Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday

My birthday was last Friday.  Something was planned for me right after school.  Then Quinn got detention (4 tardies!!) and then wanted to go to the Volley ball game with friends and Josephine was invited to a 3-way sleepover.  That left Just Bridget and I and that was just wonderful!  We took a cab to the subway and then downtown.  The cab ride was unique because the driver didn't understand my directions to the Metro Station.  Although far from fluent I'm getting pretty good at saying the word for the the station.  This fellow acted like he'd never heard of it so we showed him on a chinese map - still nothing. So we drive around in circles for a while and he finally asks some people for help.  This happens twice and we finally are heading in the right direction.

Now where we live has only one road to and from the Metro station.  It is an old dirt road with an old bridget that has only one lane.  During the busy part of the day it is PACKED with people, walking, biking, driving, standing, setting up shop to sell their good, dogs, geese, you name it.  This rookie taxi driver apparently is also mr. polite as he let everyone go first over the bridge.  You just don't do that here.  People try hard enough on their own to got first, they don't need any "help" so we sat for a while and visited until he finally got us across the bridge.

Once at the station we had a nice ride downtown, had a drink atop the the glass windowed Rotating 47th floor of the Raddison hotel, and then pizza in pudong.  What a great way to turn 45!


Some celebrated event took place on Wednesday night.  Josephine was supposed to be in bed sleeping and started hooting about something. I ran over to tell her to fall asleep when she pointed out the fire works.  Whatever the event, it was worth celebrating with a bang after her bed time.  Fireworks are kind of a big deal here.  At least once a week there is a long series of bang bang bang that goes on somewhere around us.  We will most likely be hear for Chinese New year when firecrackers are a real big deal.

Weekend Bike Ride

Bridget and I went out riding last Sunday.  We rode about 30 km (We're totally into the metric thing) northwest of where we live through some farmlands and rice fields.  A couple in the neighborhood has been hear a while and bikes a lot so we had a guide.  There is quite a bit of farming in Shanghai but witht he massive development it has moved further and further out.  This guy here was standing in about 2 feet of water harvesting crop.

Anyhow once out of town we rode on these small paths that wind through farms and peoples homes following canals and waterways.  Eric and Mariam (These are parents of a friend of Quinns) led us through  these roads some were new to them as well.  It seems like you could get lost quite easily but as Eric says, just head back East and you'll hit the highway soon enough.

We saw plenty of make shift homes where the laborers live.  Not the most ideal living conditions.  Ya get a good sense of the population density out here.  Structures on farms with many families and many generations living in them.  Bridget had a low BG at one point and we stopped for a snack outside someones home.  Slowly the family comes out to say hi and see who the newcomers are.  Soon a fellow shows up on his truck-bike with a delivery of fresh garlic for the family.  They little boy comes out and gathers a large armful of garlic from the peddler, some cash changes hand, friendly gestures our way and he moves on.

 No one seems concerned about tress passing, you just go where you want. Eric says, well the state owns all the land, but at the same time you see people who have financially benefited quite a bit by selling some of their land - or at least I hear of this...improv communism.

Besides lots and lots of rice, we saw corn, spinach, cucumber, gords, lettuce, some fruit trees, and more rice.  Not to many machines though.  Most of the work looks like it is done by hand round here.  Workers out in the field squatting down.
We found a farm that we like for ourselves.  It is completely organic.  They deliver a big bunch or organic chinese vegetables to our door every Monday for about $15 a week.  All kinds of funky potatoes, lettuce, onion garlic, peppers, okra, eggplant (lots of okra and eggplant), beans, peas, and it varies from week to week.  It really is not a bad deal.  The farm is in Pudong and it's called "tony's farm."  Bridget met them and said the farm workers didn't look like anyone named Tony.  Creative Marketing.  The other funny thing is that you pay a year in advance.  So we forked over like $750 for a year's worth of vegies.  Some dude who doesn't speak chinese showed up at my door two weeks ago on his bike with a ton of vegies and I sent him on his way with a ton of cash.  I guess the organic chinese farmers with american names are very trustworthy 'cause he showed up this week too.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How stuff gets done in China

China sends in the A team for everything all the time.  If a job needs done around here three times as many people as necessary show up and knock it out in record time.  When our computer got stolen - 12 police and security guards were on location.  When we needed the toilet seat installed (needed?) the team of three showed up.  Two showed up to remove hair from our drain.  I've seen 15 gardeners at the school to plant grass pods in a small strip near the school building.  People here talk about how 10 years ago there were no cars in shanghai and only bikes.  You wouldn't believe it now based on the traffic and massive elevated highways.  Apparently these huge highways were built in record time, probably because of the sheer numbers on the work force they had.

Look at the photo below.  This is how my classroom gets cleaned every day.  A team of 3 ayis show up to do the cleaning and trash emptying.  Now I teach high school math.  I don't have any sparkles, or paint, or construction paper cutting remnants, or glue.  I have some eraser rubber on the floor that you would never see and maybe a scrap piece of paper or two.  But this team of three is in there watta boom watta bang every classroom.  Notice the security guard supervising.  I guess he's there to make sure they're working, or  not doing anything they shouldn't.


We finally got ourselves some bicyles.  We caught  the local shuttle  to a metro stop.  Metro to the Brilliance West mall where we scoped out the scene at the local sproting goods store (A french shop called Decathelon) and then headed over to the Giant and Trek dealers.  Bridget scored big time with a classic HUGE candy apple red beach cruiser with no hand brakes - gotta pedal backwards to stop this baby.  Guy at the store claimed it was the only one in Shanghai, we'll see about that.  None the less, she is styling  around on this sweet ride..

  Jo and Quinn each got these little kid mnt bikes.  Quinn was easy to find a good bike for, Josephine had more discrimintating tastes but found a sky blue 24" giant.  The shop owner was trying to get me into a mountain bike right away showing me how nice the latest in disc break and front suspension technology was.   I'm thinking, "I've mountained biked all over Colorado, I know when I need a mountain bike."  I found a "city bike" that I liked - like a hybrid with 700 wheels but a mnt frame - no suspension.   So all is happy and we were too tired to ride them home so the salesman called a "truck" and I sent the girls home in a cab.  The truck is like a cab but his meter is just more expensive.  We carefully loaded the four bikes in his truck and he drove me home as he smoked chinese cigs.

Once home, Bridget and I went for a quick ride around the neighborhood while the girls crashed - dead tired...too much shopping.  The whole bike deal probably took a good 4 hours.  So B and I are riding and she's just cruising along on these tires of hers that are 26 inch diameter but like 3 inches thick so she's not feeling any of the bumps our cobble-stone neighborhood streets are throwing at us.  Meanwhile I'm getting all jostled around, feeling every bump and soon realize that although Shanghai is flat, it is bumpy as all get out.  Plus the traffic is insane so the start and stop ease of a mnt bike is what I want!!  Woops.  So we get back and I call Tim, the Chinese Trek dealer and explain my situation.  He says that tomorrow is the big full moon holiday and as long as I can get the bike to him by 5:30 CLEAN he'll swap it out for a mnt bike.  SO, I take one of these Truck Cabs BACK to his shop and find a mnt bike.  "I told you 'Mountain bike'" he says to me.  "yes, yes"  I Chinese.

This time I ride home.  18 km through Western Shanghai - Puxi.  What a great way to see the city.  Negotiating traffic is a bit hairy but doable and tons of fun.  I get back to Zhudi where I'm supposed to meet the girls at a market where they're buying costumes for the Founders Festival at school - we're supposed to dress up like 1912.   Soon I'm in so deep with pedestrians, other cyclists, motorcyclists, bike taxis, cars trucks, food, animals, kids all over the place and what not.  Cant move at all - just a mass in the street.  Glad I have a mnt bike. I spot Josephine over by the live fish (ewwww! she says, but they do look cool) and we have a nice ride home once we get out of the crowd.  The pic above shows the local market and then our nice bike ride home.  In the pic below, you can see the bike taxi ahead of bridget - it's like a scooter/bike and can fit two adults or 4 kids in the bake.  This has been our main transportation around Zhudo....UNTIL NOW!!!

Josephine now rides her bike to school.  It is so nice to see them because we really can explore around us  so much more and boy there sure is alot quite around us.  It is a big city.  My neighbor, Eric, says that you can be out in the country in rice paddies and what not within a 10 minute bike ride - I'm anxious to see that.

We got bikes

Woke up sunday morning and decided it was time to get some wheels.  Headed by local shuttle bus to the metro and by metro to the mall.  The French sporting good

Josephine is taking tennis lessons

Josephine is taking tennis lesson at a neigboring school through a kids rec program.  She's got a little tennis racket but it fits her well.  This is on Thursday afternoons.  She and Quinn and I took a monster walk in 90 degree heat and 135% humidity to get her there.  I'm not kidding, well maybe hyperbole. It didn't rain but it was so humid it felt like walking through egg yolk.  I had parent teacher conferences that night and was wearing full gear pants, shirt, and tie.  Q & I laid on the grass and watched her lesson for an hour while I worked up a sweat.  Josephine worked up a sweat as well.  Bridget took her by bicycle the following lesson as it really is a bit too far to walk.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

These guys fishing for cuttbow?

Walked to a Doctor's appt after school today and saw these dudes fishing.  If you look you can see the length of the left hand fellows 15'+ pole is nothing to shake a stick at.  Not sure what they were pulling out of there, and not sure that I'd like to eat it, but I do wish I brought my fly gear.  Equally interesting is the "wet market" directly accross the street from the river here sells all type of vegies and meats out on the outdoor venues.  The seafood section is the most interesting with more fish than a pet store and frogs, turtles, eels, funky snails, clams, and crustaceans galore.  I wonder if these dudes just walk their catch accross the street.  On the back side of the wet market is a row of about 20 noodle shops.  They just throw open the steel rolling door each morning and begin cooking.  The whole block is alive with aromas as the day progesses.  This is directly accross the street from the school.  The food is cooked both in and out of doors.  As evening rolls around the places start filling up and by dark it is alive with all ages  running around.  Everyone seems to be eating and there is plenty of food on the bar-b-que all evening long.  Little kids run around and grandmas and grandpas sit in chairs watching. All taking place on the sidewalk.  One shop will have noodles, another, rice, all with plenty of veggies and fixins' then the next shop they'll be remodeling with some type of gypsum and tile.  It's all closed and cleaned when I go to school in the morning and all back up and running by afternoon.  I keep thinking we live in a small town, (Zhudi Town) but after all, it is part of Shanghai and the bigillion folk that live all over the place.

Josephine had a play date with her friend Emma.  Bridget and I went to get her about 6:30 in the evening.  We grabbed a rickshaw - an electric powered bicycle with room for two in the back.  This has become our favorite means of transportation.  About 75 cents for a ride down JinFeng Road dodging traffic is well worth it.

By the way - this is what traffic is like on JinFeng Lu.  If you've ever skiied down Cranmer (or similar main artery blue run) at about 3:10 where skiiers and borders are everywhere and you're very aware cause there just is this flow of everyone going a different speed and trying not to get hit.  That is what traffic is like on JinFeng Lu.  There are big old cement trucks, minivans, sedans, motorcycles, and tons of electric bycicles, scooters, and manual bicycles.  All of them going their own speed and all of them using their own interpretation of what exactly a red light means...because it sure the hell doesn't mean stop.  People execute turns and THEN manuver around whoever is in the way.  You just need to keep your eyes open.

Bridget and Quinn got out of this electric bike the other day with bug eyes after crossing 4 lanes of traffic  in both directions by Methusala-esque pilot.

Anyhow, Bridget and I take the rickshaw to Forrest Manor which is a gated community of very large houses and the security guards won't let the bicyle on the grounds.  So we have to walk at the gate.  It is getting dark as we start looking for unit 2-136.  Within 20 minutes it is pitch black and we can't find a darn thing.  These roads wind and wind and the houses look larger and darker and darker and you can only find the address if you squint from 2 inches at the mailbox.  The signs are misleading but we finally find the house.  Once in, it is a lovely house decorated with Emma's grandfather's modern art work.  The family is from Denmark.  We grab Josephine and embark on the journey home.  Covered a few miles by foot as well as electric bicycle taxi that night.

We didn't get home until 8:45 but just in time to open the wonderful care package from Auntie Mari and Uncle Art. Lots of joy to be had - almost Christmas time.  Lots of Grand Lake goodies as well as plenty of items we've not been able to find in China.  What a great punctuation to a long day and and long week.

Bridget ran into a gal Marlene Hesse from Lone tree last week.  She and her husband Jim had just moved to Shanghai one month ago.  The have two daughters in 5th and 9th grade.  Small world.  They live about 20 minutes away and had us over for dinner last Saturday night.  He is a business man and is working on a number of projects.  One of the more interesting ones is with the Russian brothers from Daz Bog Coffee.  The idea comes from a US immigration law that allows access to a green card if you have a pre set business model with proven results.  Thus the move is to set up a few - not a lot - of Daz Bog coffee shops in Shanghai as a marketing tool to express to a motivated Chinese entrepreneur that if you like this coffee shop and you think you could run one in the US, you can get set up in a franchise and move your family to the US.  It helps Daz Bog find motivated owners of their franchise.

Land of Opportunity
It made me think about how relative the "land of opportunity" is.  Jim was promoting the idea that there are plenty of Chinese who would be interested in moving their family to the US where they would have access to a better life - run a business (Daz Bog?), have their children learn proper English, and have the opportunity to go to an American University.

On the other hand, I work with some teachers (a married couple) - good teachers - who are here because they were struggling to land decent jobs in the US with a strong administration and paycheck.  They come to Shanghai where they are paid very well as a teacher, can send their kids to a great private school and have opportunities they struggled to get back home.

September 16th 2011 marks the 99th year and the beginning of the celebration year of the first century of Shanghai American School.  It also marks Chris Rieber's and my 45th birthday.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Volley ball tourny for the Puxi Eagles on Saturday at Concordia International School.  There were 4 Shanghai international schools at the tourny.  Concordia is on the other side of the river - about a 40 minute drive to Pudong.  Our team is good

Play Ball

Friday the 2nd was the opening game for HS baseball.  The SAS Puxi Eagles (us) hosted our crosstown sibling rival the SAS Pudong Eagles.  The pitching was good, fielding fair,  the baseball entertaining as we won 8-1. It was a festive day as there were free hot dogs and pop during the pre game party.  A Canadian run Chinese school creating Americana to the T.  Josephine brought home 3 friends - (Really Bridget helped out a sick mom by watching her kids.)  All of them wandered over to the field after school.  Quinn had to stay after school for PE (Forgot her uniform one day and had to run on the treadmill for an hour as a result.)

Bridget and I sat along the 1st base line and watched the game with Jin Feng Road right behind us and the sounds of Zhudi town chinese all around.  We later got up on the roof of the new classroom building witch runs along the 3rd base line and got a spectacular view of the ball field.  We left after 7 innings, found our kids running around somewhere and went home.

One of the nicest things we've found is that we live a mere 10 minute walk through a chinese village from our school. Being a K-12 campus, the social life there is part of all four of us.  If I stay late at school I'm still home in time for Dinner, homework time after school and maybe a walk through Zhudi Town. Pic is of one of the many canals running through zhudi.  had I brought my fly rod, I'd be on the banks of this place.   I see fisherman on it all the time.  They use these ultra long rods - like 15', and I'll have to report back on the bait.  Not sure I'd eat what comes out of there.  Good place for catch and release.
There are a few teachers that live in our apartment complex but not many.  I don't see my students at the apartments.  There are a lot of Chinese and ex pat business folk there - many with kids, many not.  As a result the home neighborhood community is different from the school community.