I Don't Hate China.

December 29th, 2010
Location: Coffee Bean
Time: 3:50 p.m.

Okay, so my life is way cooler than I give it credit.

I feel like this post is way overdue and I should probably write more in this vein, but it’s more fun to make fun of that which I don’t understand (because  I’m ignorant like that) and to whine about everything else.  Basically, these posts are a way to vent, but I don’t want everyone to get the wrong idea.  I don’t hate China.

I don’t.  


I’m definitely not in love, but China has a lot to offer.  First of all, I could literally go an entire week without spending more than 10 bucks and eat like a king. The night life is awesome.  I spent Christmas with about 10 different nationalities.  That is truly awesome.  I am meeting all kinds of people and pretending I’m a grown-up and networking.  I can legally download free music off google.cn/music.  I can buy DVDs for 50 cents. The whiter you are, the better. I get to tell people I live in Shanghai and look all cool and well-traveled and worldly (they don’t need to know the truth).

There is no such thing as a “normal” day by American standards.  People dancing on the street. Old ladies going head to head like it’s defcon1. Street food at 2 in the morning.  It’s a day in the life here in Shanghai and it is always interesting.

I’m going to ruin this glowing ball of praise to bring up a revelation I had the other day.  There’s this pervasive smell at one of the metro stations that reminds me of feces and other dirty unmentionable things.  Yesterday, as I walked past the food carts I encountered the smell again, and that’s when I realized: that smell? That nauseous, nose-wrinkling smell?  It’s made to be eaten.

This is just one more reason to celebrate China.  It’s so outside of my zone of comfort and normalcy that you can’t do much else but embrace it.  But I’m still not eating whatever that smell is. 

Happy New Year!

I Fear the Lady in Yellow

December 20th, 2010
Time: 2:33 p.m.
Location: The Coffee Bean

Watch out, Sarah Palin, you’re not the only one who can go rogue.

For the World Expo, Shanghai decided to “heighten” security in their metro stations by installing these ridiculous x-ray machines, airport style.  Heighten is in quotation marks because these stations are a total joke.  There are usually one or two people sitting behind the machine, charged with the task of rooting out any undesirable materials such as knives, guns, or hair spray.  More often than not they sit there with a glazed over expression on their faces.  My friend Miles told me about a time that these women were struggling to get their bag onto the conveyor, so the man stepped out from behind the screen, loaded the bag and then stayed to help unload it from the other side . . . 

Dear sir, please never apply for a position with TSA.

Usually, to avoid situations such as that one, there is another person sporting a yellow smock whose job it is to make sure people put said bags on the conveyor if he or she so deems it necessary.  Since the end of Expo, these yellow-smockers seem to have let this job lapse.  Now, most of the time I see them chatting to glazed-over screen guy.  

Since I consider this security check a nuisance and complete waste of time, I have ceased to stop and unload my bag.  It has been over a month since anyone has even bothered to make me.

Until this morning.

As usual, I just kept walking right on past the yellow-smocked lady.  Every other morning this has not been a problem.  Today, apparently, it was.  I had my ipod cranked up, but I definitely heard some yelling in Chinese and I figured it was probably directed at me, but I played the  “I’m a white person and have no idea what you’re saying” card and kept going.  Right before I reached the turn styles I felt a tug on the back of my bag and more yelling.  At this point it was just too late to turn around without looking like a total idiot, not to mention I needed to stand by my beliefs (i.e., your x-ray machine can shove it). So, I fumbled in my pocket and prayed that my metro card still had some money on it.   I pushed through and turned to go up the escalator and was met with a pair of very, very angry eyes.

I am genuinely afraid to take the metro tomorrow. Who knows what she could be hiding under that yellow smock? She might hair-spray me to death.

Rolling with the Homies

December 14th, 2010

Location:  My bed under layers of blankets

Time: 7:53 p.m.

I wonder if stuff like this goes down at home but I’m just totally unaware because it’s home and therefore seemingly normal (despite the ubiquitous bumper sticker on the back of every Volvo and Prius; for those of you not in the know:  “Keep Portland weird”):

Chinese people, usually the more senior of the population, walking around clapping.  It keeps the mountain lions away, of course.

Chinese people walking backwards.   While clapping.  I imagine the clapping in this case to be a signal that they are backing up – much like large vehicles with huge blind spots and fork lifts.  Or, it could be to keep those pesky mountain lions at bay. (At this point I’m hoping you’ve got the movie allusion, otherwise it looks like I’m trying way too hard.)

Children as human wrecking balls.  Okay, this might be more of a one-off.  I had (thank God that’s in the past tense) this student and he drove me to child abuse.  He liked to lie on the floor and roll over the other children.  I put him in time-out.  He rolled away.  I tried to have him stand next to me – he flopped to the floor and commenced rolling.  Once he stopped at my feet and so I kicked him.  I mean, it was more like a nudge – a very firm nudge. With my foot. So he rolled away.  On to more children.  That’s about when I gave-up and let him roll and wreck at will.  I didn’t like any of those kids anyway so why should I care if the human wrecking ball annihilated their toes? Or faces?  Um, seriously, faces. He rolled up onto them and forced them to fall over and then he kept rolling over them.

Babies with slit pants.

Babies with slit pants defecating in the middle of the street.

Work-out/dance sessions by uniformed staff in the middle of the sidewalk and/or lobby.  

Chicken carcasses in grocery stores.  I can’t even begin to imagine what they use that for.  I need to start taking more pictures so you can get the whole effect.

Men shaving on the metro. Because pulling out your electric razor on a crowded train is totally normal.

This list could be a lot longer but I think I’ve become desensitized to many things and so I have ceased to notice.  Maybe this means I am becoming one of them. (Because that doesn’t sound racist, Kirsti).
If I come home and start rolling over people, please do something. I do not recommend kicking.

Bowling With My Mom

December 6th, 2010
Location: Corner booth at The Coffee Bean on Wuzhong Lu
Time: 1:13 p.m.

There’s a storm a’brewing in Shanghai and I’ve hunkered down in the nearest coffee shop to escape the treacherous wind. With the four and a half hour gap I have in my daily schedule, I’ve got the time. The office has no wireless internet, so it looks like I’ll get to be even better friends with the Bean’s staff members. They already know what I like to drink.

This past weekend saw highs in the 70s. In December. I guess it was merely the calm before the storm. This weekend also brought about a bowling excursion. It was advertised as “Lady’s Night” in the church bulletin and while we were waiting to sign Sue up for a cell group, we were coerced into signing up for the Friday of fun, laughs, and bowling!

Well, there was definitely bowling.

Friday night rolled around and the 3 of us met at Hengshan Lu from our different corners of Shanghai. We aimed our feet in whatever direction it was where the numbers started getting larger and hoped to be enlightened by a giant bowling pin. It wasn’t a bowling pin, but it was certainly en”light”ening. Huack, huack. The hotel where the bowling was taking place was lit up like the Griswald’s house.

And we walked past it.

After Sue tried unsuccessfully to ask directions and was yelled at by the Chinese traffic monitor, we realized it was probably that giant shining edifice we had just been admiring half a block back.

Upon entering the hotel we were directed towards the basement and after pulling open the door we discovered our fate for the evening: moms and children. What the crap kind-of lady’s night was this? There was even some random dad there. We were all: WTF, mate?

But we handed over our 75 RMB and wrote our names on the sheet; I mean, it’s not like we could have made a graceful exit. Besides, we could still bowl together. Oh, except not. We were divided into our respective teams; I was rocking Team Hope. Ironic, really, since our team had not a hope of winning anything.

A good many of these women had not touched a bowling ball ever or for a good decade plus. I won on my team. My score? 82. And I won by A LOT. The lowest score of the night was also on my team. 24. Ten frames. 24 points. The one conversation I had was with a 13-year-old from Malaysia.

That night was weird.

I also think I may have inadvertently caused an argument. We were served dinner and one drink. But either they failed to mention that we only received one drink, or I just wasn’t listening. Whatever the case, I returned to the bar for a refill of Pepsi and the little skinny Chinese guy in the orange apron reached behind the counter and pulled out an already half-empty bottle. Later, I saw another women attempt to do the same thing and that same Chinese dude started yelling at her and kept saying “Yi! Yi!” while shaking his finger at her. I think I got him in trouble and so his bosses cracked down on him. After all, that half-empty bottle could totally be mixed with soda that isn’t flat later in the week and save the hotel a whopping 5 kwai. Obviously.

I don’t even know what else to say. It was weird. And I still suck at bowling. But at least in Shanghai I’m one of the best in the 35 and older women’s division.