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".


  1. I don't know if you know how to play golf but I China is pretty big into golf, so it might be a nice way to pass the time.

  2. Or if you are really bored, I can send you copious amounts of case law...

  3. How do I follow the blog or do I have to come to this site everytime?

  4. Hey Mike, great blog bro. I am glad u n Tiff r doing great.
    I remember about 5 years ago when we used to work at grand you had told me how u wanted to learn Mandarin and would love to go visit China one day. I am glad your dream came true.

    "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 local"

    This really stood out....ha ha....This is soooo true even in India. I have gotten so used to driving with all these traffic rules in LA that last time i went to India i did not drive at all.

    Oh yeah, and this NFL season is really crazy. Not at all like last year when Colts, Saints and Vikings went 10-0 to start. Saints r 4-3, lasi week they lost at home to panthers by two scores. Brees not lookin too good. Vikings r 2-4, Brett Favre has a double fracture and will miss his next game most probably, his first miss in 291 games. Raiders won against Broncos on the road 59-14, last week, thats when i knew the world as we know is coming to an end soon.

    It was a really shitty week for me, lost a lot of money on sports betting, i think i will be sticking to betting on NBA.

    Oh yeah, Miami Heat laid an egg against the Celtics in the season opener. I dunno if u r following but heat is getting so much press this season. Their is a bar in Miami which had predicted that Heat will go 82-0 this season and if they loose any game, the bar will cover the tab for everyone....lol....
    Lakers Ring ceremony was really nice, i went to Barneys, i looked like the whole of Pasadena showed up.

    Great Blog, looking forward to more updates.


  5. OMG guys I am loving this blog!!!! I feel as though I am on there with you both!! It seems like things are going wonderfully and I am so happy for you both!!!
    Did you guys get to catch a glimpse of the World Expo?? I heard it was incredibly impressive!
    Tiff I am so happy about your internship it seems so involved and exciting :)
    I am so surprised they have a Carrefour there! It's a French Walmart and I go there everytime I go to Belgium!!!
    I can't wait to read your next posting :) Miss you both!!!

  6. It's not you, I confirm that waiters in China expect you to order as soon as they hand you the menu. No point trying to send them away, just let them stand there and take your time to decide ;)

  7. Traffic, OMG i thought were i moved to 6 years ago to Istanbul was bad, coming from Denmark where everything is so civilized it was a shock and then i visited China. I think i nearly jumped out of the taxi several times, there driving is certainly adventurous. Crossing the road reminds me of an old eighties video game FROGGER, so if you already riding the wind with your scooter you two are brave to say the least.
    But keep the Blog going, although i neither know any of you, i certainly will be checking in each week for the next installment.

  8. I just stumbled upon your site! Nice job! Asia is so interesting. Hope you guys are having fun! Renee (www.travellingassassin.com)

  9. Interesting. Are you guys still in China? I have been here since 2009. I am a recruiter and have just started my own blog on my website chinateachingadventure.com