Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 20

What's up everybody! I wanted to take a minute and reassure those who have called and wrote in the past few days that we are safe, and everything is okay. It's a little troubling that we were in Tokyo, Japan, just three short weeks ago, and that today it stands as a seemingly different place in many ways. 49+ countries around the world came to the immediate aid of Japan in the aftermath of the country's largest earthquake, which goes to show that the world is behind them. I can't imagine what things are like there now, but our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.

So the last few days in Shanghai have been really nice because the weather has been perfect! 60 degrees with very little humidity is a lot better than the 30-40 degree weather we've gotten used to over the last few months. Before we came we heard a lot of horror stories about the unbearable humidity of Shanghai but, so far, it's been fine. In fact, the only time in the last few days that we've noticed the humid weather is at night, when the fog is heavy and thicker than a milkshake.

Throughout the time I've been writing this blog, I've tried to avoid talking about politics, mainly out of fear that I (not Tiffany) would alienate readers who are either uninterested or might not agree with certain views. But those who know me best also know that politics is one of my passions, and I often look at the world with that topic in mind.

Having said that, one of the most interesting subjects I studied in college was the case of China, so prior to coming here there were certain preconceptions I had about the country and system we would be living in. Shanghai was one of the first "Special Economic Zones" in China, which are areas designated by leadership to serve as centers for business and trade. These zones are given more latitude in an economic and regulatory sense, and this flexibility is what makes them especially interesting to me because they embody what makes China's system so unique: These zones are where the ideals of Capitalism and Communism intersect. It has been fascinating over the last five months to see first-hand the daily life of ordinary folks in a Communist system, particularly in Shanghai given it's special status. Below are some photos that I've collected while roaming the streets, and they capture what I think is the essence of Capitalism: entrepreneurial spirit. After crossing paths with these people, and many others like them, it seems to me that there is no shortage of people in China who want to start businesses, look for ways to profit off of their productivity, and, well, capitalize. Alright, I'm done boring you, please don't hold it against Tiffany!

This guy was selling everything except the kitchen sink -- rice, meat,
drinks, DVDs, CDs, etc. What's more, he is waving me off
because he wanted to charge me for taking photos of his stand, haha!
Young people using brochures to sell everything from
watches to clothes to vacation packages.

Last week we decided to check out the Dongtai Antique Market, a well-known place to buy "antique" Chinese trinkets and other stuff. As the name suggests, it's on Dongtai Road, just north of Fuxing Road. The Dongtai Antique Market is the last flea market in Shanghai that's dedicated to selling antiques, and even though many items may be fake, there is a chance that a trained eye could get something authentically old. But for us, it's still a great place to get some things that look old, haha, so we can decorate our empty apartment with cool Chinese stuff! One downside to the market is, not surprisingly, dealing with all of the aggressive vendors, who pull you into their stores and won't leave you alone if you're looking at something interesting. It's a little difficult to enjoy browsing through things when you're constantly telling a vendor, or the traveling shoe-cleaner, "no." But if you can go into the market knowing that this is simply the way things are, and keep a smile on your face, you can have a pretty good experience. We are starting to become pros in the art of "Shopping in China", haha.

Tiffany has been watching the news a lot lately, so she wants to start talking about News in China for our blogs:

The culture of marriage in China is quite different from that of the United States. One big difference that I’ve noticed so far is that, in China, the family does not typically meet their child’s significant other until after they have gotten engaged. A friend was so shocked that my family had met Mike already. He exclaimed “but what if they don’t like the person you’re dating!” This made me laugh, since I know this happens all the time in the U.S. 

Another big difference in marriage is that in China a man should own a home before he enters into a marriage. Also, women after being married once, and then subsequently divorced are unlikely to ever get remarried. Therefore, the home becomes an issue in the case of a divorce. In the 1950s a new marriage law was written in China. This law encouraged free marriage and marrying for love by abolishing practices like arranged marriages. This law was supposed to protect women by making any property brought into the marriage the property of the marriage and, in the case of a divorce, a 50/50 split between the couple. However, because of the rising prices of real estate in China, families have begun to buy the homes for their sons so they can get married. So recently another new marriage law was enacted stating that whoever's name is on the title to the home, gets the home in the case of a divorce. This law, in effect, protects the family or the individual who purchased the home before the marriage so they can get it back in the case of a divorce. Many people in China have been outraged by this law and have stated that it is taking away from a woman's rights. On the other hand, it does seem fair if the husband or husband's family had purchased the home and the wife hadn't contributed anything at all! What do you think? (Feel free to leave comments explaining your position on this controversial issue in China!)

Thanks for reading our blog this week! Please check out the poll we've included in this week's post, as we're looking to get your feedback on the type of content you guys find interesting! Until next week, take care!

Things To Do in Shanghai

Enjoy the Shanghai Art Scene
Shanghai is known for its wonderful art collections. From small sidewalk galleries to large city museums, all types of galleries can be found here. The Shanghai Art Museum (www.sh-artmuseum.org.cn, 325 Nanjing Xi Lu) was originally built as a horse racing clubhouse in 1933 and now hosts a wonderful collection of modern Chinese art. The Shanghai Art Museum is home to the Shanghai Biennale and Kathleen's 5 Rooftop Restaurant. Art Scene Warehouse (www.artscenewarehouse.com , 2/F, Bldg #4, 50 Moganshan Road) is located in Suzhou Creek artists’ quarter and is extremely reputable for their modern and emerging Chinese artists. For more information on the best galleries in Shanghai, please visit: www.best-shanghai.com/shanghai/art.html

Maybe It's Just Me

I'm a big fan of sleep, and I'm not usually one to criticize anyone for a quick snooze. The day we arrived in Shanghai we had a big job: find an apartment as soon as possible (especially because we only had our hotel reserved for two nights). So we immediately beat the streets and looked for a place to stay. We found one building that looked pleasant, so we walked into the lobby and found the whole staff asleep -- behind the desk, sitting on chairs in the lobby, and one person slumped over on the floor. We didn't want to wake them, and we decided to look somewhere else. After all, who wants to live in a building where anyone can get in because the staff is sleeping, right?

We eventually found a great apartment with a lively staff in the building lobby. But recently, we've gotten home late from being out and noticed that a certain security guard has been making herself at home:

At least she's facing the screen that displays all of our security camera footage...

We have to type in a code to get into the building, and it is right outside the security guard's door. We type in a code and get buzzed in, which can be a rather loud process, and it would even be tough for me to sleep through. It's a little funny that this security guard wasn't phased at all when we came in the front door, got buzzed in, opened and shut the door, and then took photos of her. Maybe it's just me, but isn't it somewhat of a red flag to supervisors if a security guard brings a blanket and pillows to work?!

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