That Week B Had Hepatitis B

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Last week we went to the doctor for a general check up and got our annual physical. We went to a reputable western facility where everyone goes. All the doctors are westerners and speak English, they typically work six months at the facility and then rotate.

Two days later the doctor called to update B about the status of his blood test. He informed B that he had Hepatitis B and that there was a problem with his liver.

Shocked we began to do some research on both conditions and B agreed to return to the doctors office to give a second sample in order to determine if he had previously had Hep B (it permanently remains in your blood system) or if he was a carrier (making him more likely to be contagious). The confusing part was trying to determine how he would contracted Hep B and how it would have gone unnoticed for so long.

B returned to the doctor and gave another sample. While there he met with another doctor who elaborated that Hep B is not an airborne disease, that it is contracted through exchanging needles, exchanging bodily fluids, blood transfusions etc. Then he added that it could also just be a mix up in the lab. When asked what was the likelihood of a lab mistake the doctor replied, “less than 1%, I’ve never seen or heard of that happening, but this is China.”

Two more days passed, while we began researching how to deal with having Hep B and causes of low liver function. Finally the doctors office called again and this time the news was better, B did not have Hep B. They had mixed up the samples in the lab the first time. However, to be sure all the other vials did not get mixed up B was asked to return one more time and give a third sample. Thus B returned to the doctors office to give blood for the third time in a week. Again the results showed no signs of Hep B, no problems with the function of his liver and all the other tests showed normal healthy results.

We were both very thankful to have that cleared up. It’s true that this could happen to anyone anywhere in the world, but just funny that it happened to us here in Shanghai. In the end we’re thankful to have health care and doctors who followed up to make sure the results were accurate.

Conquering the Great Wall

A couple weekend back we decided to conquer the Great Wall. We headed out of town with another couple and embarked on a fantastic journey hiking and camping on the Great Wall. The following is our story told through pictures and captions.

Our Great Wall adventure began at the train station in Shanghai on Friday night


We boarded the sleeper train



The on board menu was a little rough, we passed on the “Sweet Men Raisins” and “Chicken packaged by gas box”


After waking up and a quick stop at Xingbake (Starbucks) our driver took us out to Jiankou a portion of the wall that has not been restored and is considered the Wild Wall

We hiked up to the wall for about 50 minutes, here is the first clear look we had at the wall while hiking and A using a ladder to get into the first tower



And our journey really begins


B sitting high a top the wall


More Jiankou


A taking it all in


The Wild Wall


Easier stretches



Looking at what’s to come next






The most difficult challenge along the way (not every route was so direct or easy)


The rewards




Including time to take a selfie for being first to the top







Good company


A enjoying a peaceful moment


After a long day we relocated to the Mutianyu portion of the wall and set up camp (Yes we camped, we are shocked too! And while you may not see us camping again anytime soon, it was an amazing experience to camp on the wall)

We set up tents in a tower


Made some dinner



And as the darkness set in we decided to turn down for the night


Morning rain made for an interesting view



We hiked along the Mutianyu portion of the wall








Over 400 stairs to get to the top.


Came across a guard tower high up on the hill with what appeared to be a ghostly guardIMG_3025


Found a tower with a Chinese flag and captured the moment before hiking down, driving back to Beijing and taking the train back to Shanghai


In summary it was an amazing trip and a lot of fun. A very pleasant and unique experience. I highly recommend climbing the Jiankou portion of the wall if you get the chance.

Summer in Spain

This summer B was lucky enough to head home and visit with family and friends. I, on the other hand, spent my summer studying. Don’t feel too bad for me though, this was my view from my apartment:



I should clarify, I got to spend my summer taking classes in Mallorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea.



It was an intensive and busy month, but thanks to some amazing guests I got to enjoy island living. First a visit from K meant beach time and visiting downtown Palma.




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My luck didn’t end, a week later my parents made their way to Mallorca. We toured around Palma and took an old fashioned train to Soller, a small town on another part of the island.









As I get ready to head back to Shanghai enjoy one last look at my home this summer.


Watching the Game

Way back in July of 2013 after we first arrived in Shanghai I was able to catch the first 2.5 innings of the MLB All-Star Game prior to going to work in the morning. Oddly, in the wee hours of the morning prior to my last day of work for the year I went to a restaurant across the street to watch the United States play Germany in the World Cup.

Between those two days there have been many sporting events across the four major sports in America, additionally, there have been other popular events including the Winter Olympics and other World Cup matches.

Prior to moving to Shanghai, I knew that I would be committing to not seeing or keeping up with a lot of sports from home. I was content with this, which is why I took a 24-hour vacation last June to see the Blackhawks play Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago.

However, I have found that there are creative and interesting methods I use to follow sports in China. I figured the best way was to break it down by sport.


Following MLB, or not following it for that matter, was not a big deal for me. When we departed for China the Cubs were in dead last and never made a threatening move to allocate that position. One of the interesting catches about following MLB is the unscheduled doubleheader. This occurs when teams play a day game following a night game, always fun to check the Cubs score twice in a day. Gives them two chances to win once. Overall the advantage of the baseball season is that you can normally catch a couple innings of a random game prior to work. Biggest pro though is that the game is televised in Chinese. Often on a channel that says ESPN in one corner but shows TBS or FOX in another, I’m sure there are some copyright laws being broken. But what truly makes watching the games pleasant is I can’t understand a thing being said, at least not until my Mandarin improves. Basically I hear a lot of Chinese followed by, “David Wright”, and then a bunch more Mandarin. Though the best is when a player strikes out.  Much like their American counterparts the Chinese broadcasters also aim to have their own call. On our channel the only other English used other than a player or team name is when someone strikes out the announcer takes a break from Mandarin to use his catch phrase, “See you later” before immediately returning back to Chinese.


Catching the NFL is a bit more interesting. Everyone here still plays fantasy football, however, fantasy football is not as fun when 90% of the games are played in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping early on a Monday morning.  After all the one of the biggest reasons for playing is to keep an interest in a game you would otherwise not watch, or in this case sleep through. Due to the NFL schedule, games in China air at 1:00am and 4:25am until daylight savings, then they air at 2:00am and 5:25am.  Additionally, the games do NOT air on television.  The only way to catch them is to purchase the NFL package.  One perk of purchasing the package is that you can wait until after work to catch the game, we call it going off the grid.  However, doing so means you can’t check fantasy scores, scores from other games and you must inform almost the entire staff and most of the students that you don’t want to know anything.  It equates to a long day of keeping your head down, walking past people you normally say hello to and maintain brief conversations. The nice part is being able to watch with a group after work, if you all go off the grid, or catching the fourth quarter of a game before work (in a classroom of someone who has bought the package.) Biggest pro was the refreshing freedom of the Super Bowl.  There are all sorts of events people can attend to catch the big game but this year A and I were in Vietnam when the game was played. Not only were we traveling we were in a remote area that had no idea about the game. I kept my phone off and we spent the day hiking through Sapa, Vietnam. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, normally an event that my day is planned around. However, it was nice to cut ties, sure it helped the Bears weren’t in the game, but I enjoy sports regardless and I must say it was nice to not know and to not care.  It was nice to appreciate the beauty of a fantastic place in the world instead of a spectacle.


By the time the NCAA tournament came around everyone here still found time to complete brackets. One of the nice things about the tournament is that it’s a weekend event and on the first weekend it is always on for 12 hours minimum.  Thus we were able to catch many of the games here, especially since CBS allows you to view the games through the Internet.  One of the best features though is that the Friday and Saturday night games are on during Saturday and Sunday mornings in China.  There is something fantastic about waking up at 8:00am, having breakfast delivered and being able to drink a cappuccino on your couch while watching the game with friends.  When the games end at 10:00am there is still plenty of uninterrupted day left.  We were in Thailand during the Sweet 16, which allowed many people the chance to gather in the hotel and watch prior to attending the conference. Pro of the NCAA tournament is definitely being able to watch during the morning on the weekend.


The NHL is something I’ve become more interested in over the last five year, yes it helps that the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup twice in that time period.  Halfway through the season I bought the NHL package, I really wanted to see the Stadium Series games and they all aired during the weekend.  Much like the NCAA tournament many hockey games are played early in the morning during the weekend, so you can see them live.  Additionally, like the NFL package, you can replay games without commercials and watch them later. Though the additional perk here is that there are not many people who I interact with that will spoil the outcome during the day.  Therefore, by not checking I can watch the games after dinner, with no commercials and all the excitement and anxiety that comes with watching the game live.  During the playoffs I was much more interested in seeing the games live.  I spent many morning waking up at 3:30am to catch the Blackhawks play.  Thankfully, short of three OTs, the games ended in time for me to shower and arrive on time for work.  Biggest pro of the NHL season, the NHL App.  It worked on my phone, iPad, Computer or through our Apple TV.  All in HD and allowing me to catch games live or commercial free replay, even during our vacation in Hong Kong.

There are pros and cons to watching sports abroad.  I remember growing up there was a specific soft drink company that ran a commercial featuring a young man getting ready to go out in the middle of the night.  Eventually he wound up in a small local restaurant, early in the morning, in an Asian city watching a football game.  Ironically, for me this commercial captures what it’s like for me to watch sports these days.  During the World Cup a bunch of us went to a restaurant at 6:00am to watch the USA play.  Afterwards a fwife of one of us in attendance stated, “Only in China would a bunch of quasi soccer fans get up at 6:00am before work to watch the game and all of them wearing jerseys.”  That about sums up the fun of watching sports in China.

India: Agra

The Taj Mahal is one of the great wonders of the world. As such it is built up to be this amazing work of architecture. It does not disappoint. While the Taj Mahal itself is amazing, the love story behind its creation makes it even more beautiful.

In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her 14th child. Her husband, Shah Jahan build the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife. The construction first began in 1631 and took 22 years to complete. Masons, stonecutters, painters, calligraphers and other artisans came from all of Asia and Iran to build it. They say it took over 22,000 people and 1,000 elephants to build it. It is made out of white marble and the pictures do not do it justice.













We also visited the Agra Red Fort. It was designed and built in the 1500s. Originally, the Red Fort was built to be a military establishment, but after time and many additions it was used as a palace.








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India: Delhi

New Delhi is a chaotic place where the streets are filled with people, motorbikes, tok toks, cars and animals. It is a busy and loud place where the poverty is in your face. As such, it can be a bit of a culture shock. Yet, dig a little deeper and you realize that it is organized chaos, people are kind, and the food is amazing.


Visiting Delhi also gave us the opportunity to visit with a good friend. The last time we were supposed to see this friend was the weekend that we were offered our current jobs in Shanghai. Unfortunately, at that time we were both snowed in by a blizzard. This time we were lucky enough to visit with him multiple times, which made our trip even better than it already was. If you had told either one of us that cold February day in Boston that we would be meeting a year and 1/2 later in Delhi, I’m not sure either of us would have believed it.

Without further ado some more pictures from Delhi.

Qutb Minar is a 72.5 meter high tall tower made of red sandstone and marble. The tower dates back to 1193, was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, completed by his son-in-law, and is a wonder to see.

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Jamma Masjid is a mosque built between 1644-1650.

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We visited a park called Raj Ghat. The park is most famous for being the place that Mahatma Ghandi was cremated after his assignation. In the place of his cremation now sits a memorial.

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India Gate is reminiscent of the Arc d’ Triomphe and was built in memory of the the Indian soldiers who died during World War I (fighting on behalf of the UK who sent them in as the first line of defense.)

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We also got to see the President’s house (significantly bigger than the white house) and Parliament (not pictured.)

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Humayun’s Tomb is a world heritage site, built by the widow of Humayun. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, similar to the Taj Mahal.

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The Baha’i House of Worship, also called the Lotus Temple, built in the 1980s is a more recent addition to Delhi. People of any faith are free to visit the temple and pray or mediate silently. It is a beautiful work of architecture.

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Connaught Place is one a large shopping and business area. It was built in the 1930s and is made up of two concentric circles with a park in the middle.

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We also had time to visit Haus Kaus Village and Khan Market. Two cute areas with restaurants and plenty of stores for browsing. A week in Delhi and there is still so much to explore.

Enroute to India

It was a busy week. A had finished work, but B still had one week left. We ran errands, packed, moved, unpacked and packed again. Finally, the evening of Friday, June 27th had arrived and we were ready to leave China. First stop for both of us India, before we head our separate ways. B is heading home to the U.S., while A is headed to Spain to take some classes.

As we walked up to check-in for our flight the woman behind the counter frowned. Two minutes later we were being told our flight was overbooked. Unhappy, but calm, we explained how we booked our tickets months ago, and five minutes later we were bumped to business class. It takes just under 8 hours to get from Shanghai to Delhi. 8 hours of a night flight that we got to enjoy sleeping lying down. This experience may have spoiled us for all future flights.

After getting through security, very quickly with our business class VIP passes, we had about 45 minutes before our flight boarded. We were headed towards our gate when we were stopped by a security officer. When someone in security stops you – you stop, particularly in China. He asked us about the time, to which B shared with him the current time. Then it became more clear he wanted to know if we had some time before our flight, we responded yes. Before we knew it we were each waiting in line to purchase $200 (USD) worth of cigarettes. You can only purchase from duty free if you have a boarding pass. This excludes everyone who works in the airport from taking advantage of the tax benefits. We assume that our friendly security officer, who spoke decent English, sold the cigarettes outside of the airport, likely for a profit.

We proceeded to the gate, with a stop at Xingbake (Starbucks), and boarded our international flight with our business class tickets. Shortly after our on-time departure we enjoyed a pleasant meal, as far as airplane food goes, extended our comfortable chairs to the full length sleeper, grabbed the pillows and blankets and headed to sleep in the clouds, literally.  We safely arrived in India on-time and began our India adventure. Here’s hoping our fortunes here is just as lucky.

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Back dated, here are the highlights from our trip to Thailand during the end of March and the beginning of April.

We started in Bangkok, riding the tok tok’s, cruising the river and enjoying the sunset from Skybar, 61 stories high, where they filmed Hangover II.







We also spent some time at the beautiful Grand Palace in Bangkok.  It was hot and there was a dress code but it was worth attending.  Plus it gave us an excuse to cruise the river.






In Bangkok we were joined by some family members and headed to Koh Samui.  Koh Samui is an amazing place full of gorgeous beaches.  Each day, from up the hill in our resort, brought perfect skies and colorful blue waters that often met symmetrically at the horizon.



We elected to rent a scooter throughout the week allowing us to cruise from beach to beach on the island.  Along our many expeditions across the island we stopped to dine and swim at various beach resorts.












To complete the week with a little competition, in addition to the running, going to the gym and cards we played, we decided to play a round of Football Golf.  An 18-hole course where players kick soccer balls instead of using golf clubs.  Every hole had a different par and we quickly learned the importance of staying on the fairway.





Hong Kong

A month ago we took advantage of a long weekend and went to Hong Kong. We couldn’t wait to see our friends and spend time in a city we love. As anticipated it was a wonderful weekend filled with exploration and catching up with good friends.