Entries from August 2008 ↓

Back to Reality…Back to School!

Wow! I can’t believe the words: “back-to-school,” actually has meaning to me again!  The “summer vacation” has undoubtedly been fantastic in all the fun n’ games shenanigans that I’ve found myself in… but alas, reality must set in at some point! I’m here to teach, afterall!

Anyhoots, before I get into all of that – I know I’ve been quiet since my fabulous trip to Hong Kong and areas surrounding, but since I’ve arrived back in the ‘Hai… I’ve been slammed with Teacher Orientation as well as packing up my ‘ish to move to an apartment off-campus with a couple of American colleagues this coming weekend… err, tomorrow!  (More on this apartment stuff in a later post…)

But real quick – my trip was awesome and I have plenty of pics to share… but ya’ll will have to continue to sit and wait like good little boys and girls, till I get some breathing time to post them up! :-P

Finally, I met my students today for a quick 30min meet/greet lesson…and I must say, all of my kids are real cuties… they are ALL MIXED!!  (I LOVE MIXED KIDS!!)  I’ve got two 1st grade classes; 10 and 16 students in each class respectively, all coming from all parts of the globe! One parent is Chinese and the other is, pick a country. :-) LOVE IT! So far, their level of English is not too shabby and their Mandarin makes me look ignorant. But I can challenge them in some Cantonese any day, ha!  But for real, these kids are gonna be superstars by the time I am finished with them! ;-) Speaking of superstar, I got a good-laugh-boost from my dear friend Logan back at home today: “Hello my name is iMeems aka The Mimi Doll. I’m famous.. You buggers are privileged to have me as your teacher.” Thank you, Logan!

OK – That’s all I’ve got time for right now… I need to finish packing and get some rest; I am meeting the parents tomorrow!  Yikes!  This IS really happening now!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Hilawity

I came across this sign at the cashier stand at Carrefour and could not pass up sharing. My favorites are “pwescription” and “secuwity”… they make me giggle. :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Rest High Above The Cloud, No Restriction

LeRoi Moore (1961-2008)

I don’t mean to kick off my return from Hong Kong to the mainland on the downside, but I can not let this news pass without lending a few words, to the passing of talented jazz musician, brilliant saxophonist and founding member of The Dave Matthews Band - Mr. LeRoi Holloway Moore.

Pre-2007:

I was considered adamantly and quite stubbornly against anything of which Dave Matthews and/or his band could ever offer me, simply for the negative connotation of drunken, rowdy and obnoxious fanbase that was most often linked to the “DMB” label. (Yes, I know… very non-musically open of me, however, it just goes to show my spite to be in the presence of that type of behavior.)

November 2006:

I was told by an atypical, not-so-drunken, rowdy, obnoxious friend (…. well sometimes, thanks Phil :-) ) that I was a “perfect candidate” to be a fan of The Dave Matthews Band music…. (I was still of course very much a skeptic, but I started to open up to the idea of giving the band a chance to be heard at least.)

January 2007:

A trip to L.A. to visit my dear friend Ana (also a serious DMB head), more than anything, very timely, enhanced my already-rooted “carpe diem” approach to life….through, of all things, a sax chord by LeRoi Moore. “#41″ – creatively titled as it was the 41st song recorded by the band, absolutely, blew my mind upon my first listen. I recall sitting in my friend’s room as it seemed that fate had called her into work for a last minute emergency, so I capitalized on the opportunity to get over my jetlag from NY and dove into her music collection. I decided to “give this dude, Dave and his band” a real chance, and popped in their 2nd studio album, Crash - figuring, at least I was somehwat familiar with their popular 1996 single, “Crash Into Me.” Four songs passed and all was so-so in an “eh that’s cool” kinda way, till close to midway through the album, “#41″ stopped me in my tracks, dropped my jaw, opened up my eyes and ears to the incredible musicianship of the band.

About #41:

“#41″ was originally written by Dave Matthews as a reply to lawsuits brought forth by Ross Hoffman, a former associate and manager of the band. Hoffman owned rights to a number of the band’s songs in the early 1990s; however, due to creative differences, he was eventually fired by the band, and the band’s present manager, Coran Capshaw, was hired. As an owner to the band’s songs, Hoffman felt he deserved a share of the profits, which later caused a legal dispute between him and the band. Matthews wrote the song based upon the broken-hearted feelings he was experiencing as he was going through legal disputes with a former mentor of his.

“Remember when I used to play for
all of the loneliness that nobody
notices now”

lyrics excerpt, “#41″ – Dave Matthews

The emotional strain heard in the band’s South African lead vocalist, Dave Matthews, complemented by the instrumental craftmanship of bandmates: bassist Stefan Lessard, violinist Boyd Tinsley, drummer Carter Beauford and now late saxophonist LeRoi Moore… is of pure brilliance!!! While the recorded song is timed at 6:40min, the second half of the song is filled of instrumental bliss, featuring solo limelights from bandmates – the switch up from Boyd’s violin strings (really, what rock band can rock with a violinist in it??!!) to soothing wind measures, to the jazzy sax bursts…. LeRoi got me to pay attention! Moreover, the song’s outro is led by a flute bridge by LeRoi, that beautifully segues the song into another track goodie, “Say Goodbye” – a song that tells a vivid tale of good friends crossing the safety-friendship line.

After putting this track on repeat for multiple times before I decided to discover and be wow’ed by other tracks, including “Let You Down,” “Lie In Our Graves” and “Proudest Monkey” on the same album… then later… “Captain” from their 2002 album release, Busted Stuff, (an album I coincidently helped promote as an intern at BMG/RCA… I held in my hands, a Dave-signed guitar as the winning prize for an online promotional contest with Yahoo!- if ONLY I had given them a chance back then… le sigh….)… I understood why my candidacy was held with such “perfect” esteem…

I quickly learned from my own experience that…

DMB is more than “just a band.” Quite simply, they epitomize intelligent music. The multi-cultural quintet stands for what I may call, utopia: Different races, different backgrounds, all armed with musical instruments, banded together through the love for (live) performance -infusing a wide range of music types from jazz to blues to rock to everything in between, shouting the importance of truly living life to the fullest, never turning away from realizing dreams, condemning strife caused by political bullshit, encouraging social reform, and most importantly: love; spreading love amongst humanity, one neighbor at a time – after all, we’re all we’ve got.

The Power of the Five continue to rock sold-out stages year after year worldwide, irregardless of not having released a studio album since their 2005, Stand Up and most probably have banked enough to cover for a few generations down their respective family lines; Their dedication to their craft and love for music and one another is something any human being on this planet can benefit from.

Today

At times, I think these guys propelled my ass to Shanghai. My blog title, after all is inspired by the Fab 5:

Look
Here are we
On this starry night staring into space
And I must say
I feel as small as dust
Lying down here
What point could there be troubling
Head down wondering what will
become of me
Why concern we cannot see
But no reason to abandon it
Time is short but that’s all right
Maybe I’ll go in the middle of the night
Take your hands from your eyes, my love
Everything must end some time
Don’t burn the day away

- lyrics excerpt, “Pig” – Dave Matthews

It’s all still pretty crazy to me of how deeply influenced I have been since my first real listen to the band. As many of you know, I’m rather passionate about things I’m hooked on and/or are about. Today, I stand as a proud member of the Warehouse camaraderie, fortunate to have since my enhanced-enlightenment trip to LA in January 2007, seen the band live 4 times plus an intimate acoustic set featuring Dave Matthews and long time music collaborator, Tim Reynolds at Radio City Music Hall, NYC, all within a period of 18 months – not too shabby! Twice of the 4 live band shows, LeRoi graced me with #41 magnificently! Thank you, Dave, Carter, Boyd, Steffan and LeRoi – Respect and rest high above the clouds in peace, no restriction.

Here’s a shot I took from my latest show in Camden, NJ at the top of June with all members… LeRoi, standing in the typical way far right, (almost cut off) away from center stage:

I now invite you to fall in love with a band that I have fallen so hard for. Here’s a live clip of #41, featuring a sweet solo saxophone session by LeRoi as well as guest, Victor Wooten on electric bass from their 1998 show at the United Center in Chicago. Enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Ain’t No Stoppin’ Me Now

I’m on the move!

Soo before even coming to Shanghai, I had planned on hitting up Hong Kong during my holiday before the commencement of the new school year. But of course with a few hiccups of visa-waiting (school had to apply for my foreign expert visa and residence permit) and toe mishaps, I’ve been kept hostage – hence, I was left to just explore and wild out in the ‘Hai. (I was accused of “hob knobbing” today by my stateside friend, Alison… and you know what, I can’t blame her. I stand contently guilty. LOL) Anyhoots, all this doesn’t matter, because I purchased a roundtrip flight today, that would put me on a plane tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow! I’m feeling a bit adventurously spontaneous, despite the fact that the prospect of this trip has been looming over my head forever-long now. But still, I did it. I pulled the trigger. All this out n’ about-ing has been fun for sure, but with my crew slowly dissipating by the day. (Lisa is back in the States at the moment, E returned to Austria this past weekend, Cubes will head back to Germany this coming weekend, Max will too head back to Germany at the end of the month, and R is Thailand-bound this weekend on business.) I figure, it’s about my time! (Plus, my toes are OK per the doc.) And really, the ‘Hai is sorting getting to me because I now feel comfortable enough here, that I’m ready to capitalize on “free time” before I hit the lesson plans and such.

Soooooo, after getting quotes from a good handful of travel agents, I booked at approximately 4PM. But get this, agents here SEND COURIERS OUT to HAND DELIVER your E-ticket, Itinerary and Receipt, all the while collect cash from you for payment – at NO ADDITIONAL charge! (Some agencies don’t accept foreign credit cards and/or will add a 3-4% surcharge for use of credit card, period. This country is very much less plastic, and more paper-driven.) Poor dude had to come all the way from the west side of Puxi allll the way into Pudong for the transaction, but he made it nonetheless at 6:30PM! Totally awesome! (Now let’s just hope that this is legit!…. ha! But Lisa has recommended this agent, so her word is under the microscope right now… but it should be fine… I think… )

Look at what they actually deliver:

Looks official… It’s got the all-important “red stamp” on it, so that’s a plus. The “Red Stamp” is superly duperly highly regarded here… consider it the government-approved stamp or something like that. Everything that has any legal/approval significance MUST have an original red stamp, or else call it null and void. Head shake and shrug.

So, if you don’t hear from me for a while… don’t get all too worried, I’ll be in Hong Kong with some extended fam-a-lam for 10 days. Looking forward to some chill time in addition to actually understanding people when they speak!

“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” from self-titled album by McFadden & Whitehead (1979)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Olympics Opening n’ Things…

Disclaimer: I’ll be weaving through the Forest of Randomness in this one.

Soooo the Olympics! Yes, big story. Yes, everyone from the States is asking me about it. And my answer: “Yeah, it’s happening, but it’s not like it is happening IN Shanghai (with the exception of a few games), so it is ‘life as usual’ here with the exception of every public television screen is pretty much guaranteed to have it on.

(Something like this from my yesterday at Barbarossa… I caught China v. Spain in basketball. Quite intense, Spain hustled for comeback, bringing the game to OT and eventually pulled for the W. But yeah, restaurants are very much equipped with these projection screens.)

Next, why am I not at the Olympics? Answer: “Though I was invited to see the Boxing matches there, my logical side kicked in – this country is already overpopulated as is; Olympics is in invitation to overpopulation to the infinity exponent. I don’t do crowds nor drama.” :-)

Anyhoots, we (as in the Benetton crew: me, Ralph, Cubes and Eugen) were invited to an apt party to fill our tummies with dumplings while watching the opening ceremony. Here’s our classroom-like photo..

My favorite part of the ceremony were the human block/cube thingies. I/We were all fixated and trying to figure out if they were mechanical or human … and then we saw feet… and then men unmasking themselves from the blocks, waving at the end of the performance. Super Bravo!

Here’s a synop clip of the ceremony for those that missed it:

After sticking it out till the torch was lit, we took our butts over to nearby night spot, Muse. Place was aight. Two floors. First floor was filled with southern crunk crap with pushing and shoving and oh but wait, they did actually play one Arrested Development track, “Everyday People” – which I appreciated amidst Lil’ Wayne and other Lil’ people from the south. Shrug. The upstairs was a bit better. Less crowded and seemed to be more older, mature folks. Live cover band, though vocalists were terrrrrible, I still appreciated music in live form. (Sorry no pics this time around.)

Saturday, we rose and shoned- and decided to culturally do up The Shanghai Museum…

But because we arrived so late (4pmish) on a weekend day, apparently the museum was filled to capacity. Here are the fellas, disgusted by rejection:

So we were forced to march onward through People’s Square Park. Look at the perrtiness:

We then split ways as since Cubes and R had not visited the totally awesome Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibit and we highly recommended it, E and I decided to hit the afternoon sips at the JW Marriott at Tomorrow Square.

Nice aerial view of People’s Square from the 38th floor:

Including a shot of Barbarossa, where we would later meet back up and dine with the fellas…

It was also E’s last night in Shanghai… so… yeah…. he decided to light fireworks on the Ascott lawn?!?!

Eventually we got ourselves down to the French Concession area; But since we had to wait for our 2nd cab (E and Max) to arrive, R, Cubes and I decided to explore the strip and check in on the handful of ..well, frankly, whore houses. Cubes said it best in his unique German accent, “I don’t think these places are proper.” These places were absolutely YUCK as the female waitresses attacked us upon entering. We “checked for the drink menu” while observing its patrons: old, gray haired, yuck men surrounded by asian women workers. Here’s Cubes and R outside one of them. (The girls began to scatter as they saw me break out my camera… Gee, I wonder why??!!)

Then finally, we hit our destination of Velvet Lounge. I dug this spot the first time I came, and I dug it again this time around. This says a lot folks!

Some randoms…

Getting sleepy tired…

So we dipped to a venue new to us, but have heard so much about, called Babyface.

Upon arrival, I immediately had flashbacks of the infamous Richy experience and catfight. And why wouldn’t it be, especially since Richy and Babyface are under the same managing umbrella. Anyhoots, it was late in the night..and folks were already acting up outside of the club. We headed in anyway: two massive rooms, one hip hop, the other techno. SUPER PACKED, lights, smoke machines.. you know the deal….

By the looks of the crowd and (lack of) space above, you guessed it. I made for a quick exit, and will probably never step foot back in there again.

OK and moving on … Sunday came. After a much-needed and filling lunch meal with E, we met up with Max for an afternoon Thai Massage at a local massage parlor. The experience was quite interesting as we 3 were placed in the same room, with me in the middle. This place (sorry no pics) was truly… “you get what you pay for.” (One hour Thai massage for 88rmb = $13usd) Lights were kept on, and the workers (or at least mine and Max’s) kept chatting throughout the entire time in Shanghainese, while E was getting chopped and slapped – Not the most relaxing environment. The only time they grew quiet with the chatter was towards the end stretch of the massage session, when I was asked if E and I were an item; I responded, “Yes, actually they are both my boyfriends.” HA!… As a society that is seemingly accustomed to having men (especially foreign) pimping the women ratio… (remember the KTV experience), they became confused and silent to think that women can pimp too. LOL.

Anyway, it was also E’s last day (you’ll be missed!) in the ‘Hai and he had wished to have his farewell dinner at a restaurant most famous for its Peking Duck, called The Duck King. Max had dined here before with his pops, so it came highly recommended. We ordered 3 ducks, fried rice, dumplings and fried spring rolls. The servers wheeled a cart adjacent to our table and carved away…. boneless ala Thanksgiving turkey style. “Peking duck” is served with soft-tortilla-esque wraps, sliced cucumbers and duck sauce… Delish!

This also served as a “Welcome to Shanghai” meal for our latest addition, another ABC from NYC… Wan Hing! WH is slated to be in Shanghai for two years, to teach English at a different International school from mine, however also situated on the Pudong side. We started talking a few months back of our plans to live abroad in the ‘Hai, and wow, here we both are in flesh! Welcome!!

At the end of each meal, the restaurant issues a certificate with the duck number served since its 1989 establishment… In my case, I got Duck # 1,080,800.

. . don’t burn the day. .

VIPizzle in the Hospitizzle

So my little oopsie from the pool party got me eventually checked into the Shanghai East International Hospital VIP Clinic. Yes, that’s right. V-I-P. (What exactly happened is still a big question mark, but rumor has it, my foot must’ve dragged on pavement or something before being thrown in the pool… leaving a couple of nasty cuts on my toes… but I’m FINE.) Here’s the story:

After a day’s worth of swollen discomfort on Sunday, and learning the my Neosporin tactic wasn’t really doing much for my cuts, I checked myself in on Monday of last week – along with the aid of Lisa and school logistics admin lady, Patty (who speaks a little English, meant to be my translator.) Patty is a giggly, sweet lady who reminds me much of Olive Oyl from Popeye. Anyhoots, we went to the hospital and amidst all the rushing around of folks, Patty heads over to security personnel to ask for info, and she turns to ask me… “Special or Regular?” And OF COURSE, with a question like that, I responded, “Special.” :-) Sooooo then I was lead to the VIP Ward. Pretty nifty as since apparently Lisa had visited that hospital before but NEVER received the treatment in the VIP section. Ahh well… that’s how I roll. And as my friend Kym from home reminded me, “You have a GLOBAL VIP pass anywhere you go!” … DUHHH!! :-)

Ok so here we are, signing in…

Then waiting for the doc… I think I was the happiest, injured person in there. I couldn’t stop laughing for some reason. See, doesn’t Patty remind you of Olive Oyl??

Got x-rayed…. NO FRACTURE!

I got cleaned and wrapped up…

Then Dose 1 of Penicillin came via IV injection. I guess they don’t believe in pilled penicillin over here.. unfortunately… because I ended up having to return for 2 more consecutive days in order to get 2.5hours worth of penicillin injected – to tame my infection.

But I am ALL OKAY. I’ve been walking. No complications… aside from the stupid bandage on my toes, to allow for the cuts to heal.

But I’ve learned, definitely get checked in as “special / vip” because we had to walk through the “regular” waiting room in order to exit our first night as it was late…and to quote my friend, Eugen: “If you walk in without any diseases, you are bound to walk out with a handful.” It was a room full of all sorts of ailments, folks with different IV pumps, various beds etc. – all waiting to be seen. In a sense, it is very sad to think of the disproportionate treatment amongst the ill – the rich/poor divide. But personally, I was glad that I was admitted in the more “westernized” section where doctors/nurses were able to speak some English. Though, I’m sure the bill came out to be higher as well; you get what you pay for.

Overall, I am still in disbelief in my 6 weeks here, I’ve already seen the police station and hospital. Just simply unreal. But! No worries.. I’m still kickin!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Color Coded Cabs 101

One of the first things I was tipped on upon arrival in Shanghai by colleague, Thomas, was the breakdown of taxi tricks. Basically, certain colored-cabs are legit and others…not so much. All sorts of shady stuff can happen… from looping, to meter jumping etc etc. So take note:

RED = THE WORST; AVOID RED CABS IF YOU CAN

Actually, my taxi from the airport to the school, when I first landed, was red and the total came out to something like 175rmb. I gave him 200rmb and he had the nerve to ask if it was OK to keep the change. (Tipping is NOT common here at all.) At 2AM in the morning, I muscled my hand motions to ensure that I wanted “two – five” back. Bastardos! So yeah, the red cabs are not legit ones… and they are more prone to take what they can get out of a foreign face.

Next BAD = DARK BLUE. (Though, I haven’t had any real incidents to report.)

Then it gets BETTER with the WHITE AND YELLOW. (But others may beg to differ.)

And finally, the BEST BETS would be GREEN AND TEAL. (I feel comfy in these.)

But! Despite saying all of this, ya still gotta watch yourself, check the meters, acquaint yourself with the roads etc. no matter what color cab you find yourself in. And I’ve been told, IF for any reason you do find yourself in a dispute with the charge and/or the driver is being mcshady, then whip out your camera and take a picture of his Driver ID Card (that sits on the head board); Supposedly, the driver will give into your wishes as he/she does not want to be reported… They end up paying 4 times as much back to the rider… something to that effect.

Okies, so take that as food for thought!

. . don’t burn the day. .

You Say “Jin Qiao,” I Say “Tsingdao”

Tones Tones Tones Tones! That’s what the language of Mandarin revolves around. The actual pinyin (standard mandarin romanization system based on sound) is a helpful tool, however that is only half the battle. The more challenging part is to pronounce it correctly by hitting the right tone. (Mandarin has 4 tones.)

So in my first few weeks of extreme ignorance, I would hop into cabs and hand over my cheat sheet card of my address in both Chinese and English, and just hope the driver wouldn’t take me for a ride. After a few days, I opted to attempt to direct the driver verbally in addition to use the cheat sheet card… And of course, this laid out the welcome mat for mass confusion.

See, the area in which the school is situated is the “Green City International Community” or … “Jin Qiao” in mandarin…..

It took me a while to get the pronunciation correct… “Jin” has a super high tone. “Qiao” has this downward hook tone, and for a while I was mis-pronouncing the area to the likeness of asking the driver to take me to some beer – Tsingdao Beer to be exact. (I now invite you to share my dizzying pain of getting around town over here… Le Sighhhhhhhhh)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Return to the Riviera

…Riviera Pool Party, that is!

So we did it up again this past weekend; this time it was sans-teaching in the evening for me! Same deal: splish splash shwooshin good times…

Find me with the bucket…

AWESOME UNDERWATER SHOTS with Lisa’s super cool underwater camera!!

Robed Royalty, courtesy of the fellas’ dwelling place: The Ascott...

I had a bit of an toes’y oopsie… so here I am being tended to…

The sun sets…

Get used to this type pic… Two ABC’s from NYC is a force not to be messed with :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Chi’Town in Shai’Town?

OK so there is this architectural piece around my area that reminds me a little bit of Chicago every time I see it; namely the Jay Pritzker Pavilion aka Pritzker Music Pavilion. For those who haven’t a clue as to what I am referring to, here’s a lil lesson:

Frank Gehry, winner of the National Medal of Art, applied his signature style to this revolutionary outdoor concert venue, located in Chicago’s Millenium Park. The Pavilion stands 120-feet high, with a billowing headdress of brushed stainless steel ribbons that frame the stage opening and connect to an overhead trellis of crisscrossing steel pipes. The trellis supports the sound system, which spans the 4,000 fixed seats and the Great Lawn, which accommodates an additional 7,000 people.

My flicks:

And thennnnn there’s this contraption near the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in Pudong area of Shanghai:

It is totally random and I can’t seem to find the proper English name of the thing for the life of me. But! I learned that it is basically a steel structure of a sundial… I’m sure there is some historical significance of the thing, but unfortunately I can’t share that with ya’ll just yet.. because, frankly, I haven’t a clue!

So, while not so much a performance venue, but the design itself has a bit of resemblance. Anyway, it’s late; I’m tired, so be happy with my random gibberish and flicks! Yours Truly~~~~ :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .