Monday, April 30, 2012

Oh poop

Yup, this is a post about feces. So if matters of excrement make you squirm, you may want to wait a few days for a new post from me. Otherwise, we are going to dive right in, metaphorically speaking. I have no desire to actually swim in any dookie.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Shanghai was the abundance of bare baby buns. Why were these exposed fannies so prevalent? Because many parents do not use diapers here. Instead, children wear pants with a slit over the bum, allowing them to go to the bathroom when needed. Sometimes this will occur over a trash can but more often, it happens right on the sidewalk.

Exhibit A
Now, I know what you are thinking. Ew. Gross. We would never do that in the US. Although I have not seen any split pants while out and about in the good old USA, I've spent enough nights in college towns to know that public urination (and even defecation) are not uniquely Chinese. I've also been rather mystified on numerous occasions as to why American parents think a restaurant table is an appropriate changing spot for their little ones. I didn't order a side of baby poop stench, thank you very much. So while Americans may not leave their tiny tushies permanently on display, I can't really argue that American practices are anymore superior.

And in case you were wondering, the reason for the slit pants isn't entirely economical, though eliminating diaper spending certainly doesn't hurt. Many Chinese just prefer the split pants. I'm told it eliminates diaper rash and that it even helps to accelerate potty training. And any method that hastens the process by which humans start to use toilets is okay with me, because really, who wants to think about poo that much anyway?

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Last night, my mind was blown when we stumbled upon the following sight at a bar not too far from our apartment.

That's right, we found a Penn State bar in Shanghai! We chatted with the owner who happens to have graduated in 2008, meaning he was at PSU when Matthew and I were as well. He assured us that he would broadcast all of the games this fall, so chances are you will find us a Piro quite often, cheering on our beloved Nittany Lions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Our bank is very user friendly for non-Chinese speakers such as your truly. But sometimes, their English signage makes as little sense as the Mandarin to me.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Gym Class

Despite some questionable gym habits, many of the Chinese I have encountered seem to have an appreciation for exercise. And just like in the US, there appears to be some sort of mandatory exercise class during the school day. Every morning around eight o'clock, I hear the same chipper music blasting from the school that our apartment overlooks. And if I look out the window, the video below is what I see. These kids are seriously booking it. (Sorry for the poor quality, cell phone video from 27 floor high isn't the best)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Street Sweep

And this is how they sweep the streets in China. With naturally made brooms... 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Longhua Temple

During Qingming, Matthew and I ventured to Longhua Temple for an afternoon. Longhua Temple is a Buddhist Temple dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha.

The temple was crowded with people for the tomb sweeping festival, lighting incense and burning offerings to their ancestors.

Longhua Temple
No. 2853 Longhua Road
Xuhui District
Shanghai, China

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Longjing Village

During our trip to Hangzhou, we arranged a tour to learn more about the tea processing in the area. Since moving to China, we have begun to drink a lot more tea, but honestly, knew very little about it. We were fortunate enough to connect with an American tour guide named Danielle. The only thing more impressive than her fluent Mandarin was her knowledge of tea.
The area surrounding Hangzhou produces some of the best tea in China, making it the ideal spot to learn a little more about the process. Just outside Hangzhou is where Longjing or Dragon Well tea is grown. Longjing tea is a variety of green tea, believed to be the best in China, which also makes it the most expensive.

Most varieties of Longjing  are still plucked and processed entirely by hand.

 After the tea is plucked, it must rest in a bamboo basket for 8-10 hours to allow for at least 30% of the water content to evaporate.

A tea master will then use an electric steel pan to heat the tea. This roasting is done entirely by hand using a set of eight specific hand movements: grasp, toss, shake, pile, throw, buckle, press, and grind. Experienced tea masters know well how and when to use the certain movements according to the temperature, color and moisture content of tea leaves.

Once the tea has been roasted, it is placed back into the bamboo baskets to cool. This entire process is then repeated. The resulting tea leaves should be flat and have pointed edges.

Tea plucked before the Qingming festival is called Mingqian. This tea is generally sweeter and lighter in flavor than teas plucked later, and therefore fetches higher prices in the marketplace.

After touring the tea village, we stopped by the tea museum for a tea tasting, where we sampled Longjing which had been plucked just days prior.

And of course, we went home with some tea. How could we resist after seeing the preparation which went into each leaf?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter

Sunday marked our first holiday outside of the states, as well as the official two month point of living in Shanghai. To celebrate, we went to brunch at Boxing Cat Brewery, a Southern restaurant that served up shrimp and grits, cornbread, stuffed french toast, and loads of other tasty treats and then exchanged Easter baskets with each other. Thankfully, we were not without chocolate as my mother recently shipped me some much needed hygiene essentials and managed to sneak a few Kit Kats (my favorite) and Cadbury Eggs (Matthew's crack of choice) into the box as well.

My family got together early on Easter (while Matthew and I stayed up late) so that I could video chat with all of them. Here is a quick screen shot I grabbed during the chat. I cannot stop smiling when I look at this photo. I have the most adorable family.

I hope everyone had a happy holiday, no matter where you celebrated it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Favorite Things: Street Food

Between Matthew and I, we have had three rounds of food poisoning in Shanghai. And thanks to our love of street food, most people assume that is where we got it from. Nope. For the record, the first was from airplane food, the second was from a local bakery, and the third time may have been from one of the best restaurants in the city. Don't let the fear of getting sick stand in the way of tasting some of the most amazing food in Shanghai.

Like this, the scallion pancake.

Our favorite morning snack comes from a local stand a few blocks from our apartment. The cook throws the fresh dough into simmering oil and the result is a flaky, savory pinwheel of greasy love. So head out into the streets and try some of the local fare. Although you may want to consider a hepatitis shot first, just in case.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


This past weekend, Matthew and I headed out of the city for a few days to relax. We both were in need of some fresh air so we took the high speed train to Hangzhou, a small resort city located about 120 miles outside of Shanghai. The train was cheap and efficient, getting us to Hangzhou in 45 minutes and only setting us back around $25 for two tickets.

We arrived just at dusk and after checking into our hotel, headed to the famous West Lake to look around. It was a beautiful night and we both commented that the air smelled so fresh as compared to smog filled Shanghai.

From West Lake, we grabbed dinner and ended the night with some insanely relaxing foot rubs. Calling them a foot rub is rather misleading though as you also get a neck and shoulder rub while your feet soak in lavender water. Foot rubs are huge in China and for roughly $15, you can have someone rub your gams for an hour. Heaven I tell you.

On Sunday, I had booked us a full day of tea touring (more on that in a future post) but we were able to sneak back out to West Lake for a bit to enjoy an early morning stroll. The park area was full of meandering paths, beautiful flowers, and towering trees. Despite the large number of other people, the whole setting was intoxicatingly serene.

One of the most popular activities in Hangzhou is to charter a boat to take you out to one of the many islands in West Lake. Most of them have nice walking trails or even a pagoda to visit. We did not have the time to squeeze in a boat ride this trip, but I have no doubt we will on our next visit.

Of course, no trip to a park in China would be complete with witnessing some morning exercise.

In the end, Hangzhou was the perfect place to spend a few days and unwind. I have no doubt that this will become a frequent destinations for us, one where we bring visitors when they need a break from the bustle of Shanghai. Speaking of visitors, my parents booked their tickets to come visit us in November! Even though their visit is still quite a few months away, I cannot wait for them to get here. While I can give them a glimpse of our lives here through this blog, I know they will be fully able to appreciate our new home once they experience it themselves. So book your flights now, because our guest room is taking reservations.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Wednesday marks the festival of Qingming or Tomb Sweeping Day. For the Chinese, Qingming is a time when families honor their ancestors by gathering at their grave sites and literally sweeping the tombs. They will also offer gifts like food, tea, wine, and burn paper accessories they believe the deceased might need in the afterlife. However, Qingming is not only a day of remembrance. It has also become a day to celebrate the coming of spring, often by participating in outdoor activities and flying kites.

One of the traditional foods eaten during Qingming is the qingtuan. It is a very green, glutinous rice ball, traditionally filled with bean curd. Qingtuan dates back over 2,000 years to the Zhou dynasty.

While popular all year, tuan are readily available leading up to Qingming. The day prior to Qingming is another ancient event, Hanshi, which means cold food. Traditionally, only cold foods are eaten during this time, of which qingtuan is the most popular.

While we won't be sweeping any graves, we do plan to spend our Qingming holiday outdoors while checking out some local street fairs and hunting down the best qingtuan in town (the one pictured above was definitely not it).
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