Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week 2

It's the beginning of week 2, on Monday, and I have already missed two full weeks of the NFL season, with the exception of the (shortened) week 6 Redskins vs. Colts game that was completely commentated on in Chinese. Not ideal, but I'll take it where I can get it.

I wanted to pick up on some of the things people were asking about since my last post (see "Week 1"). We got a great place near the former French Concession area, which is apparently a "happening" part of town frequented by Expats. We live on the 12th floor and the view is awesome!! To give you guys an idea of what it looks like from inside, I took a video of the real estate agent showing us the apartment. Turn up your volume, put it on full screen (Click the button in the lower, right-hand corner of the video, Mom) and enjoy!

We liked the place as soon as we found it. The World Expo is still going on (until the end of October), so we were lucky to find it that quickly because housing and hotels are all full. We only had our original hotel booked for two nights, which meant we would have been homeless (or paying really high rates for a hotel) if we couldn't find a place right away. We're got it for approx. $750/month, which is probably more than what a one-bedroom will go for after the Expo. We only signed up for a three-month lease and can always move after that if we find something better. I will say, though, that doing dishes is definitely a minus:

Everyone wants to know how Tiffany's first day at work went. Here is her rendition of that infamous day: "I was very nervous for my first day at work. I had lots of questions of what it was going to be like.  Was I going to know anyone? Was anyone going to speak English? What work was I going to be working on? Am I going to know how to do what I am assigned to work on? etc. Pretty normal first day worries except with the added pressure of being in China! Once I got to work, I started to realize it was pretty similar to any other office or workplace. (Other than we get to wear jeans every day!) The first day went like any first day at a new job pretty much. I toured the office and met everyone. Was told all the policies and rules of the office, etc. and then I met my new mentor (supervisor) and started working on the design for some "luxury" hospital bathrooms. I even had to work late on my first day, which was definitely a sign of things to come." Since she has put me in charge of doing the blog, I thought I would share the video I took of her on the morning of her first day.

Despite the veracity of that video, she is really starting to like her position at MADA s.p.a.m. She was a bit overwhelmed at first but the firm is letting her do actual design work -- which is apparently not a responsibility that architecture firms normally give to their interns. The hospital wing she is currently designing is designated specifically to acupuncture patients. One of the things she wanted to do while working for MADA was learn how the Chinese culture affects their architecture, so this project has been a really good start for her. The design she came up with looks terrific and, best of all, it will likely get built. Very exciting! She is also starting to use more Chinese phrases at work, like when she told her boss: xie xie (thank you), to which her boss replied in English: "Tiffany, I'm Japanese."

We have also started learning our way around the city, using the subway system and walking. Just recently, we also bought a little scooter! As you can see from the next photo, it commands complete and total respect on the road.

If I lay on the throttle for a minute and a half, which is when it finally gets up to full speed, I can get it going 18 miles per hour. It almost feels like jogging when it gets going that fast, just imagine feeling the wind in your hair. We bought it from a store here called Carrefour, which is sort of like Walmart, and it only cost us about $325!! Totally great deal, and so much fun to drive around!! Being on the road, however, is complete chaos when many people do not pay attention to signs or traffic lights. I've taken Tiffany to and from work twice now, and so far I've learned that 1) it is normal to drive on the sidewalk, and 2) traffic lights are for the weak. Even with the beast of a machine that we have, we're still trying to muster up the strength to drive like locals.

My activities over the last week have been limited to taking care of things at the apartment and online, and taking some time off. Not having a job is not all it's cracked up to be, for those of you who wish you didn't have to go to work tomorrow. Being at home for most of the day, everyday, is starting to make me restless. TV is no good, since it's all in Chinese, and I don't really want to go sightseeing without Tiff. I saw a Yoga studio across the street from our apartment, I'm thinking about checking into a class but I'm not sure if I can be that flexible. I also tried looking for gyms around the area, but there aren't many to choose from online, and hardly any of their websites are in English. There is a group of women that sit in our lobby knitting and talking shop, I might join them if I don't find something else to do with myself. Any suggestions, people?

Finally, I wanted to introduce a segment that I am going to start including in every post of our blog (whenever I'm writing it), because certain aspects of daily life here in China are beginning to make me wonder about myself. I am calling this segment "Maybe It's Just Me", and it is intended to give everyone a brief look at parts of our day that make us feel, well, like we're in China.

Maybe It's Just Me

We've been out to eat several times since arriving almost two weeks ago. One time, we sat down at a nice, cozy little dump. The restaurant wasn't that big, maybe ten tables total. Shortly after we sat down a waiter brought us one menu and stood there. I tried to give him the gesture for "Give us one minute", but he continued to stand over us with his pen to an order pad. After a moment of trying to tell him we needed a minute (picture me mouthing in English, "one minute", with one finger in the air) he walked away and came back immediately with another person who was apparently a better English speaker. I tried to tell the second person we just needed a minute to order when a third person, who appeared to be the manager, walked up to find out what was going on at our table. And so with three people standing over us, not to mention most of the restaurant who had stopped eating to look over, I put my head down to the menu and thought to myself, "Maybe it's just me".

Monday, October 25, 2010

Week 1

It's been a while since I last posted because I wasn't able to access the website, thank you Chinese Government!! Many people received an email detailing our first few days in Shanghai, but for those of you who didn't get that email, I'm posting it below. Everything that's happened since will come in the next post!!
Sent: October 18, 2010 at 12:19
Hey guys,

Our blog site has been, unsurprisingly, blocked by the Chinese government. So, until I figure out how I can use the USC VPN to post stuff, this email will have to do.

A lot has happened since landing last weekend. We've been here a week and we are finally starting to get settled in. We were lucky enough to get an apartment the day we arrived, and moved in the next day. Our address is: [insert]. The next day we got ourselves a Metro card and started using that for our main transportation. The subway is really good, trains run every 3.5 minutes, which is great when one has 25 lbs of household items and an ironing board. On Day 3, we had to go to IKEA to get some furniture and Chuangdan (sheets). Not that IKEA is easy to get around in the States, but the one we went to here was larger and even more confusing than I have ever seen. Yesterday, we took the Metro to the China Mobile to get our cell phones, although we are still waiting for the software to come out so we can unlock our iPhones and start using mobile internet. Our numbers are (+86) 18221789230 (mine) and (+86) 18221789231 (Tiffany's), and I expect we will keep these numbers even after the pre-paid minutes expire. After we got our cell phones and ate lunch at KFC (don't judge people, you wouldn't believe how good that food tastes when you can't read other menus), we went to Walmart to pick up some remaining items (i.e., soap, laundry detergent, dishes, etc.)

Today, Tiffany started her new job. She was really nervous and didn't appreciate my effort to interview her for posterity's sake. haha. We took the Metro to what is going to be her normal stop and had breakfast at the local 7-Eleven (see previous comment regarding menus). Now I am back at the apartment. I rearranged some of the furniture our landlord provided us and washed some dishes, the latter of which really sucks because the counter-top is below my waistline. So, I finally had to start doing dishes on my knees. Anyways, that's a little glimpse into what we have done with ourselves for the last few days. Hope all is well, I will contact everyone when the blog is up and ready for your perusal. Take care!

PS - Mom, not sure what happened but I sent you and grandma an email the day we arrived. Not to worry, everything is fine. I have two email addresses for you so I may have sent it to one that you don't use. Would you mind letting me know which email address you use on a regular basis? Thanks.