Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Air Dry

Apparently I have been doing my laundry wrong for years. I had no idea I was supposed to air dry my wash with my meats. Thank goodness I figured that one out.

a picture for you

Friday, February 22, 2013


In the US, people drive short distances in massive vehicles, while carting very little. In China, this happens.





Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Xi'An: Cave Homes

While visiting Xi'an, my family had a rather unique opportunity. We were invited by our guide, Raphael, to visit the ancestral home of his family. Carved into the side of a hill, this cave home, or yáodòng, had housed generations of his family. For hundreds of years, these cave homes have been popular dwellings in Shaanxi province due to the ease of digging the earth as well as a lack of other building materials.


Our guide's cousin and family still call this humble, hand dug cave their home. Though it also doubles as the local Mahjong parlor at night.


Inside the home, the whitewashed walls were adorned with calendars, family photos, and posters of cats. In recent years, revenue from the Mahjong parlor has even allowed the family to add electricity to their home.


We settled onto the kong, a bed which has been elevated to allow for a fire to burn underneath, and chatted with the family through broken Chinese and help from our guide. The family explained that in previous years, the back room had been used to store the family's livestock.


After profusely thanking the family for allowing us to visit their home, we ventured off for final leg of our Xi'An tour.

To arrange a tour of a cave home, contact:
Xi'An Day Tour
Raphael Wang

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shanghai Eats: Xin Wang

You can feel the blood pulsing through your head with each beat of the music, even after you've stepped outside. Your mouth is dry, thick with saliva and the faint taste of beer. Your eyes take a moment to adjust to the street lights, just in time for you to notice the green sign on the top of the taxi. Your hand flies up and you quickly crawl into the backseat of a beat up Volkswagen.

And then from your lips, you stutter the magical words, "Woměn xiāng qù Xin Wang" (If you actually want the cab to take you there, I suggest you give them the address too because that sentence alone will just get you an odd look).

Xin Wang is a popular Cantonese diner, specializing in dishes of the greasy spoon variety. Stir fry, noodles, turnip cakes, and pineapple buns. Open until 6am on the weekends (and a reasonable 4am during the week), Xin Wang is my favorite pit stop on the way home from a night out with friends.

I just have no idea if it's as good at 5pm as it is at 5am.

Thankfully, they have bōluó bāo, which is my own personal measure of a good place to eat. You remember my obsession with pineapple buns, right? Xin Wang's are even better.


And then there is this dish that has earned the nickname mac and cheese tofu among my friends due to the creamy texture and florescent color which is reminiscent of a certain Kraft food product.


If you too are in need of a late night snack (and don't want to brave the street noodles), head to Xin Wang at 175 Changle Lu, near Maoming Lu or one of the other additional locations across the city.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Xīn nián kuài lè

Happy New Year and welcome to the year of the snake! At first, I thought Chinese New Year was going to be my new favorite holiday. Because you're pretty much required to eat dumplings and set off fireworks. For the equivalent of $20 USD we purchased some exploding bombs that I was terrified would blow off our fingers.







And for the first few hours, it was my new favorite holiday. But the fireworks didn't end at midnight. Or 3am. Or even 6am. I've been listening to fireworks burst for the past 12 hours and both the cat and I have fried nerves. So while I enjoyed the first few hours of Chinese New Year, I think I'll be booking a flight to somewhere tropical next year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to make friends and influence no one

After a few posts (like this one) that were borderline love letters to our friends in Shanghai, I thought perhaps I should talk about how we have managed to form our support system here. As an article this summer in The New York Times pointed out, making friends gets harder with age. Throw in the inability to fully converse with a large percentage of this city and your possible social network shrinks further.

Thankfully, Matthew and I have been fortunate enough to develop strong friendships here. But we also worked hard to create them. We endured countless social events and went on dozens of coffee dates to meet our Shanghai friends. So while there is no perfect science to finding a person who will laugh at your lame jokes while dancing to Korean pop music, here are a few places to start.

1) Sign up for a class: Signing up for a class is a great way to meet other people who have similar interests as you do, plus you get the opportunity to learn a new skill. I met my first Shanghai friend while attending a Shanghai Orientation held at the Expat Community Center. I've also met similarly nice people through a dumpling class as well as my photography course at the Expat Learning Center. While I have not personally taken any courses at the local universities, quite a few offer Mandarin classes which will allow you socialize while learning the local language.

2) Find your home country's association: The Americans have AmCham and the American Women's Club of Shanghai, while the Australians have AustCham and The Australian Women's Social Group, among others. Numerous countries have a presence here in Shanghai where you can meet people from your home country, connect over shared experiences, or lament about the things you are missing (like cheese and turkey burgers). During the US Presidential Election in November, a number of American organizations teamed up to hold a party where fellow Americans could come together to watch the election results. Groups like these can help you stay connected to your home even when thousands of miles away.

3) Join an organization: In a city full of expats, there are endless organizations that will allow you to connect with other people who share your interests. There are social organizations such as Shanghai Dolls, which puts together a great happy hour for the ladies (and is where I have personally met a number of my closest friends in Shanghai), as well as Shanghai Expat, which holds weekly coffee meetups, and the ever popular Shanghai Mamas which will give you, as well as your little ones, a chance to connect with others in this vast city. And if you have a special interest, there is everything from running groups like Shanghai Hash House Harriers and Happy2Run to the Shanghai Guild for knitters. Heck, even your alumni association may have a local chapter. If you have something you are passionate about, chances are there are other people in Shanghai that feel the same way.

4) Volunteer: You're bound to connect with another good Samaritan like yourself if you spend your free time helping others. Plus, you'll have an opportunity to learn about resources available in the community. Bean is a great spot to start as it is a networking, volunteering, and social group for young professionals. There are countless other organizations looking for volunteers such as Heart to Heart, which works with children undergoing heart surgery, Second Chance Animal Aid for the animals lovers, and Shanghai Sunrise, which works with underprivileged children in Shanghai.

5) Other: This last category is for all the people that don't fit into the above mold. The friend I made in yoga class. The neighbors who invited us for dinner. The girl who went to grad school with a mutual friend and happens to live in Shanghai. Be open to meeting new people wherever you are. You are likely both expats, which means you already have something in common. So say hi to people in the elevator or trade numbers with that girl at the bar. Who knows, the guy in line behind you at Starbucks just might end up being your best friend.

Making new friends can feel like a series of blind dates and I've always hated dating. But eventually you'll start to meet others who share your interests and meeting up for lunch won't seem like a chore. And one day soon, you'll see pictures of your friends hanging out together while you are away in the US. And you'll suddenly realize that you wish you were back in Shanghai with them too.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shanghai Eats: Xiāng Wèi Yuán

You guys, I ordered a fish head last week. Not an entire fish that happened to come with a head. Not a fish that used to have a head. No, I ordered an entree that was a fish head. I even did it on purpose!

And it was delicious.


For anyone interested, the dish above is a Hunan specialty called shuāng sè yú tóu wáng and consists of a fish head that is steamed in soy, ginger, and hot peppers. You then add noodles to the broth for a tongue numbing delight.

We rounded out the meal with some spicy eggplant and beans, shredded potato with peppers, as well as a bowl of sweet jiù niàng yuán zi (glutinous rice balls in fermented rice wine). 




My friends think I've been in China for too long.

If you want to try the delicious steamed fish head at Xiāng Wèi Yuán, head to 264 Wanping Nan Lu (near Xin Geng Lu, past Nandan Lu) in Xuhui.
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