Boat Festival Part 1


Happy Duanwu Jie. It rained cats and dogs all day long, so we didn’t do much celebrating. By evening, the heavy downpour turned into a drizzle and we taxied over to Lujiazui and Super Brand Mall for some dinner.
Pinky Stinky, take 1. Click on photo to see her awesome scowl.
Pinky Stinky, take 2.
The Circus loved the Pearl Tower’s illuminating glow in the cold fog, so we shot a few photos. PS isn’t shy about her feelings. And neither am I… countdown to U.S.A. for summer break: one week. I’m so excited, I may need some Depends.

Sweet Surrender

Hershey Store, Puxi.
A friend tipped us off to the Hershey Store on Xi Zhang Road in Puxi and we eagerly trekked out there.
Almost as exciting as stepping into Wonka’s Factory.

Where snozzberries taste like snozzberries.
Searching for Oompa Loompas. Or fluffy souvenirs.
Rivers of syrup, in caramel, chocolate and strawberry.
Scharffen Berger from San Francisco. Now if only they’d import Amano chocolates from Utah.
Bliss for 60RMB or $9.23USD per bag.
We surrendered to exorbitant prices for sweet rewards like Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Whoppers, Reese’s, Kisses and other familiar treats. Paradise in Puxi. It was Bliss.

I Pledge Allegiance Part 2

Headmaster’s award.
Recently, The Kid received recognition at the final school assembly of the year. He was presented the Headmaster’s award for “Individual Academic Achievement” for his grade level. He’s won many house points and received high marks on his report card. [Proud parent moment here.] The Kid, on average, spends thirty minutes per day completing his homework. Considering his age, the time is deemed appropriate, even by U.S. standards.

But is it enough? The question commonly raised is, why are Chinese students so successful? The reality is their compulsory education system is rigorous [an understatement], academic and graduation exams notoriously difficult and discipline tactics gravitating towards abuse. (See I Pledge Allegiance post.) A friend’s daughter attends local elementary school and spends every day after school doing homework until ten p.m. or even midnight. She is usually exhausted or in tears from her school work. She does not play during the week and works to complete assignments from fear of teacher discipline. She is seven years old.

Working on homework until midnight is a common occurrence among elementary age children, third grade and older. But all of this comes at a cost. Students are driven by a fear of failure, rather than a motivation to learn. The perfection is superficial, usually based on rote memorization. There is a lack of individuality, creativity and innovation, with complete intolerance for square pegs that don’t fit into round holes. [Read: learning disabilities.] A friend mentioned that her classmate failed first grade exams four times. She couldn’t progress to the next grade and gave up on formal education. Perhaps she struggled with a learning disability, something unrecognized by Chinese people.

As a parent, I am continuously in awe of The Circus and their creative artwork, stories, LEGO creations, forts, and imaginative play. Sure, 100 percent is great, but what did they learn from it? I suppose I’m the antithesis of Amy Chua. Can I make big bucks arguing against Chinese perfectionism?

Happiness is not a factor here, just as failure is not an option. I find it tragic that they need to create a holiday so children can “have fun.”And I can’t imagine the stress of perfection and fear of failure working too well on self-esteem. Chinese people learn at an early age that compassion is nonexistent. It’s no wonder they treat one another (and me) like Huangpu river garbage.

I count my blessings every day that I was born and raised in America and that my children attend International School instead of local school.

2 Nephi 2:25 “…Men are, that they might have joy.”

I Pledge Allegiance

But not to China.
It’s come to my attention that my children don’t know or can’t remember the Pledge of Allegiance. Living in China is providing me all sorts of excellent parenting and teaching opportunities. Note to self: bring back an American flag from the U.S. so we can recite the Pledge every morning.

You may find me patriotic, and after living here, I am more so than before. I’ve been through the ringer here and I’ve learned about many cultural differences. Some have brought tears to my eyes. Native sources, who shall remain anonymous, have discussed with me types of discipline conducted by school teachers, beginning in middle school. There is a hierarchy to the corporal punishment used in the educational system, ranging from public humiliation to physical violence:
1. Standing (fa zhan)
2. Being kicked
3. Face slaps

Are you ready for a major cultural difference?
Standing. The most minimal punishment is usually reserved for students who haven’t completed homework or are tardy to school. Students are forced to stand on top of their desk or in a corner as they face public humiliation, while a teacher berates them in front of their peers.

Being kicked. Usually reserved for boys, they can be kicked on any part of the body. A friend told me the worst punishment he or she had ever witnessed was when a teacher disciplined two students for fighting in class. The teacher lined up the boys and proceeded to kick them across the room, one at a time. Each time they crashed to the floor, the teacher called them back and kicked them again. My friend was twelve at the time and was deeply impacted by the memory. He or she mentioned that the punishment was conducted in front of a class of eighty students, who watched in silent terror. Another friend mentioned that a student was called to the teachers area for disciplinary action and was kicked from one teacher to another. Three teachers kicked the student, passing him to each other like a soccer ball. Hearing this, that a child would be treated in such a manner by teachers, brought tears to my eyes. There truly is no regard for human life in this country.

Face slaps. Girls tend to receive a smack across the face, as opposed to a kick. Apparently, it’s much more humiliating for a boy to receive a slap in the face than to be kicked across the room.

I asked about kneeling (fa gui) and a friend mentioned that only a parent has the right to demand such obsequiousness. Good to know there’s a line somewhere. (Sarcasm intended.)

Perhaps it’s time for the Chinese to learn about “Time Out.”