Sunday, February 26, 2012

Asian Tigers

We decided to let Snowball wrestle an Asian Tiger.

I think that poor tiger was in the wrong weight class.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Top 5 Things to Bring to China

Until our residence permits are official, our air shipment cannot be released from customs. However, we were able to bring a whopping five suitcases of supplies onto the plane. Most of these were full of items that we learned were not readily available in Shanghai. So here are the top five things you should bring with you when you move/visit China:

1. Makeup: There is plenty of makeup available in Shanghai. The problem is that most of it contains bleaching agents. The standard of beauty in China is to have very white, porcelain skin. Dark skin here represents manual labor, or time spent out in the field, whereas white skin signifies wealth. As someone who is already fair skinned, extra bleach in my night cream isn't needed. Also, thanks to the luxury tax on certain items in China, makeup here is is about 30-40% more expensive than you would pay in the US. 

2. Pharmaceuticals: While there are many pharmacies here, over the counter and prescription drugs may not have the same ingredients as you are used to in the US, nor are the regulations on them the same. There have been numerous issues in the past with pharmacies selling fake drugs or or ones with mislabeled ingredients. In order to avoid any issues, we had an entire suitcase packed with everything from Sudafed to Pepto Bismol. I was also able to have our insurance company authorize a year supply of my medications so I did not have to worry about filling them abroad.

3. Deodorant: Guess what I managed to buy a year supply of for my husband, and neglected to buy for myself? Yep, deodorant. And now, I cannot find it anywhere. If you notice that I smell like Axe for the next few months, you'll know why. I'm going to have to use Matthew's deodorant until my mother ships me more of it, because trust me, no one wants to smell me after a cycling class if I don't have deodorant on. Not that you want to smell me after a workout at all, but you get the point. I really wish there was a black market for deodorant in Shanghai.

4. Shoes: You might wonder how one of the largest shopping centers of the world could be lacking in shoes. Well, they aren't. They are lacking in shoe sizes. With my size 10 hoofs, there isn't a shoe in Shanghai that will fit me. And while Matthew wouldn't let me bring every pair of shoes I own, I have more than enough to last me through our time here.

5. VPN: This is essential. In today's digital age, I cannot fathom being cut off from the rest of the world by the Great Firewall of China. Because unless you use a VPN to route your internet traffic somewhere else, there is no Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or access to countless other websites. I would recommend setting this up before you leave in order to ensure you have the correct router, software, and computer settings to stay connected to friends and family back home.

There are obviously many other things that we brought with us, but I have found these five items to be the ones we are the most glad to have brought along. Except the deodorant. I forgot to bring that. Ugh.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What we eat

I've been asked a number of times what we eat in Shanghai. Like any big city, we are able to find cuisine from Italian to Mexican to, obviously, Chinese when we go out to eat. And while it's not easy to find certain Western foods in the grocery store, we haven't had too much trouble obtaining what we need, even if it does involve visiting four different grocery stores on Sunday afternoon. Grocery shopping here is a bit of an experience, and I promise to post more about it soon.

Matthew and I cooked a fair amount of Asian inspired dishes before even relocating to China, so here is an example of what I whipped up the other night for dinner. While not Chinese, Laksa is at least Asian so I'm cooking for the right continent.

I used this recipe that I tagged on Pinterest a few weeks ago. It was simple and quick to make, which is important now that I have resumed the cooking duties. After three years of Matthew handling dinner, I'm a bit out of practice.

This weekend, we are attempting some homemade pizza, as plain cheese isn't common on most menus. King oyster pizza? Totally on the menu at Pizza Hut, but plain cheese was nowhere to be seen. Even the veggie pizza I ordered was a little odd with mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, and pineapple. I'm pretty sure pineapple was never a vegetable, so we are going to attempt our own pizza this weekend. We made it often in the US but we had measuring cups, a mixer, and a pizza stone. Our air shipment has not yet arrived with measuring cups, nor are we entirely sure what type of flour we bought. Wish us luck with the pizza and I'll keep you updated on what fills our tummies.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ikea Love

On Friday, Matthew and I went to Ikea to stock up on organizational items we needed for our apartment.

The Ikea in Shanghai isn't much different than in the US. Mobs of people, Swedish meatballs (which I still don't eat), cheap prices, and excellent ice cream after checking out. Only the ice cream in China is only 1 rmb instead of a dollar. That works out to 16 cents. I got ice cream for 16 cents people. And this is why I love Shanghai.

Ikea Shanghai Xuhui Store
No.126 Cao Xi Road
Xuhui District, Shanghai

Thursday, February 16, 2012


We've officially been in Shanghai for a week now, but due to some lease issues between the apartment complex and Matt's human resources office, we did not move into our apartment until Monday night. This meant that the week we had planned to use getting our apartment (and lives) in order was cut short by Matt returning to work. We hope to use this weekend to visit Ikea and make a large grocery run as well as set up a Chinese bank account and any other relocation related tasks. Having been in the hotel longer than we have been in the apartment, it does not feel like our home just yet. I imagine with time and once our air shipment of personal items arrives, it will begin to feel more comfortable.

Thankfully, the arrival of the most important member of our family has helped to add warmth to our apartment. As you saw in the photo from yesterday, Snowball came home from quarantine. Despite being very confused and cautious initially, she was mostly back to her snuggly self by last night. I have no doubt she will adjust just fine to life in Shanghai, though she does appear to be terrified our of maids.

This weekend, we are planning to attend a Shanghai orientation for new arrivals at the ex-pat community center. I am looking forward to meeting some other ex-pats as well as learning more about our new city.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Losing a Day

Kristin and I (and more importantly our cat Snowball) have arrived safely in Shanghai. Our travel day started 4am Tuesday EST Feb 7th and finished 4pm Shanghai time Feb 8th. That works out to 36 hours and 13 of which is the time difference. Everything went remarkably smoothly.

Snowball tolerated all the travel very well and we managed to get her some breaks out of the carrier during our layover in Toronto. Once we were onboard the final flight to Shanghai I would also sneak her into the airplane restroom for some stretch breaks on the baby changing table. Most of the time she curled up and watched the world pass by from the safety of our carrier. It was not until half way through the flight that our flight attendants even realized we had a cat with us, but once they did Snowball was checked on more than we were.

Once we got to Shanghai, we had our driver and pet import consultant waiting for us. Snowball has to go off to quarantine for a week while we went to a hotel for the night. There was a small delay with the preparation of our apartment so with any luck we will be moving in and posting the next update from there tomorrow.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mapping Shanghai

Thanks to a wealth of online information from travelers and other expats Kristin and I have been able to start compiling an online list of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore once we are in Shanghai. Since the city can be large and slightly intimidating for people from a much smaller town we thought this would be a great way to keep track of places we have been or need to try in the future.

Feel free to follow along as we expand the list, or comment with any recommendations you have from personal experience:

View Shanghai in a larger map
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