Saturday, April 30, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 30, 2011

I know this might look like a transportation device for hippies,
but it was actually a great place for me to get a good cup of espresso in Tokyo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 26, 2011

It's Saturday night, and these guards are getting orders to stand outside and watch for any abnormal activity.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 25, 2011

Look, I'm telling all of you right now, no one pays attention to this sign in China.
It's almost as useless as putting up a sign that says, "No Cutting in Line."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 23, 2011

Very appropriate statue for the Marriage Registration and Records Office Building; Don't you think?
-Shatin, Hong Kong

Friday, April 22, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 22, 2011

Japanese Rice Pizza with Salad "toppings". Probably one of the strangest and yet, delicious foods I've ever eaten. Many various topping available. Can be found at:

Toi Hokkaido Rice Pizza

New Town Plaza, Phase 1
Shatin, Hong Kong

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picture of the Day - Conveyor Belt Sushi


Our last mandatory visa trip took us to Japan,
where we enjoyed some of their fantastic conveyer belt sushi.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 20, 2011


Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology. This nice gentleman is showing us the industrialized version of a sewing machine.

Week 26

Hello everyone, hope all is well wherever this message finds you! Last week I talked a little about the weather in Shanghai being beautiful, but it seems the best climate conditions were short-lived. Just a few days after our last post, the weather started getting a lot hotter (around 75-80 degrees). Sadly, it also started getting more humid as the days went on. It was a little strange because one day it was perfect, and the next day it was uncomfortably muggy. Not fun. We have some friends coming to visit us next week from the U.S., so I'm hoping that the weather stays nice enough for us to site seeing (and not run for cover inside air-conditioned places).
 
This week's blog is a little different from the past, because Tiffany and I are in two different parts of the world while we write it. I know we had a survey a few weeks back about where you guys wanted to see us go for our next (shared) visa leave. But because Tiffany got a new job a few weeks ago, plans had to change. Her employer was nice enough to send her off to Hong Kong to get her work visa, so that's where she is right now. It's great news for her, because the change in visa status means she won't have to leave China every two months. Sadly, my visa status has not changed, and it's time for me to leave the country. Since I have been to Hong Kong a couple times, I decided to see a place I haven't been before, so I am spending 10 days Hanoi, Vietnam! It's great to be in a new city in the world, but I am a little bummed to be here without my travel buddy (tear, sad face).

I have only been here a couple of days, and have already been treated to a little Vietnamese hospitality. The day I arrived, someone from the hotel was supposed to pick me up. My plane was late, however, and the driver thought I had gotten another ride. So when I got to the airport, three guys ran up to me and told me they could drive me to the hotel. (Quick side note -- the aŠĽČrports in China and Vietnam have one thing in common: whenever foreigners arrive, there are dozens of taxi drivers waiting outside that will run up to you and shout for your business. It can be a little daunting.) I was a little wary of these guys, but it was almost midnight and I had been traveling for 15 hours. So I decided to put a little trust in them, especially because they quoted me what appeared to be a ridiculously good price for a 30-minute drive. When we got to the first toll booth, they stopped the car and asked me to pay. I asked them how much as I counted the money.

Just then, the driver pulled 10 bills from my hand and gave it to the guy sitting next to me who, in turn, immediately got out of the car and ran to towards the toll booth (as if he was actually going to pay a toll). The Vietnamese exchange rate is insane, something like 10,000 Vietnamese Dong to $1. After the guy got out of car, I realized that the driver had taken $100 from me as a toll fee. When I asked for my money back, the guy told me he had already paid the toll and pretended as if he didn't know English anymore (despite the 20-minute conversation we all had about where I was from, why I came to Hanoi, and how long I was staying). I was in a bad position -- at midnight, on a dark road, and miles from where I needed to be. Matters got a little worse when they stopped near the hotel and told me to walk down an alley, where the car couldn't fit. There was only one problem: they wouldn't get out of the car, which I thought was strange because I promised them more money if the walked with me to the hotel. Then I realized that my bag was still in the trunk. I raised a little hell, to put it mildly, and they finally tossed my bag on the street and drove off. Having been almost pick-pocketed the last time I was in Nha Trang, Vietnam, I started to question whether I made a good decision in coming back.

The next day was a lot better. The hotel apologized, saying they would reimburse me for the taxi ride, and I spent the next day enjoying some of Vietnam's fantastic cuisine! I'm hoping things get better on my trip as the days go on, but I'll keep you guys updated in next week's blog.

 Pho is perhaps Vietnam's most famous dish, and there are many different ways to enjoy it. Hanoi is known for it's Pho Ga, or Chicken Soup.
 If you enjoy a good cup of coffee as much as I do, you probably know that Vietnamese coffee is some of the best in the world. This picture is taken from a cafe on Ngo Ta'too street, where I am enjoying a cup of iced Vietnamese coffee and reading a good book. Life is good.
 Bun cha, a Vietnamese meal with an assortment of great dishes.
The hotel has been good to me, I just tell them what I want and the guys go down the street and pick it up for me. If that's not enough, they literally serve it to me on a silver platter, haha!

Things in Shanghai are going well. I have started looking for a new job, and we are preparing for the arrival of our puppy (which Tiffany will tell you about below). One of the things we talked about was, when I get a job, who is going to be able to care for the dog while we're both at work? A problem, I know. Fortunately there is an easy solution, especially here in China, to help us through this dilemma: we've decided to hire a maid. We started interviewing last week, and I think we've found someone really great. We'll see how things work out, and I'll let you guys know what happens next week.

Tiffany will take it from here (well, actually, from Hong Kong, haha).

The Search Continues...
We've been looking for a puppy for a few weeks now and we're currently considering all our options. Here in Shanghai, we have quite a few: adoption, breeder, and pet store purchase. As far as adoption goes, there are two legitimate adoption agencies. The first, JAR Animal Rescue (http://jargroup.doodlekit.com/ and http://jarshanghai.wordpress.com/) is a wonderful organization founded by a man named Marvin. The organization is named in honor of his daughter Jaiya Kristina who passed away from SIDS in 2009. The other rescue group, Second Chance Animal Aid Shanghai (http://www.scaashanghai.org/) is a "non-profit organization committed to protecting and improving the health and welfare of companion animals." Neither organizations have shelters and therefore, rely solely on the wonderful support of their foster parents. 

Another option we've been considering is private breeders. There's many "home breeders" here in Shanghai who breed puppies lovingly from their own homes. This is more popular on the outskirts of town where people have a little more room to let the puppies roam. The last option is pet stores. There are quite a number of pet stores throughout Shanghai that offer puppies of all breeds for just about any budget.

While considering all our options, we've learned many things about the "puppy industry" and animal welfare laws here in China (or lack thereof). There are limited, if any, laws regarding animal welfare in China and therefore, there's unlimited amounts of abuse and bad breeding happening in the so called "puppy industry." During our search we've come across many breeders who outright lie, mislead, and try to sell very sick puppies. However, we've also come across many extremely loving and caring individuals who are working extreamly hard to improve the lives of all the animals in this city. As we continue the search, we are looking forward to finding the right puppy for us.

Alright, well, that's about it for this week's blog. I promise to bring back lots of pictures and video from my trip to Hanoi. Tiffany has promised me she intends to spend her entire time in Hong Kong at the hotel pool, so don't look forward to any material from her, haha. Until then, take it easy.

Things to do in Shanghai

Who doesn’t love Shopping, Dining, and People Watching?

Xintiandi is the best of the best of all three. This shopping complex was originally a neighborhood of old Shikumen or stone-gate houses, a style that was very popular in China in the 1920s and an architectural relic in Shanghai. The architect, Benjamin Wood, refurbished the houses in 2002 and created an exclusive retail district. The area gives visitors a sense of what China’s 1920s hay day just might have been like. Some of the city’s best restaurants, stores, and nightlife can be found in Xintiandi. Enjoy dinner at Crystal Jade (dim sum), T8 (fusion Mediterranean and Asian), or Ye Shanghai (Shanghainese).

Maybe It's Just Me

Warning: This week's Maybe It's Just Me includes, what some might consider, graphic or racy material. So if you have a weak stomach, or just don't care for that sort of thing, please stop reading and pick up a copy of Reader's Digest.

I have been taking full advantage of our brand-spankin'-new gym memberships, and there are some, hmmm, interesting locker-room practices that I have not yet gotten accustomed to. The locker-rooms are very nice, and the gym provides a clean area for people to shower, dress, blow-dry your hair, and get ready for the day. But like most things in China, these areas are rather crowded. It's not the mass collection of sweaty, naked humanity that bothers me. Nor does it bother me that I am forced to squeeze through uncovered bodies to get to my locker, as I am comfortable with my own sexuality. What does bother me, however, is watching people use the blow-driers. In one stall, you see a guy blow-drying the hair on his head. In the stall right next to him, I see guys blow-drying less conventional areas of their body. It seems a little awkward to blow-dry hair where the sun doesn't shine but, then again, maybe it's just me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 17, 2011


I bought this small watermelon at the store and was very surprised to find yellow fruit inside and the seeds gathered to the inside of the melon. It tasted similar to watermelon but not the same. Does anyone have any clue what this is?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 15, 2011

Ok, because we have decided to stay longer than we originally expected, I have resigned to the fact that I have to get a job. So I have begun my job search, and one job where there are PLENTY of positions available for foreigners is teaching English. So many schools, so many ads like the one above hanging on doors, windows, online ads, etc.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 14, 2011

Our search for a dog is going slow.
If we don't find one soon, we may just end up going with a small pig...

Picture of the Day - April 13, 2011

A typical Saturday at IKEA on Caoxi Road.
It looks like this couple is having a blast.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 25

Hello Everyone! I know it's been a few weeks since our last post, so sorry for the interruption. I hope you guys haven't forgotten about us!! It's a little crazy to think about the fact that we've been in Shanghai for over 6 months now,  and yet we're still feeling like we just got here. We've made a lot of friends, eaten lots of tasty food, and gotten familiar with many streets in Shanghai. Our Chinese is still a long way off, but we are definitely starting to use the language in some basic situations, such as, "What is your name?", "Where is the toilet?", and "Please do not include the fish head in my soup, not that there's anything wrong with that." Even though we were nervous before coming out here, our adjustment has been a very pleasant experience thus far. We're still crossing our fingers that we don't get sick from the food/water, or any other reason for that matter, especially as the summer humidity creeps in and dampens the city. The weather over the last three weeks, however, has been absolutely beautiful. Though I haven't been here for summer, I am beginning to think that the weather in Shanghai is at it's best in the Spring. For example, today it was 75 degrees with a slight overcast. Totally comfortable, and perfect for walking around in just a T-shirt and jeans. It actually feels a lot like southern California.

So enough small talk, I wanted to update you guys on a couple of things we talked about in our last few posts. First, on the last post we started looking at apartments with an agent and put up video of our findings. We were originally going to make it a two-part series and have the same agent show us apartments in the $400-$500 price range (last time you'll remember seeing places that went for $500-600). Unfortunately, the agent "couldn't find" apartments in that price range for us, and essentially gave us the old we'll-keep-your-file-on-record routine. I think she was worried that we couldn't move in right away (since we would have to put in a 30-day notice with our current apartment), but either way we haven't been out to see apartments in that price range. So our hoped-for two-part series is now going to be a shortened, one-part, fantastically interesting video that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the moment.

Also, a couple months ago I promised to keep you guys informed of the issue we had with our electric bill, because in December-February it doubled each month even though we were consuming pretty much the same amount of electricity in our apartment. It got to the point where we were paying 1000RMB+/month (approx. $150-$175) in electricity, which is outrageously high according to a lot of expats we talked to. After we got that bill, I called the landlord to see if she would look into the matter because we suspected that someone might be stealing our electricity (apparently that happens here in China). So she called the building manager and the electric company, and then came back to us saying it was our fault. I mean, there wasn't really much we could do after that, and it was really annoying because it doesn't seem like there is a way that we can prove someone is siphoning our electricity. Miraculously, the month after I called the landlord, our bill went down to 200RMB (approx. $30)!!! We just received our latest bill, and it's 250RMB!!! Throughout the entire time we've lived here, we've used the same appliances and lights, and all are generally on during the same times of the day. It totally baffles me. We did learn one interesting thing though: During the hours of 10pm-6am, each day, electricity in Shanghai is half-price! We started getting excited for our electrical happy hour each night, and are delighted to huddle up next to our single fluorescent light bulb when 10pm rolls around (occasionally we break out the incandescent bulbs for nice occasions).

What else can I tell you. Oh, last week we joined a gym. It's actually a very nice facility called Will's Gym, and they have locations all over Shanghai. So we purchased a 6-month membership for 2000RMB, which comes out to be about $50/month. Not bad for a two-story gym with swimming pool, spa, sauna, boxing equipment, lots of resistance machines and free weights. Best of all, it's super clean! So clean in fact that some maids actually clean the treadmills while you're running on them, which is a little awkward but it's cool. With our new gym membership in place, we needed to hit the fake mall once again for some gym clothes. I happened to catch another Tiffany-negotiation on camera.


Tiffany has some news to share:

A couple weeks ago I started a new job here in Shanghai. I'm working for a importing and exporting company designing a new line of prefab homes. I'm loving my job and it's been such an amazing experience so far. Working in Shanghai, I've started to realize the importance of the culture and traditions around business cards here in China.

Business Cards are a big deal in business transactions, as well as daily life in China. Everyone from the lady selling bottles of soda on the street corner to the men and women in business meetings have business cards and hand them out like they’re candy. The culture of the business card exchange is extremely important here in China. The business card will be handed to you by the giver with both of their hands holding the card with their thumbs on the top side of the card. You are expected to accept the card with both of your hands and your thumbs also on the top side of the card. It is considered a rude and unforgiveable offense if after accepting the card you put it straight into your wallet. You are expected to take some time to look at and really analyze the card before putting it away. Here in China, the more gold that is on the card the more prestigious is a person. During your stay in China, you will undoubtedly rack up an unbelievable amount of business cards and have no idea what to do with them all. It’s all just a part of life here in China.

Ikea China is the newest entertainment complex in Shanghai. Chinese people go to Ikea to hang out, take naps, get decorating ideas, eat lunch, and maybe do a little shopping. As you walk through the ALWAYS crowded aisles, you find families just enjoying the afternoon. Ikea tends to be a little too expensive for many local Chinese and too crowded for middle income Chinese and foreigners. So Ikea becomes a bizarre playground full of non-shoppers and bargain seekers.


 The entry of IKEA. From this point on, it was a very long, painful day.
 I couldn't tell if this family was intended to be part of the display,
or whether they were simply enjoying the livingroom as if it were their very own.
 I'm sure it's a very nice bed.
 A view similar to the entry, but unfortunately it's a picture from the third floor, where the crowd was a little thinner.
My beautiful girlfriend just outside of IKEA on Caoxi Road.

One last piece of news before we leave you until next week. We have decided that, since we're going to be in Shanghai for a while, we are getting a dog!! We've put a lot of thought into the idea and we just decided to go forward with adopting a new puppy. The process is a little complicated, but we're really excited to go out and find our new friend. We've been looking in a few places around the city but haven't found the right one for us yet. I'm going to start taking some video and hopefully we'll put it up on the blog so you can follow along. Thanks for coming back to the blog, see you guys next week!

Things to Do in Shanghai
 

Happy Hour at Morton's The Steakhouse
The best kept secret in Shanghai is Morton's weekly happy hours at the IFC Mall in Pudong. Every week day (Monday-Friday) from 5-7pm, Morton's served FREE all you can eat filet mignon sandwiches and 38rmb Mortini's. The list of included Mortini's includes: Appletini, Cosmopolitan, Gin Martini, Vodka Martini, and a Chocotini! While you eat your free sandwiches and sip on your "tini", soak in the gorgeous view of the Pudong skyline, including The Oriental Pearl. If you can make it there after work, or a long day of sightseeing, this is by far the best happy hour deal in Shanghai!


Morton's, The Steakhouse
Shop 15-16, 4/F, Shanghai, IFC Mall, 8 Century Avenue,
Pudong New Area, Shanghai, 200120, China
Tel: +86 2160 7588 88                                          
www.mortons.com


Maybe It's Just Me

Back in the day, when I was still a college student, I would walk to class and notice an Asian woman riding her bike on campus. I know it was the same woman because she was covered head-to-toe in garments; I couldn't even see her face. At the time, I couldn't understand why someone would want to be covered like that, especially on hot summer days in Los Angeles. Since living in Shanghai, however, I have noticed that a lot of people wear masks as they are riding around the city on their bikes. A friend tells me that many Chinese people have a phobia of breathing bad air, and will run air-conditioners with their windows wide open because they don't want to breathe the air that comes out of the air-conditioner. Maybe it's just me, but it seems a little strange that people would be afraid to breathe bad air in this country, especially because these people smoke like chimneys!