Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Week 6

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, it was nice talking with some of you over Skype. By the way, anyone who does not have Skype should really think about getting a webcam and downloading it. It's such a great way to keep in touch and is much cooler way to talk than a normal phone call.

Our Thanksgiving ended up being one to remember. Despite my worries that our dinner would consist of noodles and dumplings, we found a great South Texas restaurant on Shaanxi Lu, named Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse (they also have a location in San Dimas, CA), that served a full Thanksgiving dinner complete with real sliced turkey and all the trimmings. They served it up in large portions, too. We were also very lucky to have spent the holiday with some good friends, Mike and Belle. It was a really nice evening that did NOT end with any of us riding the mechanical bull in the middle of the floor, haha. Having great food with awesome company really made missing Thanksgiving (and American Football games) at home a lot easier.

Before we left Shanghai last week, I met up with my friend Mike for lunch near his office. One of the things that we got to talking about was the lack of pronounced historical sites for tourists to see, but that some really interesting Chinese history actually lies hidden in plain sight. For example, you might not see it on a tourist map, but the building he currently works in was once used to fortify Chinese troops during the Sino-Japanese Wars of the early 20th century. Yet today it stands transformed into a very modern-looking, artistic building. Mike was very gracious to let me take a video of him describing the history and renovation of his building. Here is the first of a two-part interview:

 Part 1
video

Part 2
video

We arrived in Ningbo safely after an extremely uncomfortable bus ride. We originally thought we'd be taking the high-speed train from Shanghai to Ningbo. That didn't end up happening, because the people we went down with from Tiffany's firm decided that it would be better to take a 2.5-hour bus ride. Needless to say, this mode of transportation was not ideal - cramped, stuffy, smoggy, and remarkably uncomfortable. We couldn't help but laugh and take a video for all of you sitting in your comfortable chairs at home!
  video
After we arrived at the Ningbo bus depot we were led to the now infamous Ningbo taxi line, where patience turns into fervent irritation. Not exactly sure why, but we stood in this line for over an hour waiting for a taxi to take us a mile and a half down the road, where we were meeting the rest of Tiffany's work crew before dinner. Part of the reason that we waited so long is because people kept grabbing taxis that were meant to come to the front of the line!! They knew they were cutting in line, which was the beginning of our frustration. The other thing is that the taxi line is covered and enclosed in some parts, and is also along a main road, so smog gets trapped inside the enclosures. It is an absolutely terrible place to stand for over an hour. For those of you thinking about traveling to Ningbo, I have two lessons: 1) Don't take a bus; and 2) if you didn't heed the advice in lesson 1 and need a taxi, do not stand in the taxi line outside the Ningbo bus depot. Instead, take your luggage, walk a few blocks outside the train station, and hail a cab. I'm telling you, it is definitely worth the two or three block walk. 

We eventually ended up meeting with Tiffany's co-workers for dinner, which was very nice after the bus ride. It was a fantastic Chinese dinner with many different dishes and tasty Chinese wine. I took a picture of what was left after we all feasted. 
Tiffany's first day at the new office was yesterday and, so far, she likes the surroundings. But there are some things that make her feel like an outsider:

Working in Ningbo has been such a huge change for me.  Our new office is located on the 20th floor of a highrise building in a new office park designed by Mada. As far as I know, I am the only foreigner in the whole office building (and it feels like one of the two only foreigners in all of Ningbo!!) The building serves a traditional Chinese lunch, as there are no restaurants located in the area yet.  The first day, at lunch, I was told by my coworkers that I would get stared at a lot in Ningbo since it is not as international as Shanghai and there are less foreigners.  Since we live in an expat area in Shanghai, and are used to seeing people from all over the world, its going to be strange to be one of only a few foreigners in the city.

Our apartment situation is still getting worked out, not sure what is going to happen but I'll update everyone in next week's post. We don't have internet yet so unfortunately I'm not sure if I can check email or post pictures of the day regularly. As it is, I'm in a place with wireless internet to post this week's entry of the blog...Ningbo is definitely not as internet-friendly as Shanghai! Take it easy everyone!

Things To Do in Shanghai

3. Visit the Bund
The Bund in Shanghai runs next to the Huangpu River, facing the picturesque Shanghai Skyline on the opposite side of the river. This area consists of dozens of historical buildings that look like they came strait out of Europe! The buildings on the Bund side of the river are historical and much shorter than the skyscrapers on the other side of the river. This area is a huge tourist attraction.  However, good luck picking a day to go see the Bund, as most days the smog is so bad that the other side of the river is barely visible.



Maybe It's Just Me

I am happy to report that we finally have a kitchen knife for our apartment in Shanghai. The reason it took so long for us to get one is because many stores were not selling them until mid-November. The reason, you might ask? We were told that the government was not allowing widespread sales of knives during the World Expo for public safety. So until mid-November, one of the only places we knew to get a knife from was IKEA, and they kept them in a back room that you could only get to by showing your passport. As some of you may have heard, there was fire a couple weeks ago that killed 50+ people and was caused by unlicensed electrical workers!! Now, maybe it's just me, but is there a serious misalignment of priorities when it comes to achieving public safety goals?

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