a biker coffee bar and “cheese sticks”.

Tomorrow (October 1st) begins the National Holiday Golden Week in China. Always from October 1-October 7 schools are closed and most businesses are as well to give workers time off to visit their families and travel.

Molly and I had discussed traveling during this period, but as we arrived in China in late August and didn’t get settled into our own place and begin school until September, other things occupied our time and when we began looking into where to go prices were through the roof to go anywhere.  We were rather sad about not getting to get away for a few days as we had hoped, but we are thinking we might try again in December.  As for this week, we have been warned by our coworkers about “people mountain, people sea”.  This is the Chinese idiom meaning huge crowds of people EVERYWHERE.  As if things were not crowded enough, I can only imagine what getting around Shanghai in the next few days will be like as we venture out and explore more of the city.

I have been sick with a bad cold the last few days and am finally recovering. My kids were so sweet and concerned about me, especially when I started wearing my glasses to work instead of my contacts, they believed my sickness was also making me blind.  I still came to work just to teach in the mornings even though I felt like death and then went home to crash afterwards.  We had to work this past Sunday to make up for a Monday holiday a couple weeks ago (the logic train derailed somewhere for me around ‘working on a Sunday’, so I have no further explanation…). I’ve been feeling better as the day goes on and cabin fever has set in so I left the apartment after work with Molly and a couple of my other coworkers to go to our nearby “western street” we have come to love.  Not feeling like walking around the mall or much of anywhere I decided to make camp in a new coffee shop and get some work done, I’m hoping to try to get ahead over the break, this might be wishful thinking!  This coffee shop I’m residing in appeared normal at first and then I sat down and was glancing at the walls and it is laden with dozens of pictures of a Chinese biker gang (is that the right term?)/group/organization, and all the places they have been. I believe this coffee shop/restaurant might be their home base.  The places I seem to stumble into never cease to amaze me…

As for their food…a great latte, better than where I normally visit.  And for dinner, now that my appetite has returned, I ordered (don’t judge, I promise you would order this if you saw it on a menu here too and hadn’t eaten much of anything in the last few days) popcorn chicken and cheese sticks.  The popcorn chicken was SO GOOD.  I’m so happy, I will definitely order it again.  The cheese sticks…

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Yes, that is french bread with melted cheese, drizzled with ketchup, which I think ruins any food.  I understand everyone to be either a lover of ketchup or an enemy of ketchup, I am the latter.  I’m just getting a to go box for it and I think Molly will like it, so not completely wasted.

I will report back on people mountain, people sea during Golden Week…

apartment tour

Our apartment in Shanghai is located theoretically next door to our school.  Because of a canal and many gates it’s actually a 20 minute walk to get to work.   A couple days of facing environmental elements have made it not that fun, but overall I like walking to work.  There are no major grocery stores or western restaurants or coffee shops or the like within walking distance of our apartment but there are a few smaller convenience type stores, lots of noodles, dumplings, other Chinese restaurants, and an endless string of random storefronts that offer a specific niche of items like picture frames, bedding, or office supplies.  A 15 minute or so cab ride though can take us either to the subway or to the closest more western area of town with the essentials, a larger supermarket/department store, coffee shops, “the western place” (the first western restaurant we discovered nearby and so thats what it became referred to as), a great place to get a manicure, etc.

I will write posts in the future about some of my favorite finds around town, but here I’ll show you around my apartment.  The apartment was completely furnished, we just purchased linens, kitchen items, etc.

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getting off the elevator

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welcome to our home.

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after passing the downstairs half bath, you see our living room to the left.  the windows are huge, 17′ long looking out into our complex and across to the main street.  and yes, we have a huge purple couch.  you would see heinous pink and white satin curtains too but I found a way to take them down and turn them around so you only see when matte white lining.  Chinese decorating bewilders me.

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one of my favorite things I brought from home that hangs in the living room.

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homage to a city and people I dearly love and miss.

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next when you turn back to the right you will see our dining area where Molly and I share many a laugh before we leave for work and at the end of the day.  when the skies are clear we have a wonderful view of downtown (pictures don’t really capture it, I quit trying, you’ll just have to come visit).

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then you will turn right from the dining area and into the kitchen.  that thing that looks like an oven is not really an oven, by the way,   it’s a dish sanitizer which we never use  and which is not the same as a dishwasher, we don’t have one of those either, so I wash dishes a lot.  we found out the hard way we don’t have an oven, but at least at the end of that lesson, brownie batter tastes just as good as baked brownies.  the wok and the pot are sitting out not because we are cooking but because those are the only pots and pans we own (aside from the now obsolete brownie pan we bought), so they just stay out on the stove.

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we have lots of great counter space and cabinets, but only 1 drawer, so we have a junk cabinet instead that has many random things it it.

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next you’ll walk from the kitchen back towards the front door and you will pass our washer.  where is the dryer, you ask?

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here it is.  the succulent was left from the previous tenant. I think it’s cute and makes me smile when I go to hang up everything to dry and when I go to collect it all and everything smells like smog.  it’s the little things.

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headed upstairs…

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to the right is my bedroom.  thank you IKEA.

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I have the same massive window that is downstairs.

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Back in May when I saw this cover of Texas Monthly I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  Now it hangs in my bedroom here in Shanghai.

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my closet makes up for some things I do without.

I would put a picture of my bathroom here, but there was just no good angle to get a picture.  so imagine an all white modern looking bathroom.  it’s great too.

I feel I should make a disclaimer that our apartment is not 100% typical of China.  It was designed by a German architect and is fairly new.  It is A LOT nicer than I  expected and just happens to be the closest complex to work, however the trade off is we are not conveniently located next to a subway, so ups and downs but mostly up.  It really feels like home and is where I look forward to coming to at the end of the day.

swedish meatballs & barley yogurt

Living abroad changes you from the moment you step off the plane. When you are in a foreign country for an indefinite amount of time you make decisions a lot differently than you do when you are on vacation. You enter survival mode and all of sudden things are weighed as necessary or unnecessary? What resources will be required? How much time will it take? How much money will it cost? Will it fit in a cab? How do I get there? There is no concierge ready and waiting at your beck and call to make your stay the most pleasurable it can be. Instead of asking, “What do I want for dinner?” you ask, “Where can I get to easily enough and order something digestible?” Dumplings, noodles, the coffee/pizza place or the other western place. Those are the current options on a work night. Noodles and dumplings are a walkable distance away and super cheap, the others require who knows how long of a cab ride and are more expensive.

So tonight, while we were at IKEA around dinnertime, Molly and I walked past the restaurant inside and both turned and looked at each other with the knowing question, “Have you ever eaten inside IKEA??” Neither of us had and we knew it would be the path of least resistance for dinner and gladly ventured in. That’s another thing about living abroad, you all of a sudden become so open-minded to trying anything because your options are limited, knowing if it turns out well, it increases them that much more. Today I also tried strawberry barley yogurt (that came served with a straw). When your stomach is still growling after the cafeteria lunch where you only ate rice and some vegetable that was a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower, you try the weird dairy product that someone hands you that previously caused you to turn your nose up.  While at IKEA I tried the infamous Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and it made my day.