Monthly Archives: March 2005

Hurry Up, Metro Line 6!

Hurry Up, Metro Line 6!

So I picked up a new teaching client a few weeks ago… Betty is really cool, a really fascinating Taiwanese-American. I really enjoy teaching her (she’s quite inquisitive and challenging), but she lives way out in Pudong. To get to her house, I have to walk five minutes to the Chiggy (elevated rail), ride the Chiggy for five minutes, switch at Zhong Shan Park to the metro, ride that for 30 minutes, walk out to a designated metro exit (of course, it’s the exit with the farthest frickin’ walk), and hitch a ten-minute ride with her driver to her house. All this wearing my most “professional” outfits and lugging a bagful of books and my laptop. Can you hear me grunting?

Today after our lesson, Betty suggested I grab some lunch at their Jinqiao Carrefour. I hadn’t been to Carrefour in ages so I thought: what the hell; I’ll check it out. The store was nicely laid out. Spacious and clean. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even buy much because I’d have to lug it all home. Plus, Betty gave me three additional books (her daughter’s) AND a cassette player/radio to record stories for Joy. Yeah. I was carrying all this in my previously cute, little backpack.

So what did I buy? Bread and Dove chocolate. Just two things in this megastore of goods. Unfortunately, when I saw the endless lines, I wanted so badly to bail. But I couldn’t. I was screwed. You see, while I was shopping, some security officer interrupted me, advising that I place my purse into a duffle bag, which he locked shut and clamped to the cart. I did what he suggested. And as soon as I returned to my shopping, I realized my grocery list was in the sealed bag! To top that, I had no choice but to purchase the two items because only the cashiers could unlock my duffle. Sigh!

After I finally made it out of Carrefour, I searched and searched for a shuttle bus to the metro station (yeah, Carrefour’s not even near the metro!). No luck. Ultimately, I caved and got a cab… but only to the metro station. It took me over an hour to get back home. I hear that Metro line 6 will provide a direct link from Yishan station (near my house) to Pudong, near the Science and Tech Museum. I can’t wait till that routes goes online at the end of next year. It’ll be so money! Until then, I just keep reminding myself that I’m one tough cookie!

Ladies Night

Ladies Night

Is it just me or does Ladies Night seem a little predatory? I was reading through one of the English city mags, and I guess I never noticed before but those promos are everywhere. Does my reaction seem a little strange, given I am the cheapest of all cheapies? Yeah, one might dwell on the free drinks part or argue that this is a rare (and welcome) case of women’s privilege. But me? I was drawn to an ad for Judy’s. It had this topless girl (she was so rail thin, I’d say she was pre-pubescent) draped on a sofa or against a wall, looking apprehensive and borderline scared. I dunno, the ad just annoyed me. The whole concept reminds me of frat parties for some reason. I mean, yeah women can control how much they consume but ugh! I think I’ve just heard too many stories of sexual debauchery, sugar daddies, and extramarital affairs.

In other news, I guess Easter is this weekend. What the hell is Easter anyway? The rebirth of Jesus or of Christ? Are they the same person? John supposedly went to CCD (I don’t know what it stands for, but it’s basically Christianty school) and he doesn’t know shit. Lucky for me, I grew up in a household where money is god (okay, not that extreme), so ignorance is my excuse. Maybe when I really really care to know, I’ll look it up on Wikipedia.

Okay, been up since 5:30 this morning when I took the pups for their walk in the darknesss. Afterwards, we went up ten flights of stairs. This exercise thing is a pain in the ass, but it’s a good thing I have dogs; otherwise, I’d never go through this kind of trouble. Uh oh, I’m dozing off a bit. Time for a power nap.

Dog Lovers Unite!

Dog Lovers Unite!

I went to a really cool fundraising event last night… The city mag 8 Days ran a story on the Shanghai Small Animal Protection Association (SSAPA), a privately run, registered nonprofit. I was honestly quite surprised such a group existed, and with a legal status, no less.

The story about SSAPA is a touching one. It was founded my a former sales rep who spent his savings setting up a shether… Two years later, Mr. Jade Zhang is exhausted emotionally, physically, and financially but every day, he carries on to save each of these innocent creatures. I met him in person and in my broken Chinese tried to express thanks, but I didn’t do him justice. I feel so fortunate that Mandarin-fluent Carol Wolfson (an American who has lived in Asia for 20 years) took this project under her wing– the turnout was huge, and I’m confident a big pot of money was raised (and some volunteer signups were passed around too). Really reignited my NGO flames. What an incredible feeling, being around people who believe in an individual’s role in enacting change.

At the event, I hooked up with my friends (and fellow pup fanatics) Verinda and Christine. Always cool to update on our pups. Hopefully Remy and Maritn will have some play dates in the near future. God, wish the damn city would give up its attempts to regulate pet ownership. Anyway, the networking for dog folks continues…

The Wuster came over today, made my favorite cao nian gao. So fucking tasty– I pigged out big time for lunch. Ah, no worries. With John gone, I’ve been pretty hardcore with my “see how cheap you can live” game (which involves a lot of cereal, pasta, and hummus) so this was a feast for these days of light eating. I’m trying to go back to being vegetarian again. I know, I saw that article in the Washington Post talking about how the vegan stronghold of Takoma Park, MD is now succumbing to humanely-raised meat. I have my days of weakness, but generally, I don’t crave it much these days. Ok, so I have a sore spot for turkey club sandwiches… 🙁 But I haven’t had it since Bubs left.

Am I just into deprivation? I dunno. Maybe I’m a bit masochistic that way… I just like to think I’m free, free of dependencies. I know, a weirdo.

So things are getting busy these days. Well kind of… until my students cancel class. Then I have a good bit of free time to do project research. You should check out StarPups again. I discovered this really cool online interactive calendar, so now StarPups has an online calendar of dog events. Heheh, I’m such a dork.

I’ve been researching natural dog treats lately. Baked some PB whole wheat treats for R&M the other day. Of course, you know me: no free lunch. You gotta work, even for your little biscuits. So I cram the cookies into their Kong toys, and that keeps them both busy for at least 15 minutes (although Martin’s tongue is getting extremely skilled at getting the reward out in under 10 minutes. Time to upgrade to something more challenging. Damn dog.

I am just living and breathing my dogs these days. Even spoiling them with late night walks and exercise (we did 17 flights of stairs today!). Gotta spice things up for them you know? Speaking of which, it’s time for their walk now. Catch up with you later!

Shanghai Customers

Shanghai Customers

There’s a reason why service in Shanghai is quite good… I don’t mean service from the little mom and pop shops or the street vendors (for stuff that’s only a few kuai, buy at your own risk); I mean service at established shops– places with a storefront. The other day, I was at the salon and this SH customer started going on and on about how every morning when she goes to the salon to get her hair washed (it does only cost 10 kuai, but geez, don’t you shower anyway?), she dodges two of the morning attendants like they’re diseased. She said, “I just could never have my hair washed by those two ladies– they are so ugly.” Yeah, forget all the stories about face and kissing ass in China. When it comes to the customer, he/she is king, and she says whatever the hell she wants. So there I am thinking, “What the fuck does being unattractive have to do with your hands or your technique for washing hair or massaging someone’s scalp?” Totally irrelevant and what, ugly people have no right to live and work? It was ridiculous. And I fucking said so (actually, I didn’t know the demanding customer was still in the room in a curtained off area). I told my attendant SH clients are unreasonably demanding. I mean, fuck, customer service is tough anywhere but here? These service people put up with too much shit and verbal abuse, if you ask me. At least the woman heard my take and then retracted her comment, insisting it wasn’t necessarily that they were ugly, but more that they had poor technique. Fine then. Whatever.

I know SH is supposedly the most industrialized, modern, and cosmopolitan city in China, but god, there was a lady in there getting eyelash extensions. I’d never even heard of that, except with JLo, who uses red fox fur extensions for her fluffy lashes. Strangely, I felt weirded out and fascinated at the same time. I mean, I was there for a facial and massage, so who am I to say… but god, they need to shut up already about how dark my skin is and how many freckles I have. My attendant told me she’s been eyeing these special undergarments– a tube top, bottoms, and a waist wrap. Apparently, two sets cost 4000 RMB total!!! That’s $480 USD, and her monthly salary is a mere 2000 RMB. But she’s saving up, she says. I thought she was out of her mind. She has a great figure, but she insists the garments are comfy (certainly doesn’t sound comfy, but then again, all my local friends here scolded me for dressing “like a student.”) AND they shape her body to perfection. She’s gonna show me after she gets them… must have some kind of outcome. I’m dying to see.

Anyway, SH women are known for being high maintenance. Crazy pointed heels, super tight clothes, baby soft, powder white skin, fixed up hair… it’s critical business, man. And I know they’re all looking at me and John, thinking, “What the hell is a prime catch like him doing with a scrub like her?” Lucky for me, John isn’t so superficial. What can I say, Bub’s the best. Feminist, smart, sweet, funny, and chatty. 🙂 Okay, enough lovey dovey shit. I know, you’re gagging already. Sorry bout that.

Furby Fails Me!

Furby Fails Me!

Well it was bound to happen: my beloved Furby ran outta juice! And boy was I screwed. When it comes to certain things, I definitely suffer from OCD. Take tire pressures, for example. When I lived in Raleigh, my car got a flat tire three times in two weeks. In one case, it happened on my drive down to Charleston, SC, and I hadn’t even noticed until I arrived at the construction site. I freaked out at the thought of me driving like a retard with a flat tire. Anyway, after those incidents, I got this awesome digital tire gage (I needed anal-retentive level of accuracy) AND this car battery-operated air pump. I know, a little overboard, but after that my tires were always at optimum psi. So same deal with our bikes. Purple Forever was always giving me a smooth ride, because I was pumping her tires once a week. Back to the battery… Bubbey always makes fun of my paranoia, so on this particular day, I figured, fine. What the hell! The pointer is at half full. Not ideal, but it should be fine. I need to relax.

So I pushed off on my merry little way. As soon as I twisted my wrist to give the Furbster some juice, the pointer dipped to 1/3 full. Great, that’s a lame indicator. Still, I figured 1/3 tank was enough to last me: big mistake. So I trekked my way to the LifeLine Shanghai office. As soon as I arrived, I realized I forgot my damn software CDs. Fuck. Determined to salvage my trip, I poked around on the LLS redesign, made some minor changes here and there, reformatted some pages, reformatted some documents. Two hours later, I had enough: time to go home.

Mind you, this was my first time to the office on Furby, so yeah, I got a little lost on the way back. I watched the meter obsessively, dreading that I ultimately would have to doggie-paddle my way home.

I mean, had Furby gone 30 km/hr with the battery at less than full charge, I would have made it home– even accounting for getting lost. Unfortunately, I learned on this outing that the max speed decreases significantly at lower charge. Sucks. So at 1/3 full charge, I only got about 10 km/hr. At that rate, I could have probably walked faster. Regardless, I tried my best to conserve the energy for later. I got so far as the JianGuo Lu/Hengshan Lu, five-street intersection point. When the light turned green, I gave Furby the gas, but I putzed along at a rate so slow, I wasn’t even going to make the light, and this intersection was no games. Desperate, I started peddling and omg, I was peddling like a maniac, but the bike was so heavy and the wheels so small, I wasn’t really moving. I finally started pushing off with my feet like a damn skateboarder. Yes, it was awful. And yes, after I cleared the intersection, I laughed at how ridiculous I must have looked with all the normal bikes passing me. So bottom line is that I’ve learned my lesson. Always keep the thing at full charge. It doesn’t matter if that means lugging the mother fucking 45-lb battery inside. Anything beats the stress of peddling in vain.

Mind is Racing

Mind is Racing

Well it’s been another crazy few days. Don’t even remember where I last left off.. . lemme check. Ah, right. Abducted Purple Forever and Merida! How could I forget! Well I suppose I’ve recovered from that traumatic event: my lil’ Furby (don’t ask me why I call my electric scooter that) has been a terrific companion. Of course, I don’t use Furby nearly as often as I used Purple, but that’s only because I haven’t gotten the locking process down to a reasonable time. At present, I spend about five minutes on each side.

This week has been all about networking. Well, networking is probably a slight overestimate. Let’s just call it “attending social events.” Whatever. Here’s a summary: Shanghai Expatiate Association (SEA) coffee morning on Monday. Then, lunch with several ladies interested in NGO work. LifeLine volunteer dinner Tuesday night (at an unbelieveably posh place– who lives like that?). American Women’s Club coffee morning today. Expat American club meetup this evening. Unfortunately, oday was rainy, so it took me fuckin’ forever to get a cab to and from. And of course I forgot my umbrella, so I got soaked. No wonder I get sick frequently, my friends here say.

So the events have been okay. Honestly, I feel disappointed with them, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. SEA had a huge turnout– hundreds of people. I guess I was bummed they were ALL women (Don’t companies send women employees overseas with their hubbies trailing behind?). Moreover, they seemed mostly interested in shopping excursions and travel tours. Oh well. I passed my card out and met some SEA officers (from whom LifeLine usually receives dontaions).

The NGO lunch was cool– met up with Kendra (of LLS), Verinda, and Sara (of JA China). Had a tasty, inexpensive meal with interesting women. Tuesday, I went out to Betty’s to teach verb tenses. It was not easy, and she’s a very detailed learner who likes patterns and rules. After class, she took me out for lunch at an excellent place on the famous BiYun Road in Pudong. Betty is so sweet, and her 3-year old daughter Joy is really bright and cute. Yeah, don’t worry, I still have zippo maternal instincts. DINKs forever, man!

The American Women’s club this morning was ok. Had a big turnout and several people donated books for the book drive next month, but generally, I found the event quite distracting. I could hardly hear the announcements.

After the AWCS, I went to chill at a Taiwanese retaurant, Charmant. Really good milk tea and Taiwan comfort food. Took my laptop and got some work done (the apartment upstairs is STILL renovating).

The Meetup tonight was okay. Met some new peeps (mostly teachers), but I felt old. Dunno why. Maybe because they headed to Zapata’s afterwards while I just wanted to go home (I had to prep for a morning class– turns out the claas got canceled). Okay, there’s more to say but I’m falling asleep. More later, sorry.

SH Favs

SH Favs

Favorite place to read: Charmant on Tian Yao Qiao in XJH
Favorite bus line: airport bus from Jing An Temple to PVG (only 20 yuan!)
Favorite island: Taiwan
Favorite metro stop: Zhongshan Park
Favorite metro line: Line 3/Pearl line/Light rail
Favorite sweets: Christine’s cakes or peanut butter powder blocks from Hangzhou
Favorite book: Fast Food Nation
Favorite book store: Garden Books on Changle Road
Favorite smoothies: homemade with bananas, honey, and yoghurt
Favorite view: the Bund from CJW
Favorite concert venue: SH Concert Hall (like the architecture)
Favorite cheesecake: where?
Favorite band: Crystal Butterfly (like the name)
Favorite ice cream: Magnum Nutty Buddy
Favorite breakfast: mung bean congee (lu dou zou)
Second favorite: Xinjiang bread
Favorite park: XJH park
Favorite clothes shopping: Peeps Sq metro
Favorite magazine: Metrozine (when I can find it)
Favorite newspaper: Shanghai Daily
Second favorite: Shanghai Star
Favorite people-watching: on the metro
Favorite lunch special: Jujube Tree on Songshan
My favorite place for afternoon tea: Rendevous
My favorite place for wireless Internet access: my home
My favorite Starbucks store: don’t like Starbucks
My favorite Hunan Cuisine: on Xu Hong Bei Lu
My favorite tea house: Flowers?? (on Huai Hai near Fanyu)
My favorite restaurant in Pudong: TBA
My favorite road: Wulumuqi north of Hongqiao Lu
My favorite hotel building: Marriott on Huang Pi Bei Lu
My favorite office building: Jin Mao
My favorite car make: the Smartcar looking things (not sure who makes them)
My favorite gallery: Shanghai Propaganda Art Poster Gallery
My favorite hotel to stay: Marriott
My favorite church: XJH Cathedral
My favorite Sichuan Cuisine: PinChuan
My favorite gym: Physical
My favorite airline agent: ctrip
My favorite number to call: Dazhong Taxi
My favorite broadband provider: VDSL from Shanghai Telecom
My favorite mobile service provider: China Mobile
My favorite taxi company: Dazhong Taxi
My favorite hosptial: Foreigner’s Health Certificate Clinic
My favorite English Magazine: City Weekend

Our Trusty Steeds Abducted!!

Our Trusty Steeds Abducted!!

I’ve been wanting to post an update these last several days, but it’s a good thing I waited. The big news last week? My faithful bike, Purple Forever, was stolen. Yep, for my first time, I became a victim of theft in China. Granted, I was a total dumbass: I left my bike at the metro station, went all about town looking for goddamn bacon, cabbed home, and then forgot about Purple until late the next day. On top of that, I neglected to secure her with my usual double locks. You see, in recent weeks, my cable lock started jamming on me and rather than get a new one for a few bucks, I thought I’d be able to take it home, clean it up, and return it to good use. Problem was, I never got around to it, so Purple Forever sat at the station overnight with only one lame lock. Fucking A! So I was pretty upset about it, not so much by the monetary loss ($25 USD), but just by my stupidity and well, this weird feeling of violation. John was pretty cool about it: for weeks he’d been talking about getting me an electric bike: they’re cheap here (compared to the US), SH is really flat and well-suited for them, and I’ve always quasi-secretly wanted one. So I got one a few days after the abduction. I have to say, I feel pretty damn cool zipping around town at 20 mph (top speed) on my silver boogaloo. Of course, now I DEFINITELY won’t get any exercise since all I gotta do is flip my right wrist. The electic moped is just that easy.

Securing it is another story. Now that I’m totally paranoid, I u-lock the front tire, add a huge heavy chain lock, and then use another chain lock in the back. And I secure the bike to a railing. Ain’t no way I’m getting robbed again, man.

As I was saying, it’s a good thing I waited a little with this posting, because we got robbed again last night. John (on his bike) and I (on boogaloo) rode to downtown XuJiaHui for some tea and laptop time (outside of our noisy apartment– they’re renovating upstairs). Well, the evening was going great: we found this comfy new cafe/late-night diner. That should have been a sign. When we got outside and walked towards our bikes, Merida (John’s bike) was gone. He locked the front wheel and the back wheel, but I guess the mistake was that he didn’t secure it to a railing. I dunno. We were totally floored, because we were in this new ritzy part of town, where things were well-lit. Fucking A! And Merida wasn’t rusty and crappy like Purple. Merida was actually a quality, hardy bike. So two bikes gone in one fricking week. Now we don’t know what we’re going to do. The e-bike is nice, but sometimes you just want a normal bike to get you to places nearby, you know? John and I used to ride our bikes all over town during the warm seasons… the e-bike certainly doesn’t give you any kind of workout and if he gets another bike, it’s gonna be weird to “go biking” when one of us is on the moped and the other is trying to keep up peddling. Oh well, he’ll have awhile to decide since his biz trip is coming up soon.

In other news, I’ve been crazy busy. Last week I picked up two new clients, two 8-year old kids and a Taiwanese woman. Looks like I’ll be trekking all over town again. Thankfully, I’ve got the new bike. I’m also networking a lot– trying to apply what I learned from Leil Lowndes. Today, I attended a ping pong meetup. Only two dudes showed up– two guys from Madrid. They were really good players, but they toned down their moves so I could play a little. Really nice guys. In general, I feel like I’m making progress with the socializing, although a bunch of people I have emailed (new contacts in the States) have yet to reply. Dunno what that’s about.

Oh, I designed my StarPups Shanghai business cards last week– all on my own. Hehe. I originally wanted to wait for John to create them using Adobe Illustrator, but he’s been so swamped with work lately. So, I made it in Publisher, then converted it to PDF, imported it into Illustrator, and exported it into every possible file the printers could want. I actually didn’t know which format they needed… Anyway, they turned out great! No Chinese, but oh well. It just has the URL, my name, and phone numbers. People get it.

So the American Women’s Club of Shanghai is holding a book drive and bake sale next month to raise money for an migrants’ school in the city. I plan to bake dog treats to further promote my site. Not sure where all of this is going, but I just want to drive traffic and try to meet as many dog peeps as possible.

Oh, I’m now the webmaster for LifeLine Shanghai, a nonprofit that operates an information and support helpline for expats. I did a site redesign for them last week and now we’re in the process of updating content before it goes live. It’s been fun learning to use cascading style sheets (CSS).

Well it’s pretty late now. From here on out, I expect to be very busy with class prep again. New clients always require huge time investment. I guess the construction workers upstairs will start bulldozing around 7am. Good way for me to get an early start on the day.

Moving Again?

Moving Again?

Okay, so the Goodbers blog is moving once again. Well I definitely warned you right? I mean, now that is back in action, I gotta get up to speed with the latest and greatest. Plus, I told you I attended a web bloggers’ meetup, so surely you expected more geeky moves from me. So here’s the story: I was finally convinced that Blurty was just too limited. I mean, there was no backup system, no photo option, no RSS feed… so it was time to upgrade.

On the advice of the other bloggers in the group, I decided Google’s Blogger was the best option. So ta da! I spent a few hours cutting/pasting my previous blog entries into this one so now we’re all on the same page. I just downloaded Hello, the photoblog tie-in for Blogger, so I’m gonna fiddle with it over the next few days. John and I are going to try and take more pictures. I know, I’ve promised this before, but hey, here it is again in writing for you. Go easy on us: we’re anti-socs after all.

Like a true dork, I’ve been tracking my Goodbers site data as if my life depended on them. I know, I can be so anal. Since my sites (Goodbers and StarPups) have gone live, I’ve gotten about 40 unique visitors. Thank goodness for that level of data detail; otherwise, I’d be the only one generating all the traffic for sure.

Beyond sitting in front of my computer for an eternity, I have actually gotten out some. Last Saturday, we went out with some peeps for dim sum (I think I wrote about that already). On Sunday, we went out to dinner at Xinya (a Cantonese place) with my dear friend Helen and her sister Grace. The food was not bad; it’s fun trying out new places. Anyway, we had a good time. Helen is a star conversationalist and a super funny gal. I was advised (once again) that I need to update my style– add some color, adopt a new hairstyle, do SOMEthing. Am I really that bad? 🙁 Anyway, I’ll include a pic for you, just so I can try out my Hello thingy.

What else. Oh, I designed my StarPups biz cards. I’m so proud; I’ve been doing all kinds of techie stuff. Of course, I still can’t use Illustrator to save my life, but I found a good workaround: I created my biz card in MS Publisher (Don’t roll your eyes!), then converted to PDF, then imported to Illustrator. Not sure if it’ll work. I know, sounds really complicated but it’s still much easier than learning Illustrator. Ugh. John suggested I read his book, but have you ever read tech books? So BOR-ING! I much prefer to have Bubs school me or I just figure out a lame workaround (but a workaround nonetheless).

I’ve also volunteered to be the webmaster for Lifeline Shanghai, a local counseling/info hotline for expats. I’m meeting with the executive director on Thursday to go over the revamp. Hope she likes it, because it took my entire Friday night.

Anybody watch the Oscars? My TV here stays off for weeks (even months) at a time. I get my news online, surprise, surprise. Swank had a weird dress. But the big question is: where were Brad and Jen? Hehe. I’m such a groupie.

Okay, I’m off. Have an American Women’s Club of Shanghai meeting tomorrow– we’re gonna talk about the upcoming booksale. I can’t wait to offload all our books!