Sunday, December 17, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Melon!

I'm back in the U.S. With everything that's been going on, I'm amazed the place is still standing. One of my relatives said, "I'm glad you back safe and sound," and I couldn't help say, "Yeah, especially with all the mass shootings that have happened since I've been gone."

I wrapped up work on Thursday and sent all of my Thank You emails to the folks in Shanghai (and even some in Southfield). Eileen came over to give me a drive with some videos on it for work and told me that she had a going-away present for me. She was having it delivered from her home town (found out that it wasn't kuai di but delivered halfway by her brother and the other half by her husband. It's a picture under glass of a panda made with human hair. That might sound gruesome to some folks but I love the long history of hair art.

We agreed to meet for dinner the next night. We went to a place that Serena had picked out where she felt I could get the most traditional Shanghai food before I left: Xiaolongbo, Hong Shao Rou, Sea Cucumber, and more.

I was scheduled to fly out Saturday at 12:20 PM but the flight kept getting pushed back until I got notification Saturday morning that the flight was delayed until 5:15 PM. That gave me another five hours in Shanghai.

As the Didi left my apartment for the airport, the weight of emotion hit me and I started crying. I thought about my trip to the UK when I was a teenager and how much I wanted to get back to the U.S. back then and how much I wanted to stay in Shanghai now. This depression hit me again on the flight and even last night as I lay in my own bed after three months. I'm fighting it back now as I write. I didn't expect to fall in love but I did.

And speaking of love, apparently the people on WeChat love eating melon because it keeps coming up in different sticker sets. Here's a small example:

And I wanted to have a shot of a bunch of guys but I got this one of a bunch of other delivery guys hanging out:

Now I'm back and I'm trying to get my groove back. I've decided that I'm going to do another purge of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. I didn't miss any of these things when I was away so I don't really need them. I'm also getting back on the horse of weight loss. I don't think I gained much if any weight there and now I can get back to ordering and eating the right food for me. And, I'm going to do everything in my power to get back to Shanghai. I only had a few people from the U.S. tell me they missed me.

That brings me to the stunted conclusion of this diary. I'm sure I'll return to it and soon. I'm doing everything I can to not be that guy who says, "Well, ya know, in China they..." about everything.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Shanghai Diary: So Long and Thanks for All the Pork

Yesterday I went back to IAPM mall and met with Dan Katz, a Projection Booth listener from L.A. who's now living and working (as a teacher) in Shanghai. He graciously asked if he could take my scooter off my hands. I was so sad to say goodbye to the machine that's provided me freedom to roam the streets of Pudong and get me to and from work most of my days here.

Saturday I met up with Serena and we went to the China Mobile office to reduce me phone package to the minimum to keep my number going. I'm trying to be optimistic that I'll be back to Shanghai. I'm also going to be keeping money in my ICBC account in order to autopay my phone bill every month. It's amazing how inexpensive phone service is over here. I'm paying maybe 100 RMB a month presently and I'm reducing to 18 RMB a month. That's going from about $16 to $3 USD. Meanwhile for two lines in the US I'm paying $160 USD.

We stopped at "Hey Juice" for a Coconut drink afterward. Hey Juice don't make it bad...

The final in my "photos on the way home" series:

The 7-11 in the building where I work where I can get a new face mask and corn-to-go...

I've never said this but I often see street vendors peddling through Pudong selling baked sweet potatoes or corn on the cob. I still want to stop by Carrefour and buy one of the vendors' sweet potatoes as they smell amazing.

Last Wednesday I went out to lunch with some of my co-workers that I have really supported me while I've been here. I was really touched and it took a lot for me to not shed a tear.

From left to right: Mike Lowai, Emily, Eileen, Jason

Another picture of food -- this is the eel and rice dish (with a fried egg) that I had at the place next door to where I work:

I've probably had more eel and peanuts (sometimes in the same meal as evidenced above) in the last three months than I ever have before.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Memes Are In the Air

Things are wrapping up here in Shanghai for me, but you wouldn't know from my work load. If anything, things are just as hairy now as they were two weeks ago. Just like my back.

I'm still working the day job and the night job. Today's one of those days with a couple hours between the two sessions.

It's like there's a party going on and I need to go home to get up early for work the next day. Shanghai is the party. While not all my friends are here, I'm still very bummed to leave the party and will constantly wonder what is going on and what I'm missing.

I wanted to share a picture of something I see all the time in Shanghai and that's the lap blanket that many of my fellow scooter-drivers employ. It's usually paired with these oven-mitt type gloves that are fitted to the handlebars. I haven't taken any pictures of the elaborate plastic shells that some folks have to protect them from the elements.

I am going to miss my scooter.

One of my listeners from The Projection Booth lives here in Shanghai and he asked if he can buy my scooter. So, I'm heading over to Puxi on Sunday. I told him how much I paid for it and asked for 200 RMB less. I should have asked for the exact amount I paid plus one dollar, "Man's gotta right to make a profit..." In all seriousness, it's great that he asked, especially as my machine is going to be a spare for him!

If Metro Detroit supported it, I'd get a scooter for my ride to work in a heartbeat. I wouldn't drive a motorcycle but I'd do a scooter. But there's no scooter lanes. It's car vs. everything else.

You'd think that the abuse of English would cause me a lot of distress but I have no issues. I just laugh at some of the odd little messages.

I've gone three months without hearing anyone talk about basketball, football, or baseball. I kind of love it.

I had a request to take more pictures of food so here goes. He's my meal yesterday at the local noodle place. I also took some pictures of how crowded it is as well as the projection on the main wall of the guys in the back cooking.

At Pub Quiz the other night there was a category all about memes. This was a coincidence as I had just been trying to explain memes to Serena. I was saying that in China, Doge is huge. I see him everywhere. Then, today, I get an update on WeChat from That's Shanghai (I think, all the local news sites tend to run together) with a list of ugly holiday sweaters and there's a Doge X-mas sweater.

It's nice to see Three Wolves One Moon come back around, too.

Doge even has his own Sticker Set on WeChat:

Where do you go when the record is over?

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Shanghai Diary: If I Wanted To Read, I'd Have Stayed In School

As I've been writing about China during my stay here, I've hit upon a few of these topics but wanted to share some articles.

  • From RadiiChina there's a piece about Literal Whitewashing in China which speaks to the idea of beauty standards in China. This idea of fair skin being more desirable isn't just a Chinese phenomenon. During my stay here, the Dove ad of a black woman turning herself white happened. This idea of "the whiter the skin, the less likely you're working in the sun and the more posh you are" can arguably be linked with the more historic idea of foot-binding but, also, parallels can be drawn to the idea of women having long finger nails with the idea of long fingernails somewhat incapacitating a woman. "She can't do manual labor, look at those nails." In other words, I'm talking about a standard of beauty in China that is just as arbitrary as standards of beauty in the West.
  • Being obsessed with sex, I was looking at Shanghaiist articles about sex in China and ran across this one: Siblings arrested for operating illegal ultrasound business from their minivan. It's not hard to imagine that revealing a baby's sex in China is illegal as infanticide used to (and probably still does) happen. We're not that far removed from the one-birth policy and the country is now up to two-births. Like most laws, however, this is a paper law and not necessarily followed in real life. A doctor will not come out and tell a parent the sex of a child but there may be a nod and a wink situation when asked.
  • In America, we like to think that we're free from surveillance, then we turn on TV and watch the sleuths of "CSI" use security footage from two blocks away to see the license plate of a criminal. Meanwhile, the observation is just out in the open in China. You have to register your phone with your personal ID number which and then you're on the grid and it's nearly impossible to live without being there. Thus, reading China's Tech Giants Have a Second Job: Helping Beijing Spy on Its People didn't shock me at all.