Wednesday, December 26, 2007


My first fast food experience in China!

Andy and I were rushing to meet a real estate agent last weekend and ran out of time for a long lunch so we decided what the heck, let's try the local KFC - it's always packed! Menu options are the same except there are a lot more sandwiches than just plain chicken. People aren't as used to the idea of eating a lot of meat at meals. I'm no KFC connoisseur but it was good - I love fried chicken so it was a nice change from noodles, etc. :-)

*Interesting side note: People in groups of 3-4 tend to buy the bucket 'o chicken and share it at the table. It doesn't seem that take out is as popular, although delivery is another story - I'll get into that more later. :-)

Christmas in China

Christmas was a little different than usual this year but we certainly did our best to bring some Christmas spirit to Shanghai! Turns out that many Expat friendly restaurants do special dinners for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we decided to go to dinner on the 24th.

We choose a place called Frankie's - which apparently also has a restaurant in London (who knows?). Either way it was really nice and the food was excellent. Many other Expats and their families were there as well. I posted some pics below of our menu and the food. It was a 5 course set menu, delicious!

Christmas day was very low key - we opened some presents, went for a walk, watched a move (Polar Express - one of my favorites!) and then made dinner. Different from the normal craziness of Turkey, gifts, and family but it was very nice. :-)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday too!!

Streets of Old Shanghai

Some pictures I took while we were out last weekend - these are of "Old Shanghai". See if you can guess what the old man on the street is doing. ;-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chinese Health Check - Communism At It's Best ?

Today was the day for my health check. Excellent, right? Not so much.

Well, I exaggerate a little - it wasn't so bad really. It was a very interesting experience though. In order for anyone to receive a residence permit to live in China for an extended period of time, you much go through a Health Check to prove that you don't have any infectious diseases like Typhoid, Cholera, Yellow Fever etc.

I wish I had been able to take some photos while I was there! Imagine a white building, plain with no color. Inside everyone is wearing the same clothing, face masks and hair "nets" covering their hair - all with very serious faces. I got the impression that smiling and friendliness wasn't allowed.

Step 1. Sign in with passport, photos and company certification #
Step 2. Change into a white robe top for examinations
Step 3. Blood Test
Step 4. X-Ray of Chest
Step 5. Ultrasound of your stomach and liver (no joke)
Step 6. ECG - To measure your heart rate
Step 7. Eye, Ear and Nose check
Step 8. General Health Exam (blood pressure, breathing, etc.)
Step 9. Change back into clothing
Step 10. Finished!! Pay and pray that you passed and will be allowed to stay in China!

During the process you aren't alone - you're basically being herded into each room along with many other non-chinese all wearing the same white robe and sporting the same confused look. It was awesome. ;-)

I'll let you know if I passed or not later on...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Beijing Olympics? 233 Days to go!

It seems that we're going to the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August. It's going to be insanity but it'll also be amazing to see it. The most exciting thing is that my sister will be traveling to China to join us for the Olympics!

What it takes to get tickets in incredible - Andy's office had to pool together to enter into a lottery at least 6 months ago. The Chinese nationals were given a chance to enter into the lottery before any international were which gave us an advantage. We did get some tickets, we're going to see: Tennis, Diving, Swimming, and Table Tennis. I'm hoping we'll be able to find tickets to the opening ceremony somehow...

The word on the streets here in Shanghai is that Beijing isn't ready for the HUGE mass of people that will be coming to the city in August. Everyone is saying that it's going to be impossible to get anywhere and that traffic will be worse than anyone can imagine. Most people seem to think the only way around it is to make all locals who aren't attending the games stay out of their cars so that the roads are only open to tourists and people attending the games....who knows. Either way, it's certainly going to be an experience!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Real Estate Hunting in Shanghai

Yes, we're doing it - taking the plunge into the real estate market here in Shanghai. Specifically we're looking for a home/investment while we're here in China.

We started the search yesterday afternoon, it seems that Sunday is the typical house hunting day here in Shanghai. We used a local agent (chinese speaking only) who showed us around specifically two districts/neighborhoods. First let me clarify by saying that a "house" typically refers to an apartment in a highrise building, usually new or only a few years old. An actual house by western standards can only be found outside of the downtown area in a section of Shanghai called Pudong. This is typically where many expat families live since it's close to most of the international schools. Also here, single family homes are called "villas" and are really nice. From what I've seen they look almost exactly like a western style home. Great, if you have a family! But we're not there yet - so we are really only interested in being downtown, close to the restaurants, shopping and all the other big city offerings Shanghai has which limits us to looking for an apartment!

The process of house hunting isn't entirely too different from the way it is in the States, you use an agent, go look at homes new and pre-lived in, but the main difference is in the appearance of those homes. I learned that typically if you buy a house that has already been lived in, you will completely re-model it which seems a bit wasteful to me. Strip everything out (all appliances, fixtures, flooring, everything!) and re-do the whole thing per your taste!

Labor is so cheap that it doesn't add too much to the cost of your new home. Amazing.
Anyway, back to my point - so pre-lived in homes look like crap. Seriously, when you go and look in a home that's for sale that is not brand new the homeowner usually is there in the place as you're looking through it and they don't do squat to make it look nice. We were in one place yesterday where the woman was still in the kitchen making dinner! AH....cultural differences.

I will keep you posted on our house hunting adventures.....:-)

Sunday, December 16, 2007


This past weekend we took Ken (Andy's cousin) to Hangzhou which is southwest of Shanghai - about a 2 hours car ride out of the city. This is the city that Marco Polo declared paradise and the finest city he'd ever seen (of course whether or not Marco Polo ever even visited China is still debated, so who knows). First of all I was impressed by the HUGE highways that have been built - and that no one obeys any kind of speed limit. Of course based on the insane traffic in the city, I shouldn't be shocked that people don't obey the rules outside of the city either. :-)

Some history: Much of this ancient city that had been the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty(1127-1279) was destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-nineteenth century. Today the city is mainly known for it's huge lake which is called West Lake.

It is a beautiful, picturesque area that spans 3 square miles. While the cities of China don't strike me as romantic in any way at all, West Lake is actually very romantic and would probably be best seen in the spring when it's not too cold or too hot. You can also rent bikes and ride around the entire lake instead of walking. You know, I was actually surprised - it was crowded but not as bad as I was expecting. Of course even at West Lake you'll find a vast array of western goodies to keep you satisfied like Starbucks and Haagen Daz (more on that later).

Check out the pictures we took!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chinese foot massage

It's a phenomenon like I've never seen before. It's the chinese foot massage and it's everywhere! All over are Massage "parlors" which at first I assumed were the sketchy kind, you know like the ones we have in San Francisco that offer "massage" among many other things for men. Of course I'm sure there are some of those here as well, but for the most part massage is typically a foot massage, and I LOVE IT!

I've been going to a place that caters to expats (english speaking staff makes my life so much easier) and has multiple locations around Shanghai, it's called Dragonfly ( We even ended up with a membership, so for my friends that end up visiting, we will most certainly stop for a massage.

The massage is one hour, and starts with being lead into a quiet, dimly lit room with your typical soothing spa music. You're seated in a soft reclining chair and handed a cup of hot tea. Then your masseuse comes in and wraps a shoulder warmer around your neck and begins to give you a neck and shoulder massage, then she moves to your arms and give you a wonderful hand and lower arm massage. All the while your feet are soaking in a warm tub of water. At last she begins the Chinese foot massage which uses ancient Chinese reflexology with massage and will make you so relaxed that you'll fall asleep in no time! It's a wonderful treatment for the over-stimulated Shanghai streets that you face everyday.


Well we did it! We arrived in Shanghai on Thursday night with the cat in tow. And funny enough we were able to avoid the quarantine period for little woo - needless to say that was a HUGE relief! It's been busy ever since!

One of the things that had hit me is how many high rise apartment buildings there are, and they are everywhere. From my window I can see 20-25 at least. See the pictures below:

Let's see what have we done since Thursday night....hmmm..

1. Tried (but failed) to set up a bank account

2. Registered at the Local Police Station (all foreigners must register within 24 hours of arrival in China)

3. Found a lovely fake Christmas Tree and set it up in the temporary apt

4. Investigated Local Grocery Stores

5. Managed to avoid eating chicken feet!

There's still so much I need to do, most importantly Chinese classes, I see now that without basic conversational chinese living here is going to be very hard. Taking a taxi is going to be impossible without written directions in chinese for the driver to follow since none of them speak any english. The younger generation apparently speaks more english, but the older generation doesn't speak any at all. I have yet to do much investigating on my own but I will post more in the next few days on how things go!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's almost time to say good bye to Cali

Well, we're almost on our way out of the US and into China - it's going to be a new experience to spend the holidays (my favorite time of year) in Shanghai. I'm wondering how easy it'll be to get a christmas tree and all of the necessary decorations, because every christmas lover knows the are necessary!!

I hope to post many pictures of the corporate apartment all gussied up for the Holidays. I'm sure the cat will enjoy knocking down the ornaments just like she always does at christmas. Assuming she gets out of quarantine without any issues (my biggest fear of moving to China is putting the cat into quarantine! - call me a crazy cat owner).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

China to shut down blogs...

So, I just found out that China seems to be doing some mass censoring of Blogs and pretty much anything web 2.0 based. Check this article out

It has some interesting info...and now I may have to figure out how to re-host my blog somewhere else!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

T-minus 5 weeks

Most people want to know where we'll be living - we're lucky that we'll be able to stay in the company corporate apartment for the first few months. The apt. is in an area of Shanghai called "Jing'An". Jing'An refers to the name of a famous temple in the area. The Jing-An Temple is really beautiful, I visited it last year when I was in Shanghai for the first time. The whole area is actually growing really quickly and is one of the more popular areas for expats. There everything you could imagine including a huge, high end shopping center, gym and amazing Japanese grocery store. Lucky for me, those are three of my favorite things. :-)