Monday, August 17, 2009

Fuxing Park

I have wanted to write about Fuxing Park for awhile. It is a pretty large park near our IDEO office. I love Chinese parks because they are always so busy in the mornings with people of various ages doing so many activities. A lot of elders use the parks as a place to gather, discuss politics, play chess or majiang, dance, sing, and chat. This park is a little different because there is also a bumper car arena, Marx and Lennon statues (!) and a couple clubs inside.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

last days in Shanghai

So the last week in Shanghai was a whirlwind. Our experience manager at IDEO asked me where we wanted to eat for a good-bye dinner, and I immediately thought that a cooking class for the office would be more fun. Sue, Grace, and I had gone before, so I gave her the number. It was great- we made pumpkin dumplings (although none of us designers actually seemed to follow the chef's rules!), egg rolls, sweet and sour beef, stir fired veggies, and much more. It was a great time, although a little hot inside.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Going Beyond the Mainland

In the last month, I've gone on my last two trips in China; Hong Kong and Taipei. I hadn't originally planned to go to either, but my visa had some issues so I went to Hong Kong to solve that, and then found out my Grandma and aunt were in Taiwan on vacation and so decided last minute to fly and see them.  Both were great experiences as I reconnected with my dad's side in HK and my mom's side in Taiwan.  Besides the Taipei 101 and Lan kwai fong, that's about it for the tourist traps. In Hong Kong I did buy some clothes, and in Taipei I had mango ice (mmm!), beef jerky and tons of Taiwanese snacks.  My aunt, cousin, and I also went to Danshui and rode bikes around the river.  It was great to see where my mother grew up and to hear stories about my family; including that when I was 2, I threw up because I ate too many popcicles.  How am I not surprised.

Monday, July 20, 2009

4th of July in Shanghai

Okay, so this post is a little late- but I just wanted to comment on my friends' ingenuity during the 4th weekend. As you can imagine, it's not a very popular holiday to celebrate out here and BBQ and BBQ supplies are hard to find. So my friends Bec and LiuJian made their own grill out of sheetmetal and found parts. They even tested it the day before to get the best grilling setup. Very cool. The bbq lamb skewers were awesome! Who needs Weber?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bicycle Guy

I saw this man making wire bicycles and other wheeled-vehicles and had to buy one.  The wheels and pedals actually work! The funny thing was there was another guy making "fake" bicycles a few streets over for 10rmb less.  I'm glad I stuck with the original.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ping Pong Playa' IDEO style

I helped organize the first annual Ping Pong Tournament at IDEO Shanghai last Friday, and I'll just say that it went waay beyond our expectations!  We already have a table in the basement, but we rented another one for just the afternoon to have a level I and II bracket.  Just about everyone played and we even had doubles matches as well. With food, beer, bubble tea and awards, it was an awesome afternoon... and we should definitely do it more often!  The two good pics here were taken by Jerome Goh, and are much better than mine. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009


One great thing about China are the massages. Besides making the US prices seem like highway robbery, massage here is seen as a healthy and wellness activity. (The ones I go to at least) are based on traditional Chinese medicine and resemble deep tissue massages in the US. I go to a place which is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment called "Lulu's Blind Pressure Massage" where the masseuses (I really think they should probably have another name as that description conjures up images of aromatherapy and spas and this is just about anything but) are trained and all have poor to no eyesight. I think this makes for even better massages because really concentrate on the actual massage. I bought a 10x card which makes each (45min foot and 40 min body) massage around 35 RMB ($5) each.

The culture around massages is pretty casual, and sometimes Friday night outings forgo trips to the bar and get foot massages instead. The masseuses here know my voice and call me the "American Chinese girl" which is fine by me. They have talking watches that they press to figure out how much time is left.

I pulled something in my back a few weeks ago playing tennis. I didn't think twice and went to get a back massage an hour later. This sort of ubiquity and ease is something I'll definitely miss in the States.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Can I have a fapiao with that?

My China rotation is seeing the end of the tunnel as I'm set for an early August departure, so this month's posts are going to try to cover a lot of ground.  First, I'm going to start off with FA PIAO.  Fa Piao are state issued receipts that can be used for tax deduction, reimbursements, etc.  As in, if I bought something for a project and want to get reimbursed, I need to have a Fa Piao and not just a cash register reciept. This whole system was set up to make things official and for companies to pay taxes on what they sell.  However, sometimes small stores won't give you a fapiao so I can get a restaurant fapiao and use that instead. (A little weird, but they accept it!) Some of my foreign friends collect as many fapiao they can so they can get a tax deduction on their salary.

The funny thing about these government receipts is that, to encourage customers to ask for them, the fapiao comes with a "lottery scratch-off" portion. You can win (I've heard) up to 500 RMB ($73).  I haven't won anything yet, but if you do get something, then you can collect it from the actual store/restaurant right there.
Some places, like taxis, will give fapiao/receipt in one.  Other places, you must ask for the fapiao separately.  I've also heard of people buying fake fapiao, so if that's the case, what's the point?!

China's Great (Fire)Wall and Censorship

Okay, so I've been slacking on posting even though there is so much to write.  Part of the reason is that China is making things hard for me! It blocked access to Blogger a couple months ago so now I am email posting to the site. (sorry for grammar errors, can't really fix them) However, I and most people in China, can't actually see the blog.  I found out that IDEO has a company proxy, but I only use that at work.  Alas, more restrictions lead to more delay in postings. They also blocked twitter and Facebook recently because of the riots in XinJiang province in the Northwest region.  And even Google (and the whole suite of Google products too) have been blocked for short periods of time.  I guess there are easier ways to access these things like other proxies and VPN, but in a way, I sort of like experiencing these governmental decrees and making my own workarounds them. okay, onward!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Warm welcome coming back from US

I got back from a 10 day trip from the US last Monday.  I'm astonished at how much my Chinese degraded from just those 10 days!  I had a few stops- in St. Louis, Chicago, and then San Francisco to see friends/family on the weekends, and then work during the week. So good to see friends there! Here's a pic from the "Bean" in Chicago and a view of SF from Mt.Tam on a hike with Eli.
When I got back to Shanghai, we had to stay on the plane an extra 45 minutes as the guys in hazmat suits tested everyone's temperature with an infra-red gun.  (China is still overly concerned about H1N1... or maybe it's all just an excuse to lock certain people away for a bit)  Not the most welcoming gesture, and I think my temperature rose .4 degrees just being worried if I'd pass. whew! no one was quarantined on the flight.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Shanghai Stroll

So even though I'm currently in the US on business right now, I wanted to write about the Shanghai streets, and some interesting behaviors you'll find.

I know the newspapers aren't doing so well in the States, but in China, people communally read them like this guy on his bike. It's a nice way to save paper and discuss with others about the news. They are all around on public streets.

The summer heat is already starting, and with it comes pajamas. Yes, for some odd reason in Shanghai people wear pajamas in the summer, in public, and go about their daily activities in this attire. Like this couple here.

More so in the local streets, you'll see people gathering around to watch a game of cards, chess, or majiang.

There are no bikes at this "bike parking lot" but I like that the city has these all around .

Also, most Chinese don't like to get too tan from the sun. I'll have to wait and snap a picture of all the ladies and their umbrellas, but at some crosswalks, they will have shades that people crowd under.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beer Bash

Christine from work had an event in QingDao last Monday and invited me to come up with her on Sunday to tour that city. The tickets were affordable (about $100) and it was only an hour flight away so, sure! You may have heard of this city in another Romanization- TsingTao- yes, the beer! QingDao is halfway between Beijing and Shanghai and is close to the ocean. It's hilly, has a lot of hiking in the LaoShan mountains, and has clean air; I think I read an article how it is similar to Northern California, maybe that's why I liked it.

We got there late Sat night and stayed at a "local" hotel. I tend to bucket hotels into this category if they have a call-girl call around 10pm at night. I swear... Anyway, the next morning we drove an hour to Lao Shan, took a cable car, and hiked up a trail. From my experience with Chinese hiking so far though, it is nothing like the west. Besides the fact that people wear high heels and tight jeans, the main path is always paved. Oh, and I forgot to mention the amout of vendors selling the most random of things all along the path, shouting, annoying you... I felt like I was at Disney going up a path waiting for a rollercoaster ride. Not until the very top did we ask a local if there were any "offbeaten" tracks and she pointed for us to climb some boulders. So, we did, and that was one of the best experiences as we sought out a path and walked awhile to get a great view of the mountains.
After that, our taxi driver drove us to a beachy area and we had some fresh fish and walked along the ocean. We also helped a bunch of people look for crabs that were hiding beneath rocks.
In the afternoon we went to the TsingTao factory and did our own leisurely tour of the place. Germans had originally started the factory in early 1900s and there was a huge German community living here then. The factory was on "QingDao Beer street" and you could see vendors with numerous kegs sitting around selling beer by the plastic bag. They would give you a bag, and you could fill it up as you liked, and then they'd weigh it and give you a straw! My bag 'o beer cost me 20 cents. And it was cold and fresh- very awesome. Afterwards we took a stroll around the city, got dinner, and then I headed back on a flight later that evening.