Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's funny to think that when I came here I had every intention of staying six months and then leaving. Now I have been here for three months, and really can't imagine leaving in another three. Granted, this is probably helped by the fact that I am getting to go home for Christmas, (yes it's official I'm coming home!! the 19th-2nd!) but still I feel that six months is way too short. The funny part is... I knew this! Argentina was too short, Spain was painfully short, so I'm coming to the realization that six months was set because I was almost certain that this wasn't going to work out. The good news... it's working out!

My job started out as relatively boring, and while it's not the most exciting thing in the world, it's improving!! I basically do market research and am working on marketing plans for the company. Our product is finally getting ready to launch, so things are picking up and we're planning focus groups and getting in touch with different media outlets. Awesome.

On the whole, I'm still pretty pleased with my life here. I stay really busy actually. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I don't really have time for anything other than work, Chinese class and tutoring, since that keeps me occupied from 9 am til 11:30 pm. Tuesday and Thursday Renee and I are still going to yoga. I'm really enjoying the yoga thing! I'm getting better at it, which is nice. It's always fun to feel things getting easier, and while it's not as strenuous as a lot of workouts, I feel like it's a good match for me. Basically, looking in, my life is totally lame, but I'm ok with that.

I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home at Tor's place. Tor is Renee's business partner, and he had me and 5 married couples over to his place. Tor is also married, meaning that I was the only person there without a significant other present... and I was also the youngest by at least 7 or 8 years. Unless you count the 3 three year old and the one year old... However, one thing that I have learned from my time here and hanging out with people often over twice my age, is that life does not end on your wedding day, no matter your age, nor does it end at 40, 50 or even 60. I have been to parties and been entertained by people that are the same age as my parents, and older! It's weird to be almost on peer level with these people now. Obviously, we're not quite there yet, as I am too young and inexperienced for any of them to take me seriously... but gone are the days of Hello, I'm Mr. So and So. Growing up is weird.

I don't have much else to say right now... something about not updating for a month makes it harder to update at all. I am sorry about the scarcity of these updates, they're just rather annoying to do! It took me a good 2 hours to write this because of the whole blogger being blocked here. Hopefully they will unblock it soon. I'll try and write about more entertaining things soon. Renee wants us to go away next weekend, and we have a relatively full weekend this weekend planned so I should have some stories soon!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Moving on

I got a job. I am officially a product launch intern at a startup company called LexDex. I am still unsure what I will be doing... but the company is cool. I like the two guys running it, and I like the vibe of the place, so hopefully it will be a good experience. Basically, the company is an online study guide. They are taking existing textbooks and creating flashcards, study guides and aides, in order to help students study. These things are all online, and also may be downloaded to your mobile phone, so that you can study on the go. The product is something that could work, so I am intrigued to see how it will be done. The fun part is that now I get to have an impact on that! Even if it is just a minor one. I start on Monday, and have a probation period of one month to see how I fit with their company. I hope it works out because I think that it could be a very good thing, and I would like to not have to look for a new job...

I'm still not sure how long I will be here. Depending on everything, I could be home in a month, or I could be here until the Olympics. If everything goes my way I wouldn't mind staying actually. Either way it looks like I will be coming home for Christmas, which is sort of nice. It's amazing that I have only been here for 6 weeks. It feels like I've been here for longer, but at the same time it's amazing that so much time has gone by. I still don't feel like I've done much of anything.

Shanghai is a funny city though. There is a lot to see and do, but it's not really the touristy sort of stuff that you would expect. There are a few museums and a few "historical" sites, but for the most part what they have to offer is current culture. Shanghai is not like Beijing in that it doesn't have old temples or emperor dwellings. All it has to offer are some recreations of things that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. This is why when people ask me if I've seen all the sites, I don't quite know what to say. I have minimal interest in visiting these sites, and while I will probably visit them at some point, I don't really feel like I'm missing out on much yet. I do need to spend some more time exploring the city, but it's sort of hard to motivate myself to wander around aimlessly. The weather is getting better though so it won't be as hard now. Of course, now I will be constantly busy.

Renee and I have signed up at a yoga studio for unlimited classes for 3 months. We try to go at least twice a week, and it's actually pretty great. I've been sore for two weeks straight though because we've done various classes that have worked different parts of our bodies. I will say that pilates and yoga work places that you didn't know that you could ever be sore. It's kind of nice and sort of painful. Hopefully it will help to keep me in shape though. I also need to start eating more local Chinese food and less Western food. Hopefully I will actually do it at some point. Shanghai food is not nearly as appealing to me as Beijing food though. I will say that. There's a huge difference in food depending on where you are in China, and I have to say that Beijing food is a lot better in my opinion. Oh well! I'll survive. I'm weaning myself off of cereal right now because it's just too expensive.

All in all... I like it here. I still feel a little out of place, and am having a difficult time motivating myself to meet new people. I miss my family, and I miss my friends and I miss Andrew. Long distance relationships are really hard by the way... and it makes meeting new people sort of awkward. A lot of the people here that I meet are guys, and it's just somehow harder to befriend guys when you're taken. I like the people that I have met so far though, and should probably make more of an effort to let them know that. I'll have to make an effort to go to Griff's next time he asks me to play poker.

Shanghai is a very cool city though. It's the sort of place where everything moves at the speed of light, but the pace of life is still very casual and laid back. Skyscrapers are built in a month, but it's impossible to walk quickly on the sidewalk because everyone walks very slowly. No one's in a hurry, yet everything is taking off. It's weird how it works, but it does. I like it. It's a city of options. If you want to live on a shoestring, you can do that very easily, and if you want to live a life of luxury, you wouldn't really have to go too far out of your way. Here you get to choose how you live, and there's a certain comfort in that. I don't know what it is, but it's nice.

Here's hoping that I figure everything out, and that everything works out. I miss you guys.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I just got back from a 2 day trip to Beijing with Renee. We left on Saturday morning, and it is now Monday afternoon. The trip was great actually. Beijing is... amazingly different. There are a lot more foreigners roaming around, the streets are cleaners, there are flowers everywhere, highways, high-rises, water in the river instead of sludge.... it's amazing. The city is still polluted as hell and the perfect weather we had was still marred by the low lying fog of God only knows what hanging over the city. It's amazing how much the pollution changes the whole appearance of the city. Regardless, the city looks pretty good. A lot of it is still run-down, and they're slowly wiping out the culture that draws tourists to Beijing, but as far as a modern city goes, it's getting there. Honestly, I don't remember terribly much about my time in Beijing. I have the worst memory, and it sucks, but 6 years is sort of a long time, and I have done and seen a lot in those six years. I did remember quite a few things though, and I will tell you that there were many parts of Beijing that I wouldn't have recognized even if I had a photographic memory. It's pretty impressive.

I read an article that compared time in China to dog years. One year here is like 7 years in New York City, and 30 years in parts of Africa. It sounds silly, but it is true. In my short time here, I have watched entire streets transform, 30 story buildings sprout up seemingly overnight, and watched a road be constructed entirely by hand. It's a great time to be in China. Seriously. Things are actually happening here, and so fast that you almost miss them. It's a unique atmosphere, and I don't think I will ever regret being here now. Even though I'm not really a part of the action right now, it's sort of fun to be able to see it all happen.

I have had a couple of job interviews already, and have at least two more this week. I am hoping to start hearing back from people by the end of this week, even if it's just for a second interview or a polite no thanks. I'm hoping to find something soon, as I would really like to get a schedule that I can stick to. Not working has it's advantages, but I would like to establish an income and not constantly have to search for something to do every day. Hopefully something will pan out soon.

Anyway, Beijing was fun. We spent a lot of time looking at possible store locations for the eno store that will be opening soon in Beijing, and so I got to see a lot of malls and department stores. I can't imagine shopping like they do in some of these places. Imagine going into an American department store, a 7 story one, and having thousands of people (literally) all around you looking at clothes, shouting at sales assistants, and trying to get to the cashier. Holy shit. So crazy. It's sort of comparable to the Friday after Thanksgiving traffic at the mall, but worse, and this was just a normal weekend, at just one department store. Granted, this is a description of the most popular department store in China, but still. A lot of the other stores and malls were not that much better, and these were all locals, not tourists.

We also visited the Pearl Market and the Fake Market. I got some new fake Pumas and Converse, a fake Tod's bag, some pearls and a necklace and bracelet made of volcanic rock, and some other random stuff. I love markets. They're terribly tempting though. I needed some new shoes, since somehow 5 pairs isn't enough. My black diesels are getting thrown out though, and being replaced by my new black and orange Webos. They look exactly like Pumas, except the stomach of the cat says WEBO, very discreetly, so that you know that they're not Pumas when you're looking really closely. Their motto is Each Step. ....

Friday, October 5, 2007

Nearing the End...

Today is Friday. I am currently sitting on the couch with Bailey watching Weeds. I must say, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I like this show! I am quite hungry right now, and watching all these people on the screen eating their munchies isn't helping. I have big plans tomorrow to go to Moon River and have a nice big hamburger and maybe even a milkshake. They have really good milkshakes. I miss grocery stores where I understand the labels. I don't like going out to eat by myself all the time, and I truly do not know what is in a lot of the things they sell in the stores here, and the cereals and western food here are relatively expensive.

My week of solitary is almost up though! It's probably a little sad that I have actually really enjoyed being here by myself. I really can't say that I mind spending my days on the couch and watching DVDs. Naturally, it has its pros and cons, but for the most part I enjoy it. Having said that, I will be glad when it is over and I have something to do again. If for no other reason than that means I will be in Chinese classes again and might some day be able to order food that I actually want. The way most people who don't speak Chinese order is by ordering a few random dishes based on either their pictures or English descriptions. You would think that these would be good ways to do it, but it's really not. The "English" descriptions are soooo terrible that you still have no idea what is actually in the dish. Oh well.

I hung out with this guy from Connecticut, Jack, last night. I met him walking into my building because he lives in the building next to mine. We have a lot in common and it was fun. We went to this place called The Spot and had some beers and smoked a hookah and just chatted for a while. I am still not entirely sure what to make of him. He's an odd kid. Very random. At one point he reached out and grabbed my wrist and was like you have big wrists! They're even bigger than mine! This was sort of hard to recover from, I had NO idea what to say in response to that. The whole so... do you have a boyfriend? bit halfway through the evening was also a little awkward but we got through it. Then on the walk home he was like ok give me your hand... and took it and then spun me... also a little strange. When I asked, what was that? he just said he wanted to see how good I was at spinning. He's also the sort that talks to strangers and is outgoing in that I don't care what you think so I will do what I want sort of way. A bit unsettling but entertaining at the same time. We'll see if we become friends I guess.

I miss everyone. I hope everyone is happy, as I don't have a single friend that doesn't deserve all the best things in life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Since Renee and Sage left, I have done very little. I have been going rapidly through their DVD collection, taking care of Bailey, and hanging out with random people. Saturday night I went to Griff's place and we ordered food and played poker. It was very nice of him to invite me out, and I met a few people that were entertaining. Sunday night his friend Peter invited me to his party, and I went. This was a little less entertaining than Griff's, but again I met a bunch of people and was entertained and out of the house for a few hours. It was very nice of them to have me over and entertain me for a while. I have yet to meet anyone that I feel that I click with and could be friends with, but regardless, they are nice people and I have enjoyed hanging out with them.

Bailey misses Renee and Sage and I wish that I could come up with more things for us to do together but I just am not that interested in her. Is that terrible? I think I'm just sort of down right now. So far Shanghai doesn't interest me terribly. There aren't that many tourist attractions, and frankly wandering around is just not all that exciting here. It's still pretty warm outside, and the pollution sort of makes it unbearable a lot of days. Not to mention the fact that it has been raining lately, and I know I already wrote on how much I love it when it rains.

I'm really hoping that once this holiday week is over I am able to find a decent job. I think if I had something to do with myself all the time, I would be much happier. It's amazing to think that I have only been here 15 days. Blah. Here's hoping!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Today Renee and Sage left for a week long trip to Hawaii. They have a friend that is getting married in Kuai so they are going to that and making the most of the trip by staying a week. I will be here alone with Bailey. I hope that we are able to get along, so far she seems pretty upset, but I'm hoping that as the week goes on this gets better. This guard guy downstairs also just told me that she couldn't go out downstairs, but she does everyday, as do like 20 other dogs so I'm not sure what he's getting at. Oh well.

Being left here alone wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that this is a holiday week, and everything is shut down for the week. Meaning, no work, no Chinese lessons, and I don't know what will be open and what won't! I need to go grocery shopping today just in case. Renee gave a few people my number so they could invite me out while I'm here alone, so I will probably try and do that at least once.

Yesterday I went into eno at about 10 and tried to keep myself busy. Hisako keeps giving me little projects but they don't take me very long, and she's not very clear on what she wants out of them. It's sort of difficult to make myself do some of them because I don't agree with what she's doing, but I try my best to do it anyway! Then I get to tell her that I don't like it, but here's the research you wanted. I have enjoyed some of the projects, and I get to do little editing jobs. Yesterday I rewrote the email that is getting sent out to everyone announcing their new autumn gear and that was kind of cool to know that everyone on their mailing list is reading that... haha even though I basically just took a terrible draft from someone else and completely reworked it, with a few words added by Renee. Still...

I left around 6:15 again so that I could make it to my Chinese class on time, and when I left it started to rain. Now, rain doesn't normally bother me much, but here it is so disgusting. The fact that it's highly acidic due to all the pollution is one concern, but there are many factors that make it annoying. I was wearing jeans, and so the bottom of my jeans were getting soaked and mud splattered. The disgusting part is what they were getting soaked with. The rain makes everything thats already nasty, nasty and wet so that whatever it is, is spread all over the sidewalk and the smell is more potent. For example, on the walk to my Chinese lesson there are several places that sell seafood, raw seafood. How they sell them is they place the dead fish and other sea creatures in these shallow plastic bins and place those on the sidewalk (sanitary, huh? what do you mean refrigeration?). Then once the fish sells, they usually empty the remainder of the containers on the sidewalk. This is one example of how there gets to be all sorts of nasty shit everywhere. Then, when it rains, it's a thousand times worse because it just goes EVERYWHERE, so you have to walk through it instead of carefully around it. So, by the time I got to my Chinese class, my jeans were soaked with foul smelling runoff, and I was pretty sweaty because it's been rather hot here lately. Basically I was completely gross. After my Chinese lesson was over I was supposed to meet up with Renee and Sage but my phone had died during my lesson, so I had to walk all the way home to charge it up and find out that they were a block from where I just was. I didn't mind this so much though because I got to go home and shower and wash the nasty off of me.

I met up with them and a few people and got some food and drinks at this place called Malone's. The margaritas there were excellent, but that's beside the point. This guy Griff, who is an investor in eno at the age of 27 or so (crazy... to be a VC that young), wanted for us to all go out together so that I wouldn't feel awkward calling him while they are gone, and vice versa I assume. He's a nice enough guy, if he calls me I will probably make myself go out, and if not, eh. Last night was pretty fun though. Renee and Sage were there obviously, and then there was Griff, Walker (one of Sage's old friends from UNC who is currently doing a 6 month trip around the world), another guy who I think is named Alex who is visiting from Hong Kong, and Hisako, the woman who I work under at eno. We sat outside and people watched and talked while we drank and it was a nice time.

In other news, I have decided not to do the Special Olympics due to the fact that when I went to the "training session" I discovered that they are completely unorganized, and there is no guarantee that I will have something to do at the opening ceremony, despite having had to suffer through the "training session" and the promise of an equally depressing "rehearsal" on Sunday. So I quit. The job that I might have done, was to meet a VIP at point A and walk them to point B. Wow. They had more than enough volunteers so I can't say I feel bad about not doing it.

There is basically no food left in the house at this point, so I have to go grocery shopping today, and am hoping that the ayi will pick up some eggs and milk, since I don't really know where to get those. I'm sure I could figure it out if I had to, but she usually buys them so hopefully that will stay true! I need to spend some more time in the store today than I usually do and actually buy things to make as meals here. Stupid self... requiring food and care. Well I'm sure I'll update out of sheer boredom sometime soon... Adieu.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


First of all, I fixed my blog so that if you want you can leave comments now, I think. Now for the actual update...
Tuesday, in addition to it being my first day at eno, I went with my sister while she spoke at a NYU class here. NYU has a study abroad program here and there were about 30 kids in the class and she did a powerpoint and talked to them about herself and eno and what it's like to do business in China. I got to learn a lot about eno and got to meet suitman. Don't ask. ( if you really want to know.) After that we went to Moon River Diner for dinner, which is a diner here that has basically american food. Their milkshakes are awesome. I totally got one.

Yesterday was a very long day. I got up and went into eno at around 10:30 and then left around 6:20 to walk to my Chinese lesson. I actually found it on my first try, which was awesome since I left myself just enough time to walk straight there. I got there at about 6:55 so I had time to drink some water and find the new classroom. There were actually two new guys in my lesson this time. One named Manuel from Spain, and Paul from Britain. Manuel talks A LOT and really loudly. He's nice and all... but he doesn't care that the other people in the class need to practice as well. Then there's Paul, who doesn't want to try at all. They're total opposites and it's sort of amusing. Our teacher is soo nice but I think that she's getting frustrated with us. Haha, hopefully we can lift her spirits next time. I need to actually listen to the CD and practice. Hopefully I use my time wisely today.

Today I have a 2:30 interview with some hospitality agency for part time work. I have no idea what exactly it is that I would be doing with them, so I guess that I will just go and see what happens! I also have a 5:30 meeting with the Special Olympics crew for training for the ceremony. Hopefully I have something semi-interesting to do there. The tough part of today will be to get to these places. I have no idea how I am going to do that... Renee was like oh just take a cab to this one! Uh... right. It sounds so easy! I am sure I will figure it out. I also have to find food today. Why is it that living abroad always turns into a constant search for food for me? Probably because I am so damn picky. That was the excellent part about Argentina, there were a hundred places I could eat. Though I never found anything appealing in any of the local grocery stores! Oh well. I guess I should go shower and get ready to go. That means busting out my map and searching the possible walking routes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Today was my first day of work at eno. I actually wasn't really planning on working at eno, but Renee offered and said that they had some marketing projects for me to work on. Turns out I am getting paid for it too. I can't imagine that it will be much but every little bit helps. I appreciate the help from Renee as always. Hisako, their marketing director, has given me a few things to work on. A lot of it is actually just surfing the web and looking at competitors sites and comparing/contrasting. I'm supposed to help design this new component of their website by looking at competitors' sites and seeing what they offer and what is good/bad about their sites. Basically I am doing marketing research. So far it's not anything that I am insanely interested in, but it's good experience and a bit of exposure to what marketing is all about. I do like the brainstorming and the research, I just don't like having to type it all up into reports. I feel like that's useless since I could just talk about it from my notes and we could play with the website, but I have to follow their rules!!

I'm still sending out a bunch of emails and resumes and stuff and waiting/hoping to hear back from a bunch of people. I am volunteering at the Special Olympics soon. I will be helping the VVIPs to their seats and helping out at the event somehow. VVIPs are Very Very Important People. These aren't quite the celebs, as those are the VVVIPs. They are very big on VIPs here.

Well, I'm actually pretty tired and am going to go and watch more episodes of Entourage with Renee and Sage before bedtime. I will finish updating about my day today and some other random things, tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's Beginning...

So now that I have given you my impressions of Shanghai, at least some of them, I will start with some personal experiences.

The actual trip to China was relatively painless, despite a three hour delay in San Francisco. I got a window seat, and the seat next to me was empty, which enabled me to sleep at least a little bit. I usually can't sleep, but the past few trips that I have been on I have been able to. Maybe I'm just getting old.

The first few days that I was here, I didn't do much of anything, as I knew that I would have the next six months or so to explore the city and get everything done. The one thing that I did do was go and check out a few places that I could possibly take Chinese lessons. I ended up deciding on this place called MandarinHouse. I chose it mostly because Renee knew someone who took classes there and he liked them. Tonight was my first actual lesson, and turns out that my "small group" lesson is just me so far! I guess it's good because I'm essentially getting private lessons at a group price, but I would actually really love someone else in the class!! Having someone else there takes some of the pressure off of me and makes it more entertaining.

Friday was my most exciting day so far, I am just going to copy and paste what I wrote to Amy because it's easier (sorry Amy! I have changed a little bit though): I was just sort of walking around trying to explore the touristy shopping area, and maybe heading toward one of the other touristy areas, when this small group of Chinese people were like Hello!! So I responded, Hi. Then they kept talking to me, so I was like ok whatever, I'll talk to them. They were four students from Nanjing, a city sort of close to here, and they were visiting Shanghai. They saw me and saw an opportunity to practice their English. They said that they never got to practice with people who actually spoke English, just with each other. Their accents sort of showed this and I had a hard time understanding them, especially at first. So we're talking and they were like well what are your plans now?! I didn't really have any so they were like oh come to this tea ceremony with us!! This is a classic ploy here to get me to spend money, so I was hesitant but I was finally like ok whatever let's go. Turns out they really were just four students from Nanjing that wanted to practice their English. They spent more money at the tea ceremony than I did, and they translated everything for me into English. It was really sort of awkward at points because here I am in the middle of four friends, and the center of attention sort of. It was still fun though. I'm glad I went because it was something totally different. They were pretty funny and asked a lot of questions. Really nice and friendly though.

Then I got lost trying to find my way back from the random tea place. It was excellent. I was looking up at the sky, like now that skyscraper should be behind me and to my left if I were home... I found it after two hours of walking. Though, in all fairness, it was probably a little over an hour's walk anyway. So I got home, changed clothes and cooled off a little, then went to dinner with some of Renee's friends. We went to this Hunan place, which was nice. Hunan province has nothing but spicy food though so I didn't eat much, but it was still sort of entertaining to go. I am so terrible at socializing when I am in a room full of people I don't know. I had one of those terribly awkward moments where the girl next to me asked me a question to open up a conversation and I just answered it and then couldn't think of anything else to say. Awkward....

I also got to try bin jao or whatever... which is a Chinese wine that tastes absolutely nasty. They bought a $100 bottle of it... and it was still fucking disgusting. At least I can say that I had some. I also drank a lot of beer at dinner, which was better than I remember it. Apparently I had not acquired the taste of beer last time I was in China because I remember it being totally gross. (I was 15 last time so this makes total sense..) After dinner we went to this bar on the Bund called Glamour Bar. The Bund is the waterfront strip that was built up by the British in like the late 1800s and still sort of has some of its glory from those day as being touristy and high class. Of course, now it's so old that a lot of other places are nicer in town, but it's still crazy expensive and touristy. So.. there were like 11 dollar drinks at this bar, which is insane for China, so I had just one little drink... We were meeting up with Sage's "best friend" in town, Charles. A now 24 year old UNC grad that runs his own business here with his friend Kevin. So many young guys here that are fucking successful and it's ridiculous.

Renee and I left sort of early because she knew almost as few of people as I did, and had to work in the morning anyway, so we went home while Sage stayed out. Man, all the expats here party hard. No matter the age. The place was jammed with people of all ages. There were like 50 year old couples getting smashed at 1 am. Weird...

That was my Friday. Saturday I didn't do much of anything, and Sunday Renee, Sage and I wandered around. We went to the Expat Show, which we're not entirely sure what it was for other than to advertise insurance, health care and schools. Probably something that would be of use to people who had families or were completely new to Shanghai with no connections. We left pretty quickly, but it was interesting to go see. After that we went to one of the eno stores. I must say, I am pretty impressed. I really really like their stuff and will probably come home with a whole wardrobe full of eno shirts and possibly shoes. They're not that expensive, and even though I have to wear XLs because the sizing is so crazy, I like the stuff. After that we went to the DVD store, which I sort of covered last time, and then just went back home.

So far, I like things. I am still hoping to find something to do as far as work is concerned. I was supposed to go to eno today to start work on marketing projects, but it was put off until tomorrow. I am expected at the office at 9:30 am, so hopefully I will like Hisako, the marketing director, and will like the work!! I sent out a bunch of emails today for other job postings and am really hoping that I hear something back soon. I would love to get an income source.
Well, thanks for listening... Chau chau.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Welcome to Shanghai.

I am officially in Shanghai. A city with over 21 million people in it, at least half a million of which are foreign. Of course, when put into perspective, half a million is really not that many. It's pretty amazing to see so many people in one place. In a lot of ways, it could be just like any other major city where you have to constantly climb over warm bodies to get into the subway car or cross the street. However, that usually tends to be at rush hour and in the busiest parts of the city. Here, it's everywhere. A neighborhood side street is teeming with people at all hours of the day and much of the night. The traffic is cluttered by literally millions of people riding their bicycles and mopeds, not to mention the millions of cars, and millions of pedestrian. (I know it sounds exaggerated with the seemingly excessive use of millions, but here it's true.)

It is extremely hard to escape here. To be alone is something that few here understand. In China, it used to be considered the highest honor to have the highest number of generations living under one roof. This is a tradition that has yet to be entirely broken.

Shanghai is a very modern city. I visited it about six years ago now, and it is almost unrecognizable. There are many high rises mixed in with the one to three story traditional family homes made of concrete, brick and mud. Chinese lanterns are strung between these buildings and these areas, strangely enough, often seem to house more people than the 20 story apartment buildings. Before, there were a few western chains in the touristy areas, and a few designer shops on the Bund, the once very upscale riverfront area that was built up by the British in the late 1800's. Now, there are more Starbucks in Shanghai than in Miami, FL, and I have never seen so many designer brands in a mall. In the nearby Plaza 66 building, there are four stories of designer shops. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Escada, Prada, Mont Blanc, Hermes, and probably any other designer you could hope for, all under the same roof. I find it interesting that the first time I have laid eyes on some of these brands in person is in Shanghai, China. Once infamous for its knock offs, it's now famous for its designer shops.

The clash between the traditional and the modern, and the rich and the poor, is ever present here. In front of a 70-story building with gorgeous Western architecture and beautiful glass all the way up, there is bamboo scaffolding. A small run-down brick and mud house sits behind it and a little to the left, with an old woman sweeping her stoop with a broom made of the brush that grows beside her house. There are thousands of internet gaming places where the younger generations gather to gamble away their newfound wealth, or to just spend a few hours relaxing. Outside, the older generations play mah-jong and other traditional games on wooden planks lain over old crates, while sitting on their stoops and boxes.

It's not as hard to get around without Chinese anymore. There are still problems getting around the city because the overwhelming majority of the 60,000 or so taxi drivers do not speak anything but Mandarin, the subway directions are mostly in Chinese or Pin-yin, and the buses are nearly impossible to understand. There are, however, an increasing amount of foreign-friendly places to visit. Most of the bars on the Bund have people that speak enough English to get a drink out of it, and many of the restaurants around town have English on their menus. I wouldn't say that the menus are in English, but there are English words on them. I say this because you can stare at the phrases for days and still have no idea what it is supposed to mean. This happens a lot here. Even 20 story high advertisements will have such bad English on them that they are almost impossible to understand. It would probably be more amusing if you didn't think of all the money wasted on those stupid ads that the intended audience is missing because they don't understand what it says, despite it being in their native tongue.

A good example of the lack of understanding of the English language is when you look at the backs of the DVDs here. Or the fronts really. I just bought the Entourage- Complete Entirety Season. I think it's actually just the first and second, but complete entirety works too... There are also the ones that advertise it as "The worst movie ever!!!" or "Do not buy this movie under any circumstance!!!". These are printed in big print on the front, as if this is something to advertise. They take online reviews and put them on the front of the DVDs, or the backs, with no idea what they say. Often, the reviews are for the wrong movie, and there are lots of cases where the wrong movie is in the case... or you get halfway through the movie and it switches to another one... or it just doesn't work at all. The upside is I bought the Entourage season, and three other DVDs for just under $11 today, if that helps to show how cheap the DVDs are here.

I'm still adjusting to things here, and will post some more personal stuff later. So far, I can't complain too much. Tomorrow I start more of my actual life here, as I think I might be starting a project with my sister's company, and will definitely be starting Chinese lessons. Here's hoping that everything goes well... Until I write again... Adieu