Met up with a long-time friend of mine, Aubin Wang. She's currently living in Shanghai with her husband and recently (50-some days ago) they just had their second child.
She cooked dumplings, which were fantastic, and we talked a lot. In short, life is going well for her & family. We traded pros & cons of staying in China vs moving back to USA...lots to consider in either case, especially with children. We agreed that if one was not in a position to pay for foreign-standard elementary school (and up), then we would not want to subject our children to the public education system here if at all possible. On the other hand, growing up with native Chinese language ability seems like an excellent idea.
I am convinced that living in a country where you can hire a live in (24/7) maid/nanny for $400 / month is totally the way to go if one has very small children.
Slept in, then had breakfast at the cafe across the street (nothing fancy, just bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee). Went to gym; on the way I ran into a Russian + French couple I knew from 10 years ago who studied at the same international program I did...they're married now & had two girls who were in tow and evidently were living in Shanghai.
Not one minute later, I ran into another couple (Americans) that I knew from my time in Shenzhen. They had recently moved in pretty much across the street from where I'm staying now. Arrangements were made to hang out.
Afternoon was simple. Gym, then exploring.
Overheard in the locker room: "Here's how I almost died this week...cab driver fell asleep and I wasn't paying attention, we almost hit a stopped car in front of us"
"Oh yeah? Well, they've almost finished rennovating my building and the workers were throwing chunks of scaffolding down while I was walking out and a few chunks just grazed my head"
I get the feeling that one could have updated "near death experience" stories on a weekly basis, though at some point you must grow numb to it and stop keeping track.
Found that it took only ~45 minutes or so to get to central downtown (I followed a very meandering route to get there; I was in now rush).
Succeeded in my mission of finding coffee filters (though in hindsight, there were places much closer that also had them) - found a high-end import supermarket where one could get just about anything that you wanted from back stateside (for a healthy markup, of course).
Continued walking everywhere, had a few snacks, realized that many of the places I've been on this trip are all within 10 minutes' walk from one another.
Went home, watched a fresh yet grainy copy of "Inglorious Basterds", ate lamb on a stick, then met up with people at the "Glamor Bar" for drinks.
The bar (well, probably more of a lounge) was full of foreigners and occasionally their Chinese girlfriends or friends. One lady had shown up in a leather leotard. Yes, she stuck out. No, I was not complaining.
Conversation was good, though you had to yell above the DJ. Interesting people & stories.
Went back to friend's place; more scotch was had.
Slept in, then made it out to the gym.
Explored more - on studying google maps I found that I'm living really close by to the Shanghai Music conservatory (上海音乐学院). I stayed at a hostel there back in 2000 when I first visited Shanghai...so I really wanted to see it again and see what had changed. Turns out - a lot...did not recognize neighborhood and I walked right past where I needed to go. School got majorly rennovated...not sure if they still rent out bargain-priced rooms to backpackers or not.
It was still pleasant to walk around the neighborhood - the thing with the French Concession part of Shanghai is that the streets are small-ish and it feels like a neighborhood; much of the architecture from the early to mid 20th century is intact, which also makes it unique for China. Even newer parts of Shanghai subscribe to the modern China city planning aesthetic of mega blocks separated by 4 to 8 lane roads. Will post some pictures shortly.
Picked up a bottle of Mountain Dew which was on clearance at a convenience store. I haven't had that soda in a long time; this was more disgusting than I remember. My nose started running immediately after finishing it. Coincidence? (My snot was bright orange. It caused some concern).
Hopped on subway, went back to electronics market in town...picked up a few more iphone cases. Newsflash to people in the US - you are getting incredibly hosed on the cost of iphone accessories...a simple case here cost me ~$2.50, and I bet I could have had it for less if I bothered bargaining more. The same case retails for $20 and up on the US (either in stores or via online retail).
Went to BreadTalk, which is a Singaporean bakery chain that is fantastic, picked up a stash of breakfast food for the rest of the week.
Checked out a Best Buy - weird...kind of like the a US store, especially the annoying pitches for warranties that no one needs/wants plastered ALL OVER THE PLACE.
Differences? Not much media on sale (aside from official copies of Windows, maybe some NDS and PSP games), the store was spread over 4 floors, there was a guitar section, mobile phone section was huge, much more room for water heaters and range tops...and that's about it. Not sure how successful they will ultimately be in China (the prices ranged from fair to exorbitant, certainly not amazing), though the look & feel of the store is a step up from what I remember of some of the local competition (Gome 国美 and Suning, among others).
Finished up day with a beer & watched "Fantastic Mr. Fox"...which I thought was pretty good, and that the forced time limitations of stop-motion probably helped Wes Anderson keep the script and pacing pretty tight.