Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Week 7

I wanted to start this week's post by thanking all of you who read our blog each week. We have been getting a lot of people viewing our blog from around the world in countries like Vietnam, India, China, UK, Canada, Iran, France, Nepal, Romania, and Mauritius (among others), so we greatly appreciate people in those parts of the world who are interested in hearing about our journey. Please feel free to leave any (PG-13) comments!

We spent last week in Ningbo, a much smaller city than Shanghai. And even though I say "smaller", it still has a population of over 2 million. Some of you might recognize the Ningbo name, as the city is making news headlines as part of the WikiLeaks scandal -- the port is apparently mentioned in the report as a "critical" U.S. site. However, as Tiffany eluded to last week in her portion of the blog, Ningbo doesn't seem to have the large, diverse Expat population that Shanghai offers. But the people are just as friendly, and welcome, if not embrace, foreigners into their restaurants and markets. A lot of the locals are eager to practice their English skills and give directions when needed, which was very helpful for us. We found that even though many restaurants didn't have English menus, they put up pictures for people to look and point. We took advantage of that option often, haha.

While the city was good to us, the apartment that we got put up in was, hmmm, not as quaint. In addition to the roommate that we were scheduled to live with, we soon found out that we had many, many other roommates -- cockroaches and what appeared to be extremely large ants that could have eaten whole pieces of fruit. The shower stall, as we painfully learned the next day, allowed us to take five-minute prison showers (including time to let the water warm up). Why? Oh, because the drain doesn't work until you stop running the water. The couch we were provided was more like a park bench, and the bed frames we slept on felt like we were sleeping on a wooden pallet, probably because they were literally wooden pallets! And don't get me started on the layout of the kitchen-restroom (please read my Maybe It's Just Me segment for that doozy).

Despite all of the issues with the living arrangement, we were able to see some great things in Ningbo before we decided to move back to Shanghai for the comfort of our own apartment. Even though Ningbo isn't as Expat-diverse as Shanghai, it is one of China's oldest cities and has fantastic cultural sites. The first one on our list was the Tianyi Ge Library, which is the oldest library in all of China and possibly all of Asia. The founder, Fan Qin, began construction during the Ming Dynasty and it was cared for by his descendants for centuries. The library collection includes original lists of the successful candidates of the Imperial Examination, stone printing presses, and hand-written copies of Confucian classics. For a history nerd like myself, the place is absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend the Tianyi Ge Library as a place to visit if you are anywhere near Ningbo. Please check out the two videos below for a look at the grounds.
Part 1

Part 2

After we spent a few hours checking out the library, we decided to head down to the 1400 year-old Moon Lake. The area that surrounds Moon Lake is an awesome place to be in Ningbo on a beautiful afternoon, as we were lucky enough to have been. There are many different paths to walk on and places to sit and chill. We were there on a day that included lots of music and dancing, so we had fun watching that stuff. Please read Tiffany's Things To Do in Ningbo for more on the dancing (which I didn't participate in, haha). We also took a little trip around the lake on paddle boats!!
Even though we're back in Shanghai, Tiffany is still working on the Universal City project at work and she is really enjoying it --> The Ningbo Project is turning out to be a lot of fun to work on. The programs include the largest indoor theme park in Asia, an outdoor theme park, a shopping village, a department store, a hotel, a large restaurant, a theater, an arcade, and a grocery store! It's such a large and exciting project to be a part of.  I'm currently in charge of designing the landscape, which is super fun because the programs are largely about entertainment and shopping. So we get to do some really neat stuff like crazy paving patterns with lights, grass, water, and pretty much anything we can think of, incorporated into the paving! We're also getting to design a skyscreen (Like the one on Fremont Street in Vegas). I've enjoyed getting to design so much of the project and I'm excited to see how it turns out in a few years! Hopefully we'll be able to visit after it opens!

On Thursday, we leave for the first of our mandatory out-of-the-country trips as part of our visa requirements. Partly because convenience, and partly because Tiffany has a personal goal of getting to every Disneyland in the world (don't ask me), we are going to Hong Kong. We have a one-night stop in the Guangdong Province City of Shenzhen, which neither of us have ever been to, and then we take a short train ride to the former British colony. It should be a lot of fun, and we'll definitely be writing about it next week!

Things To Do in Ningbo

1. Go Dancing near Moon Lake
Moon Lake is a large, crescent-shaped lake in Ningbo with a park surrounding it that has lots of recreational activities. You can paddle boat on the lake (as we did), have a picnic on one of the many grassy knolls, or do your laundry in the lake (as we witnessed others doing). One really cool activity is line dancing -- not the country western type. In the evening, as it was just starting to get dark, dancers started appearing and dancing to a variety of Chinese music blasting out of speakers.  Most of the dancers, being women, know all the dances and of course socialize in between every dance.  They'll be happy to help you out by showing you all the steps and encouraging your dancing skills. However, beware of warring dance groups, as there may be more than one group dancing in the same area.

Maybe It's Just Me

When we arrived at our apartment in Ningbo, we took one look around and knew instantly that it was going to be an awkward living arrangment, especially because we were expecting another roommate. The main thing that tipped us off was the design of the kitchen-restroom. Take a look at the next photo.

The "kitchen" is on the right, and the "restroom" is on the left. If you were standing in either room, you might not be able to tell the difference, because there is a transparent GLASS WINDOW that separates the two areas!! I can't imagine what the architect of this place was thinking when they thought up this doozy. Maybe it's just me, but I figure it's fairly universal to expect a little privacy in the restroom. I mean seriously, what's the point of this glass wall, so you can keep an eye on your eggs while taking care of your, other, business?

1 comment:

  1. Okay seriously, the combination kitchen/bathroom is the most horrendous architectural idea EVER! But I'm glad you guys approached it with a sensible amount of humor and disdain. Keep writing! I love it!