How Does It Feel?

As I’m down to my last day, living the ‘Hai life, many folks are asking me, “how do you feel?” So, I figured it’d be best to put it up on a post, once and for all to read. It’ll all be in random form as since this is part of the “how I am feeling” experience…….. like to hear it? here it goes!

How do you feel?

I’m ready.

It feels natural.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m anxious.

I’m SO ret’ ta go!!

I feel accomplished.

I still can NOT believe I’ve lived in China for 2 years, let alone.. at all!

I know that I’m a changed person, but in a way that is in inexplicable.

I’m proud of myself for taking on such a leap of faith + challenge in my life.

I realize not many people do such things, therefore I am for certain, a minority.

Sometimes I wonder, “who am I to do such a crazy thing to up and leave, taking on risks etc.” … but then, I figure, ehhh what can really go wrong when your gut is really into it and you’ve got a bit of smarts to carry you through?!

Two years abroad have made me so much more in tune with my emotions.

I’ve learned how to miss…and I mean, REALLY MISS THEM!! : family, loved ones, friends.

I appreciate  those who I have in my life; all who have stood by me in full support: family, loved ones, friends, teachers/mentors.

I never thought I’d have so many asian, well ABC friends, lol. But, I’ve come to learn we’re a special breed in our own right.

I’m confident in “checking off” Shanghai as a “been there, DONE that!”

My listening comprehension in Mandarin has definitely improved – big time!.. .but still struggling with speaking/pronouncing the correct tones.

I realize that once I get back to the States, I may feel as if these past two years had never happened. Thankfully, I have pictures and videos as well as lifetime friendships that I’ve nurtured while out here to remind me that these past two years were in fact, real!  We created our own little support system out here when homesickness, cultural aggravations, misunderstandings, etc. came about. And of course, we’ve created PLENTY of awesome fun-filled memories along the way! I’ve got love for my Shanghai Fam!!

What will you miss most about Shanghai?

I will miss the friendsthat I’ve made, who’ve become my “Shanghai Fam” – truly, some special people in my life, but I KNOW our paths will cross again.

I will miss the ridiculously cheap and GOOD food from all different provinces of China, ie. Sichuan, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Dong Bei, etc… but I still got love for my Cantonese!!! (I really upped my various Chinese cuisine game this year.)

I will miss my teaching job schedule + abundant travel time/opportunities.

I will miss the SUPER CLEAN and efficient metro system.

I will miss the idiosyncracies of China for sure…at some point.

I will miss walking out of my apartment and onto the streets…. and pretty much bargain anything. For instance, I walked outta my apt for approx. 10min and  picked up a large suitcase yesterday…… for about $20usd! not a bad deal, eh?!

What will you NOT miss about Shanghai?

I will not miss the high volume, high pitch in speech. (sounds like folks are arguing, but really, that’s just their natural tonation in speech)

I will not miss the locals having NO concept of standing in queue.

I will not miss the crowdedness at metro stations: pushing and shoving. (though, this has been happening farrrrr less as compared to when I first arrived… thanks to Shanghai World Expo.)

I will not miss the ridiculously brutal humidity combined with folks everywhere + car pollution. UGH. The thought of it makes me want to cough.

I will not miss the cold ass winters, with no central heating and walls super thin w/o insulation.

I will not miss dodging a gazillion bicyclists, scooters, cars and buses all at the same time to cross over my 8 lane street!!

I will not miss being lost in translation.

“Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” from album, Voodoo by D’Angelo (January, 2000)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Area Codes

Yes, this is in partial reference to Luda and Nate Dogg’s summer of 2001 jam, “Area Codes.” But more importantly, this brings up an upcoming major decision in my life as I am on the verge of repatriating myself. WHAT AREA CODE cell phone number will I end up with??!?

In Sex in the City – the movie (part 1), Carrie gets depressed and throws her phone into the pool, thereby losing her coveted (917) area code…. she is later is “downgraded” to a (646) area code. During this time, I had felt her pain as I too, had to leave my (917) number back in 2008…for China…

Now two years later, I gotta get myself back on the US track.  But I’m getting closer to my decision as I break down the numbers:

Fact: Taxes suck in the U.S.

Fact: Each state has a different tax bracket.

Fact: Your area code can save you money!

Here’s a lil excerpt from a Forbes article:

That gave me a better idea. There are some states, blessedly, that don’t soak their cell phone-using residents. One of those, I happened to know, is Idaho–a state I visit regularly. (The Gem State has a 2.2% tax rate, I would later discover, the fourth lowest in the country.) Well, I triumphantly informed the operator, I am moving to Idaho.

Since it was clear I’d have to lose my coveted New York number to avoid Verizon-levied taxes, I changed to an Idaho number, provided an Idaho address, then promptly turned around and requested paperless billing, which I paid from my Los Angeles address.

Since my fake move, my monthly bill has shown a tiny Idaho tax of about $1.15 per month. At that rate I figure I am saving about $60 per year. If I was a bigger cell phone user, I would have saved far more. (I learned later, if I wanted to be a real cheapskate, I should have “moved” to Nevada, which holds the record for the country’s lowest cell phone taxes at just 1.1%.)

I also felt a bit guilty. I had established that is was practical to dodge high cell phone taxes. But was it legal? And was it ethical?

You can read more about what happens in the above scenario here.

But the basic breakdown for me is this:

NY = 1st Highest Tax Rate (State/Local/Fed = 21.71%)

MA = 42nd Highest Tax Rate (State/Local/Fed = 11.11%)

If ya wanna check out your state, click on this link, skim through the article for the hyperlink to “chart.”


“Area Codes” by Ludacris and Nate Dogg, from album, Word of Mouth (2001)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Last Day of School = Yahooooooo!

Here are some end of year photos of alllllllll my children (sans soap opera), as I asked them to pose before the showing of Ice Age in Ms. Mimi’s Movie Room :-)

Grade 1, Class A

Grade 3, Class 1

Grade 3, Class 2

Grade 4, Class 1

Grade 4, Class 2

. . don’t burn the day. .

Into The Wild

About this time last year, I stumbled upon this dvd and the contents of this film has stuck with me since.

About Into the Wild

Based on a true story, after graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters who shape his life.

I watched it twice within a 1 month span. (First time alone, and second with a friend.)

In some regards, I found myself relating to the lead character, “being in search of / explorative / adventurous / rebellious / intrigued by the unknown, etc.”  I had similar feelings and ambitions to take on foreign challenges, though clearly NOT as extreme. However, what struck and stuck with me the most is ((spoiler alert!! for those who have not seen it)), is, throughout his epic journey, the people he meets both influence and are influenced by the person he is and brought him to the eventual and tragic realization, as he scribbled on a piece of cardboard, just moments before his last breath, “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Coincidently enough, I watched it towards the end of my first year abroad in the ‘Hai.  At that time, I took on a deep connection with the film, as since I had missed family and friends back at home – after being abroad for a year…and while I thought many of the excursions I had experienced were super radical, I often times found myself wishing I had a family member and/or friend back at home to share those moments of “adventure / happiness” with. Sure, I had friends here whom I had met, and I surely do not discount them at all; they were instrumental in the creating such fun, exciting, memorable times.

In fact, as I close in on my 2nd year here, I  have  often times, felt nostalgic and wished friends whom I had met in my 1st year abroad in the ‘Hai were here in my sophomore round to take in and share with me of my new experiences.

Point is, while I’ve definitely taken this leap of faith of throwing myself out here “into the wild,” I am grateful to have been able to share each bit of my experiences with all of ya’ll loyal and avid readers (ahem, fans) of mine. :-)  It truly means a lot when I read a note from ya’ll in comments, email replies etc., – as little as one-liners to full blown essays of emails have delighted me from afar.

Thank you for making the wild, not so wild for me. With ya’lls support and encouragement, I am certain that my 2 years in China (like, whoa) have been real.

. . don’t burn the day. .


3 – weeks from today, I’ll be landing and repatriating myself to some good ol’ American soil.

2 – years ago, I was readying up for my 1-year contract for China/Asia adventures. That 1 year turned into 2. Now, after 2 years spent, I’m returning home with an incredible diary of experiences and emotions that I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be able to truly convey to my family and friends back home; however, I am fortunate to have established some incredible life-long friendships and bonds along the way, … throughout the highs, the lows, the in-betweens; Irregardless, I just KNOW they will “get it” for sure, and how we can now, all laugh about all the sillyness and “dramatics” that has ensued over the course of the last 2 years.

1 – It’s been ONE helluva adventure!..and I thank ya’ll for riding with me every bump of the way!

What more can I say??….

. . don’t burn the day. .

I Am Haibao

For Childrens’ Day celebrations, the school decided to turn the school into its own little “mini expo” ala carnival with all sorts of song/dance performances and various activities (airplane model flying contest, speed boat racing, solar power car racing, arts and crafts sale, make Haibao out of play-doh, legos, crazy science, etc.)

And as I had done such a marvelous job being Santa in the school’s Christmas Show, I was asked along with Phil to dress up as the Shanghai World Expo mascot, Haibao —- yes, the blue toothpaste / Gumby-looking thing. (The name of the mascot of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China is Hai Bao, which means the treasure of the sea. The name of Hai Bao is easy to remember, echoes with the color of its body and is a typical lucky name in Chinese tradition.)

The things I do for these lil zoo animal’esque rugrats!!…. I was sooo hot inside this costume on top of 90 sumn degree weather….and as you can see, the thing is bigger than me!! But now, putting it on, there’s a lil helmet on top (no, I didn’t buckle myself in)…. but the eyes of the costume were way low…. forcing me to stoop low and tilt my head, in order to see through one eye socket… Let’s just say I woke up the next day with a cramped neck… granted I was only in that thing for about 20-25min.

Here are some flicks:

Some of my solo’s:

I’m on the left…

Doing the Haibo Dance… me on the right…

This would be my favorite…

And more pics in the full reel, enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Green Fever in the Hai

Sooooooooooo it’s NBA Playoffs and Finals season and my boys are in it; which means, I get super dee duperly emotionally invested in these games to the point where it influences my daily mood. For instance, last week in Games 4 and 5 of Celtics vs. Orlando, I remained pretty annoyed and pissy throughout the week for games which I had thought were going to go the Green Team’s way.

Anyhoots, with a guy roommate who happens to be a basketball fanatic, Nate found out that we’re able to watch the games live in Shanghai time right in the comforts of our own apartment via sports channel, CCTV-5!  SUPER AWESOME news as I was able to catch 2 playoff games on tv. Kinda weird having to hear commentators in Mandarin, but after a bit, my ears innately train themselves to tune out the Mandarin and fine tune itself to hear the arena announcers. Here’s a couple shots from the end of the Eastern Conference Finals: (you’ll have to excuse the glare from our balcony)…..

. . don’t burn the day. .

Expo Taxi

Since around February 2010, they’ve been looming the ‘Hai streets, boasting its green/yellow/white shiny’ness and I FINALLY got to ride in one of these “expo taxis” a few weeks back.

First, let’s rewind back to August 11, 2008 when I had posted an entry entitled “Color Coded Cabs 101.” Back when I had just arrived, I was given a quick run down on which colored taxi vehicle would be least likely to rip me off…and just as I had dutifully noted, I wanted to share with the readers of web, with hopes of helping  other ‘Hai travelers too.

Now, two years later, with the ooh la la World Expo (personally, I’m getting sick and tired of hearing about the Expo here) underway, the ‘Hai has unveiled the “Expo Taxi.”  This ride is SMOOOOOOOOOOOTH, with built-in navigators and interiors smelling of “brand spankin new car leather.”

Though this does not mean that the reds, blues, whites, yellows, greens and teals are not around… we’ve just got more and “improved” taxis to take on the demand of the expected 70 million visitors from now thru end of October.

For more info on how the ‘Hai is “training” local taxi drivers to provide “better customer service” to passengers, watch the clip here. Though….. I still think this city has a bit wayyyys to go with its overall customer service overhaul…

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Moganshan, China

Just 3 hours on the road outside of Shanghai is an awesomely calming, bamboo forest retreat area of Moganshan. (“shan” means “mountain”)

Fun Factoid! = Famed film, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was filmed in Moganshan.

Over the last couple years, this has become quite the hot spot for mini weekend getaways from the hustle and bustle of the ‘Hai life. While there are a good handful of lodging spots spaced out in the Moganshan area, we opted for a brand new spot called, Prodigy Outdoor, and came out BEYOND satisfied with our experience with them.  From super dee duperly courteous, helpful and smiling staff,… to uber clean and comfortable facilities,… to a great variety of fresh and delicious home-made dishes at every meal,… to beautiful, lush bamboo greenery all around us, to… refreshing calmness all around us, Prodigy gets a thumbs up!!!

We received roundtrip transfer Shanghai-Moganshan (3 hour each way) + lodging + meals… all for a total of roughly $100usd from Friday night to Sunday late afternoon. Plus, we (myself, Wan Hing and Brittany) lucked out in that a 20-person traveling group had a last minute cancel, which allowed for us to have our own room – that was designed to fit 10 people total…. That was an uber score for us!!

Check some flicks:

Outside our balcony…


Various patches of bamboo were marked off by family names/owners:

Our guide dog, “Happy”…

I’m practicing my fighting moves with bamboo stick, just in case some crouching tigers and/or hidden dragons attack..

All of our meals looked a lil’ something like this!

Then, back to the wilderness where we ran into a herd of goats!!

But I fought them off with my guns…. LOL!

And here’s the full reel for your enjoyment! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Bay of Islands, New Zealand

First is Paihia, Bay of Islands in North Island of NZ:

The highlight was most definitely a life-long dream of swimming with dolphins out in their natural habitat, courtesy of Awesome NZ! (with a name like that, I couldn’t resist!)

and off we were!!

..with our skipper on the look-out for our finned friends!

..spotted a few super close to our boat!!

..and the money shot!!

…done and done!! … a happy dolphin swimmer I am!!

… then off to a stunning outlook via hiking up a lil’ hill filled with sheep poo!

…and it was worth it!!

…and on our way back … I saw a lovely rainbow!!

Look at how tiny our boat was in comparison to a cruiseliner…

Just a short and scenic 20min walk from Paihia is Waitangi – best known for being the location where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6, 1840 between the Maori and British crown. The introduction of the Treaty effectively revoked the Declaration of Independence; making New Zealand a British colony, and the Treaty is generally considered the founding document of New Zealand as a nation. Waitangi Day is the annual celebration of the signing, and is New Zealand’s national holiday.

a present-day Maori family’s home….. check the pride!

A 15minute ferry ride from Paihia is charming, Russell:

… the arrival….

Even the police station looked like a nice place to be found in!!..

I immediately trekked up to an outlook…. this was quite a workout with its steep hills!!!

and again, it was worth it!!

…taking it all in… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

… then the downward trail…and over to the other side of the island for some beautiful chillax time at Long Beach…. (again, VERY WORTH IT!!)

..and the full reel, enjoy! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .