Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's all a Conspiracy

Today the community editor announced her mom's flight was diverted from Pudong Airport to Hongqiao Airport due to weather. These airports are only about 45 kilometers from each other. And the weather on our side of the river was perfectly fine. What's worse, her mom (who was on an international flight) couldn't just disembark at Hongqiao. She had to wait until the "weather" cleared and be flown back to Pudong. Ah, bureaucracy.

Weather my eye, I thought. There's probably some sneaky PLA bullshit and/or important peoples landing out at Pudong.

But then I thought ... well, I suppose the weather could be different over on the lesser side of the river.

It's just that when you live in a country where everything qualifies as a state secret (elementary school building plans, aid money...), you're pretty much ready to believe everything is a cover up.

If the gov't says it's weather, it's not weather. If they say it isn't aliens, it is. Chef Mike made an informal survey of his kitchen staff and none of them had even heard about the aliens! Cuz that's how The Party likes to keep 'em - in the dark.

It also probably doesn't help my attitude that my dad has taken to using the term "chicoms" wherever he can fit it in...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We don't speak the same language

After five months here - and working in an office where I'm outnumbered by them - you'd think I would've adjusted to the British dialect. Sure I've picked up some of it. Even amongst ourselves, I hear Americans saying "so-and-so is 'keen on' blahblah" and using "getting pissed" instead of drunk.

But more often than I'd like to admit, I still find myself asking my co-workers to repeat themselves. But it works the other way too. Case in point, this exchange with British-marketing-dude-who-sits-downstairs (we'll call him BMDWSD) next to the coffee pot this morning:

BMDWSD: Bloop-a-bloop-a-bloop-a-bloo (safe to assume he meant good morning)

Me: Guten morgen!

BMDWSD: Whoit?

Me: Guten morgen!

BMDWSD: Whoit?

Me: Guten morgen! It's what the Germans say - hey are ya gonna have some coffee with all that fake creamer?

BMDWSD: Whoit?

Me: I said look at all that fake creamer you're putting in your coffee. Gross.

BMDWSD: I 'av no ideuh whoit youh saying this morning.

Me: Don't worry about it, just drink your coffee.

BMDWSD: Yeah okay.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good Morning Dad

I know my blog traffic has gone down the crapper, directly corresponding to the infrequency of my posts. I also know my dad gets up in the morning and checks too see if I posted. Up until now, I've only been posting when I can think of something quasi-clever or interesting to write.

But I'm a busy bee - both at work and socially - so I'm going to try a new strategy now. Post more frequently. But not worry about if the entry is a tad mundane and has a lame-o title like "Good Morning Dad."

I may be taking on more responsibility at work soon. My boss suggested it by text Sunday, I said I was interested. Monday he asked me in-person. I reiterated my interest but also said I hoped he'd toss a little more green my way...(if only I'd been more eloquent. But I wasn't.). He said something like "leave that to me" and I haven't heard anymore about it.

But I am writing the October cover story! I pitched an idea yesterday, and the chief likes it! 

Monday night Chef Mike and I went to dinner at our friends' house. We ate delicious pasta, had plenty of wine, and we all decided we're going  camping sometime in the next couple months. Then Chef Mike and I left with a stack of borrowed DVDs and a huge hardcover zombie comic book. That made us pretty giddy.

Tonight I went to dinner with my tea studio friend - the one who said I'm not a gentle lady - and today she told me I have a very American laugh, which I think means I laugh too loud. Meh. As Popeye would say, I yam what I yam.

Also at dinner was a video journalist from the Czech Republic who is reporting on Expo. We ate Sichuan food. Good thing I'm working from home tomorrow morning...Ahem.

That's it!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer in Shanghai

I took Friday off to hang with my cousin and her boyfriend. 

First, we went to the fake market and oggled all the cheap shit. Bryan looked tempted by the fake iPhones. 

"Do they work?" he asked the hawker.

"Of course they work!" hawker replied. ho ho.

Then we went to my friend Ada's tea studio. I wrote about her place for my magazine. Ada made me practice my tea ceremony for my cousin. There was lots of rattling and splashing. Ada told me I'm not a 'gentle lady,' that I make too many faces and that I'm, well, wild. Then she told me I make people choke when I perform tea ceremony (true, Bryan choked a little bit). But she said it with a smile, so I didn't feel too bad.

After that, we blew through the flower market, where there are loads of screaming crickets in little wooden holders. Then it was off to the Hyatt for free drinks at the top-floor bar with views of the Pudong skyline. We had cocktails and watched the sun set (media perks: thanks, Hyatt mar-com manager...). Dinner was all-you-can-eat sushi with friends. My friend Dani wanted to go to this club on The Bund. We got there before her, but she wound up not coming in because they wouldn't let her boyfriend in wearing flip flops. Bryan, Meghan and I were left just the three of us to ponder the Russian prostitutes sitting between old Chinese guys having bottles of Moet brought to their tables.

Saturday morning I said bye to cousin and her guy, the last of my summer visitors. This summer, ten people visited me from outside Shanghai. Only five stayed at my house, but still. I feel popular. I didn't even know I had ten friends!

After cousin left, I found this sneaky way to watch Hulu without a VPN. This was monumental. I figured then and there I wouldn't put pants on all weekend, just watch TV until my eyes bled. But then my friend invited me to the rooftop pool at one of the really nice service apartment complexes. Blue skies, big pool, not many other users. It was awesome. Saturday night we went out for Korean barbecue, and Sunday we went back to the pool again. 

Homesickness comes and goes. What pulls me the most is seeing other people's summer pictures on Facebook - hiking, camping, doing all that American stuff. 

But I had a great weekend. And that's definitely enough for now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Cousin Meghan and her boyfriend Bryan arrived Friday night. We had a busy touristy weekend, walking around, seeing the sights, eating spicy food...

Tomorrow morning I'm going to go watch Qinghai vs. Xinjiang in the National China College Baseball Tournament.

That's all the news in these parts.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Margaritas and The Starry, Starry Night

Two weeks ago, with fun-loving Katie in town, a group of us went out for happy-hour margaritas at Cantina Agave, the nearest approximation to true Mexican food I've had in Shanghai.

A couple pitchers in, Chef Mike called me over to help him with some translation. A group of Chinese guys with beautiful Harley-Davidson motorcycles had rolled up. When he was a teen, Chef Mike used to pinstripe cars and what not (his uncle is one of the top guys in the U.S. who does this kind of thing, he says). Three Harleys: Chef Mike sees a potential business deal..

Eager to help the Chef, I go over and chat them up. Talking up my roommate's skills, suggesting we get dinner sometime to discuss, yadda yadda.

Despite the fact I have key lock, my phone manages to accidentally call one of the motorcycle guys later that night, unbeknownst to me. He calls me back twice, I apologize. End of story.

The next day motorcycle guy texts me in Chinese to ask if I want to have dinner. I say no, I'm too busy (in Chinese).

Chef Mike and I piece together the night, and we both draw the conclusion this motorcycle guy probably thinks I want to be more than just pengyou

Today he texts me again about dinner. I say I have a work thing (true). He texts back, tomorrow? I say my friend is coming to town (actually it's my cousin, but cousin is a very complicated word in Chinese depending on what uncle/aunt maternal/paternal relationship there is - so I just call her my friend). He texts me back what I believe says, "Tell me when you have free time."

As a side note: Sans margaritas, Chef Mike isn't really that interested in pin-striping anymore. He's too busy cooking food. However, I'm sort of interested in doing a story on motorcycle culture in China. So I'd like to establish some professional decorum.

But I'm at work. And I'm busy. So I don't double-check my Mandarin dictionary. I write back, what I believe to say, 'I'll have more time at the beginning of next month."

He writes back, in English, "Great! I love the starry night!"


I blow it off. I have uploading to do.

Tonight I went out to dinner with friend-Mike (not to be confused with the Chef). Friend-Mike's Chinese is well beyond mine, as he's about to go back to Berkley for his Phd in languages...

I explain the story to Friend-Mike and tell him to give my phone a gander.

Turns out I guessed right about all the texts I I tell Mike to look at my responses.

Turns out I didn't say, "I'll have more time next month." I said, "after the bright moon is better."

Which kind of makes me sound like a psycho or a werewolf. 

Needless to say, Friend-Mike doubled over in laughter and asked if my text could be his new Facebook status.

Suffice it to say, my written Chinese isn't quite there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Conversations at the Fish Market

Sunday night a few friends and I traveled out to Putou for dinner at the seafood market. It's the kind of place where you buy the fish at the stands and then take it into the restaurant where they cook it for you. All the hawkers plied me with compliments...

Fish Hawker: You're so beautiful! Where are you from?

Me: America

Fish Hawker: Do you have a boyfriend?

Me: So many!

Fish Hawker: Tsk! Americans can do this, Chinese can not! Americans can. Chinese can only have one.

In Chinese he used the words 不行 (bùxíng), which is cool because it's more than can't it's like no/no way/not okay all wrapped in one.

And then...

Fish Hawker: So you need a Chinese boyfriend? I teach you Chinese, give you good price on fish...

He tossed in a freebie bag of clams with our purchase.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Baseball Notes

Ricky's team whooped Lincoln City in the tournament final this weekend. Wa-hoo! The two worst things about being in Shanghai this summer is not getting to watch baseball and missing out on good old Lake Woahink (yes, in that order).

My dad is really on me for not posting more here, so I'm going to try and do better. Ironically, my home internet broke this morning. My Chinese is pretty good, but not good enough to navigate China Telecom customer service without outside help, so I'm blogging from work (it's 6:30 - I'm off the clock!).

So while my brother was busy beating the kids up the North Coast - I was interviewing a baseball player way out in Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

Xinjiang is one of those hot-button censorship words around these parts. Xinjiang University segregates its student dorms (Han Chinese, and Ugyhur minority), so it's pretty amazing these kids got together (in a desert region where you can't exactly buy bats and gloves, mind you) and made a baseball team! They don't even have diamonds up there!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Apologies for Blog Neglect

I'm an unfit mother. Someone should take this webpage into child protective services. I've been terrible. After each too-long break I think, "No, now I'll start posting regularly..." 

Maybe this time I'll do right by you, blog. But I'm not promising anymore.

The reason for the absence was my old fried Katie from high school was in town. Katie is always ready for a good time. So between work and good times, I had no time. Literally. She wore me out and drained my wallet, and I'd have to say it was worth every penny and tired morning... But there isn't much worth blogging about on that subject.

She flew off this morning and I'm back to ridin' solo (which is also my brother's cellphone ringback ... I roll my eyes every time I call him). I have some friends now, but it's still a bit weird to wake up on weekend morning and not have anyone I hang out with by default. Living abroad is lonely sometimes. There's no escaping that.

I ran some errands and then walked to the propaganda museum - this big collection of Chinese propaganda posters from the 1950s through the 1970s. I find the socialist-realism stuff enchanting: Everyone is rosy-cheeked and smiling. They look healthy and happy, and it's all so fantastical. I decided I'd like to live in a propaganda poster from the 1950s. The guy driving the tractor can be my boyfriend. He has such strong hands.  

Tonight I showed my face at a work event. The weird guy from IT told me I looked sexy. It was very, very wrong.

Then I went out to Vietnamese food with friends. And now I think I'm going to sleep. But before I do:

Did anyone else notice how the world turned on Mel Gibson? That's all fine and well, but why come Roman Polanski can rape a girl and everyone signs a petition of support. If Chinatown absolved a guy of that, then Mad Max should at least be worth some racial slurs/drunk driving/girlfriend smacking. At least. People are illogical.

That's all the notes from the peanut gallery. Goodnight, folks.