Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Results of the Excursion

Well today proved very fruitful!

We ended up going to the popular outdoor shopping area, rather than a mall, so the heat was not there. However, I got much accomplished and am thoroughly happy right now:

--I enjoyed a baked sweet potato from a street vendor; a specialty I have recently become obsessed with since it is only available in the winter and I have always gone to China in the summer

--Then from another vendor my cousin and I got sticky rice cooked in bamboo stalks- she got a salty one, I chose a sweet one

--From there we stopped at the first of many novelty stores; where I found among other things a metal "acne remover," a penguin whose beak concealed a nail clipper, and corn flavored jelly.

--We also stopped for bubble tea- a must on any shopping trip of mine.

--For our next snack, we bought these little boats of four round spongy balls with vegetables inside and what curiously looked like octopus...

--At another novelty shop I saw fake Coach keychains that tried really, really hard to look authentic.

--Then I had my passport pictures taken in the classic Chinese style- no smiling! I look very ghastly.

--I also had my nails done; it cost only 20 yuan (about $2.50) whereas in the states it costs twenty dollars, minimum. The quality was almost just as good, and they did it without the attitude.

--We passed so many food stands; most of them I can't even describe but through pictures. However, I did stop for chicken on a stick- the stick was about 18 inches long!- and then flattened pork on a stick. Both were incredibly delicious, though dripping with grease. While my chicken was being grilled, some guys came up and ordered some squid as well. The raw squid looked scary but once grilled, it definitely looked appetizing.

--Finally, we stopped at a DVD store my cousin frequents where she knows the quality of the black market DVDs is good. Even the packaging and summaries looked high quality- the packages are hard plastic, the summaries are in English and actually pertain to the movie! I ended up buying 15 new releases (No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Juno etc.) for only 100 yuan total (almost 13 dollars) and we also rented Good Luck Chuck and Night at the Museum for 2 yuan for one night. The only difference renting here is that we had to put a ten dollar deposit on each DVD. Oh, and they had box sets too- House, Lost, The Office....It costs only 48 yuan for an entire season of Dexter!

So most of the money I spent actually went towards food, and even then it wasn't that much. We also bought a famous brand of mantou (buns) to eat on the walk home to distract us from our numb feet and hands.

The interesting thing is, even though this is the worst snow to hit Shanghai since 1949 (so my cousin says) it doesn't feel bad once you're walking in it- it's kind of a humid cold; my hands have actually become softer than they've been in weeks.

So our plans for Sichuan are currently on hold, as the weather is paralyzing most of China's travelers for the Chinese New Year, but I wouldn't mind spending the next three and a half weeks in Shanghai.

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Not much has happened since I have arrived. We have all been preparing for the fifth seventh of my grandmother's passing, which is the end of the mourning period. It went off very well; and most of my relatives came to be here for the occasion. It was very sad, but also an enlightening experience since Chinese funeral customs are so different from American ones. For one, Americans don't mourn for 35 days (personally, I'm sure, but not publicly).

So other than that, it has also been snowing outside. The weather has made headlines I've heard; even those back in Pennsylvania have heard news of how the weather is tampering with everyone's travel plans for Chinese New Year. Even my trip to Sichuan Province is looking sketchy; we're just going to wait and see how things look by the 4th, which was the day we were supposed to leave.

So now I am in my cousin's home for the next day or two; she is taking me out shopping today. I think we're also going to play in the snow; everywhere you look there are snowmen. I mean everywhere: parks, streets, in front of the grocery store....

I have less than a month before I go to Dalian, and I don't want to say that I'm bored- because I'm not. There are so many, many things to do in Shanghai. I just know that I would be much more active exploring it all if it weren't for this weather- I mean, I woke up and could see my breath in the air. I laid in bed for a good three hours before actually getting up.

...At least shopping malls are heated.

The Fifth Seventh

Well, the mourning period is over.

Since I arrived my relatives had pretty much been preparing for the fifth seventh, when we invite my grandmother's soul to eat, wash her face, and basically be comfortable in the home again. Our relatives came from different cities in China to be at the house in Shanghai. The night before the 29th, we prepared a meal and invited our grandmother to come in for the meal we prepared her; then we bowed and lit incense, and went outside and burned some of her clothes. We also burned some letters

Well, this is too personal. I shouldn't keep going.

Monday, January 28, 2008


This morning started off wonderfully. I awoke around 5:15 to some questionable noises coming from the pantry; it sounded like someone was trying to pour themselves tea but no one was there. About half an hour later, I discovered it was a mouse or rat, who scurried everytime I moved in bed.

After a while, the rodent no longer feared me. He would run out, see me move, scurry back to his hiding spot, and then peer his head out over the edge and we would just stare at each other. In fact, once everyone woke up around 6:15 and turned on the light, he proceeded to create even more noise because now he had light to look for food. Mouse had a death wish.

Then I took a shower, but the hot water took about half an hour to prepare and then lasted all of about three minutes. It also came up only to my neck, so I had to kneel down a la Lost in Translation to try to wash my hair and ended up running my side right into the spout.

THEN I was blow drying my hair in front of the door because the excuse of a hairdryer I had, had a short cord, and my uncle banged the door handle right into the middle of my head.

Now I'm cold, it's sleeting outside, and I have nothing to really do all day. Family is coming over tonight, but other than that I may just wander about.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I'm finally here! After one cancelled flight and a four hour delay on my Chicago-Shanghai flight, I arrived 28 hours later than planned but that's alright.

It's very cold and it's snowing here; I've been told that the latter rarely happens in Shanghai. I slept very well, since I was so exhausted. After nearly 18 years of coming to China I've learned to combat jet lag, and that is through sleep deprivation.

Anyway, today a friend of my dad's and his daughter came to spend the day with me; they took me to their apartment to chat with Kelly, the daughter a little bit since she is going to school in the fall in the US- actually, her English was quite good. We went out to Cloud Nine shopping mall and had lunch in a Guizhou-cuisine restaurant; then walked around in the mall. I got bubble tea! And then I bought a Chinese-English dictionary, which I am certain will get much use.

Then they drove me around to the Bund; the weather wasn't great and I had to be back home for dinner soon so we decided to come back when we had a full day to spend, and when I hadn't left my camera elsewhere. I was mad that I didn't have my camera for the sights I had already taken in today, since I take pictures of practically everything.

That's basically it; I've watched Family Guy on my laptop and have been reading Oracle Bones when I have down time (a fantastic read, by the way). My days are pretty well planned- loosely planned, but planned nonetheless, which is what I prefer anyway.

I'll try to update as much as possible; writing as simply as possible. I know blogs get boring with mundane details, so I'll write the summaries of my days, unless something really monumental occurs.
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