We've lived in the Min Hang District of Shanghai for one entire week. It has been an, um, experience. Though it has rained EVERY SINGLE DAY, we've been having a wonderful adventure. Our hosts, Peter and Linda are great, our apartment is comfortable and in an ideal location ( on the 1st floor AND beside the playground!). We truly lucked out.
My Chinese has improved dramatically- out of necessity. We are not living in a tourist friendly area, so there are few residents, merchants, or taxi drivers who speak any English at all. We go out 出去 chu qu (say, choo chewe) everyday...we do like to eat and we enjoy sightseeing! There is constant stretching of my language skills- I am very good at a Charades/Chinglish dialect! Really, you should have seen me trying to describe hair oil (something I forgot at home) to people who have NO IDEA what it is or why anyone would use it. The people at the shop kept pointing me toward the butter...suffice it to say, I still don't have any hair oil ( I wasn't about to improvise with butter!).
We're always out and about in our town, so we are becoming celebrities (or maybe just an urban myth, "You'll never believe what I saw this morning??) Now when we go to the main street, the guys on the motorcycles nod and say "Hullo, lady", and people rush to store windows trying to get a peek. We've perfected the old "smile and wave" and keep moving- quickly. At least the children have stopped screaming and running the other way!
We've had some great street food for breakfast. The red bean paste buns are still a big hit with Alli- now I know they're called dou sha bao, and she also loves chicken buns (ground chicken and spices steamed in a soft bun) called ji rou bao. She asks every morning if we can hurry and get her "bun buns" before they sell out. We usually get two of each and drink a bottle of orange drink (there is no real orange juice, only something that tastes like Tang...yes, Tang) on our way to the days activities. All of this, mind you, costs less than 1 USD- for both of us.
So far, our travels have taken us to the Hongqiao New City Pearl Market, a massive (flea market style) shopping extravaganza where you can have pearls custom strung for necklaces and bracelets and buy custom and prefabricated clothing (Allison got a qi pao- a traditional Chinese dress made of silk); the Bund, a major tourist and business center where we had a beautiful gourmet brunch at a restaurant called M (I got blueberry pancakes, eggs florentine and a Bloody Mary, yum!) , and to Fun Dazzle ( a bizarre Chuck E. Cheese-esque indoor climbing gym for kids). For Allison's birthday dinner Saturday night, we went to a restaurant called Charme- simply fabulous chinese architectural food. Imagine not wondering what the food is, but how to eat it...with chopsticks, to boot!! (Thank you Peter!) and came home to enjoy a beautiful cake that Peter and Linda bought Alli for her birthday.
I also appear to be going through cell phones like toilet paper- looking to get #3 in the morning (one and two have both bit the bullet and I've been unable to "jailbreak" my iPhone) If anyone knows how this can be done, please drop me a line!.
So much to tell- I've updated some pics on flickr, take a peek.