Saturday, January 09, 2010
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Woke up with a sore-ish throat - was concerned that it would plague me through the rest of the day.
After finishing a pot of coffee in the morning though, that went away.
Commute to work is staying consistently a pretty solid 1 hour and 15 minutes from door to door. However, my jet lag is wearing off - I'm staying up later and getting up later, so will probably have to start making an effort to get up & leave on time as things progress.
Work was fine - more training co-run with our colleagues in India.
Met up with a friend who has been living here for 4-5 years. Was nice to see; we caught up a bit - he's had some interesting developments both personally and professionally, but after our conversation it became clear to me that we are both getting older and as such some of the things that held your interest when younger do not have the same appeal now. Some still do. Coincidentally, we both recently had people in our extended families affected by cancer, so certainly something to give one pause for reflection.
Also discussed a bit about the British national recently executed here; comparing local biases. The Western media is playing up the unreasonable nature of the government and the executee's history of mental issues. The media here questions why the mental issues were only drummed up at the last minute. Seems that the truth of the matter is almost irrelevant between opportunities to push propaganda on both sides.
Dinner was fried spicy frog. It was pretty good. Similar to crab and crayfish in that while you pay by the pound, the amount of edible content in the food is disproportionate to the weight that you pay for. Unlike crab, frog is still pretty cheap.
Was good, though probably not healthy (deep fried and all). Restauarnt was across from a recently re-gentrified area on Nanjing Xi Lu (Nanjing West Road). The old area has so much character (and reasonably priced food, by western & chinese standards)...probably will go the way of the wrecking ball soon.
The new mall across the street probably shows a taste of what is to come - do we really need another combination of Stone Cold Creamery, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut?
Took the train home, was going to try a new route, but unfortunately the new trains are only open from 8:25 - 16:25 every day - weird hours, not sure why.
Was happy to find someone selling lamb on the stick very near where I'm staying. The seller struck up a conversation in English with me, and so then I was moved to buy a few...(I love lamb on a stick, the slightest excuse to get some is good enough). His boss then came by, who talked with me more - interesting to hear sort of Arabic-English with an American accent from someone who is technically Chinese.
(Most lamb-sellers in Chinese cities are people from Xinjiang, the ethnically turkish/musilm part of the country)
Anyway, I guess the guy has been here for 5 years and has set up a business selling snacks to people after they leave the bars. Having a lot of American clients, he's picked up some English, and now speaks pretty decently. I do not doubt that I will buy again.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
I notice that some people are commenting and/or sending responses to me.
Unfortunately, facebook is one of the sites currently blocked by the Great Firewall of China.
I have a method of posting & updating my notes here, and I can see if there are comments, unfortunately it is difficult for me to reply directly. Forgiveness please.
Anyway - this trip is going okay thusfar.
I'm struck by how modern most of Shanghai is; once you get past the difference in language and urban density compared with the US, it doesn't feel particularly foreign.
Did the first commute from where I'm staying to the office; after a 10-minute walk to the train station (and then I stopped for breakfast at Starbucks), it took around an hour to get to the office via the subway.
Rode two stops, switched lines, rode for ~10 more stops, then exited, caught a bus, rode for ~10 minutes, then was there.
8:30 am is prime rush hour; you're truly swept up in a sea of humanity that half pushes you along at a fixed rate as one shuffles out of the train into the escalator that takes you to the level where one walks to the next train.
Kept things in my front pockets and my bag well in front of me.
The office is in a large, but non-descript office park on the newer side of town. Not a lot of small shops around in walking distance...just more office complexes.
One of my co-workers has a car, we drive ~5 minutes or so to an area that has a few little restaurants. The food is decent and priced for working people....individual meals are usually between 10 - 12 RMB (so under $2).
Work is busy, though slow...not a lot of new projects coming in, so I get to focus on training...but at some point I know I can't just talk at people, they need to be doing things too. So adjusting to that; have to put my manager hat back on and start thinking of projects & tasks in the sense of delegating rather than simply just getting them done myself.
Didn't do anything too crazy last night as I was pretty exhausted. Had some beer. And wings.
Sorry to say it, but my first dinner in China this trip was at Hooters Shanghai...(friend was taking client out, invited me to come along, client insisted on western fare) They did serve wings that were very spicy in the Sichuan style - my stomach took its revenge on me this morning. Comparing Hooters in Shanghai to the US locations (not that I go all the time) - well...it's safe to say that in Shanghai there's clearly a lot more Chinese women working than at the US locations. Service was with a smile.
I will do my best to stick with Chinese food for the rest of the trip - this excludes breakfast though, as a lot of restaurants aren't open until 9 or 10 in the morning. Breakfast options tend to be focused around convenience store food, some street vendors if you can find them, and some bakeries. I could cook at home if I bothered to get ingredients.
The ever-declining US dollar vs the RMB is causing some minor havoc on my internal understanding of pricing here...I was used to the ~1 USD : 8.2 RMB fixed rate of my student years, but now the rate is more like 1 USD to 6.8 RMB. Not a devestating change, but it feels like prices are creeping up.
Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities in China; rents here do seem pretty high compared with what I remember in other locations. One could probably live fairly economically if one made the effort to do so, but it seems clear that in other cities you could get a lot more for your yuan than you could here. I guess large-scale urbanization in a tight space tends to push prices upward.
Anyway, that's about it for now. Will try for some more adventures.