With that being said, our trip is still making us very happy, and we are thankful that we made the choice to come. We are learning the quirks of social interaction, getting very familiar with the city, and meeting lots of interesting new people. On New Year's Day, we got some good luck and met three new friends - two from the U.S. (Minnesota) and one from Finland. Hopefully that is a sign of good things to come in the new year. It's so awesome to go places and meet people from around the world. Simply being here is enough to strike up great conversation with someone, and getting their take on things (assuming they speak English, haha) can be valuable in so many ways. We talk about things like where we're from and why we're here. But we also help each other out by passing along information on where to buy stuff, how to do things, and what to watch out for. I hope that doesn't sound too naive; we are definitely not running around wide-eyed and taking candy from every stranger we come across. I mean, come on people, it's not like we think this place is, um, Shangri-La.
A lot of my conversations with expats has revolved around business, as that seems to be the common bond of a lot of expats. For example, all three people we met on New Year's Day are here on business. The guy from Minnesota runs a rubber business, probably most known for it's squeegees on the back of machines that clean floors -- most of those little squeegees are produced by this guy's company. The guy from Finland came here to open up a mobile app development company, he said the cheap and educated labor enticed him to come to Shanghai. The mobile app-website design-web development companies seem to be plentiful out here. With so many people here on business, it's hard not to let one's entrepreneurial imagination run wild.
Tiffany also had something to say about talking to expats: No matter who we meet, it's always fun to hear their "story" of how, why, when they came to China. Just about everyone, no matter where they're from, tells a similar story. Everyone's been here either a few days or a few years, they almost always say they came for business opportunities, and they love it here as well. It's fun to meet people who have been in Shanghai 2-3 years and are still in love with the city. I always wonder if I'm going to hear complaining about the strange and sometimes annoying customs and cultures of the Chinese people from the people who have been here a long time, but I never do.
Mada s.p.a.m. had a New Year's party last Friday (yes, they were 7 days late; nothing like a belated New Year's celebration to kick off a year that's already started, right?). I got a couple great photos of the firm employees and I thought you all might like to see it.
Last week we also had a chance to visit the Jing'an Temple on West Nanjing Road. This temple is the oldest shrine in Shanghai, and it is a landmark that tourists from all over the world come to visit while here. The original temple was built in 247 A.D., during the Three Kingdoms period, but was later moved to Nanjing Road in 1216 A.D. during the Song Dynasty. One of the cool things about this place, and much of Shanghai in general, is the fact that rich history sits amongst skyscrapers and modern society. It's also kind of interesting to me that temples can be a major tourist draw, considering that they are places where people go to worship their deity. Can you imagine, for those of you who attend church or synagogue, having tourists stop by for a picture of you praying? Haha, anyways, it was only 30RMB (less than $5) for our entry fee into Jing'an Temple, so we definitely wanted to check it out.
It has been getting ridiculously cold here in the past few weeks. We've been in the 30-degree range for a while, but it actually feels a lot colder than that because of the humidity. The guy we met from Finland on New Year's Day said he originally moved here because he was tired of the sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures in Finland, but has decided it's just as cold here on some days as it is there. I cannot attest to that, but I will say that the weather is starting to affect our decision to go outside and wander the streets for stuff to put on our blog!
Our next mandatory visa leave is coming up in three weeks, and we are planning on visiting Japan. I don't think the weather is any hotter up there but we're pretty excited about going. Tiffany is especially excited to cross another Disneyland off of her list, when we get to Tokyo. I just hope she remembers this little escapade when we return to the U.S., and I tell her about my goal of going to every NFL stadium for a game...
Things To Do in Shanghai
Maybe It's Just Me
Being an outsider in China can sometimes feel a little awkward, and locals have no problem staring at outsiders for several minutes at a time. I'm the type of guy who likes to sit in the back of a restaurant, and otherwise not cause a stir when I go places. But when I went to lunch in Ningbo about a month ago, I realized that my anonymity may be slipping away. I sat down to a quiet lunch at a dumpling restaurant next to a hair salon, and the owner was the only person in the restaurant. She looked so happy when I walked in, and quickly cleared off one of the dirty tables for me to sit down. It was very nice of her to do that, but for some reason she wouldn't stop smiling and staring at me. Waiting for my food felt like an eternity. As she was attempting to open up a conversation with some kind of English, her phone rang. She continued to stare as she was talking to the caller, while also nodding her head and giggling. I could have swore she said something about me, because a moment later another lady from the hair salon came over, stared at me from the restaurant doorway, and started giggling too. For a moment I thought they might catch on to how awkward the moment felt for all of us and go back to their work, before I realized that maybe it was just me.