Thursday, September 26, 2013

Family Style

Since I've been here I've tried some very interesting foods. From red bean frappe's to black sticky rice ice cream and everything in between.

Our teacher took us out to lunch this week and we went to a traditional restaurant. Here traditional means family style, where all the dishes are places in the center and everyone takes something from every dish and either eats it right away or places it on their plate. Its very unusual for someone who only eats whats given on their plate. I think it creates more communication and relationship since one cannot be shy, everyone just grabs everything. Its very usual too for others to grab food and put it on your plate so you can try and eat it.

Well we went to this Chinese restaurant and the program was paying for it so everyone was able to order x amount of food. I opened the menu and was about to run back out of the restaurant. The pictures included whole ducks and chickens with their heads still on in a bowl of soup, or whole fish heads on a plate of greens. I was not expecting anything of the sort. I ordered the simplest thing, noddles and then black pepper and salt chicken. We all tried different things just to see how everything tasted. No whole duck though (I told them I'd leave if that happened). When the food came it all looked so delicious. 
We had chicken and tofu, noodles and beef, vegetables and snails.

People have always told me how good they were, but looking at them I couldn't do it. 

Here's the inside of a snail, looks just like squid or octopus. Apparently it was 很好吃 (very delicious). Maybe one day before I leave I might try them. 

In China people usually don't eat desserts or too many sweets, so I was worried about my ice cream situation. We've found Haagen Dazs and Cold Stone, but they're even more expensive here than in the US.
We found the best places are the little shops on the street where you can get ice cream for less than 30 cents. 
At night study breaks are a must for us and we venture out to find ice cream. 
I've had all sorts from grapes, peach, pineapple, and lately black sticky rice. I know it sounds disgusting but it was actually very good, once you got over the initial shock of eating rice ice cream. 
My favorite so far though has been Green Tea Ice Cream Cake. We went to Pizza Hut for dinner one night and ordered this for dessert. It was delicious.

Who knows what we'll find and eat next. I've been trying a lot of food and other times I'm scared to eat them.
It's all been very different though. I think the biggest thing to get used to in terms of food is that your eating Chinese food 24/7. Back home you'd probably have it maybe once or twice a week. Here you have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. My body is still adjusting to it, I've been craving a salad for the longest time. 
The food is great though, especially the  "fried" noodles (炒面) . I've become very adept at using chopsticks, I now can even eat peanuts with them. 
It will be very weird to get back home and use a fork again. 

This Old Town

Even though most of Shanghai is industrialized and modern, there is still a lot of beautiful and ancient oriental architecture. Today we went to what is called Old Town. This huge section in a tiny part of Shanghai is like a step back in time. Street and alleys are filled with buildings that one would perceive and believe to be Oriental. In the center of this area lies the traditional tree house surrounded by water. Shops line the streets with everything from silk to jade, wooden Buddhas to traditional paper cuttings. You can find the real things or cheaper items. The sales people can be quite intimidating, coming at you from all sides sometimes, demanding that you buy something. You better know how to bargain and haggle though or you'll probably be paying 70% more than you should.
One of my favorite places here in Old Town are the tea shops. There is a tea shop about every three shops, filled to the ceiling with different teas, tea pots, tea sets, sifters and everything to do with tea. The smells are heavenly, with each brewing up tasters of jasmine tea, black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and tea's I've never even heard of. The ceramics and the decorations on these tea sets and cups are beautiful, each having its own design and in scriptures. I wish I could bring them all home. I hope that before I leave I'll have the chance to work on my bargaining skills.
Its weird though as you walk along Old Town, all the old architecture and everything takes you back in time, but you won't believe how many Starbucks, KFC's, and McDonald's, as well as a Dairy Queen and other restaurants there are. It interesting because even though the food is about three times more expensive than any other restaurant here, they are always full. In China there's a big gap between the rich and the poor and the rich like to showcase this in everything they do. For example, coffee is very expensive here, about four times the price of tea. Yet, you see a lot of people in Starbucks or other coffee shops, sipping coffee or surfing on the internet because this is a sign of status and position in the society. You‘re someone if you can sit in a cafe with your laptop and have a coffee, which most people cannot do. 
I think an interesting aspect here in China is people put a lot of emphasis on status and position in society and not loosing face. You can especially see it in their consumer patterns. I think this also leads to why a lot of foreign companies have trouble doing business here. In China, people go after what society thinks is luxury. Therefore when you go to Pizza Hut here, its not just a pizza place, you can order wine and beer and the meals are quite extravagant. Many wealthy people here also don't buy as many Louis Vuitton's any more and other designer brands because "everyone" has them now. They aren't special anymore and having a mere Channel bad doesn't hold the same standard as they once did. Yet at the same time, China has such a big gap with the poor, that consumers are very price conscious. Its interesting to see these two extremes and how businesses and people work here. I've decided I'm waiting till I get back to get my caffeine fix. 

Here's a look:

Inside one of the stores, they have just about everything you can imagine

I thought this was really cute. They have Buddhas of all sizes, shapes, materials, but I thought this one has been the cutest so far

Street along the Old Town

Inside the Mall
Last week I was there and there was no ship, but this one is beautiful

I love the selection of suitcases
Everything here is very cartoon based it wouldn't surprise you to see an adult walking around with one of these. Chinese especially love Hello Kitty, you can find it on everything and everywhere.

Bubble Tea! At first very weird to drink since the bubbles are made of jelly, but after a while it's quite good.
This one is Caramel Green Tea with Coconut Jelly

A view of the Tea House in the middle of the center. It was crazy crowded here since everyone was celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) and so everyone had the day off. It was a challenge just to walk across the street. I thought I had seen a lot of people, but nothing like this

Another view of the Tea House

I still haven't figured out what kind of instrument this is, but all day he's hitting something and sometimes it even sounds good. Many people make something out of nothing here

Another week has gone by and I can't believe it. I've been here a month already and it still feels like I got here yesterday. Before long I'll be heading back, so I'll be on my way, hopefully I get to see all of Shanghai and China before its time.
Hope your enjoying reading, I'll be back soon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mid-Autumn Festival

Sorry it's been a while, school has been busy and the schoolwork is plentiful. It's wonderful though when your reading something and you can finally understand it. Every character you learn adds to your vocabulary and even though it's taking a while and going slowly, the littlest progress is a huge reward. 
This week is Mid-Autumn Festival and we don't have class on Thursday and Friday. Mid-Autumn Festival or sometimes referred to the moon cake festival is a big holiday here. In ancient times family members would go work in the cities or far away from their families to earn more money. Around this time many of them would get homesick but since they lived so far away and transportation was almost non existent they couldn't go home. It is said they wrote letters, songs, and poems to express their sorrows and at night they went outside and watched the moon. Since the moon was at its brightest it gave them hope in believing that their family members where outside as well watching the moon. This brought them more together and made them feel less alone. Families and stores would make moon cakes which they would give to these lonely family members. Over time millions of different flavors of these moon cakes evolved. 
I have also heard that the Mid-Autumn festival also celebrates a good harvest. Right before the farmers had to harvest, the moon would be at its biggest and brightest and this festival was in it's honor to ensure a good harvest.
My roommate invited me to her house tonight for the festival. She lives in Shanghai, in another district about half an hour from our university. Every family prepares a huge meal and after moon cakes are shared. They had made crabs, which I bit open and sucked the meat out, something I have never done. Their food assortments included squid and octopus, yellow tail fish, beef, pork, duck, potato root, broccoli, different roots, celery and shrimp and so much more. 
It was all so delicious, but I had to refrain from eating squid, octopus, and duck. It was very interesting and fun. Manners are very different here than at home. People slurp all the time but that is normal here. Most meats and foods have bones and scales and those are just spit on the tables in front of you. At first that was always very uncomfortable for me because it's somethig that is rude and bad mannered at home. It's still very weird for me. 
I had a great time though, they were very welcoming and even though the mom and grandpa didnt speak English we had a great time. 
My roommate (xu peiying) and me and our dinner. So delicious
Moon cakes -these have tea paste and a hard egg yolk in the middle
Today we're going to go explore the city. I'll write again soon.
P.S. I Miss everyone back home

Soar Feet

Two days ago one of the CIEE Chinese roommates approached us and asked us if we wanted to go see the museum. Of course we said yes and this morning we all met to go out. One of our Chinese teacher accompanied us along with two Chinese students and about five of us (CIEE students). It took us about two hours to get there, we stopped for coffee and of course got lost. When we got there we were starving so we went and got lunch at an duck soup place. It tasted pretty good, but the smell, It was enough to make me sick. I believe it was because most of the meat they were using that day had just come in so that smell took over the place. Also, Chinese cook with a lot of soy and vinegary sauces and most of the time the smell is not pleasant. I had dumplings and they were delicious, another great meal here for under $1. Finally we headed to the Shanghai Museum and it was packed. It was really neat though. The architecture and the building itself were beautiful. Yesterday they had just opened a new French impressionist art gallery and so everyone came to see it today. It was nice for us because it was our first time there so we went to see everything else. There was a furniture gallery, ceramics gallery, coins and currency, jade, calligraphy and paintings and minority groups galleries. This surprised me, it was a totally different museum that I had thought it would be. It gave the history and the origins of all these areas from the early Ming, Qing, and even earlier dynasties. It was really interesting because some of the items dated back extremely far which made me realize how  profound and long their history is. My favorite part was the calligraphy. They even had oracle bones where the first writings were recorded in ancient times.
The oracle bone, with its inscriptions.
A copy and only the inscriptions can be seen here.
I believe this is so fascinating because not only have we read and learned about this in all the books, but the minds that must have come up with such an intricate language. As we walked the calligraphy gallery it showed how Chinese characters evolved from the oracle bone inscriptions to now.

I'm probably gonna go back soon. The museum was so big, there was no way to process all that in one time.
Me and a friend decided to see a part of Shanghai called the French Consession. After the war, many countries were occupying China. Most countries has settled in the part they call the international section of Shanghai, but the French settled in a different part which is now called the French Consession. Here there are French influences in everything from food, language, fashion, art and everything. We walked for about three hours just looking at everything and trying to find this restaurant in our guide book. The Chinese don't really coordinate their street sign numbers with they're house numbers and so we had to turn around, walk in circles, and get lost a few times. I enjoyed it though. This part of Shanghai was very different and it was nice to see the cultural difference. We finally got there and realize this wasn't the place we wanted to stay and eat at so we kept walking. We got some drinks along the way. Here in China they have bubble tea stores all over the place. The regular bubble tea is just milk tea with grass jelly or such, tonight I had coconut jelly with green tea milk, it was delicious. 
Finally we found a mall and went to a restaurant there. We had ourselves a laugh because our food was really good, I had spaghetti carbonara and a glass wine and it was 17 yuan which is about $3. The great thing was right across the street from the mall we were in was Prada, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Rolex and every other designer and luxury brand you can think of. It was strange that even though we were in such a high class area, our food was so inexpensive. Definitely a place I'm coming to again.
The highway and transportation infrastructure in Shanghai is awesome

I even found Optimus prime there!
It was a great day even after being on my feet and walking for twelve hours. The best part about exploring and getting lost is finding those small quirky places and all the new areas. I can't wait to go back to the French Consession and see the rest of it.
Till next time

Here are a few more pictures of my day...

Our group in front of the museum, we're all in diss array, it was really hot.
Apparently this is what all the Chinese tourists do everywhere 
Dumplings for lunch
Inside the Shanghai Museum
An incredible vast amount of different minority and ethnic groups in China

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Red Beans, no thank you

My first school week is done. I can actually say thank god and am happy I made it. All those sayings that the Chinese study a lot, they're true. It felt like midterms this week. Now we'll all be ready for next week. It's good though, we'll definitely learn the language working like this. I love my classes, even though I sit in my Chinese class most of the time and am lost and have no idea what's being said, I'm learning more and more everyday. My economics teacher and my management sustainability teacher are both Chinese who have studied abroad and worked there too. It is fascinating to see they're points of view and learn from them. One thing though, I will be surprised if by the end of the semester one of us doesn't end up on the first floor (class is on the sixth). Every time one of us take a step something creaks or breaks and the floor boards are half broken already. At least You'll know what happend if I don't come home with all my body parts intact.
I still can't wrap my head around the get used to the amount of people here. The traffic is insane here, I'm really surprised I haven't been hit yet. People are everywhere weaving in and out of bicycles, mopeds, cars, and busses. 
This is a picture of a slow day, i still have to catch one when it's crazy, but you get pushed and slung around its hard.
Ive been very open to try everything here and I've tried a lot so far but today that wasn't a good choice. I went to a drink store and bought this frappe looking drink (it was all in Chinese so I had no idea what most of it was), and when I got it it looked really good but it was far from that. I had bought a red bean frappe which tasted just like red bean soup but with milk and whipped cream. I can put that on my list of tried it and leave it at that. 
Who knows what I'll try next, it's always an adventure here.
I went shopping today for supplies and groceries and had to put this up:
This is my favorite candy in Germany and I was really surprised they have it here, and everywhere. It's interesting how big of an international community there is in Shanghai. Even with most of the 24 million people being Chinese, the international community has an enormous impact here. You can find everything here, you just have to look for it.
Well that's it for today, I'm ready to go see more of Shanghai this weekend. Hopefully I can find a few tee houses and check out the gardens and temples.
Till next time.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One week already?

I can't believe I've been here a week already. Time does fly. After the week we had I think everyone was pretty worn out. We did go out and explore though, not doing so would not be taking advantage of being here. We decided To be adventurous and got on the metro and took an exit we thought sounded good. To our surprised we landed just about in the middle of nowhere. We walked a bit and then found this very cool and distinct cafe. 

It was neat though and I enjoyed it.
We then took the metro back and went to the mall, I had to get a few school supplies. It was getting late so we decided to stop at this neat cafe in the mall where when you ordered you got to have (not to keep though :( ) this cute teddy bear.
Something new everyday right. As we were leaving we laughed because we saw this, 
We're still alive though which is good and it was yummy.
Another nice adventure here in Shanghai.  It's getting late and tomorrow is homework day. Already got loads of it.
I'll keep you updated with everything. Hope your enjoying this.
Till next time. 

I just want to apologize if the formatting, coloring, spelling, and everything seems a bit off. I currently can only access blogger through my iPod and that won't let me edit or format it at all and therefore I cannot fix all that. But I'm working on it so bear with me. Thanks :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Shanghai's Amazing Race

I got my textbooks yesterday along with my homework. I placed into Intermediate 2 which is nice but will challenge me at the same time I think. I am also taking Managing Sustainability in Transnational Business as well as Marketing Management in Asia and Emerging Markets which will both be interesting. It'll be a busy semester but a good one! In the afternoon they had a race prepared for us, it was all over the city and it had about five clues in all. Our team was five people and we raced off to  start. Yet after two hours we still couldn't find the first clue. We got so lost at one point and emerged from the metro at a totally different point than we intended. Finally we all decided to stop and eat, we were all starving by that time. We were on Nanjing road though which is supposed to be a big place to go see so we walked that down for a while. It was neat because you could see modern Shanghai alongside European architecture from when they had been settled there. This part was also much more international and westernized than the part of Shanghai we were in. It was a neat trip but we were tired at the end of it.
Today I got a phone here. It cost me 160 RMB here which is the equivalent to about 25 dollars which is not bad. We then went on a mission to find the black market here. Apparently the market here is huge and you can find just about anything you're looking for. We took the metro, which I think is always an experience, to inner Shanghai. The metro here is very nice though, kind of spacey and very clean. Again like yesterday we searched forever and we found a type of market but I dont think it was what we were looking for. I think it'll take us a while to figure everything out here. It was drizzling but we wet to the Bund anyway just to see it and it was amazing. Pictures don't do it justice whatsoever. I'll probably talk about the Bund more next time when I go again, since the skies weren't very clear today. Then we walked down Nanjing Road which looks just like New York but is forever long. You can probably find anything you'd ever want here. In a way it was overwhelming because there was so much of it. We finally settled in Pizza Hut ( an upscalish restaurant here) had a glass of wine and something small to eat, before we headed back. It was a great day and we saw so much, yet it's amazing to know you haven't even seen half of it. 
People's Square, they say this is the center of Shanghai
Beautiful European architecture is seen everywhere in this part of Shanghai. 
The Bund- It was very cloudy that night but the view was still amazing. The bottle opener looking building is the World Financial Headquarters. You can walk across the top of it, which is a glass bottom bridge, and they say you can observe the curvature of the earth.

A view from our side of the river. A huge boardwalk lines the river and then shops, cafe's, restaurants, and hotels line the street behind it.
A view of the boardwalk. 
Nanjing Road- Every imaginable store lines these streets.
It is beautiful to walk through though. Here you can relax and not worry about the deathly traffic.

A couple was dancing in the streets. They were having so much fun.

Well that's it for today. Off to bed for me and hopefully more exploring tomorrow.
Till next time.