Living in Shanghai, where the population is about 24 million people, is busy. People are everywhere. You get pushed around sometimes. You have to fight for your part of the sidewalk sometimes. There are long lines- well, that is if there’s a line at all; we’re still working on that concept. After living here nearly 5 years, you get used to the crowds and busyness all around, and most of the time it’s manageable. Except for IKEA. On a Saturday. I know not to do it. I know what it’s like. I know to avoid it like the plague, but I couldn’t avoid it today. I just had to get some stuff for my new office at work and haven’t been able to make it over there in the evenings. So I mustered up the strength to brave the crowds and went for it. As expected, I was there with about 10,000 of my closest friends, many of whom just came for the free heating and cheap food in the canteen- can you say 1 kuai ice cream cones?!? As I made my way through the maze of furniture and people, I kept my sanity by listening to music. This helped drown out the sound and gave me a little peace. I also avoided going against the crowd. When you’re shopping, sometimes you pass a section by, only to realize you forgot to pick something up, so you turn around and head back. Oh no…doing that here is akin to a lonely fish trying to swim upstream with a school of bigger fish coming their way. It’s something to avoid at all costs. I passed up a few items, but today, they remained at IKEA and not in my basket. Frankly, it wasn’t worth it. Once you make it to the warehouse, you breathe a sign of relief, knowing it’s almost over. Walking in, I had to chuckle when I saw the kid on the leash. And you can’t tell from this picture, but the dad was pulling on him, much like you pull on a dog’s leash when they get out of line and you’re trying to show them who’s boss. The checkout lines are insane! Every one of them open- thankfully- they are full of people just waiting to take their goods home. Once I made it through the checkout lines, I still wasn’t done. I had to wait in another line for delivery. There’s no way I was going to wait in a long taxi line, in the rain, to schlep my unbuilt furniture to school today. No thanks. I’ll pay the 100 kuai for them to bring it to me on Monday. After that, I have to wait in another line to get a fapiao, or an official receipt, so that I can be reimbursed from school. With all my tasks completed, I headed home, ready to relax for the remainder of the afternoon. I had survived.
I love this part of my job- I got to meet a bunch of sweet little 2-year-olds today! Our newest class at school, Early Years D, opens on Monday, and we had an orientation for the families today. Ms. CJ and Ms. May, the EYD teachers, have been busily getting their room ready in anticipation of their arrival, and their room looks great! When you walk in, you see splashes of bright colors, a cozy reading nook, a kitchen corner complete with tiny dishes, tables with puzzles and coloring, just waiting to be played with, and a dress up corner full of hats, scarves, and clothing.
As the families arrived, with smiles and excitement on their faces, Ms. CJ and Ms. May welcomed them to the room and began getting to know the students and parents. They were both naturals! With their warm disposition and friendly demeanor, the families felt right at home. The students began exploring the classroom, some more timid than others at first, and the teachers began circulating the room, having one-on-one conversations with the parents.
As the principal, my part of the orientation was to welcome them, explain relevant handbook details, and take them on a school tour. On the tour, the kids loved exploring the playroom, where they quickly let got of their parents’ hands and began climbing on the equipment, scooting around in the cars, and sliding down the slide. Moving on, we traveled up the stairs to the library, where they immediately gravitated to the shelves, choosing a book and sitting down to read. I was amazed at their level of independence and confidence, especially since this was their first school experience.
As we left the library, I felt a little hand in mine. George had run up to grab my hand as we headed down the stairs. It was just so sweet! Already feeling like they owned the school, some of the more independent ones even ran ahead of me, like they knew where we were headed next! Once we were back in the classroom, they gathered their things to leave. Ka Ne, a very inquisitive boy with an obvious independent streak, turned to his grandma and said, “This is not your school! This is my school!” Guess he’s ready for Monday morning! 😉
My morning commute is probably very different from yours. Most likely, you drive your own car, carpool with friends, or take public transport, such as a taxi, a bus, or the metro/subway. Sometimes I take a taxi to work, particularly when it’s raining, but now that my new school campus is so close to home, it’s great for me to be able to ride my e-bike in to work.
Today’s commute was sooooo cold! With the temperature at 1 degree Celsius, I made sure to bundle up! In addition to my sweater, I wore a thin down jacket, my big down jacket, a scarf, hat, gloves, and my new favorite thing…my bike blanket! I’ve embraced the local Shanghainese culture and succumbed to the bike snuggie look. 😉 Yes, I look ridiculous, but I like to think of it as ridiculously warm. Not only does it protect my hands from the wind and cold, the blanket keeps the wind off of my legs, too.
On my ride to work, which takes about 10 minutes, I tend to drive like the locals do, meaning that traffic laws are more suggestions than rules. The light’s red? Well, let’s slow down, look both ways, and proceed through the intersection if there are no cars in the way. Someone’s in my way or about to be in my way or looks at me funny, BEEEEEEP! Honking your horn is just what you do here. Turn signals are rarely used, but horns…those are a necessity used many times a day.
Today, I passed the man making jianbing from his shack on the corner of Wuzhong Lu and Zhongshan Lu, several buses stopping just long enough for people to hop on and off, many Chinese shops lining the streets selling all manner of goods, the little old Chinese lady who is always on her morning walk, the security guard having a smoke break on the corner, and lots of commuters, bundled up against the cold, dressed all in black, like an army walking, heads down, toward the metro.
I long for warmer days, where my face doesn’t burn from the cold wind, but I’m thankful for my little e-bike and the freedom it gives me! 🙂
When things are tough and it’s hard to keep going, it’s good to have a happy place, a place where you can find peace. For me, that’s my apartment. I love my little haven, away from the noise, away from the pollution, away from the stuff that brings me down. At home, it’s just the way I like it.
My apartment is comfortable. It’s large enough to not feel cramped, but small enough to be cozy and warm. I finally have a couch that’s comfy and large enough to seat many people (game nights!). I have space to display my artifacts that I collect on my travels without it looking cluttered. When I look at these sculptures, paintings, and creative pieces, I’m reminded that I lead a very blessed life. I get to do what I’ve always wanted to do- travel the world!
My kitchen, although small, is just right for me. I have everything I need to cook and have even made enough food to serve over 20 people in my tiny kitchen. It’s (nearly) always clean, thanks to my wonderful ayi who comes 4 days a week to keep me organized. I told you I had a blessed life! I love my tea station, where I have a wide variety of tea to choose from. A cuppa tea in the evening is all I need to chill. Well, that and a good book or an episode of Scandal (my recent obsession- thanks Michelle!).
Having an extra bedroom means room for guests, a desk to do my work (although I tend to work on the couch lately), and more closet space (I have way too many clothes!). I love having a second bedroom, as it helps me not to feel cramped.
I love having fresh flowers and plants in my house- it brings life and a touch of green. Plants make me smile, and I’m proud to say that I have kept almost all of my plants alive since moving in last August. This is a huge accomplishment for me! 🙂
Lastly, I love my bedroom! It’s such a comforting place, where I am surrounded by plants, artwork, and pictures I love. I love my window seat and view of Shanghai. I love my comfortable bed- thank you IKEA mattress pad! I love my art wall. I love that I go to bed and wake up each day looking at my OLW from last year- Balance (thanks Andrew for the art!). It’s a daily reminder to live a balanced life. I certainly need that reminder more lately.
I love that when I’ve had a tough day, when the world has beaten me down, I can come home and be surrounded by things I love that make me happy.
Shopping in a Shanghai supermarket can be similar to the US in many ways. There’s a produce section, meat department, refrigerated and frozen sections, and dry goods located in the middle of the store. But, there’s also many differences. Here are a few things you may find when grocery shopping in Shanghai…
Who doesn’t need a flattened, dried out pig face?!? Haha…I’m not quite sure if people eat this like a piece of jerky or if they cut it up and mix it into soups or other food. What do you think?
Rice in bulk, sold by the kilogram. We all know rice is a staple in China. In addition to being able to purchase it in large bags, you can buy whatever amount you need.
Jellied candies as far as the eye can see! In the middle of the store, you can buy loads of bulk candy by weight. Of course there are chocolates (Dove and Snickers are popular), but there are also jello-covered candies in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Oil galore! Assorted varieties and sizes of oil, taking up 2 aisles, are in abundance. If you know anything about Chinese food, you know they use a lot of oil!
In the US, we have fresh meat in our grocery stores, but the difference is that the meat is wrapped in plastic, not left out in the open air. The kicker is that people sometimes use their bare hands to pick up their fresh meat or fish. When I see things like this, it makes me happy that I’m a vegetarian. 🙂
What kinds of unusual things do you see at your supermarket?
Spring has arrived in Shanghai! With the sun beating down from a clear, blue sky, a slight breeze in the air, we donned our sunnies and light jackets, and began our walk. Stopping off at a park to converse with the locals selling their wares, I bought some hand-painted postcards from a young lady. I was her first customer! Eggs, toast, and potatoes mixed with good conversation and a few laughs provided us with a burst of energy! What started out as a plan to walk to Element Fresh and brunch with my friend Ann turned into an afternoon of wandering, exploring, and enjoying the beauty happening around the city. Take a trip with us through our neighborhood in Shanghai.
The crosswalk in the middle of the road is a bit weird, but once you get used to it, you hardly notice the bikes, scooters, and cars whizzing by you!
Buds blooming, bursting with excitement at the change of weather, anxious to make their debut, greet us as we meander.
A stop at the “big flower” for an obligatory selfie. The perfectly-manicured lawns, with their beautiful pansy beds provide a beautiful backdrop for us.
An empty park in Shanghai on a sunny day! A rare find indeed! We enjoyed the weeping willow trees, which to us, seem very “Asian.”
We found what looks like tulips growing on trees…they were beautiful and sweet-smelling!
Even shoes need a little sunshine.
Sherpa’s guys have a tough job! This one’s taking an afternoon nap in the sun, most likely waiting for his next delivery call.
Yep, that’s a goat. On the sidewalk in Shanghai. Nothing really surprises me here anymore. 🙂
The construction site of our new campus. While we couldn’t get in, we peeked through a partially open gate. Things were happening above ground! Yay!
And what day of walking around Shangers would be complete without a little window shopping? Here’s a look at some of the local fashion. I’m not gonna lie, I really love the baboon sweatshirt and the dog shirt. Took some self-restraint not to try them on. 🙂
P.S. I’m so happy that I was able to walk over 8 miles yesterday with little back pain! 🙂
Tonight I had a very special date. It was actually a “double date.” I had the pleasure of taking the most adorable four-year-old out to dinner. Melissa joined in the fun, too, hence the “double date.” Here are a few of our highlights.
On the taxi ride to Pizza Marzano, Jaker Baker and I decide to take a few selfies…the emotions Jake wanted were happy, crazy, and bored. Oh, and how cute is he in his little bow tie?!? He dressed up just for our date, telling his mom in the morning that he wanted to wear a bow tie and that you wear a bow tie when you get married. Sorry to report, there were no marriages tonight. Maybe next time.
At one point, Jake says, “What’s that smell? It’s really bad!”
He pauses to think…”Wait, is it my breath?”
Laughing, I said, “No, I think it’s the taxi driver.”
“Oh, well that’s good,” he replies. This kid seriously cracks me up!
At the mall, we have to go up four “eckstalators” to the fifth floor. He loved to marvel at how small the people were on the ground floor as we went up and up. Once at the restaurant, we wait patiently for our table, Jake sitting between us, whispering secrets.
For dinner, Jaker Baker ordered a pepperoni and cheese pizza (we had to order it with cheese he said!), apple juice, chocolate cake, and a kid cappuccino (sans coffee of course!). He loved the chocolate cake– there was none left! Throughout dinner, he was so polite and well-mannered. Melissa and I were really impressed!
After dinner, we took Jake to a bookstore to buy a surprise book. Not surprising to us, he insisted on a princess book. If you don’t know Jake, let me fill you in. His latest obsession is with all things “princessy.” He was really excited about his mixed-up princess book that you could change around to make different princess varieties. And just to be fair, we picked up a Smurf book for brother. All in all, Jake was the best date we could have asked for! Thank you Jakey! 🙂
The other morning I woke up with an idea for a slice. It was one of those fleeting moments that occur just upon waking. Those ideas that, if not written down, float out of our heads, never to return. I’ve been working on this slice in my writer’s notebook for a few days- an ABC book about me!
A is for Australia
I have been obsessed, and I mean obsessed, with Australia since age 7. I love everything about this unique, beautiful country! From ANZAC biscuits and pavlova to the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House. I even moved there right out of college. If I could live anywhere, that would be it!
B is for Brunch
Who doesn’t love a lazy weekend brunch? Living abroad has made me a ‘brunch-er.’ I long to go to a fancy (or not so fancy, depending on my mood) restaurant with friends, savoring the delicious food and conversation that swirls around me.
C is for Cook
I love to cook! Especially for other people. My specialties include cakes, appetizers, and making vegetarian food taste good!
D is for Dr. Pepper
As a Texan, I grew up with Dr. Pepper. It was in my veins, and for a long time, the addiction to the perfect combination of flavors held a firm grasp on me. I still enjoy Dr. Pepper, but I’m trying to cut back. It’s not easy.
E is for Education
Education is, and has always been, very important to me. Growing up, I loved school. I did well academically, and I longed to be a teacher. I’m in my tenth year of education, during which time I’ve been a teacher, literacy coach, and administrator.
F is for Firsts
I just love firsts. First time jumping out of an airplane. First kiss. First scuba dive. First day in a new country. First bite. Firsts bring excitement and energy, and I relish these moments.
G is for Goat Cheese
First of all, have you tried goat cheese? If you haven’t, you should go out right now and buy some. Seriously. Do it. I’ll wait. Goat cheese is one of my obsessions. Honestly, it’s one I thought would be a fad, like my obsession with Element Fresh, but it’s stuck around and I couldn’t be happier. Goat cheese is amazing on a sandwich, salad, or pizza. Spread it on some toasted bread and drizzle it with honey. Yes, please!
H is for Honest
I’ve been told I’m honest, whether you like it or not. Not sure yet if this is a good thing. Guess it depends on who you are. 🙂
I is for Ideas
I’m full of ideas. Some good, some not so good. I love to come up with new things and ways to do something better. As a general rule, I’m good at following through with my ideas, but sometimes I have a good idea that is discarded because I’m too busy or lazy to go through with making it happen.
J is for Jennifer
A little obvious, right? ‘J words’ are just so hard…
K is for Kesler
Another obvious one, I know, but this isn’t just my last name. It’s also the name I identify with most. A lot of my friends call me some variation of this name. Kesler. Kes. Kes-Kes. I like it. It’s unique. It’s who I am. 🙂
L is for Leader
I’ve always been a leader, taking charge of things for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was called bossy. I think that was just my inner leader trying to bust out. Throughout my life, I’ve held many leadership positions. Most recently, I moved into an administrative position at my school. While it isn’t always easy, I enjoy the challenges it brings.
M is for Memory-Keeper
Memories are important. They are the things that last. You can buy something, but it can be broken, lost, forgotten. Memories are there. Forever. I love to keep memories alive through my writer’s notebook, oral storytelling, blogging, and photography.
N is for Neon
Neon is so much fun! Fluorescent yellow, green, orange, and pink adorn my closet. Wearing a little (or a lot!) neon is my way to show the world that I’m bright, fun, and energetic!
O is for Organized
Organization makes me happy. Everything neatly in it’s place makes it easier to find things and it’s aesthetically pleasing. Give me some cutesy bins and organizational tools, and I’m one happy girl. 🙂
P is for Picky
I like things the way I like them. When I order something at a restaurant and it’s not exactly like I want it, I’ll make a request to change it. I have a special way I like things arranged in my bathroom. When ayi moves things, I move them back.
Q is for Quote Collector
My writer’s notebooks and Pinterest boards are filled with quotes- inspirational ones, funny ones, writerly ones, uplifting ones, sad ones. Words are luscious, and I simply have to write down quotes that move me.
R is for Reader
Reading has always been one of my biggest passions. Ever since I learned to read, I have collected books, carrying them with me always. Reading lets you into another world, taking you on an exciting ride. It teaches you something. It opens your eyes and gives you perspective. Reading makes me happy.
S is for Sweet Tea
A product of the South, sweet tea is my comfort drink. Bringing back memories of sitting on the front porch swing at Mamaw’s house and many (too many!) trips to Chick-fil-A. A good glass of sweet tea will cure anything that ails you!
T is for Traveler
Traveling is my life. If I’m not traveling, planning my next trip, or reflecting on a recent trip, I’m sad. I think I was born with a traveler’s spirit. I’ve never been content to just stay in the same place and do the same thing day after day. I get such a rush from encountering a new culture. The sights, smells, tastes, people, sounds, and experiences I encounter when traveling have made me a different person.
U is for Unique Glasses
I love glasses. No, like, really love them. I have over 15 pair of different glasses in all manner of colors and shapes. Glasses allow me to express who I am- a little bit nerdy, a little bit sexy. I also enjoy matching them to my outfits. Glasses markets make me smile, and I can’t ever leave without a few new pair.
V is for Vegetarian
I’ve been a vegetarian for 3 years now. I didn’t do it intentionally. It wasn’t for the animals (although it kind of is now). It wasn’t for health reasons. It was more of a dare that just stuck. At first it was hard, but now I can’t imagine going back to meat.
W is for Writer
Duh! Of course W is for writer. If you’ve made it this far, you know I like to write. Collecting words is one of my favorite things. I hope that my words impact others someday.
**W was really hard to choose. Tied for second place were witty and wig phobia. Seriously, wigs are scary!
X is for eXpensive tastes
Yeah, yeah, I know…I cheated, but with a letter like ‘X,’ I don’t have many options. I like fancy things. I like nice clothes, decadent food, traveling in style. I can’t help that these things are expensive!
Y is for Young
I’m young, relatively speaking. To the students at my school, I’m ancient, but as a 32 year old, I’m in my prime. I love living, and I love that my youth affords me loads of opportunities.
Z is for Zaijian
For those of you who don’t speak Mandarin, zaijian means goodbye. Now before you go getting all jealous that I can speak Mandarin, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I only really know conversational Mandarin, which is actually quite pathetic when you think about it. Having lived in Shanghai for nearly 4 years, I really should know more. I’ll work on that. 🙂
Tonight we had many reasons to celebrate. For one, it was Restaurant Week, so we got to eat a five-star meal for two-star prices. Secondly, it was International Women’s Day, and I was out with a group of beautiful ladies, dressed to the nines, and ready to have some fun. Third, and most importantly, it was my dear friend Amy’s birthday!
Dinner tonight was at The Grand Brasserie in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel located on the historic and beautiful Bund in Shanghai (whew…that’s a mouthful!). Upon entering the Waldorf I was taken into another world, a place too posh, lavish, and decadent for little ole me, but I loved it, if just for a night! Decked out in marble, crystal chandeliers, grand staircases, and 10 foot flower bouquets, it was a place fit for a queen (or 8 queens!). Our meal consisted of three courses, each one lovely and full of flavor. My favorite courses were the crab cake and the dessert, but the salmon was nice, too. I would definitely go back to The Grand Brasserie again.
Following dinner, we headed out to have a few drinks on Yong Kang Lu, a street lined with bars and restaurants that is frequented by expats. Everywhere was packed! We weren’t sure if it was because it was Women’s Day or because it was a relatively nice night (i.e. not raining and not too cold). Regardless, we found a spot in the back of the Taphouse, where we staked our claim. A few other friends joined us for the festivities, and we had a good time conversing with one another and laughing at the 21-year-olds who were obviously wasted by 9:00PM. As women in our 30’s (or nearly there), we can’t imagine acting that way now. 😉
Tired of being cramped and hot, we moved the party to an Irish pub across the street, seeking some solace from the throngs of party-goers out and about, hoping for a chill place to sit and relax. The Irish pub, we found, was just as crowded as the Taphouse. The Ireland vs. Italy rugby game was on, so finding a spot to sit was impossible. Nonetheless, we settled in, had a drink (or two), mingled with the usuals, and tried to one-up one another with our dirty jokes. As a spectator in the joke-telling contest, most just made me laugh! As the night wound down, we all had a yummy birthday apple cheesecake cupcake courtesy of the lovely Melissa. Hope you had a fabulous birthday Amy! Love you! 🙂
6:00AM- Alarm goes off…snooze
6:09AM- Alarm goes off…snooze
6:18AM- Alarm goes off…snooze
6:27AM- Alarm goes off…OK, OK, I’m up!
6:28AM- With one eye open, I check my email on my iPhone…nothing too important. Time to get out of bed!
6:32AM- Stumble into the bathroom, wiping the sleep out of my eyes as I try not to curse the morning. Why is it so early?
6:33AM- Go pee…you know everybody does it!
6:34AM- Wash my hands and face and brush my teeth
6:37AM- Start boiling a pot of water for my edamame snack and throw some assorted veggies in the oven to roast for lunch
6:39AM- What am I going to wear? Quickly deciding on an outfit, I throw on a couple pairs of tights, my jean skirt, and a sweater.
6:43AM- Put the edamame on to boil. Wash and cut the apples, oranges, and strawberries for today’s smoothie.
6:45AM- Throw the fruit and coconut water into the blender….whirrrrrrrr…perfection.
6:48AM- Check on the edamame and veggies….not ready yet.
6:50AM- Makeup time…a little powder, blush, mascara, and chapstick. Good to go. 🙂
6:53AM- Log onto my VPN to read and comment on a few of my fellow slicers’ posts.
6:57AM- Whoops! Edamame and veggies are done…quickly pull the veggies out and drain my snack. Back to commenting.
7:20AM- Eeeek! I gotta go! Frantically, I pack my lunch and bag for work.
7:27AM- Noticing my droopy flowers, I jot down a quick note to ayi- ‘Please water the plants today! Thx!’
7:28AM- Throw on my shoes and I’m out the door
7:29AM- Descend 7 floors in the elevator, walk out my building, and head to the gate
7:35AM- My favorite motorcycle taxi driver waves a hello, and I hop onto his bike. By now, he knows my routine…waiting for me each morning, anxious to give me a lift to school.
7:36AM- And, we’re off! Meandering through the streets, dodging pedestrians, cars, other motorbikes, and bicycles, we make our way down Hong Mei Lu. Hang a left on Huaguang Lu, past the five year old boy peeing on the street, dodging the car that pulled out in front of us, past the shops selling egg pancakes, steaming baozi, and meat on a stick, avoiding the street cleaner and his high pressure sprayer.
7:38AM- Right on Hongzhong Lu, traffic slows down, people mill about, greeting one another, making their early morning purchases. Running the red light, we turn left on Yan’an Lu, under the elevated highway. Only a few more turns left.
7:40AM- Swerving around a motorbike, horn blaring, we turn right down a one-way street. Going against the flow of traffic, passing fruit stands, an Avon store, and loads of random little shops selling all manner of household goods, we cruise.
7:41AM- Almost there! Left onto Hong Qiao Lu. This time we have a green light, but that doesn’t stop us from nearly taking out a few pedestrians in the crosswalk.
7:42AM- Pulling into the zoo gates, we ride past the guard station. Today we are met with resistance. The guard, yelling in Chinese, tells us we can’t enter. My pengyou (friend) yells back. Angry looks and words exchanged, we’re at an impasse. “Ke yi!” (It’s OK!) I shout, anxious to get going. For now, we are allowed to go.
7:43AM- With a smile, a wave, and a “Zaoshang hao,” my school guards greet me in their usual way. After paying my 10RMB fare and a quick goodbye to my driver, I run in.
7:44AM- Clock in for the day (it’s a China thing). Whew! I made it. One minute to spare! Now to start my day. 🙂