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New Zealand Update (4)!

Ok, I know I’ve been slacking on the blog tip, but I just spent a long ass time on this computer and slow ass connection.. only for my post to not save and have the computer shut down on me.. ugh!!

So, let me try to remember it all and pick up from the last post:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

  • Drove from Wanaka up the west coast for our 3pm Half-Day Hike excursion of Franz Josef Glaciers. (Drive was approx. 5 hours or so)
  • About the glaciers: The Franz Josef (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Maori is a 12 km long glacier, located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south, it is unique in descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.
  • We got a lil giddy as we neared Glacier country with some sprinkles falling from the sky, thinking that perhaps the hike would be cancelled and we can use the day to rest from our previous adventures. So, I used the handy mobile phone provided by our campervan hire, and phoned the Glacier folks…. only to be told, “honey, it rains 200 days of the year over here, so yes, the hike is still on.” Sigh and Doh!
  • We parked our camper at 2:45pm, just in time for check-in, and get our gear on: rainjacket, waterproof over pants, socks, hiking boots and a fanny pack filled with spikes – specifically for ice climbs.
  • And onward we were! After a short bus ride to the glacier valley.. we walked through the valley under conditions of cold winds and rain spittings….
  • Some parts of the glacier were rather steep, and I had many a times asked myself, “why? why do i get myself into these things? whyyyy??”
  • But with a lil’ push (literally) here and there by Lundy, I made my way up to our finish point.
  • I only wished conditions weren’t so wet, so that camera footage could’ve been used more,,,, but ahh well.. our pics look like we’re meterologists on site!
  • The glaciers were def a cool (literally and figuratively) experience!  You gotta be in decent and agile shape for this one!
  • Tired and spent after the hike, we parked our camper at the nearby Holiday Park and cooked ourselves a fabulous glazed lamb chop + pesto fettucine meal! SOOO YUMMY!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

  • Woke and continued on with our Round Two of lamb chop + fettucine pesto for breakfast…. Delicious AGAIN!
  • Eventually started our drive up the west coast towards Hoktika and then eastward via the infamously roller-coaster, twisty turvy Arthur’s Pass, to bring us back to Christchurch at approximately 7pm. (The drive took about a good 6 hours with a necessary one hour nap somewhere in the middle of that drive.)
  • Lundy’s good eye on the road even found “Saigon Star Restaurant” and I happily agreed to switch things up a bit for a lil’ home-cooking esque meal of vietnamese food..I opted for the simple pork and vermicelli while Lundy went for the special that included pork, beef, egg roll and sugarcane/shrimp with vermicelli…and of course, we ordered some egg rolls for apps!
  • We took the food to-go.. or as “take away” as they say here and in the ‘Hai.
  • We checked ourselves in back at the So Hotel, dropped off our stuff in the room, loaded laundry, and head back downstairs to bring the campervan to a nearby park for drop off, where our renters would pick up. Just as easy as that!
  • After a short walk from the park to our hotel, we devoured our meal and settled in for the night with internet/laundry etc.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

  • We woke for a 8:45am Super Shuttle pick to the airport for our 10:15am flight to the North Island; first destination: Rotorua.
  • We arrived at Rotorua on time at 11:55am and swiftly got our bags and checked in with the Car Rental Booths… only to learn that due to high season, all cars had been rented and all that was left were larger vans ..that were uber expensive for our short stay.
  • Thus, we headed to the Super Shuttle outside and had him lead us to a rather dandy and nice hostel, YHA Treks. (YHA and BASE are the two major hostel chains throughout NZ.. and I highly recommend.. clean and good space..and CLEAN!)
  • We checked in and headed out to purchase our bus ticket for Manukau City (just outside of Auckland) as since this would be our next destination for the day after… to visit some of Lundy’s distant relatives. After which, we settled at Art Cafe for some grilled sandwiches. I had the egg and bacon, while Lundy opted for the mushroom, advocado and cheese. YUM!
  • After a quick internet run, we grabbed some popsicles on this sweltering day and chilled on the park benches of the nearby park … with surrounding geysers and mudpools! The sulfur is FOR REAL here! But pretty nifty to see!
  • At 7pm, we were picked up to attend a Maori Culture excursion.
  • About Maori: The Māori (commonly pronounced /ˈmɑaɔri/ or /ˈmaʊri/) are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand (Aotearoa). They probably arrived in southwestern Polynesia in several waves at some time before year 1300,[6] settled and developed a distinct culture. Māori society was destabilised from the late 18th century by the weapons and diseases introduced by Europeans, and after 1840 they lost an increasing amount of their land, and went into a cultural and numerical decline. However their population began to increase again from the late 19th century, and a marked Māori cultural revival began in the 1960s and continues.
  • We were introduced to the whole Maori Heritage via our enthusiastic bus driver lady, who picked a gray-haired man (after no one volunteered), named “Herb” from Texas (in the chocolate business) to be our chief. Herb would be our representative for the evening… along with 2 other chiefs from 2 other busses.
  • After a ritual introduction ceremony consisting of some chant and spear moves by Maori warriors, we were invited to enter in the village where various “ways of life” things were taught.. including participation in some Maori games. Lundy was bold enough to partake in one of the games..and well rather than explain now, I’ll post the video some other time. (Lundy truly believes he was a Maori warrior in his previous life…and ya know what? I think he might be right! All signs make sense afterall!)
  • Next up, was a very entertaining show of story-telling, song and dance.
  • Then finally, an all-you-can-eat  Hangi Meal aka “Thanksgiving-esque” buffet was had by all…. turkey, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, veggies, fish, mussels etc..!!! and yummy dessert!
  • Overall, GREAT TIME with the Maori… thoroughly entertained and well-fed.. I can’t complain! Definitely a must-do in Rotorua!

. . don’t burn the day. .

New Zealand Update!

OK soooooooooo much has happened in the last ummmmm 4 days!!! All thrillingly and chillingly worthwhile! :-)

I’m gonna have to introduce a guest blogger and my travel buddy, Lundy this time around and give him credit because these are his notes of our trip so far…(with just a few tweaks by yours truly) Enjoy!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

  • Landed in Christchurch, checked into uber-futuristic So Hotel and dined at Stone Grill restaurant for some ridiculous lamb shank with potatoes and Land Lover’s selects: lamb, pork, beef cooked on a slab of stone!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

  • Met up with my former co-worker at my school last year / Kiwi friend / Christchurch native, Charlotte for some brunch at C1 Espresso and city frolic with our local tourguide.
  • Picked up our campervan from hospitable and attentive Andrew of Cruzy Campers and drove from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

  • Slept in the camper van and awoke with a breakfast picnic spread alongside Lake Tekapo -stunningly blue-turquoise waters, surrounded my snow capped mountains, while feeding duckies…
  • Drove from Tekapo to Queenstown, roughly 4 hour drive.
  • Checked into a fab-luxurious hotel The Rees
  • We have a balcony view of the turquoise color Lake Wakatipu surrounded by several mountains with tiny building and hamlets making up Queenstown.
  • Celebrated my birthday w/ an  8 course dinner at the Rees restaurant which was absolutely delicioso!…including but not limited to: Pan Smeared scallops, grilled salmon salad, organic raised beef cutlets, lamb with white wine sauce, strawberry Pavlov dessert…and local brie cheese platter.
  • Celebrated the rest of the night popping a bottle of champagne w/dessert on our room balcony overlooking Lake Wakatipu under with a clear night sky filled with beautiful bright stars…with some gift exchanges… let’s just say that “I’m alla dat and a bag o chips!!” :-P

Thursday, February 4, 2010

  • Today, we went JetBoating on the Shot Over Jet – a white knuckle, fast paced, adrenaline packed trip, consisted of blazing fast boat ride through turvy mountainous caverns and splashing waters….We felt like a James Bond – Indiana Jones mash up!!
  • Then to dry off, we went hang gliding off of Coronet Peak  (about 4,000 feet)…flying even higher between soaring, majestic mountains with a pine forest, lush green valley…dotted with several sheep….hahaha.
  • Now we’re about to head out to the Queenstown waterfront for some Fish & Chips and possibly a Pub Crawl.
  • Planning to finish the night with a bottle of red wine on the balcony and watch the sun set over the mountains and feel the cool pine fresh air.
What’s Next:
  • Hitting the road early tomorrow to go bungee jumping.
  • Then driving down to Te Anau & Milford sound for some glow worm caving, kayaking and cruise!
  • Afterwards will be heading to Franz Glacier for some ice glacier hiking.
  • Andddd.. to get a better perspective of the south Island, we’ll hit up Sky Diving at heights of in/around 15,000 feet!!!!!!

Pictures to come… but here’s one for now to keep ya’ll smiling…. I AM FLYING!!!! (errr hang gliding!!!!!)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Taipei 101 :: Typhoon Survivor

(Flashback to October 2-8, 2009)

Despite the worst weather conditions possible for a time to visit Taiwan – approaching typhoon, I made out a winner with my time spent in Taipei, nonetheless. Got in late on the Friday night and linked up with dearest Evelyn (NYU ’03 holla!) on Saturday. Met her and some of her fam: aunt and uncle who picked us up from the Guting Metro Stop. Ev and I would be staying with them and their fam (2 daughters: 25 and 18 in age respectively). Later in the afternoon, Ev’s dad and grandma joined us in the full house affair for the week.

Ev had forewarned me of her uncle being a sweet man, but “loves to practice his English, and thus would talk my ear off….” – of course, after reading this in her email, I smiled and was excited to be able to speak my native tongue with someone else… even if it meant that I had to wear my teacher hat (I’m used to it by now anyway, I’ve got trainers at my gym all yappity yap bc they want to practice their English while I’m doing my thing on the elliptical :: sighs!).

Anyhoots…originally, I had wanted to explore the lil’ island of Taiwan, ie. southside = Kenting = beach, but with the tempering typhoon….. I still made out well with a few random highlights:

* Bringing home a completely wasted 18 year old’s (Ev’s younger cousin) first time at a club home to her mother and grandmother at 5AM – UNintentionally of course; talk about “OMG! Unnecessary!!”
* Sun Moon Lake Hot Springs – I thought I was gonna give myself pneumonia from running to and from the hot and cold springs to warm and cool off… it’s not easy to stay relaxed!!
* Taipei 101 Building aka “the skyline of Taipei”……crashed a televised wedding party of 15 couples!! – Random!
* Many a’ large cups of the most awesome’est bubble tea I’ve ever tasted!! — They use real tea!!
* Ev’s Uncle. (yes, he deserves his own bullet point)
* Ev’s Uncle’s English.
* Ev’s Uncle’s enthusiasm and advocacy for green tea. (what can I say, he deserves 4 honorable mentions)
* Ev’s relatives’ super cool “robot/automated parking garage.” Sooo technologically advanced! This is how it works: Ev’s uncle would park the car in the “garage.” He’d step out, and press button to close the garage door. Once garage door is down and locked, an opening is made under the car, allowing for the car to be brought down into the parking garage. The automation then becomes complete, as it auto-finds a parking space for the car…… so that when Ev’s uncle has to retrieve the car, he just flashes his key or infrared something and it recognizes the car…..and brings it up to the “garage.”
* and some fantastic FOOD!

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Overall Impressions:
I had said before that Hong Kong is an awesome “oasis of civilization” within China borders… but now I’d like to officially put Taiwan under that category as well. People are super duper nice, courteous and orderly! They have frickin’ LANES for when queuing up for the metro/subway…and people ABIDE by them! It is AMAZING! I also realized that I DO in fact understand Mandarin… well Taiwanese’ Mandarin as since they speak with more of a “neutral tone” vs. Shanghai, where folks speak with more of a harsh tone… (also because folks in Shanghai go back and forth with Shanghainese..which is completely indecipherable!) Additionally, Taiwanese are much more patient with foreigners and actually devote sincere efforts in providing assistance. Ahhhh refreshing! Plus, great food selects as well! All in all, thumbs up for Taipei!

Here’s a photo reel for your viewing pleasure!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Sooooo I’ve for surely taken full advantage of my newfound recreational time: gym, occasional ultimate frisbee, weekly new restaurant discoveries with my SH Fam, Sunday Brunch deal finds, the arts, movies, live music (I really wanna build on this, this year: I saw a pretty cool Swiss/Chinese Mash Jazz band the other night, called Sonic Calligraphy: Thumbs Up esp since they performed one of my faves, “Summertime” by George Gershwin…. ) and …… reading!

Nate the Roomie (avid reader) and I have agreed upon a 2-person book club! …and it’s the coolest, most freshest 2-person book club ever!! (ha!)

Book One = EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer

Nate had first read this and suggested the book to me, despite admitting to how depressing and sad the story is. Yeah, go figure. But the premise of the story intrigued me enough:

Nine-year old, Oskar has a wonderful relationship with his father; one of their favorite games was a sort’ve scavenger/treasure hunt where the father would leave clues around for Oskar to detect and eventually unfold it’s mysterious treasure. One day, the father reveals a new kind of scavenger hunt in which he leaves no clues, though “no” clues could still be a clue; this of course, leaves little Oskar bewildered not knowing if anything was a clue or not.. and only receiving a shoulder shrug + smile combo from his father whenever he questioned if a certain something was a clue or not. Then…………. his father passed in the 9/11 WTC Attack, leaving Oskar devastated and also relentless in uncovering what this last treasure could be. One evening, Oskar finds a beautifully shaped blue vase on top of father’s closet in father’s room. Inside its vase is a plain envelope with the word, “BLACK” written on its outside, and an odd-looking key inside. Oskar racks his brain and decides that this key could belong to someone by the last name of “Black,” thereby, uncovering its treasure. He then, takes out a NYC phone book and starts to track down each and every “Black” in the NYC area from A to Z…….. knocking on each person’s door…….. and ………. the story unfolds magnificently ….. where you’re guaranteed to find it hard to put the book down! (I did!)

.. Letter Writing
.. I Love You’s

. . don’t burn the day. .

Cultural Revelations

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve typed a real post on my ‘Hai Life Observations, and I do apologize – but it’s kinda hard to live it in full and type it at the same time. (no snip there, i’m just sayin!)

Soooo, ya’ll know my love for intellectual discourse especially when it comes to, exchange of cultural perceptions et al. And ya’ll know of my likes and gripes about the ‘Hai…. but in all honesty, Shanghai is oddly, both an easy and tough place to live. Easy because well there’s not much to worry about. You go about your day and no one really bothers you (aside from metro riders who rub up against you) – and crime is seemingly non-existent. However, tough, resulting from the misunderstandings that come from culture clash, and of course language barrier.

I do feel bad that I’ve sort’ve depicted this Lord of the Flies-esque picture in the minds of you readers out there, because it’s really not ALL bad here. (Yeah, I know I’m trying to do some damage control here, but hey, I’ve been abroad for one year and I guess been feenin’ for an America-fix.) What it comes down to is gaining understanding of their innerworkings – the how’s and why’s of the things they say/do. Think about it, this country has been held in isolation from the rest of the world and has only in recent decades, open its’ tight and still-monitored doors… Thus, understandably, Shanghai and well, China as a whole has come and still coming a LONG way from its’ revolutionary times and this city is seriously gaining ground on the international playing field. (I’m learning by the day here…)

For one thing, The World Expo will be hosted in Shanghai from May through October, 2010 and is expected to welcome approx. 70 million visitors – the largest number in the history of the world’s fairs!! The thought of cramming MORE people in this city is NUTZO! Here’s a little excerpt:

World Expositions are galleries of human inspirations and thoughts. Since 1851 when the Great Exhibition of Industries of All Nations was held in London, the World Expositions have attained increasing prominence as grand events for economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges, serving as an important platform for displaying historical experience, exchanging innovative ideas, demonstrating esprit de corps and looking to the future…

Expo 2010 Shanghai China will also be a grand international gathering. On the one hand, we shall endeavor to attract about 200 nations and international organisations to take part in the exhibition as well as 70 million visitors from home and abroad, ensuring the widest possible participation in the history of the World Expositions. On the other hand, we will put Expo 2010 Shanghai China in a global perspective and do our best to encourage the participation and gain the understanding and support of various countries and peoples, in order to turn Expo 2010 Shanghai China into a happy reunion of people from all over the world.

Saying this reminds me of a recent convo I had with some fellow expat friends here – it comes back to ones’ mindset when making a conscious decision to experience life abroad. I wish I could be quick to agree with those who say, “Well if you don’t like it here, then go home!”  Because some days I see it this way and others, not so much. Why must it be “Be or Bust?”  It’s only NATURAL to seek (and sometimes, long for) a little bit o’ home comforts when you’re thousands and thousands of miles away from home. So why should I be reprimanded just because I whole heartedly miss the people and places that I’ve fostered such great relations with?

Secondly, I had a great dinner a few weeks back, with my local lawyer couple-friends (who I befriended upon arrival via another friend – networking skills blah blah); You’ll remember Jeffrey and Hua helped me out tremendously (ie. dealing with the shady sheisters of my pickpocket episode and assisting with the apartment hunt etc). Anyhoots, lovely, worldly, open-minded folks they are, we got into great discussions on certain cultural differences between the East and West. Everyday things that happen were explained:

MAYBE / ABOUT

For instance, “maybe/about.” I’ve noticed that the Chinese hardly ever give a definitive answer to anything that you may ask them. Instead, “maybe, about….” is more like it. “I think… maybe….”  “I think….it will be about….”  Depending on the circumstance, I admit, these responses have aggravated some nerves of mine. But now, with Jeffrey and Hua’s explanations, I totally “get it.”  You see, back in the day when emperors took reign, the lay people were just that – lay and afraid of being “wrong.” This also explains the big thing about “saving face” here – The worst thing that you can do to a Chinese here is embarass them / call them out for being incorrect aka make them “lose face” in front of others. So back in the day when an emperor asked for an opinion by a lay, the lay would reply something along the lines of, “Well your highness, I think we should turn left, but then again, maybe the right side might be ok too. Maybe.”  To that, the emperor may respond, “Really? Well I think there is no question for the fact that we should most certainly turn right.”  The lay would then cover up out of fear of being be-headed (or equivalent), “Well sir, but I did say that maybe the right would be ok too.” Ta-Da!

This totally dinged in my head and explained for why I am hardly ever given an exact answer! For instance, while negotiating a new contract, I kept pushing for an EXACT number of classes that would be required of me. However, the interviewer would only respond, “I can only tell you the maximum that we maybe require you to teach, but can’t give you the exact yet. But it will be about X number, something like that.” I was growing dizzy. I kept pressing for exact and he kept not giving it. Finally, the interviewer said, “I think this is a different culture thing.” GO FIGURE! Why can’t I get an exact number of classes, so that I KNOW what I’m getting myself into and what is required of me??!!  But sigh…its maybe/about…. At last, Jeffrey and Hua Chen spoke: “We think Westerners are INflexible in this way. They always want a rigid answer.” Hmmmmmmmm… (Mind you, they both work in international law. In fact, Jeffrey works for a firm with Spaniards, so they are just as confused/frustrated at times when collaborating work with westerners.)

As a piggyback story, ya’ll know how crazy detailed I am when it comes to contracts and notes, with the little bit o lawyer in me that comes prepped with my red pen and highlighters. Going back and forth on every friggin detail, I was having him edit the contract before signage, when it finally came to a point where he had it and explained that I would have “his word.”  Aye!  Being the jaded Westerner I am, I wanted everything to be in writing!!  But again, this was another “cultural difference” battle: Word vs. Writing. Apparently, “word is bond” here. SIGH. I mean, I do recall my current boss mentioning a couple times to me, “Mimi, you have my word here” and in the end, I did have her word. SIGH. Have I become this jaded Westerner where I can’t even TRUST a person’s spoken promise?!?!— Though, at the same time the Chinese can be shady, lying sheisters too.. Le Sigh…..can’t win.

Hmmmm, now let’s see what’s next.

HONKING

Oh this is a goodie. It’s AMAZING how limited number of accidents happen in this city because drivers are all MANIACS on the road!!! Speeding, weaving, cutting off, brushing pedestrians – you name it, they do it! With that said though, they can be categorized as rather good drivers for being able to weave out of NEAR DEATH accidents of all sorts here!  Sitting in the front seat of cabs is guaranteed to give you multiple heart attacks, and the freedom of honking is taken to a whole different level over here. See, in the West, we tend to honk when we’re pissed off at someone for cutting us off, etc… but here…. it’s more of a sign of “being polite.” Yup, ass backwards if you ask me. But here’s their logic: They honk incessantly to let the other car know that they are riding up from behind and/or about to pass them and/or at people to say, “moooooooooove bitch! get the way!”  Generally speaking, cars DO NOT slow down for pedestrians here; nope, but just the opposite. This goes back to the reason being that there are just sooooo many damn people in this country — there is NO acknowledgement of personal space here! NONE! So yeah, honking is there way of saying, “excuse me… i’m coming in!!!”

CRIME is a RARITY

Now, if I were to publish this post any time prior to last night as I had originally planned to, I would not have needed to put “assault in public” as a category. However, as my FB Status Message indicated 22 hours ago:

just witnessed ridonkulousness! – upon return to ‘hai, off the metro… saw some chic on the ground in the middle of the street, bent over as if she’s been hit by car. NOPE! some dude is kicking her, pulling her by her hair to stand up, then lands a punch in her face!! a crowd grows and NO ONE does/says a damn thing! i had thought of crossing the street to say/do…but then again.. i’d be just a crazy “lao wai”

This was soooooooo ridiculous!!  I woke up this morning, still in awe; this also prompted quite a few remarks from friends on the IM, email and post comments section. Of course as Westerners, we know this ‘ish would NOT be tolerated on our public streets, and are immediately appalled that this would happen with little/no interjection. But this is when we must stop and look at things from the locals’ perspectives. This country is rooted in a sort’ve “selfishness” and being territorial when it comes to family and close friends. Strangers — they don’t have the time of day for… well not so much in Shanghai it  seems at times. Countryside, perhaps. But Shanghai is a beast of a city in its own right. As much as I try to wrap my finger around it, it doesn’t matter because it’d be like me making up excuses for the masses here. Now granted this particular incident was of SUPER RARITY (first that I’ve been here), we also have to admit, it’s not like ‘ish like this doesn’t go down on our Western soil. I’ve got a good friend who once worked at a shelter for battered women in LA….. one woman’s husband was an LAPD-wife beater. So yeah, let’s not go there right now. Either way, it’s bad and shouldn’t happen….and people shouldn’t just stand and watch. I know, I did …but really… I would’ve been easily been taken in cuffs to a prison and without a translator. Frankly, that’s not my cup of tea.  I’m not even a fan of some public bathrooms, let alone a jail cell over here.

OHHHHHHHH so many observations on the daily and soo little time to capture them all in writing…. but in all seriousness… this city is amazing in its land mass size and astonishing on how relatively, well things run here — given its size and population.

The METRO SYSTEM alone is about to turn impressive overnight.. I see it with the construction everywhere!!! – as close as my neighborhood corner!! Check these stats:

Shanghai will boost the number of Metro trains 150 percent by 2010 to handle the expected 70 million visitors to the city during World Expo.

The city will have about 200 more Metro trains within this year.

During the Expo, Shanghai will have 200,000 more visitors per day and 400,000 on the busiest days. The subway system will be expanded to 400 kilometers by that time and will shoulder nearly half of the flow.

The Shanghai government invested 30 billion yuan (US$4.22 billion) in Metro line construction each year. The Metro will consist of 35 to 40 percent of the city’s transportation annually once fully developed.

NEIGHBORHOODS

Similar to the Great NYC, Shanghai has its pockets of “neighborhoods” that make life for an expat a relatively easy adjustment. The bohemian/artsy, East Village-esque, “Taikang Lu” is one of my fave chill spots; then you’ve got the plentiful international cuisines and night spots in the “French Concession” and European-esque, “Xintiandi”; cool uptown, “American Concession”-in the making where my friend Sean runs, AWESOMELY DOPE creative complex, comprised of fusion restaurant, recording studio, art gallery and film forum called,  The Factory definitely reminds me of home – sucha great hang-out spot… vibe is correct on all accounts here!!

EXPAT NETWORKS

There’s PLENTY AROUND!  I just wish I had more time to explore and delve into them. Looking forward to more free time to do this next year.

CHEAP EATS AND ITEMS

I can grab dinner on my corner for 60cents usd! Stir-fried noodles, fried rice… kebobs etc.

CHEAP LABOR

Umm I have a maid, tailor and Mandarin tutor. Maid comes once a week for $4.40 usd. (My share is just a tad over $1usd) and 90min with a tutor costs me $10usd.

FOREIGN FACE – having one gives you some perks at times. But of course, other times, you get ripped off. But isn’t that the way it is in most foreign lands?

FREEDOM - I know this is a puzzling one. But in some respects, some would argue living in China has granted them more “freedom” for the reason of being able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Folks walk out into the streets in their pajamas, scream, shout…and no one cares/dares to stop you. Surely, you may get stared at as a foreigner doing “local things”… but you’ll eventually get a cracked smile as warm welcome gesture. And again, with a foreign face.. they definitely don’t want to stand in your way. Reason? I don’t quite know just yet.

So there ya have it. I know I was all over the place and you may still be left scratching your head…(probably my least organized entry)  but just hear me out…and/or wait till we speak in person in the summer. I just needed to post something up…and this type post was long over due.  :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .



Spotlight on Shanghai

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A few days ago, New York Times featured Shanghai as the “Next…”

NOW that the Beijing Olympics are but a memory, the spotlight in China is moving to Shanghai as that city gears up to host the 2010 World Expo. With an anticipated 70 million visitors and 200 participating countries, the six-month World’s Fair will be enormous by any measure — not that Shanghai has ever needed an excuse to party. While the global economic slowdown has had its impact, Beijing’s naughty sister is still up to her tricks: from the flashing neon signs and light-bedazzled skyscrapers to the throbbing clubs and houses from the foreign-concession era hiding their decadent secrets. But beyond the clichés, mainland China’s most cosmopolitan city still offers a breadth of experiences.

Read the full article here, detailing the must see and do’s if all you had were 36 hours in the ‘Hai.

Interestingly enough, after reading highlighted suggestions, I can quite confidently say that I can check off Shanghai off my list, in addition to remixing the list for the real must sees and do’s.  :-) So who wants to come, to give it a go?

PS. Photo Credit goes to Cinderz’ view from The Rad + Article Credit goes to Sharon for passing it along to my inbox. :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

I Don’t Know ~ Colbert ~ Once ~ U2 – My C’s

Out from nowhere, it’s been quite the Irish week. I even “celebrated” my first ever St. Patty’s Day with a few folks…here in the ‘Hai… at a British pub, called “The Bulldog.” Random, random, I know. But even before that, the line up of “all things Irish” actually started last week. Here’s the count:

Numero Uno:

Cute, candid and pop-folky were my automatic remarks when I received this lil song from a friend (thank you Lundy) last week, called “I Don’t Know” – performed by Irish singer and instrumentalist, Lisa Hannigan. After hearing the catchy tune and frank lyrics telling the sweet tale of “girl meets boy” (or vice versa), who falls under the spell of that warm, fuzzy, tingly feeling and becomes completely enamored to the point of wanting to know every dotted i and crossed t about boy/girl…,my fingers went to work on the keyboard and was educated on her previous collaborations with Damien Rice (I love, love his “The Blower’s Daughter” from Closer soundtrack), as well as having had collabos with Herbie Hancock and Snow Patrol……………

……….annnd was further tipped on her last week’s bump by satirical, cool-man Colbert himself – who me likeys, and miss being fed news via his report. (Well shoot, while I’m at it… I miss NY1 Weather on the Ones & The Today Show with Matty and Friends as well.) But for real, plus, I recall being told a random factoid by a friend (hi Phil), that with the size of my fam’a'lam,  I’m “like a female version – Colbert..,” — though, I actually beat Colbert’s youngest of 11 count; IIIII’ve got the up of lucky # 13.

(Sorry, that was ALL over the place….My mind is goin’ a mile a minute at this late hour…)

Anyhoots, so yeah… she got the approval nod from Colbert, so I figure I surely can give her the Mimi Bump too; watch her get bumped here…

PART I: Lisa Hannigan on The Colbert Report – Interview

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

Part II: Lisa Hannigan on The Colbert Report – Performing “I Don’t Know” – Listen to the lyrics, folks. It doesn’t get any simplier than this….

I don’t know what you smoke or what countries you’ve been to,
if you speak any other languages other than your own,
but I’d like to meet you.
I don’t know if you drive,
if you love the ground beneath you.
I don’t know if you write letters or panic on the phone ,
still I’d like to call you all the same,
if you want to, I am game.

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

But after hitting my resources and checking out the album… I can say that I dig… my FAVE being a lil song, called “Pistachio”… oh! and the band is dope too! (dammit, i miss live music!!) Check the video here and watch ‘em jam:

Numero Dos:

And while I’m at it, because I was put on to her via her original video on youtube, the Irish pub setting immediately reminded me of a lil’ indie flick, set in Dublin, entitled, Once (2006).  I remember checking this out on a bright and balmy day in NYC at good ol’ indie film theatre, Sunshine Landmark in the Lower East Side with my bud, (hola George!) after another day of hard work, pushing music. I didn’t know much about the film till I got there… and left the theatre having “Falling Slowly” stuck in my head – Ironically, the first verse of of this song is …

I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
Words fall through me
And always fool me
And I can’t react
And games that never amount
To more than they’re meant
Will play themselves out

About Once:

An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad’s Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.

Check the video:

Numero Tres:


I got word that U2 has a new album, No Line on the Horizon?!?! and that it’s a goodie (thanks Vera)…….. I gotta get on this…….  For a pre-listen to the album, click here.

Numero Quatro:

Disclaimer: Since landing here, I’ve totally fallen off the map of the sports world….

So, while switching trains last week, I noticed that my bball boys were being highlighted on the flat screen. This took a bit of coordination between the regular knocking down folks ala me bowling a strike and keeping my eyes up on the screen….. all the while, I sniffed…because I miss watching sports….  Man, I’d love to re-watch last year’s Game 4 Celtics v. Lakers right about now.. Hell, I’d love to re-watch the whole series right about now. (I think my new mission is to find the dvd box set here…) Sooooo just because I can and plus, it put a smile on my face, I am reposting the video of when I went nuts, celebrating Championship #17 Parade. Stay Green! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

OBAMA’guration 2009… Happened in Bangkok, too!

Ugh…. I told ya’ll about my Lil’ Jon - ”Whatttt??!!”  moments with these damn accents in this Bangkok guesthouse…and then, come to find out I was only 1 of 2 Americans that were present in the lobby of a good 12 or so to witness OBAMA’guration 2009. After a some snide and snarky remarks from the non-Americans in the audience, the flat screen was eventually switched to channel: Bloomberg.   And goodness, Bloomberg – must you commentate over parts of the actual ceremony?? I mean really. I need not hear what you think about who’s on screen but would rather want to HEAR who’s on screen first.. then mayyyyybee I’ll be interested in your commentary. Sheeeeesh!

But eventually….. I got to witness history once again. I saw THE MAN  be sworn in and heard THE MAN speak. PROGRESS, ladies and gentlemen. PROGRESS.

Overall, though – folks from every country that ‘ve met all  share the same HOPE, JOY and a real sigh of relief to have the O-man in the big seat! :-)

Oh and speaking of progress… I gotta keep this one short… since I gotta catch some snooze to catch my flight to Singapore in the early AM… Now THAT, too, is PROGRESS! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

A Katalyst Kristmas

My Cali homette gets to see Ashton Kutcher everyday and her name is not Demi. Rather, Ana is her name and she’s staffed at Mr. Kutcher’s media company, Katalyst Films (- Punk’d, Beauty & The Geek, The Butterfly Effect). Here’s a little holiday cheer from the Katalyst Krew…

Oh and Ana is the Elf-Executive whose line is, “I mean take a look at these numbers, I think we need a bail out.”… Well done, Maca! and costumes look fab too!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Just Like The Ones I Used To Know…

Well, I certainly won’t be getting any of that white stuff this year, especially since the weather here has been super strange; One day, I could feel Chicago-like winds through my jeans and the next, is as if Spring is in the air. But lately, it’s been more on the Fall side. Simply bizarro. (And Shanghai typically doesn’t get any snow anway, though last year was a major exception. fyi.)

This past weekend, I:

  • Attended my first holiday party over here, hosted by a fellow colleague from New Zealand; of course that just meant folks, bites, tinsel and libations.
  • Planned for the next couple weeks’ worth of lesson plans = Watched both Dr. Seuss’ Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Shrek the Halls and put together a “mixtape” to play for my kids during the Christmas activity I have planned for them — because I don’t plan on teaching the week of Christmas.. I won’t be that Grinchy, Scroogey teacher!! (…. along with putting a mix together for my upcoming Gooood Christmas Morning, Vietnam trip!..more on that on another post) I amaze myself with what lengths I go for my kids, but I just can’t help it once I get an idea going …. Now, if only I can get my hands on A Charlie Brown Christmas, that’d make it complete!!

While doing all of this, I was buzzing, humming and singing along to Christmas tunes all around my apartment… but there was one song in particular that hit home – literally. Morning of, I had read on the news of Bush’ State of Emergency declaration for Massachusettts, in reaction to severe ice storms (though, word has it…. my hometown was not affected much, so no worries.) But still.. shortly after…. this came on my itunes:

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

I’m gonna get a little mushy for second, but I think I was hit with my first real bout of homesickness this past weekend, triggered by the classic melody above. See, this will my first Christmas away from home, so naturally, flashbacks of “the ones I used to know” came to mind. The shouting madness, headaches, kids running around, food from every creature known to man, spread across the adult and kiddie tables – oh wait, that’s like every family gathering… but Christmas…. ah yes! Christmas includes, “Who will put on the big red suit this year?” My pops had handed down the duties to my bros a few years back and since then, they’ve taken turns, showing off their best St. Nick impressions. “Santa J” has  a pretty memorable James Brown meets Michael Jackson meets Kris Kringle – if only I had the video footage to share right now!! Ha!! The boardgames – scrabble, taboo and/or whatever games the kids had scored under the tree. Going wayyyyy back would be Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Battleship, Operation, Remote Control cars, Twister…. making the little ones performing song and dance……always good time fun!  Then of course the liquids flowing amongst the big kids: egg nog, wine, beer, champagne… and various drinking games with the sibs, card games + drinks, or just singing + drinking games…D transforms into Pat Benatar, N being the “treasure chest,” A as a cocktail waitress, Bingo is Banned! and so much more!  ….  Boy, Oh!

I love you all, miss you all and will be thinking of you all, as I always do!  I’m dreaming of a White Christmas this year…. ;-)

Enjoy the Drifter’s version of White Christmas!…

. . don’t burn the day. .