So as we arrived in China in early August 2012, it was a completely different feeling from 2011. We landed in the Pudong Airpot and we all were so familiar with it it felt like home. With the number of trips we took last year, we had been in and out of it so many times that we now know our way around it. Further, Pudong is really a well organized and user-friendly airport. It feels efficient and there are really no hassles.
We knew exactly how to get through customs, how to gather our bags, how to get a cab, how to tell the cab driver where to go in Mandarin, how to make sure he was going the correct way, etc. It was nice. We arrived at our pad, our new pad that is, and although we had changed apartments, the building itself still felt like home. To recap - our land lord ended our lease in early June. We had a week to find a new place. With the help of Jin Mae and SAS, at the last minute we were able to get a lease on the apartment across the hall and up one floor. So when we left in June, half of our stuff was in boxes and the rest was going to be packed up by a moving company and transferred to our new pad. Thus we had a little bit of excitement and some trepidation arriving in August. Sure enough, though, when we arrived, the management office had our "new" keys, we were able to get into our new apartment, and Zhang had bought a 1,000 RMB worth of groceries the day before and stocked our pantry and fridge. It was a nice welcome home.
We settled in and went to bed at a reasonable hour, say 9:00. I had to work the next day and the rest of that week so I was eager to get a good nights sleep and start fresh. I'm am still surprised today how easily I overcame the jetlag and moved right into working-man-mode. The girls took advantage of the week they had off and watched the entire series of the Hairy Potter movies #'s 1 - 7. Then they each took turns reading the series of books. This of course took a little more than a week, but by September 1st, Quinn had reread the entire Series, and Josephine had read it for the first time. Granted, she started on her Birthday in Early July. None the less, by early September, when she had read the entire series, she began again and just recently finished the 7th book and thus the entire series for a second time. Ohh Oh Oh for youthful obsession.
The first weekend back we hopped on a shuttle to Metro, an equivalent of Costco, and bought a plethora of groceries. As we looked at all that was available, we were amazed at how easy it was and how much we struggled last year to try to find stuff. As with any difficulty in life, if you set it down and leave it alone for a while, it seems so much less complex when you return.
The best part of our new pad is the roof top deck. We are on the 4th and top floor, and so as a bonus, there is a spiral staircase on our deck which leads to the roof top deck. This is a massive expanse that has the same footprint as our apartment, which is larger than the footprint of our house in Englewood. We knew early on that we wanted to get some nice outdoor furniture for this hot spot. Thus during our trip to metro, we found some nice Rattan furniture. As we were about to close the deal, this Chinese dude, Jimmy, calls on Bridget's cell phone and says, NO, don't buy it, I'lll beat what ever deal you've got. Bridget had been dealing with this dude on the phone a few days ago, but the timing of his call was a sign that we should go with him. A mild three weeks later, the 6-peice Rattan set that Jimmy sold us arrived on our sidewalk. Problem was, it wont fit through the sliding glass door and up the spiral staircase.
No problem for the Matuscheks. We gathered the 30 foot extension cord that Zhang had left in our washroom. I dangled it from the rooftop, Bridget wrapped it around the furniture, Josephine and Quinn were guides and piece by piece we hoisted it up to the roof. Sweet. It is nice to have an awesome outdoor experience from the comfort of our own home. We can see stars up there. AND, on clear days, we can see all the way to the Pearl Tower. Life is good.
This city of 23,000,000 becomes so much more manageable and conceivable after having lived here for a year. We spent a day last weekend walking around the French Concession. Bridget knows that place now like her own back yard. I'm good, but I'm still reliant on my I phone GPS. We let Josephine and Quinn walk well ahead of us, but in view, and decide which way to go at each intersection, Bridget and I just followed. It was an adventure to move around the many streets of that vibrant neighborhood, the shops, the people, the energy, it is really nice.
Josephine and Quinn have developed a fairly healthy friendship though this experience. We've come to see that they rely on each other daily as friends for laughs, support, and whatever. It is quite a pleasure to watch them - 5.5 years apart - share so much conversation and laughter.
One of my favorite parts about living here is the time that we are afforded as a result of living in an apartment and living so close to school. Living on one floor (well, one floor that is, plus our roof-top deck!!) the living/dining area plays such a central role. We seem to be around each other quite a bit, no matter what we're doing. Don't get me wrong, the pad is large enough for each of us to have our own retreats, even with visitors like Chris and Bryson, we, are able to "get away" but it also is a great layout for hanging out together. We rented an electronic piano from the school so there is even more music in the pad now, which is nice.
The second part of that is the proximity to school. School here starts at 8:10 and is a 5 minute bike ride for each of us. Thus, we all get up at about the same time, we have breakfast together, and we leave at relatively the same time. I see Quinn at school on a regular basis (even on the days when she doesn't have math) and Josephine is not too far away.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Saturday, October 6, 2012
We took a bike ride today Northwest out of Zhudi to the rice paddies. The air this fall has been exceptionally clear and the smog has been minimal, but today is was quite bad. We rode across bedi lu behind the singapore school and soon were in the rural suburbs of Shanghai. The two lane highway turned to single lane road turned to pavement wide enough for a truck and soon to a road 5 feet wide wandering through the farm villages.
Plenty of people lined the way, all staring as usual but eager to say hello with a smile. Josephine led the way for the most part and needed to find a bathroom soon enough. However, the rural public restrooms - which just appear out of nowhere and not far from the rural village, making wonder what they're doing there in the first place - are not the cleanest pieces of tile around. Thus, Josephine smiled and decided she didn't have to go bad enough.
After about a half hour, we came across a huge patch of rice paddies, maybe a few square miles, very large expanse. We followed a path the circumnavigated the watery area and arrived at a road through another village. Very soon the village ended a massive shopping mall nearly constructed appeared. The had signs above all of these store fronts, "Coffee Shop", "Grape and Vine wine store" "Good Food Grocery Store" "On-line Book Store" etc. all of these had the same design on the store front but were empty inside. Somebody's idea waiting to happen....
We turned around and headed back. This time when we passed the "public" toilet, I needed it and went in. Josephine could no longer resist, so she bravely got some kleenex from her mom and ventured in. She survived.
It is a treat to live so close to the labyrinth of paths that wind through these rice fields making for a great day's biking adventure. When I was out last week I came across a dude fishing and stopped to watch him for a while. He had a telescopic pole that extended to about 15 feet. I had heard about this in a Grand Lake fly shop this summer. Fly fisherman use them because of their length, it makes for good placement, and because of the telescopic aspect, it makes it easy to access the business end of the pole. This dude wasn't fly fishing but was using the pole in this exact manner. He kept telescoping it in to access his hook, then out - way out - and control the placement. He caught probably two dozen of these little fish that he kept in a jar and took home. Dinner.