Monday, May 30, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 30, 2011

Walking the streets of Shanghai can be risky. The guy on the sidewalk was hit by a car, who was turning right, and didn't see this guy and his two friends. Even though both driver and pedestrian had green lights, the normal custom of letting the "pedestrian have the right of way" doesn't go over so well here in Shanghai.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 29, 2011

It's a little hard to tell, but above this restroom door is an electronic sign. What does the sign say, you ask? It keeps the time of occupancy, so that people outside can see how long you've been in the bathroom. It's a little uncomfortable if you ask me, then again, it was even more awkward for the guy that came out of this door after 10 minutes and 32 seconds.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 28, 2011

Only in China will you find a random chicken on the street going through garbage...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 27, 2011

Our dog search started when we began answering ads on Taobao.com in which puppies were for sale. The person on the other end of the phone told us that they had "plenty" of the dogs we wanted: Black Labrador puppies. When we arrived at their shop, miraculously, they had just sold the one that we wanted, but had many other puppies they wanted to sell us. This was the entrance to that lousy shop. The dudes sitting around smoking cigarettes while the animals sit in their own waste was a little frustrating.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 26, 2011

Practicing my archery skills at the Suzhou Calm Gardens was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 25, 2011

One of the many water canals at the Suzhou Calm Gardens in Suzhou, China.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 29

Hi again everyone! Last week I ended by telling you guys about the end of our search for an Ayi (maid), when we hired a young lady named, Bonnie. Bonnie has been with us for a couple of weeks now, and is already prompting me to ask the same question I asked myself after I got my first cell phone: "How could I have ever lived without this before?!" Having someone here to take care of things around the apartment is great, but having her help us run errands that require a Chinese-speaker is fantastic! However, I would be missing the point if I didn't remind myself that the reason we hired her in the first place is because we decided to get a puppy. In fact, we decided to get a puppy about a month ago, and have since been searching for the right place to get it.

I am happy to announce that our search has ended, and we have a new addition to our household!! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Bao Bei (pronounced like "Bow Bay").


Following up on our dog search from Week 26, we were considering all our options in finding the perfect puppy. We decided adoption wasn't for us at this time and we were having problems finding a good breeder. The other weekend, our ayi, Bonnie, found us what looked like a great breeder online. So we made the long trip out to the location to once again be disappointed to find out that we had been lied to, yet again, and the conditions of the facility were terrible. As you can imagine, we were beginning to get extremely frustrated about being lied to and spending lots of time on our weekends traveling to far-away locations only to find that we had been once again duped by another breeder. However, I had heard of a large, reputable breeder, Jialiang (www.jialiang.com), close to where we were located at the time. 

Mike and I had no plans for the remainder of the day so we decided to make our way out to the Jialiang kennel. When we arrived, we were extremely impressed and loved the beautiful and expansive facilities. Jialiang is the breeder and trainer of many of the working dogs here in Shanghai. Their dogs work at the Pudong airport and they also train many of the police dogs. They have a large equestrian facility on the property (and for those of you who know me, you know I was very excited to see). They had a couple different litters of black lab puppies that we were able to see. The first group was very young and still being weened. However, they said that they had another litter (3 girls and a boy) who were a little older. In order to see them, they needed to bring them over from another part of the property.


So as you can tell from the video, we ended up purchasing a Black Labrador Retriever puppy and naming her Bao Bei, 宝贝, which translates to treasured object or baby. It's a common name people use for pets and children here in China.

Bao Bei and her two sisters being brought from their location
a little farther away on the property.

Bringing Bao Bei home in the Taxi

Me with Bao Bei on our trip home

One of the things that we're learning as new doggie parents is the concept of socialization. Introducing our new puppy to as many as 100 people in the first few months will help her get comfortable being around people, so we're trying to have as many friends over to our apartment as possible (since she's not yet allowed out of the house because she is still getting her vaccination shots). Though we're a long way off from our goal of 100 people, we got some help from two of our friends who were visiting from the U.S. over the last couple of weeks!

Gary and Rebecca are from Seattle, and the trip to Shanghai was their first to mainland China, so Tiffany and I wanted to help make their trip as memorable as possible. Given that we have been exploring the city and its surroundings for the past seven months, there were a lot of cool activities that we wanted to show them. The normal tourist activities were a must, such as seeing the Oriental Pearl Tower, going shopping at the various "fake" markets, and getting tailor-made clothes at the fabric market.

Going up to the Pearl Tower was pretty cool for all of us, since it was the first time for all of us. For those of you who haven't heard of this unique piece of Shanghainese architecture, it stands 1,500 feet high and is situated in the heart of Lujiazui, which is Shanghai's financial center. Although you can go all the way up to the top, we chose to pay a little less money and go up to an observation deck that was 777 feet up. Because of its location in Pudong, it has a great view of the Bund across the Huangpu River, and also allows for a 360-degree view of the entire Shanghai skyline. One thing we learned after going up, however, was that you can get a much better view if you go up during the day. This is because the floor on the observation deck is transparent, and the lights used to ornate the Pearl from the base cause a glare that makes it hard to see the ground. During the day, the lights aren't shining through, and we thought it would have been a better experience to see how far up we really were. Still, it was pretty cool seeing the city at night, which is something Rebecca really wanted to see.

We also took our friends to the fabric markets and "fake" malls, which they found to be a lot of fun. I think it's always a lot of fun for tourists to have clothes made and bargain with the vendors. They turned out to be savvy negotiators despite not speaking a word of Chinese, and returned home with a lot of cool stuff. Gary got himself a nice, three-piece suit with pink lining and an overcoat. Rebecca found a shop that made her a stylish coat as well. For all that, I think they paid the equivalent of about $250! Then it was off to the fake markets, where Rebecca found 4 pairs of shoes that needed a home, and Gary finally found the remote-controlled helicopter he'd been missing his whole life, haha. In between all of the shopping and sight-seeing, and because both of them are big-time foodies from Seattle, we also took them to get some authentic Chinese food and hot pot.

 Tailors wanted to charge Gary extra money for his coat, because he's so tall
they said they needed "extra fabric" to make it fit...he went somewhere else.
 Our new suits fit perfectly!!
 Rebecca trying on her snazzy new coat,
which should keep her warm when she gets back to the Northwest!
 The Chinese have a term used to describe a guy like Gary at the fake market, with his newly purchased suitcase and remote-controlled helicopter in tow, and that is "Laowai." You can look that one up and judge for yourself. Store owners take one look at this bearded lumberjack and think to themselves, "Cha Ching!$!"
 Tiffany, Rebecca, and Belle,
just before they rode the go karts at Stampede Karting.
 Us on the Huangpu River boat cruise.
 Rebecca doesn't know this guy,
which didn't stop him from wanting to take a photo with her.
 Hot pot dinner and a bottle of wine with friends,
not sure life gets much better than that.

Another cool activity they wanted to do while in Shanghai was visit Suzhou, a city just outside of Shanghai that is known for its serene classical gardens and silk trade. Suzhou is also one of the ancient water towns in China, so the city is bound together by a myriad of canals that function as tourist attractions and transportation for goods. I had never been to Suzhou so I was excited to check it out.



All told, I think Gary and Rebecca enjoyed their trip to Shanghai, and we enjoyed having them. Now that they're gone, it's back to life as usual for us. Well, not exactly life as usual, since we have a new puppy to take care of! We'll definitely keep all of you posted on the particulars of owning a dog in China. Until next week, take care people!

Things To Do in Shanghai

Order In

Is it a rainy Saturday night in Shanghai and all you want to do is watch a movie and have dinner brought to you? Well then I have the perfect solution for you: Call Sherpa's! Sherpa's is a delivery service that will bring you food from a large variety of restaurants near your place. They have all your favorites: Italian, Mexian, Chinese, Tibetan, etc. The delivery charge, you ask? A mere 15RMB (approx. $2). You can order through their website www.sherpa.com.cn, which makes it fast and easy, especially because it's in English. Your food will be at your door in 30-45 minutes, no cooking, no mess, no clean-up!!!


Maybe It's Just Me


I took this photo at the Hoa Lo Prison (a.k.a. The Hanoi Hilton), where American P.O.W. were held during the Vietnam War. If you can't tell, the photos above depict American protesters, against the Vietnam War, marching in the streets. What is interesting about this photo is the description that comes atop these pictures, which offers a competing interpretation of war protesters in the U.S. during the 1960's. Maybe it's just me, but if my understanding of history is correct, I'm pretty sure the main reason people in the United States were protesting the Vietnam War was NOT because they were supporting the "Vietnamese struggle for independence and unification of the country."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 22, 2011

Thang Long's Water Puppet Theater is the most well-known theater of its kind. Perched over Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi's Old Quarter, this water puppet show is not only uniquely entertaining, it is also an opportunity to learn about one of the most fascinating cultures in the world.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 21, 2011

Scattered throughout one of Vietnam's most highly visited tourist attractions, Halong Bay, are hundreds of small water villages. The people who reside in these villages make a living by selling items to passing tourists, and many of them also harvest seafood that is sold on the main islands. While the lifestyle may be a bit slower than living in Shanghai, I am somewhat envious of their morning scenery.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 20, 2011

The Dong Xuan Night Market is in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. For a few hours on Sunday nights, the police block off all traffic (including all motorbikes) in a four or five block radius so that vendors can set up their booths. People from all over come to the market to shop, negotiate, and come away with some pretty cool stuff. The booth above is selling shirts for 100K. Paying 100K for any shirt might seem crazy expensive to some of you, but you would be pleasantly surprised once you find out that the exchange rate is 20,000VND (Vietnamese Dong) to $1!! In other words, these shirts selling for 100K (VND) only cost $5!! (I didn't buy any, though, because I can actually have a shirt made for myself for almost the same price in China, haha).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 19, 2011

Here are two vats of Snake Wine, which is made by infusing live snakes in rice wine for a period of time. Poisonous snakes are preferred, because it is believed that their venom has special powers to help cure illness and reinvigorate the soul. Don't worry people, the venom is neutralized by the rice wine, and is therefore harmless. I took this photo in Halong Bay, Vietnam, but the nectar is popular in many parts of Southeast Asia. I would have tried some, but unfortunately I have a terrible allergy to large, poisonous snakes that have been sitting in a vat of fermented rice.... : 0 )

Picture of the Day - May 19, 2011


Beautiful Jing'an Temple right in the middle of Shanghai!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Picture of the Day - May 18, 2011

One Vietnamese boy explained to another which toy the two should buy,
and then drove a real hard bargain with the salesman, haha!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Week 28

Hi everyone! It was Mother's Day in the U.S. this past weekend, so we want to wish all of you mom's out there a very happy Mother's Day, hope all of you had a wonderful day!! Summer has already begun here in Shanghai and it is starting to get really uncomfortable!! Today it was 85 degrees, sunny, and the humidity can make going outside feel like entering a sauna. Can't say I'm used to it yet, we'll see as time goes on.

I wanted to take the time to respond to a couple of comments from you guys. @S.K. from Cali, I've never been to the U.K. so I'm not sure how the Chinese guards compare to those at Buckingham Palace. From what I've heard, however, the Chinese guards are a little more responsive to people, and some will even crack smiles (such as when I took a picture with one at the Chinese Pavilion). @About Nicky, thanks so much for checking out our blog, we've been looking at yours and love the material! @Maria (a.k.a., Greasy), haha, life is good without many English speaking channels, although I have to admit I went through ESPN withdrawal in the first few months. Glad to hear everything is going well back in LA, tell Ahman that Tiffany and I say hello!

The last time we posted, both of us were in different countries. We both made it back safely from our visa trips and are happy to be back in Shanghai. From what I can tell, Tiffany had a great trip that didn't just consist of poolside service and shopping, haha, but I'll let her tell the story a little later.

After my mishap on the first night (see our last post), my trip to Hanoi got much better. This was my second trip to Vietnam but I had not yet been to Hanoi. I don't like having to pick up and move my stuff from place to place as I travel, nor am I the kind of person who travels somewhere simply to say, "I've been there." So that's why I slotted 10 days solely dedicated to touring Hanoi and getting to know the city and its surroundings. The weather was a bit more humid than it has been in Shanghai so that wasn't too much fun, but I was able to do a lot while I was there. I had enough time to do normal tourist stuff such as touring the old prison where the North Vietnamese kept POW's, seeing one of the first Universities in Vietnam, traveling to an old village outside of Hanoi known for its pottery, attend a manufacturing trade show, and see the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater in the Old Quarter. But I also had time to chill out with some of the locals and play badminton in the park, do some shopping at the Dong Xuan Night Market, and spend a lot of time reading around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake.

If anyone is going to Hanoi, I would like to recommend staying at the Hanoi View 2 Hotel (you can find it on this website). I had a really good experience there and promised the concierge I would mention them on the blog. The rooms were very clean, it's really close to many attractions and, best of all, the service was superb. After a long day of touring the city, I came back frequently and told the guys at the front desk what kind of food I wanted to have for dinner/lunch, and they would go out on their scooters and get it for me. They also took me around a few places and made sure I got there safely. After feeling like I wanted to turn around and go home on the first night, the people at the hotel helped change my mind about staying.

I also wanted to give a big thanks to my friends, Diem and Tam, at Hanoi Free Tour Guides. This organization is made up of about 100 college students who volunteer their time to show tourists around Hanoi, free of charge. Diem and Tam came from smaller towns in Vietnam but are in Hanoi for school, and they were eager to show me around while practicing their English. It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad we had a chance to spend the day together talking about Vietnamese history and get their input on all the attractions we saw. Although the service is free, the guest (i.e., me) is expected to pay for transportation costs and any admission tickets for everyone (although they get reduced bus tickets and didn't really have to pay for many admissions anywhere because they are students). A tip at the end of the day is also very appropriate, especially because they gave me insight that I would not have otherwise gotten on my own. Thanks again to Diem and Tam for a day of showing me around Hanoi, I really enjoyed it!

After my one-day excursion with Diem and Tam, I was on my own for the remainder of my trip. It was a bit difficult getting around because I don't speak any Vietnamese, so rather than using cabs I found a lot of places on my own with the help of my hotel concierge and a good map. It was easier using a map in Hanoi as compared to Shanghai because the streets are represented by alphabetic letters as opposed to Chinese characters, so that was nice. One reason I tried to avoid using cabs is because it can be frustrating. There are so many different cab companies that charge different rates and it's hard to gauge how much a ride will cost. Another frustrating thing that happened a couple of times was having the cab driver flip some sort of switch on the meter that made it run faster than normal (i.e., costing me more money). Apparently this is not an uncommon thing that happens to foreigners. Very frustrating, and I was still a little upset about being duped by unscrupulous cab drivers on my first day, so I tried to avoid taking cabs.

Traffic in Hanoi, and much of Vietnam I suspect, is dominated by gas-powered motorbikes and there are excessive amounts of them on the roads. (FYI - I shot a video of a ride I took on the back of a scooter on the way to the Old Quarter. I didn't include in the blog but if you want to see it, you can watch it here.) Watching them all go through intersections should be considered a tourist attraction in and of itself, because I haven't seen anything like it here in China or anywhere else. The traffic signals seem more like soft recommendations than actual laws. The buses were also kind of funny, like the one that took us to Bat Trang village. As we stood on the curb waiting, Diem and Tam told me to start getting ready because they could see our bus was approaching. So I started gathering my things and they told me to go a little faster. Then they started running alongside the curb, which I was a little curious about. Then I realized that the bus wasn't going to actually stop, it was merely going to slow down for us. So I started laughing because I thought it was odd that they called it a bus 'stop' (unfortunately the people jogging behind me didn't find it that funny).

One of the best things I love about Vietnam is the fantastic cuisine, which is influenced in part by the French, Chinese, and Vietnamese cultures. I had so many good meals with flavors that are truly unique, and I must have drank a gallon of Vietnamese coffee while I was there, haha. There are some dishes I could do without (see Maybe It's Just Me), but in large part Vietnamese food is exceptionally good. Overall my time was well-spent and I had a lot of fun. I also took a lot of video so you guys can see what's good in Hanoi.


While I was touring the Van Mieu University I came across some post cards from Halong Bay, which I knew nothing about before coming to Hanoi. I liked the scenery I saw on the post cards, so I did some research online back at the hotel that day and decided that I really wanted to go. For those of you who haven't heard of Halong Bay, it is a group of 2000 islands in Northern Vietnam, all of which are made of limestone and are thousands of years old. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there is interesting Vietnamese folklore about how the islands came into existence. As the legend goes, during wars with the Chinese, the gods sent a group of dragons to help the Vietnamese fend off Chinese invaders. The dragons descended and spit fire near the Vietnam-China border, and those fireballs transformed into islands. It turned out that Halong Bay was crucial for defending Vietnam during this time, for various reasons, so the area has a special place in Vietnamese history.

I asked the concierge if they knew how I might be able to book a tour and, to my surprise, they knew everything because apparently a trip to Halong Bay is quite common for people visiting Hanoi, haha. The front desk set me up with a 3-day, 2-night tour that only cost me $100, so I left early on Friday morning. I planned my trip so that I would spend one night on a boat in the middle of the islands, and the second night was spent on Cat Ba Island. I had a choice to stay in Bungalows for the second night, but the concierge told me that I would be miserable if the weather was bad, so I chose to spend my second night at the hotel. I ended up regretting that decision because the weather was great and some friends I made on the trip were staying at the Bungalows. At any rate, I am so happy I made the decision to go because the three days I spent in Halong Bay turned out to be the highlight of my trip to Vietnam.


Tiffany also had a visa trip, but of a different kind. Her work sent her to Hong Kong.

The past couple months, I've been working on getting my work visa (also called a Z-Visa here in China) so that I don't have to leave the country every two months! The company I'm working for has sponsored me and helped me threw the whole process. However, it's still extremely long and involved. First of all, before applying, you have to visit a government clinic to get a health check. This involved numerous tests including getting blood drawn, an ECG, and an ultrasound. After submitting an astonishing long list of documents and passing your health check, you have to fly to Hong Kong to visit the Chinese Embassy. So while Mike was off exploring Vietnam, I was in Hong Kong for three days applying for my new visa. After finally receiving a temporary work visa, I came back to Shanghai, where I have had to visit a number of police stations, government offices, visa centers, etc. and will finally be receiving my one year, multiple entry work visa this week! The biggest thing I've learned through this whole ordeal is: Be Over-Prepared. It seems like no one knows, understands, and/or cares to explain the visa application in detail and therefore, lots of information gets lost in translation. So, if you find yourself applying for a Chinese work visa: Take multiple copies of everything you ever thought you might possibly need and some things you didn't think you'd ever need!

So now we're back in Shanghai and back to life as usual. Just want to update you guys on a subject from our last post. As you might remember, we were searching for an Ayi (maid) because we're getting a puppy and we'll need someone to look after it while we're both out of the house. We searched high and low, and found someone we think is going to be a really good fit for us.


Her name is Bonnie and she is from the Jiangsu province in China. Aside from being highly recommended by other expats, Bonnie also speaks great English and can help us as a translator and personal assistant! In fact, she's already put these skills to use by helping two of our friends visiting from the U.S. purchase plane tickets from a Shanghai travel agent, which probably would have been difficult, if not impossible, had they done it on their own. I would have to say that getting an Ayi is one of the best investments we have made so far, we'll keep you posted!

Things To Do in Shanghai

Visit the site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China

For all you history buffs out there, the Site of the First National Congress of the CPC is the perfect place for you! Located right next to Xintiandi at No.76 Xingye Road, this historic site is a great place to visit. The building is a traditional Chinese Shikumen (stone-gate house) from the 1920s.  It became the birthplace of the Communist Party of China on July 23, 1921, when the First National Congress was held. The building is full of relics, artifacts, and pictures that tell the story of the beginnings of the CPC.  And what could be better? Admission is free!

Maybe It's Just Me

I was a little hesitant to take this photo because I was afraid that doing so might offend customers or the vendor. Of course I took the photo anyways, and then walked quickly to the end of the street, haha. I understand that, for various reasons, some people have strong feelings about cultures in which dog meat is consumed.

In the time that I've spent abroad, which has not been very long, I have always tried to keep an open mind about learning cultural practices that are different from my own. I sort of feel that the best way to understand another person is by trying to see the world through their eyes (Shout out to Dr. Alison Dundes-Renteln for giving me that belief). Having said all that........Maybe it's just me, but this does not look appetizing whatsoever.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 30, 2011

I know this might look like a transportation device for hippies,
but it was actually a great place for me to get a good cup of espresso in Tokyo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 26, 2011

It's Saturday night, and these guards are getting orders to stand outside and watch for any abnormal activity.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 25, 2011

Look, I'm telling all of you right now, no one pays attention to this sign in China.
It's almost as useless as putting up a sign that says, "No Cutting in Line."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 23, 2011

Very appropriate statue for the Marriage Registration and Records Office Building; Don't you think?
-Shatin, Hong Kong

Friday, April 22, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 22, 2011

Japanese Rice Pizza with Salad "toppings". Probably one of the strangest and yet, delicious foods I've ever eaten. Many various topping available. Can be found at:

Toi Hokkaido Rice Pizza

New Town Plaza, Phase 1
Shatin, Hong Kong

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picture of the Day - Conveyor Belt Sushi


Our last mandatory visa trip took us to Japan,
where we enjoyed some of their fantastic conveyer belt sushi.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 20, 2011


Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology. This nice gentleman is showing us the industrialized version of a sewing machine.

Week 26

Hello everyone, hope all is well wherever this message finds you! Last week I talked a little about the weather in Shanghai being beautiful, but it seems the best climate conditions were short-lived. Just a few days after our last post, the weather started getting a lot hotter (around 75-80 degrees). Sadly, it also started getting more humid as the days went on. It was a little strange because one day it was perfect, and the next day it was uncomfortably muggy. Not fun. We have some friends coming to visit us next week from the U.S., so I'm hoping that the weather stays nice enough for us to site seeing (and not run for cover inside air-conditioned places).
 
This week's blog is a little different from the past, because Tiffany and I are in two different parts of the world while we write it. I know we had a survey a few weeks back about where you guys wanted to see us go for our next (shared) visa leave. But because Tiffany got a new job a few weeks ago, plans had to change. Her employer was nice enough to send her off to Hong Kong to get her work visa, so that's where she is right now. It's great news for her, because the change in visa status means she won't have to leave China every two months. Sadly, my visa status has not changed, and it's time for me to leave the country. Since I have been to Hong Kong a couple times, I decided to see a place I haven't been before, so I am spending 10 days Hanoi, Vietnam! It's great to be in a new city in the world, but I am a little bummed to be here without my travel buddy (tear, sad face).

I have only been here a couple of days, and have already been treated to a little Vietnamese hospitality. The day I arrived, someone from the hotel was supposed to pick me up. My plane was late, however, and the driver thought I had gotten another ride. So when I got to the airport, three guys ran up to me and told me they could drive me to the hotel. (Quick side note -- the aỉrports in China and Vietnam have one thing in common: whenever foreigners arrive, there are dozens of taxi drivers waiting outside that will run up to you and shout for your business. It can be a little daunting.) I was a little wary of these guys, but it was almost midnight and I had been traveling for 15 hours. So I decided to put a little trust in them, especially because they quoted me what appeared to be a ridiculously good price for a 30-minute drive. When we got to the first toll booth, they stopped the car and asked me to pay. I asked them how much as I counted the money.

Just then, the driver pulled 10 bills from my hand and gave it to the guy sitting next to me who, in turn, immediately got out of the car and ran to towards the toll booth (as if he was actually going to pay a toll). The Vietnamese exchange rate is insane, something like 10,000 Vietnamese Dong to $1. After the guy got out of car, I realized that the driver had taken $100 from me as a toll fee. When I asked for my money back, the guy told me he had already paid the toll and pretended as if he didn't know English anymore (despite the 20-minute conversation we all had about where I was from, why I came to Hanoi, and how long I was staying). I was in a bad position -- at midnight, on a dark road, and miles from where I needed to be. Matters got a little worse when they stopped near the hotel and told me to walk down an alley, where the car couldn't fit. There was only one problem: they wouldn't get out of the car, which I thought was strange because I promised them more money if the walked with me to the hotel. Then I realized that my bag was still in the trunk. I raised a little hell, to put it mildly, and they finally tossed my bag on the street and drove off. Having been almost pick-pocketed the last time I was in Nha Trang, Vietnam, I started to question whether I made a good decision in coming back.

The next day was a lot better. The hotel apologized, saying they would reimburse me for the taxi ride, and I spent the next day enjoying some of Vietnam's fantastic cuisine! I'm hoping things get better on my trip as the days go on, but I'll keep you guys updated in next week's blog.

 Pho is perhaps Vietnam's most famous dish, and there are many different ways to enjoy it. Hanoi is known for it's Pho Ga, or Chicken Soup.
 If you enjoy a good cup of coffee as much as I do, you probably know that Vietnamese coffee is some of the best in the world. This picture is taken from a cafe on Ngo Ta'too street, where I am enjoying a cup of iced Vietnamese coffee and reading a good book. Life is good.
 Bun cha, a Vietnamese meal with an assortment of great dishes.
The hotel has been good to me, I just tell them what I want and the guys go down the street and pick it up for me. If that's not enough, they literally serve it to me on a silver platter, haha!

Things in Shanghai are going well. I have started looking for a new job, and we are preparing for the arrival of our puppy (which Tiffany will tell you about below). One of the things we talked about was, when I get a job, who is going to be able to care for the dog while we're both at work? A problem, I know. Fortunately there is an easy solution, especially here in China, to help us through this dilemma: we've decided to hire a maid. We started interviewing last week, and I think we've found someone really great. We'll see how things work out, and I'll let you guys know what happens next week.

Tiffany will take it from here (well, actually, from Hong Kong, haha).

The Search Continues...
We've been looking for a puppy for a few weeks now and we're currently considering all our options. Here in Shanghai, we have quite a few: adoption, breeder, and pet store purchase. As far as adoption goes, there are two legitimate adoption agencies. The first, JAR Animal Rescue (http://jargroup.doodlekit.com/ and http://jarshanghai.wordpress.com/) is a wonderful organization founded by a man named Marvin. The organization is named in honor of his daughter Jaiya Kristina who passed away from SIDS in 2009. The other rescue group, Second Chance Animal Aid Shanghai (http://www.scaashanghai.org/) is a "non-profit organization committed to protecting and improving the health and welfare of companion animals." Neither organizations have shelters and therefore, rely solely on the wonderful support of their foster parents. 

Another option we've been considering is private breeders. There's many "home breeders" here in Shanghai who breed puppies lovingly from their own homes. This is more popular on the outskirts of town where people have a little more room to let the puppies roam. The last option is pet stores. There are quite a number of pet stores throughout Shanghai that offer puppies of all breeds for just about any budget.

While considering all our options, we've learned many things about the "puppy industry" and animal welfare laws here in China (or lack thereof). There are limited, if any, laws regarding animal welfare in China and therefore, there's unlimited amounts of abuse and bad breeding happening in the so called "puppy industry." During our search we've come across many breeders who outright lie, mislead, and try to sell very sick puppies. However, we've also come across many extremely loving and caring individuals who are working extreamly hard to improve the lives of all the animals in this city. As we continue the search, we are looking forward to finding the right puppy for us.

Alright, well, that's about it for this week's blog. I promise to bring back lots of pictures and video from my trip to Hanoi. Tiffany has promised me she intends to spend her entire time in Hong Kong at the hotel pool, so don't look forward to any material from her, haha. Until then, take it easy.

Things to do in Shanghai

Who doesn’t love Shopping, Dining, and People Watching?

Xintiandi is the best of the best of all three. This shopping complex was originally a neighborhood of old Shikumen or stone-gate houses, a style that was very popular in China in the 1920s and an architectural relic in Shanghai. The architect, Benjamin Wood, refurbished the houses in 2002 and created an exclusive retail district. The area gives visitors a sense of what China’s 1920s hay day just might have been like. Some of the city’s best restaurants, stores, and nightlife can be found in Xintiandi. Enjoy dinner at Crystal Jade (dim sum), T8 (fusion Mediterranean and Asian), or Ye Shanghai (Shanghainese).

Maybe It's Just Me

Warning: This week's Maybe It's Just Me includes, what some might consider, graphic or racy material. So if you have a weak stomach, or just don't care for that sort of thing, please stop reading and pick up a copy of Reader's Digest.

I have been taking full advantage of our brand-spankin'-new gym memberships, and there are some, hmmm, interesting locker-room practices that I have not yet gotten accustomed to. The locker-rooms are very nice, and the gym provides a clean area for people to shower, dress, blow-dry your hair, and get ready for the day. But like most things in China, these areas are rather crowded. It's not the mass collection of sweaty, naked humanity that bothers me. Nor does it bother me that I am forced to squeeze through uncovered bodies to get to my locker, as I am comfortable with my own sexuality. What does bother me, however, is watching people use the blow-driers. In one stall, you see a guy blow-drying the hair on his head. In the stall right next to him, I see guys blow-drying less conventional areas of their body. It seems a little awkward to blow-dry hair where the sun doesn't shine but, then again, maybe it's just me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 17, 2011


I bought this small watermelon at the store and was very surprised to find yellow fruit inside and the seeds gathered to the inside of the melon. It tasted similar to watermelon but not the same. Does anyone have any clue what this is?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 15, 2011

Ok, because we have decided to stay longer than we originally expected, I have resigned to the fact that I have to get a job. So I have begun my job search, and one job where there are PLENTY of positions available for foreigners is teaching English. So many schools, so many ads like the one above hanging on doors, windows, online ads, etc.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picture of the Day - April 14, 2011

Our search for a dog is going slow.
If we don't find one soon, we may just end up going with a small pig...

Picture of the Day - April 13, 2011

A typical Saturday at IKEA on Caoxi Road.
It looks like this couple is having a blast.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 25

Hello Everyone! I know it's been a few weeks since our last post, so sorry for the interruption. I hope you guys haven't forgotten about us!! It's a little crazy to think about the fact that we've been in Shanghai for over 6 months now,  and yet we're still feeling like we just got here. We've made a lot of friends, eaten lots of tasty food, and gotten familiar with many streets in Shanghai. Our Chinese is still a long way off, but we are definitely starting to use the language in some basic situations, such as, "What is your name?", "Where is the toilet?", and "Please do not include the fish head in my soup, not that there's anything wrong with that." Even though we were nervous before coming out here, our adjustment has been a very pleasant experience thus far. We're still crossing our fingers that we don't get sick from the food/water, or any other reason for that matter, especially as the summer humidity creeps in and dampens the city. The weather over the last three weeks, however, has been absolutely beautiful. Though I haven't been here for summer, I am beginning to think that the weather in Shanghai is at it's best in the Spring. For example, today it was 75 degrees with a slight overcast. Totally comfortable, and perfect for walking around in just a T-shirt and jeans. It actually feels a lot like southern California.

So enough small talk, I wanted to update you guys on a couple of things we talked about in our last few posts. First, on the last post we started looking at apartments with an agent and put up video of our findings. We were originally going to make it a two-part series and have the same agent show us apartments in the $400-$500 price range (last time you'll remember seeing places that went for $500-600). Unfortunately, the agent "couldn't find" apartments in that price range for us, and essentially gave us the old we'll-keep-your-file-on-record routine. I think she was worried that we couldn't move in right away (since we would have to put in a 30-day notice with our current apartment), but either way we haven't been out to see apartments in that price range. So our hoped-for two-part series is now going to be a shortened, one-part, fantastically interesting video that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the moment.

Also, a couple months ago I promised to keep you guys informed of the issue we had with our electric bill, because in December-February it doubled each month even though we were consuming pretty much the same amount of electricity in our apartment. It got to the point where we were paying 1000RMB+/month (approx. $150-$175) in electricity, which is outrageously high according to a lot of expats we talked to. After we got that bill, I called the landlord to see if she would look into the matter because we suspected that someone might be stealing our electricity (apparently that happens here in China). So she called the building manager and the electric company, and then came back to us saying it was our fault. I mean, there wasn't really much we could do after that, and it was really annoying because it doesn't seem like there is a way that we can prove someone is siphoning our electricity. Miraculously, the month after I called the landlord, our bill went down to 200RMB (approx. $30)!!! We just received our latest bill, and it's 250RMB!!! Throughout the entire time we've lived here, we've used the same appliances and lights, and all are generally on during the same times of the day. It totally baffles me. We did learn one interesting thing though: During the hours of 10pm-6am, each day, electricity in Shanghai is half-price! We started getting excited for our electrical happy hour each night, and are delighted to huddle up next to our single fluorescent light bulb when 10pm rolls around (occasionally we break out the incandescent bulbs for nice occasions).

What else can I tell you. Oh, last week we joined a gym. It's actually a very nice facility called Will's Gym, and they have locations all over Shanghai. So we purchased a 6-month membership for 2000RMB, which comes out to be about $50/month. Not bad for a two-story gym with swimming pool, spa, sauna, boxing equipment, lots of resistance machines and free weights. Best of all, it's super clean! So clean in fact that some maids actually clean the treadmills while you're running on them, which is a little awkward but it's cool. With our new gym membership in place, we needed to hit the fake mall once again for some gym clothes. I happened to catch another Tiffany-negotiation on camera.


Tiffany has some news to share:

A couple weeks ago I started a new job here in Shanghai. I'm working for a importing and exporting company designing a new line of prefab homes. I'm loving my job and it's been such an amazing experience so far. Working in Shanghai, I've started to realize the importance of the culture and traditions around business cards here in China.

Business Cards are a big deal in business transactions, as well as daily life in China. Everyone from the lady selling bottles of soda on the street corner to the men and women in business meetings have business cards and hand them out like they’re candy. The culture of the business card exchange is extremely important here in China. The business card will be handed to you by the giver with both of their hands holding the card with their thumbs on the top side of the card. You are expected to accept the card with both of your hands and your thumbs also on the top side of the card. It is considered a rude and unforgiveable offense if after accepting the card you put it straight into your wallet. You are expected to take some time to look at and really analyze the card before putting it away. Here in China, the more gold that is on the card the more prestigious is a person. During your stay in China, you will undoubtedly rack up an unbelievable amount of business cards and have no idea what to do with them all. It’s all just a part of life here in China.

Ikea China is the newest entertainment complex in Shanghai. Chinese people go to Ikea to hang out, take naps, get decorating ideas, eat lunch, and maybe do a little shopping. As you walk through the ALWAYS crowded aisles, you find families just enjoying the afternoon. Ikea tends to be a little too expensive for many local Chinese and too crowded for middle income Chinese and foreigners. So Ikea becomes a bizarre playground full of non-shoppers and bargain seekers.


 The entry of IKEA. From this point on, it was a very long, painful day.
 I couldn't tell if this family was intended to be part of the display,
or whether they were simply enjoying the livingroom as if it were their very own.
 I'm sure it's a very nice bed.
 A view similar to the entry, but unfortunately it's a picture from the third floor, where the crowd was a little thinner.
My beautiful girlfriend just outside of IKEA on Caoxi Road.

One last piece of news before we leave you until next week. We have decided that, since we're going to be in Shanghai for a while, we are getting a dog!! We've put a lot of thought into the idea and we just decided to go forward with adopting a new puppy. The process is a little complicated, but we're really excited to go out and find our new friend. We've been looking in a few places around the city but haven't found the right one for us yet. I'm going to start taking some video and hopefully we'll put it up on the blog so you can follow along. Thanks for coming back to the blog, see you guys next week!

Things to Do in Shanghai
 

Happy Hour at Morton's The Steakhouse
The best kept secret in Shanghai is Morton's weekly happy hours at the IFC Mall in Pudong. Every week day (Monday-Friday) from 5-7pm, Morton's served FREE all you can eat filet mignon sandwiches and 38rmb Mortini's. The list of included Mortini's includes: Appletini, Cosmopolitan, Gin Martini, Vodka Martini, and a Chocotini! While you eat your free sandwiches and sip on your "tini", soak in the gorgeous view of the Pudong skyline, including The Oriental Pearl. If you can make it there after work, or a long day of sightseeing, this is by far the best happy hour deal in Shanghai!


Morton's, The Steakhouse
Shop 15-16, 4/F, Shanghai, IFC Mall, 8 Century Avenue,
Pudong New Area, Shanghai, 200120, China
Tel: +86 2160 7588 88                                          
www.mortons.com


Maybe It's Just Me

Back in the day, when I was still a college student, I would walk to class and notice an Asian woman riding her bike on campus. I know it was the same woman because she was covered head-to-toe in garments; I couldn't even see her face. At the time, I couldn't understand why someone would want to be covered like that, especially on hot summer days in Los Angeles. Since living in Shanghai, however, I have noticed that a lot of people wear masks as they are riding around the city on their bikes. A friend tells me that many Chinese people have a phobia of breathing bad air, and will run air-conditioners with their windows wide open because they don't want to breathe the air that comes out of the air-conditioner. Maybe it's just me, but it seems a little strange that people would be afraid to breathe bad air in this country, especially because these people smoke like chimneys!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 25, 2011

Although the technology has not yet been proven, the Chinese Leaf car is dubbed as a "carbon negative" vehicle that emits oxygen into the air, as water vapor, as it drives. The roof, which is shaped like a leaf and gives the car it's name, is made of photvoltaic cells that take in energy from the sun. The wheel turbines generate energy as they spin when the car is moving, and work best when the car is going downhill. It's on display at the Chinese Pavilion in Shanghai
at the site of the 2010 World Expo.