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Today I saved a life, but I don’t know if he will thank me much. I was in the grocery store and this guy flipped himself out of the tank onto the floor next to me. I alerted a worker who promptly scooped him up and put him back in the tank. He seemed to be giving me the evil eye from within those murky waters.
Just another day of grocery shopping in China.


Nepal in Pictures


I just returned from a week in Nepal.  We travelled to several areas, all of which had their own unique character.  This post just shows Kathmandu, the capitol of Nepal.  Kathmandu was ancient, beautiful, filthy, chaotic, hot, dusty, delicious, poverty stricken, friendly, gracious, corrupt.  It felt like the opening scenes in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ movie had come to life, minus the Arabs and the cleaned up disneyesque part.  I will write more, but for now I hope you enjoy the pictures.

If you wish to see a larger version of the pictures, just click on them.



Window washing day


This week has been window washing week at my apartment complex.  I have seen lots of window washers dangling from ropes all over the city.

But this week gave me a chance to get a close up look at the bravery (and relative lack of safety precautions) of China’s window washers.  Click on the pictures to get a better view.

Who’s on First?


I saw a poster at a local high end hotel which caters to expats. It was all in English and said that a British comedy troupe was coming to do their version of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’  I was really excited as my kids LOVE that show and my friends birthday is coming up. It sounded like a perfect night out.  

The poster showed two ways to make reservations. First, you could email them.  But I always feel that an email reservation request goes into this internet black hole and if it’s something I really want or need I want to be able to click ‘confirm’ and know I have it.  The second choice was to call.  I have become really good at asking people, in Chinese, if they speak English.  So when the phone was answered by a very perky young woman in Chinese I was not deterred.  I asked ‘Ni shuo yingwen ma?’  Right away she switched to English and asked how she could help me.  I explained I needed to know if tickets were still available for the comedy show.  The conversation went something like this:

me:  Are there tickets available for the ‘whose line’ comedy show this saturday?

her: Which restaurant to you want to make reservations ?

me: I want to find out about tickets to the ‘whose line’ show.

her: Whose reservations?

me: There is a comedy show at the hotel this saturday, ‘whose line is it anyway’.  I want to know if there are any tickets left.

her: Comedy show?  Please hold while I get someone to help me………

cue hold muzak

her helper (HH):  Yes, can I help you?

me: Yes I would like to know if there are tickets to the comedy show this saturday.

HH:  How many rooms do you want to reserve?

me: I dont want any rooms, I want tickets to the show.

HH;  What show?

me: (now getting frustrated) The comedy show, ‘whose line is it anyway’ . I want to reserve tickets to the comedy show.

HH:  You want to make corporate reservations?  You want a ballroom?

me: No, thank you.  I will call back.

Who needs to go to a comedy show when my life is just one big Abbott and Costello routine?  LOL

Baby it’s HOT outside!


Heat and glass, apparently, do not mix!


These are the days I am especially glad that we do not live in Beijing where the air is thick with what the Chinese lovingly call ‘fog’.  The fog in Beijing is thick and often yellowish and prevents you from seeing for more than a block at a time.

In Shanghai we do get actual fog, along with it’s cousins smog and haze.  Usually these nasty days are no more than two in a row.  But this week has been oppressive.  It’s what my parents would have called soupy.  The kind of days my mother would lovingly cut up fruit and put it on a plate with a scoop of cottage cheese and serve it for dinner, because only crazy people turn on a stove or oven in this weather.

Occasionally big, fat drops of rain hit my arms as I am walking and I think ‘ ahhh, at last the rain will come and clear this weather away’.  But no.  It lingers on and on.  I have mentioned before that Mao, in his great wisdom, decided that anything below the Yangtze River didn’t get central heat.  Now I have learned that they didn’t get air conditioning either!  Truthfully this lack of power sucking machinery probably helps the air quality.  But I think I may be making up for it with all the laundry I have to do since all four of us can soak through two shirts a day each.  My saving grace has been that our apartment does have AC which I use liberally at night.

Last night, however, we were out until about 10:30.  The kids were home without us and spent a quiet evening with pizza and a movie.  The AC was on low.  We came home and went to bed.  This morning I opened the curtain to our living room sliding glass doors that go out to the balcony and found quite a shock.  The doors are double paned and the outer pane of one of the doors was shattered!  There was a definite point of origin, as if the door had been shot with a BB gun.  Thank goodness it was safety glass so the pane was still in the door.

I went outside to feel if there was a hole at the origin point, but there wasn’t.  All the patio furniture was exactly as I had left it and it wasn’t a windy night the night before.  The kids adamantly denied being outside or doing anything that would cause the door to break.

I went to the management office to tell them about the door.  I was really worried they would blame us and we would be footing the bill.  They sent up a building ‘engineer’ and he took one look at it and told me not to worry, it was from the heat!!!!

My suspicion, and most unscientifically proven hypotheses, is that the seal between the panes is not great and moisture got in and expanded as the day got hotter and hotter, finally being too much for the glass and shattering it.

So when some people say ‘it’s so hot I could fry an egg on the sidewalk”  I will say ‘it’s so hot it could shatter a patio door!’

The shattered porch door.



Image  I was given the Sunshine Award for my Blog!

I have met some amazing people through my blog and one of them nominated me for the sunshine award!  Thank you Mona!!  Mona takes amazing pictures and you should check out her blog, Ramblings, at  Mona takes pictures that reflect her life and find incredible beauty in the small, unexpected moments.

The award has some guidelines to be followed.

1.  Include the logo in a post on your blog.

2.  Answer 10 questions about yourself.

3. Nominate 10-12 marvelous bloggers.

4. Let your nominees knows about their award by linking them to the Sunshine Award in their comments sections.

5. Share the love and link the person who nominated you!


10 Questions for the Sunshine Award….

1. Favorite Color:  Twilight blue – the deep cornflower blue of the summer sky just before sunset.

2. Favorite Animal:  My dog, Pete!

3. Favorite Number: 17.  I don’t know why, it just is.

4. Favorite Drink: All kinds of tea, and a good glass of wine on a special evening.

5. Facebook or Twitter:  FB. I am totally twignorant 🙂

6. Your Passion:  My family, and travel – learning about the world through food and culture.

7. Favorite Pattern:  The Escher birds print

8. Giving or Receiving: Giving!

9. Favorite Day: Any day with sunshine.

10. Favorite Flower: a tie between lilies and a field of queen anne’s lace.

The Following bloggers have brought sunshine to my life. Please take a minute and check out their work!   A mother of special needs children living far from her home country. She eloquently describes the challenges of parenting with love and joy.

Laura Lee Burch  One of the most amazing artists I have come across.  She felts and does costume design.

Mills Cross Musings  I love the sweet simplicity I find here.  It keeps me connected with my lovely Hudson Valley.

Bucket List Publications  This is the modern age of arm chair travelogue.  If you ever dreamed of trying it or going there, they have done it or are planning it 🙂

Nancy  The best teacher (and teacher’s blog) anyone could hope to find.  Keep up the great work!

James Gurney  An artist with great technical skill and the ability to transfer the magic of a childhood vision onto a page and have you believe it all over again. (Dinotopia author and illustrator)

Baker Bettie  If cookies are your passion this is the blog for you!

Nitty Gritty Dirt Man  He is the gardener we all wish we were (or were at least neighbors with).  Great advice and beautiful pictures.

Deidra Alexander  Creative writing and inspiration for all you aspiring writers.  Keep up the great work.


Awaking from a coma


A dear friend told me that my living so far away was sort of like (for her) my being in a coma from which I occasionally awoke (my return visits to the USA).  I can totally understand this feeling since I have given you no idea of what my daily life is like.  So, lest you all think I have fallen into that deep, long sleep, here is a summary of my daily life in China:

I  teach English once a week to the children of migrant workers.

I have a private student for English tutoring three afternoons a week.

I study Mandarin (chinese) two mornings a week.

I am in a  knitting group which knits stuff for various charities in Shanghai.

I am in a book club (which right now is reading the most god-awful boring book called The Discovery of Jeanne  Baret – I highly recommend it to all my insomniac friends)

I have joined a writing group and I have started doing some creative writing again after about 20 years away from it.

Cooking, cleaning and other various mom/wife stuff – not to mention the grocery shopping 🙂

And….trying to keep up on the blog.

So, I know for my readers that do not know me personally this may be the most boring post ever, but I hope you all will be patient with me as I work on my next big post.  One thing I have decided is that little posts are OK.  Up until recently I felt that my posts needed to be about something more weighty than a passing thought or event.  But truthfully there are lots of little daily things that I want to remember and I think you would enjoy hearing about.  So I will start blogging those too.  If you hate them or they are totally boring please let me know. But tell me in a kind way – bloggers have feelings too 🙂

Since I am here, and on a roll with the writing I will tell you a little about the migrant school. First, it is not a school that moves around, no matter how much the name implies it, lol.  In China, as a Chinese citizen, you need residency papers to live in any particular area.  These papers give you rights to health care, work (and some workers rights), housing, and an education for your children.  Without the papers you are figuratively and literally out in the cold.  For a long time the government turned a completely blind eye to these people. The migrants who chose to risk it all and come to the big cities in search of their fortunes banded together to create small “schools” for their children.

These were often in shacks, tents, wherever they could find space. The teachers were migrants too, often not trained as teachers.  The schools grew as the numbers of migrants grew.  Businesses, often shady, sprung up to provide a better education for the migrant’s kids.  But they charged exorbitant tuitions and many children couldn’t go.  Those kids often spent their days at work with their parents or playing unsupervised in the city streets.

But now the number of migrants  moving to the cities has grown exponentially and the government has decided to take over the schools.  The migrant children are still kept separate from the local children and often in less than great facilities (no heat or AC, few school supplies for teachers or students, etc.)  The kids are grouped in classes of between 40 and 60 per classroom with one teacher and sit so close together that they don’t have to stretch to poke the classmate in front of them.

A great group of people formed a volunteer organization called stepping stones to go into these schools and work on English language skills with the kids.   This is not a frivolous as it sounds.  The government actually holds English language as one of it’s core curriculum components. The kids take major exams based on which their school career and future opportunities are tracked.  They are somewhat like the European A and O levels but with more pressure and higher stakes at an even younger age.

My kids are fourth graders who are great.  They struggle with English and are very shy to speak it.  But they do try so hard.  Our time slot is right after recess so they still have a little bounce in them when we start and it is a true test of our child wrangling skills for the first ten minutes.  Luckily we team teach and one of my co-teachers is an experienced ESL teacher who is amazing and comes up with awesome lesson plan ideas.

So now I am off to do some mom things, but I promise to write again soon.  I hope you will write to me too!

Chinglish 101


Chinglish is my Third Language.

Chinglish is the second most popular language in Shanghai.  First is Manderin Chinese, of course.  Second is Chinglish.  Coming in a close third is English.  After that there is a huge variety such as German, French, Spanish etc…  But Chinglish is my favorite.  It is seemingly spoken by everyone. Native Chinese  born and foreigners alike.

Many of you may know some Spanglish.   This is a popular variety of the Chinglish style spoken in many parts  of the U.S.  The brain works in mysterious ways and when I can’t think of a word in Chinese I come up with the Spanish word and sometimes come out with the strangest sentences.  For instance ‘yo’ in Spanish means ‘I’ but ‘yo’ in Chinese means ‘to have’.  I get all garbled up and say ‘yo yo’.  I’m not sure if I am saying I have something, naming a toy, or sounding like a rap star.  In the end nobody can understand me 😦

The real beauty of Chinglish, as compared to Spanglish, is that the Chinese and western cultures can be so completely different in their outlook on a situation that the resulting attempts to communicate are truly hysterical.

There are the attempts by the foreigners to speak Chinese but because of the challenge of tones we often say things that we really don’t mean.  My friend J.  got stranded in a boat on a small touristy lake when the motor gave out.  Several boats were passing and she called for help in the best Manderin she could muster.  But they just kept going.  Perhaps they didn’t hear her.  Feeling pretty confident  she tried again with the next passing boat.  She continued to get strange looks.  Finally a boat operator saw her adrift and towed her in.  When she checked with her Chinese friends later she found out that she had been calling out “Please, my table is broken – throw me a melon!”  I am sure the Chinese natives looked at her like she was a crazy tourist 🙂

Then there are the attempts by the Chinese to speak or to translate their signs into English for tourists.  We have had lots of good belly laughs over these signs.  I told S2 that he should work really hard on learning Manderin and he could have a very full career just going around the country correcting all the signs!  Here are a few examples:


What You Can Carry On a Bike.


There is so much to write about but today I thought I would give my first installment of “What you can carry on a bike.”  This is a pictorial project I have been working on practically since I got here.  It is so fascinating to live in a city of 20 million people with glass high-rises and all the glitz and glam that goes with it, and right next door or out side a whole different world can be going by.

In New York there are the workers who make everything run.  The pick up the garbage, clean the streets, trim the hedges, deliver the bottled water and pick up the empties etc.  But all of it seems to be done by car or truck, sometimes by neat little messenger satchel for a bike riding messenger.  Not here.

Perhaps it is a factor of the climate.  It almost never snows here.  Perhaps it is the long history of the bike riding culture.  I don’t know.  But the fact is that an amazing amount of goods and services is moved through out this city by bike.  Things that are clever, and things that are scary.  It never ceases to amaze me.

You have to also picture the traffic patterns and mentality to fully appreciate the bike delivery/sales persons gumption.  My side of Shanghai (Pudong) is newer, with wide boulevards that can be two or three lanes in each direction.  On the outer edge of each side of the road is another grass island or sometimes metal fence.  This delineates the bike lane from the car lanes.  The bike lane is wide enough to easily drive a car down.  An important rule of the road that drivers, bikers and pedestrians especially should know is that there is right on red but people turning right don’t have to stop, they don’t even slow down.  Often cars will go into the bike lanes as they turn right to avoid oncoming traffic, and then pop out into the car lane at the next gap in the median.  Or sometimes the taxis decide the bike lane makes a good taxi stand.  Also, bikers often go both ways in one bike lane instead of being on their correct side of the road for their direction with traffic.  Also, the term “bike” for the bike land is used loosely.  It could be a traditional bike, an electric motor assist bike, or a moped.  Motorcycles do use the road with cars.  Lastly, the overarching rule of the road seems to be “might makes right”.  The bigger your vehicle and the louder your horn, the more control you have over the road.  Pedestrians and bikers DO NOT have the right of way.  Even the bikers seem willing to run you down if you get in their way.

So imagine this wild west of traffic when you see these pictures and imagine being on these bikes and dodging traffic.  I took some of these pictures and some were taken by another photographer and I found them online.  If I can find his name I will give him full credit, his pictures are great!

*A note for my Mom and Dad and in-laws:  Please do not fear for us when you imagine us walking and navigating this crazy traffic.  The sidewalks are big and safe and there are cross walk lights, you just have to look both ways even with the light and you get used to it fast!

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