January 9, 2008


Hullo out there in blogland, I am not dead, it's time for my semiregular update :-)

First off, the title of this post is a reference to what I'll be doing this Friday night, which is listening to some nasty drum & bass at Bonbon, courtesy of DJ Marky. I. Can't. Wait.

These posts have been so long, and I've been pretty tired after work, so I haven't had the time or inclination to commit two hours of my evening to blogging. I'm sure as life here settles down and becomes more normal, my posts will become shorter (and perhaps have more pictures) and I will be doing smaller updates. But for now it's all so new and zany that I've just gotta post about everything, heh.

Let's rewind the time machine back to Sunday, where we last left off ...

Sunday morning I woke up and had nothing to do, so I decided to go on an adventure. Those are not hard to come by in this city, especially not when you don't speak the language :-) Because I couldn't think of a better place to get coffee, I walked down to the Thumb Plaza and had a coffee + chocolate muffin at (shudder) Starbucks. I read a little bit of That's Shanghai, which is where I discovered the aforementioned DJ Marky event. I also saw that Sven Vath is playing there in two weeks. After being in Austin for the past couple of years, with its good-but-not-great electronic music scene (like the majority of US cities), I am thrilled to be in a city where techno/house/drum & bass actually are regular things for people to listen to :-) w00t :-)

Anyhoo after chilling at Starbucks for awhile, I decided to take the metro, on my own, for the first time. I live off Line 2, and I didn't want to mess with changing lines just yet, so I got on the train and headed to People's Square. I exited the subway stop and came out from underground, and for some reason I looked behind me. There was People's Square framed by massive skyscrapers in every direction. It was pretty awe-inspiring. I'll have to go back this weekend and take some pictures.

So that vista was behind me. Ahead of me, though, was the Shanghai No. 1 Department Store. I'd heard about this, and even though shopping doesn't interest me as a pastime, I thought it would be neat to see what it's like inside. So I crossed the street (no mean feat given that I didn't immediately see a crosswalk) and went inside.

Wow. The building is 11 floors of shopping insanity. Whole floors are devoted to a single type of product, like menswear, sporting goods, electronics, etc. And each floor is pretty extensive. Like the electronics and fabrics markets on Saturday, each floor is segmented into, well, let's call them vestibules, but that's not proper since they can be pretty large. Each "brand-specific sales area" is devoted to a certain brand. So on the meanswear floor you have your Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Dockers, etc. vestibules. There's also a ton of European (I think) and Chinese (I guess) brands, of course. On the sporting goods floor you have your Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Puma, etc. vestibules. And so on. It's insane. And it was really crowded on a Sunday afternoon, which made it even more insane :-)

I must have spent two hours wandering around just looking at things. Here and there I would pick up an item to see the price, and they all seemed pretty expensive, even though I am only barely capable of determining what passes for expensive here because I'm not used to thinking in terms of renminbi. And my instant-division skills are lacking. I use the rule of thumb to dividing by 8 to get a rough estimate even though it's really more like 7.2 yuan to the dollar (damn currency appreciation). But I'm sure I stood there like a moron for a couple seconds trying to divide 560 by 8 (quick! The answer is 70). And only later did I realize that I have a calculator, and more importantly a currency converter, in my cell phone :-)

After all that window shopping I headed out on the ground floor, only I got turned around and instead of being back at People's Square, I was in some sort of shopping plaza (go figure). I looked around for a place that looked like it sold food, and saw a Subway and a Pizza Hut. Because I was hungry, I headed for the Subway. En route, I saw another smaller restaurant that was Chinese, so I opted for that instead. I ordered food all by myself (yay!), a process that was helped by a quasi-English-speaking waitress. At any rate there were a couple other white dudes in there, so I could have prevailed upon them for help if I needed anything. In fact, at Carrefour that morning (oops -- forgot to mention that I went sundry shopping all by myself -- that's where I got the slippers), I asked a couple of white people if they knew where the trash cans were. Turns out they were German, but they were able to also use some pidgin English to communicate with me. Actually it was mainly just pointing :-)

Not much to tell after that. I had dessert at some coffee shop and took the metro back home, where I promptly bummed around the apartment for a couple hours. I called Rob and we went to Thumb for dinner. There are like a billion restaurants there. In fact I've eaten there every day except for Saturday and Monday, and I'm planning on going there after I finish this post and catch up on my emails :-) Mostly because it's so close to my apartment . . .

Monday was my first day at the office, and it went well. At lunch with my team, I managed to successfully order a bottle of water, only they didn't have bottles, so the waitress stared at me and everyone laughed :-) During the day I'd made plans to meet up with Kenneth Tan from Shanghaiist. He lives and hangs out mostly in Puxi, so we agreed to meet at The Arch for dinner. Getting to the Arch involves switching metro lines. I guess that Sunday's experience convinced me I could do it on my own, so I did. Before I left work, I looked at the map on SmartShanghai. After work, I took Line 2 to People's Square and changed over to Line 1. I got off at the Hengshu Lu station and exited onto the street. Took a right on Gaonan Lu, then a left on Huaihai Lu. The Arch is at the corner of Huaihai and Wukang, but the walk on Huaihai Lu was taking awhile, so I stopped in a ritzy-looking hotel to ask someone if I was going in the right direction. All I was able to say was "Wukang Lu" with a questioning look on my face and a shrug of the shoulders, but the bellhop pointed in the direction I was walking. Sweet :-) After another 3 minutes I found the place and set up shop inside to wait for Kenneth. While I was waiting I had some french fries, and they were pretty good. When Kenneth got there I ordered a chocolate cake and some ice cream. What a great dinner -- for a five-year-old ;-)

While I was there, my dad called and we talked for a bit. It was neat to talk to him on my cell phone and to realize just how strange that was, given the time zone difference :-) And, as I started to walk back to the Changshu Lu metro station (as advised by Kenneth) my mom called, completely independently. (Everybody say "Awwww" ...) So that was pretty cool, walking down Huaihai Lu at 9 at night while talking with my parents. Neat.

As I exited the Shanghai Science & Tech Museum metro station, I thought I'd push my luck with navigation and language skills, so I hailed a cab. I stuck out my left arm and said "Changliu Lu", then I stuck out my right arm perpendicular to my left one, touched my fingertips together, and said "Dingxiang Lu". Then I took my right hand and pointed to the spot where my hands had just been crossed.

This almost worked, and it was my fault that it didn't. I recognized we were on Dingxiang Lu, and then the driver said something, which I interpreted as "Here?" No idea why I thought that. So I nodded and said "Hao" ("good"), indicating I wanted to stop here. I got out and paid the fare, then realized I was one block over from where I wanted to be. Oh well. Again, my fault for not recognizing where I was. But at least he knew the general direction and area I wanted to go :-)

That's all I can really think of. I'm sure I'll have more to tell on the weekend, so if I don't post before then, don't worry :-)

Oh yeah, and I would love to reply to the comments I'm getting here, but due to Internet blockades from inside the country, I can't actually view this blog page to reply. Actually that's not true -- I can view the page but I can't log in as myself to reply to any comments. Which is strange, because I can post to it just fine, but that's because I post from blogger.com while the actual blog address is blogspot.com. Again, strange. But keep sending the comments, and if you want to talk to me, just Skype or email me or use whatever other way you know how to get in touch :-) I'm planning on posting some pictures of my apartment, complex, and neighborhood on Saturday morning.

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