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:

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

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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.

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

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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.

Baseball

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.

Football

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.

Basketball

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.

Hockey

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.

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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.

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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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Thailand

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Enroute to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of our favorite cities, after NYC of course. There is something about the mix of East and West, along with its clean and fast public transportation system, and that you can be in the heart of the city and 40 minutes later find yourself hiking in beautiful nature, that draws us to Hong Kong.

And so, we couldn’t let our first year in China pass by without visiting one of our favorite cities again.

We took advantage of a long weekend, brought on by the Dragon Boat Festival, and booked a flight.

It was a long busy week at work – between endless field trips, the spring production and field day we were ready for a weekend away. So at 4:30 on Friday we jumped in a cab and headed towards the airport, eagerly anticipating both being in Hong Kong and meeting good friends for a drink later that night.

We were flying out of Shanghai, we should have known better. Our flight was delayed. At first by an hour, but as the time ticked by we found ourselves becoming more tired and realized that hour would soon grow. Canceling drinks, we resigned ourselves to the fact we would spend our first night back in Hong Kong going to our hotel and crashing.

Finally, the time came to board! As we made our way towards the plane we passed a sign, reminding us of our favorite city.

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We joked about riding in that taxi, B this summer and A in October. Our moods lightened, we were close to taking off.

As we settled into our seats we both locked eyes and started laughing at the same time. The very  Chinese airline we were flying was playing an instrumental version of an American folk song – “Oh, Susanna.” You know the one: “Oh, Susanna! Do not cry for me. I come from Alabama, with my Banjo on my knee.”

We love living abroad, it has taught us so much and we have had the opportunity to see so much more of the world. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t miss home. When things happen at home that make it extra hard to be away from family, it is the surprising little reminders that make you smile. As the plane took off (after it was supposed to land – and yes this is the second time the Shanghai airport has done this to us), though we were tired, we were happy.

10 months later

In a blink of an eye, 10 months flew by. As we begin to solidify our summer plans it is hard not to think about last summer. When the excitement and nervousness was building up, as we tried to do everything and see everyone as much as possible, while making decisions on what to bring and what to sell. A was freaking out a bit about teaching. B was finishing up his second masters. It was a busy and exciting time.

And after 10 months of living in Shanghai  – we can honestly say our lives have significantly changed. We have both been challenged both personally and professionally. We have gotten to see so much more of the world and become accustomed to both the amazing and not so amazing things about living in China.

Over the past 10 months A has had the following thoughts run through her head*:

  1. It is so hot.
  2. Great there is a pool I can sneak into.
  3. It is too hot to be outside, even at a pool.
  4. What, wait!? I can’t walk to the metro.
  5. My first day is tomorrow, I’m terrified.
  6. Okay that wasn’t so bad.
  7. This is kind of fun.
  8. I could be good at this.
  9. Wow, I suck at this. There is so much to learn.
  10. This Mexican food sucks.
  11. How do I communicate with the taxi driver?
  12. I need to learn some Mandarin.
  13. Oh thank god, there is a taxi app.
  14. This taxi app sucks.
  15. I know hello, goodbye, thank you, right, left, straight and stop. As long as I know where I’m going I’m okay.
  16. I have no idea where I am.
  17. I need to learn more Mandarin.
  18. Thank god for the taxi app.
  19. The smoking inside is killing me.
  20. No wait, the pollution is killing me.
  21. Thank goodness for my smartphone.
  22. The service here sucks. I might as well not have a smartphone.
  23. It is too hot to run.
  24. Am I going to have to work 12 hours every day?
  25. I’m getting better at this.
  26. I need to learn more Mandarin.
  27. I love the metro.
  28. Damn metro, it is too far away.
  29. I miss NYC.
  30. Puxi reminds me of NYC. Let’s spend all our time here.
  31. Puxi is so far away I don’t want to go tonight. Let’s stay in Pudong.
  32. A bike! Freedom!
  33. Oh shit, I suck at riding bikes.
  34. Carrying groceries on my back while riding a bike sucks.
  35. I’m not afraid of falling off my bike anymore! Look how much I can carry and ride!
  36. Damn these noodles are delicious. And they were only $2!
  37. This burger is amazing. That burger was $16!
  38. I need to learn more Mandarin.
  39. Opps! I have been saying Shanghai wrong for months.
  40. There are online organic grocer’s that deliver. Why didn’t I know this before?
  41. One pound of chicken is $8!
  42. Oh wait that isn’t too much more than organic chicken in NYC. That’s not too bad.
  43. I love cash on delivery.
  44. I miss real NYC pizza and bagels.
  45. Bali is nice.
  46. This pollution is killing me.
  47. It is really hard to remember to say Shanghai correctly.
  48. The food here is too greasy.
  49. Wow these dumplings are amazing!
  50. I’m starting to get better at teaching! Still so much to learn.
  51. I love my neighborhood, so many great places to run.
  52. I hate my neighborhood, it is too far from the metro.
  53. I need to learn more Mandarin.
  54. That was an amazing 1/2 marathon. I feel great.
  55. The pollution was what!? When I die from lung cancer it will be because of this 1/2 marathon.
  56. I wish I lived in Puxi.
  57. I love having a 2 minute commute.
  58. Finally, I don’t have to do work on the weekend!
  59. There are so many good places to eat in Puxi.
  60. It is kind of cold.
  61. I hate this grey.
  62. Why is the pollution so bad in the winter?
  63. Oh it is only 40 degrees. I guess that isn’t that cold compared to home.
  64. These dumplings are so good.
  65. My stomach hurts, too much oil.
  66. I think the Ayi just told me that cleaning the cupboards are impossible.
  67. Oh never mind, turns out she said she will do it tomorrow.
  68. I need to learn more Mandarin.
  69. I love teaching I get to be silly all day.
  70. Strange, I never knew I enjoyed being silly.
  71. With some effort and experience I could be good at this.
  72. This Mexican food is really good (same restaurant as #10)
  73. The weather is so nice. Perfect for running!
  74. How are there only 8 weeks left of the school year?
  75. This has been an amazing year so far.

*A stole this idea from another blog, but now can’t remember that blog. She apologizes that she can’t give credit where credit is due.