Tag Archives: Shanghai



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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.


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

Riding the Adolescent Wave

2010 Mavericks surfing competition. The image ...

2010 Mavericks surfing competition.

Spring is a time for new beginnings, and for endings.

This year D turned 15 and has hit her full adolescent stride.  Always independant, living in a city whcih gives her full access to a metro system, taxis, friends who live in far corners of the city, and an endless list of weird and wonderful things to do -she has taken it all by storm.  If she were a surfer she would be up at the crest of a large wave, sunshine glinting off the water and her hair, admiring the beautiful view below her. Sometimes finding the balance between school and sports and social life is hard, but she faces that challenge head on.

S2 is 17, almost 18, and finishing high school.  He has finished the college application process and chosen a school which I, but more importantly he, believes is a good match.  He has also decided to take a gap year and stay in Shanghai with us so he can study Manderin for another year at a local university.  Even with all of this decided he is still suffering from that most awful of adolescent traumas – senioritis mixed with angst. The angst is four fold.  First is the feeling of leaving a school system that has consumed their entire lives.  Each year brought a new grade and new classes but the sameness of the bus schedule, lunch with friends, after school activities, then home to do homework,  was incredibly comforting.  The second part stems from that deep seeded feeling that most, I think, teenagers have because they believe that the major they pick for college will determine the professional direction of their entire lives with no possibility of change.  I am the model of change and reinvention for careers and have tried to point this out, but I am the mom – what do I know??  The third layer on top of all this angst is the sense of belonging or not belonging.  He came to China just for his last year of high school, leaving all of his friends back in the north east.  He didn’t think he would mind graduating from a different school, but as the days approach I think he does feel he is missing out on a bonding experience with those kids.  (His totally amazing band leader from the USA has agreed to let S2 play in the school band at graduation.  S2 is really excited about being part of the day).  The last, and perhaps biggest hurdle, is the emotional house of mirrors he seems to live in due to Aspergers.  He has a great deal of trouble self identifying emotions and the situations that bring them on.  He is generally not comfortable with strong emotions of any kind.  It is almost like he wants to crawl out of his skin when he feels very happy or sad.  And afterwords he often cannot express or identify what made him happy, sad, angry etc.  Usually kids like being happy and look back on the experiences of the day and make a mental note somewhere in their psyche that X = happy therefore repeat X and Y = sad therefore do not repeat Y.  S2 has not mastered this concept, but he is working very hard to.  In the mean time he rides his own surfing wave.  On his ride he seems to ride many tall waves that come in quick succession.  One moment he is at the crest enjoying the sunshine and the next he is in the trough feeling the chill of the shadow over him which comes from the next looming wave.  He knows if he can climb back up to the top of the wave it will be warm and sunny, but it’s a hell of a lot of work to do that and he doesn’t always have the mental or physical energy to get there on his own.  Sometimes he seems to have his surfboard clipped by the crashing wave, sending him tumbling headlong into the dark water and desperately trying to figure out which way is up before he runs out of air. Even with all of this he tries and tries again.  I hope he knows how proud I am of him.

S1 is riding his surf board with grace and agility.  He is becoming his own man.  He has just finished his third year at college and will be starting an internship this summer to help him clarify what he wants to do when he graduates.  He has a great girlfriend and they seem very supportive of each other.  He still flounders on his board sometimes and then my instinct is to go running and save him, as any good lifeguard would do.  This can be – ok, often is- a source of friction between us.  For S1 I need to learn to lay back and wait to be called.

My husband and I are the lifeguards at this wild beach.  We have our own long boards which we desperately paddle out into the rough waters to pull, push, prod – whatever it takes- in order to bring them into shore safely.  But I am getting old for surfing.  My body struggles to pop up to standing and find a sense of balance.  I struggle with my own board and yet would give my life to save their lives.  Most of the time they seem absolutely oblivious to the fact that there are other people (parents, teachers, family, friends) running to them, circling them with life rings and other safety nets.  They may grab one and be towed safely to shore, but in words and attitude seem to believe they swam there themselves.  But every once in a while they look up and around and not only see but acknowledge the other people around them.  I am determined to stand vigil on this beach, watching the wild waves roll in and my beautiful children call ‘look mom, no hands!!’.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you standing on your  beach!

Time Flies


I have just finished having a string of wonderful guests and am looking forward to S1 and his  girlfriend coming to visit soon.  We will all celebrate S2’s high school graduation.  Then I will fly back to the USA to spend some glorious weeks with family and friends.  This will mark the halfway point of my sojourn in Shanghai.  I can’t believe how quickly it has gone.

After a cold and dreary winter my best friend came to visit me!  We have been planning it for so long (I think first discussions, over tea and cookies, happened before I even had plane tickets to come here in the first place!).   Our time together was amazing.

Saying her flight here was delayed is an understatement.  She took off from a major US east coast airport only to hear the captain announce, after some time in the air, that all but two bathrooms had failed and they had to return to the and would need to change planes.  So after leaving home at 6:30am she finally took off at about 5:30pm for the 14 hour flight to Shanghai.  Even after all that she was ready to go on every crazy adventure I had planned.  On our first day out, among other things, we wandered through ‘old town’ which is partly truly old and partly built/rebuilt to look old.  But none the less it is quite nice and busteling with a frenetic mix of tourist traps, local businesses, and the damp alleys leading to quiet by-ways taken by the Shanghainese and tourists who are lost or …..well, lost.  But I have wandered these streets many times and have found the noodle man dependably parked on the corner.  His three wheeled bike cart carries his entire livelihood.  His propane cooker, all his prepped vegetables, noodles, sauce, giant beach umbrella, and tarp to block the wind.  The menu choice involves spicy or not spicy.  Other than that you get a generous portion of noodles stir fried with a mix of fresh vegetables.  The dining room is two preschool sized tables with a few foot stools to serve as chairs.  We ordered our noodles with a request of ‘a little spicy’ and were directed to sit.  A few minutes later we had a delicious lunch under a tarp.  Bellies full we headed to the ferry and enjoyed our sunny ride across the Huangpu River.  On the other side we went up the Pearl Tower and took in the view of the city as the sun set and the city lit up.  We had been walking all day and had seen many things.  We were tired but our ticket in the Pearl included a museum tour on the ground floor.  I had heard it was good and we wanted to get our moneys worth so we decided to take a look.  We wandered the halls and looked at the displays.  They were OK, but not especially wonderful and we were tired.  We decided to find the way out.  Alas, the museum was a one way hall that meandered in a most frustrating way.  We were getting punchy and felt like we were trapped in Dante’s 9 circles of hell.  The wax figures stared at us unblinkingly.  The miniature dioramas started to seem ridiculous.  We were giggling like school girls. Finally, stumbling out of the museum we took the metro home and collapsed.  It was so wonderful to see the city through her eyes.

Her last night here another dear friend, who is also one of my husband’s co-workers, came to town.  All four of us went out to dinner at a great restaurant called M on the Bund.  The food was great, the view spectacular, and the company unbeatable.  After dinner we strolled out on the Bund river walk and enjoyed the cool evening watching the ships float by.  The week ended too quickly.

The next day my husband’s parents arrived.  They had been touring China for 12 days and had seen Beijing, Xian, Wuhan, Changqing, the Three Gorges, the Yangzi River.  They throughly enjoyed their tour but it was time for a rest and a quiet visit.  Shifting gears I continued as tour guide.  This time we took gentle walks through the local park, Century Park.  We went out to the kids’ school and they had a chance to look around there.  We went to a small water town that lies within the city limits called Qibao.  The town holds a collection of small tourist sites but largely still remains a town where people live and work and go to school.  This was a real treat since they had had the ‘tourist’ view of China.  Qibao gave them a chance to see China outside of the regular tourist beat or expat bubble.  Another highlight was taking them to one of my favorite spots, Lu Xun Park, about which I have written before.

Alas, another busy week came to an end.  And here we are preparing for one son’s visit and another’s graduation.  As the summer heat starts to roll in I can feel the pull back to the east coast of another continent.  See you all soon!! 😀

Spring at Lu Xun Park



A handsome man from the neighborhood behind the park.













Getting There:  Lu Xun park is located at 146 East Jiangwan Rd. (146 jiang wan Lu)  near the Hongkou Stadium.  Getting there is very easy by metro.  Take line 8 to the Hongkou Stadium station and get out at exit 1.  At the sidewalk turn left (so the stadium is on your left) and walk about 200 yards to the park entrance.  There is no entrance fee.


The park was built in 1896 as a shooting field.  In 1905 they added an amusement park area (kiddy rides).  The famous Chinese writer, Lu Xun, was placed in a mausoleum on the park grounds and the park is now dedicated to him.

Cherry blossoms in the mid-day sun.