For a city where it never snows, I’ve seen pretty much snow already. Today is the third day with some proper snow, but it is not as much as before. So, on this snowy day I went to the exit-entry administration Bureau to retrieve my passport with the extended visa. First you pay, than you get your passport. Continue reading
Last Saturday I got invited for a salsa NYE party at the Melting Pot. All I knew was the place and the price and that it included a dinner buffet, but I was like: why not? I don’t like spending NYE with a bunch of drunken people, bars are normally too crowded on nights like these and the other salsa NYE party was at Mural, where I’ve been a few times already. So it was time for a change of scenery. I’m really glad I did! Continue reading
After a six day work week I find myself on my way to the city inner ring once again. Today at work wasn’t a huge success. I dropped things, mixed the wrong stuff together etc. I think that’s what comes of having to work on a Saturday. So let’s try that again in the new year.
At the metro stop you have designated places where to stand so the door will be just in front of you. You really have to keep your spot there, because people do sometimes try to get yours. When it’s crowded, the metro arrives and the doors open, chances are you’re pushed inside if you’re not fast enough! There are not so many seats, so everyone wants to get in quickly and gets a seat. Again, not only true in traffic, but also in the public transportation: survival of the quickest (and boldest)!
In the building I work you get thanked for riding the elevator!
In the Chinese subways you also have musicians that try to make a buck. Seen one so far: a guitarist/singer. I thought he was pretty ok, but according to my roommate this was just so so. Now I’m already wondering how great the next one will be!
As far as I know it is custom around the world to make room when you hear/see an ambulance coming, am I right? Well, in China it is not. Witnessed an ambulance with the siren and the lights trying to cross the crossroad. It took them forever! People really do not make way for them. Nice thing to know if you’re bleeding out somewhere…
One of the students, the tallest guy, told me (he’s so much chattier if it’s just the two of us) that every Chinese student should pass their English exam. It includes reading, writing and listening (so no speaking). He failed that exam already a few times (no wonder he’s too shy to talk English with me in front of others). Last Saturday he had to take it again, hope he passes. If not, I already promised hi to write to and talk with him often, so he will pass the next time. They all have to speak proper English by the time that I leave (well… preferably before that).
The difference between he and she doesn’t exist in the Chinese language. So you never know whether you will meet a man or a woman when they’re talking about someone. It could go either way.
I saw Fierljeppen on Chinese television at the subway on December 21st. Is this what they meant by the end of the world?
You would think that having internet, a Chinese bank account with online banking and Google translate (and/or Google Chrome) would be enough to be able to shop online. Well, it’s not. No, I’m lying; the shopping part is doable with Google. The part where you have to pay is not. I tried it earlier and I got transferred to online banking and that went fine until I had to install something which didn’t want to work. For some reason I couldn’t find this option again the next time (well, it didn’t work anyway), so I had to set up a paying account for the online shop. After about one hour and several calls to the service phone by my office mate I’m one step closer. Let’s wait and see how it turns out.
It’s seriously too cold to shower in the morning. My roommate even seriously thinks that if she showers in the morning and eat cold foot in the winter, like us foreigners do, she will get sick.
At the subway stations you have some choices: you either take the stairs, the escalator or the elevator. Sometimes there’s also a slope. This choice is handy for older people, lazy people and people carrying a lot of stuff. So far I noticed one exception when transferring from line 1 to line 9. You have to walk a bit, you have slopes, stairs and escalators, so far no problem. But at the end you have to take the stairs of about 10 steps before you can again choose between the stairs or escalator. Somehow I’m missing the logic here…
In the metro you have rules for passengers: passenger regulations. No smoking, no littering, something that looked like ‘no bending’ from a distance but appeared to be ‘no begging’ and no spitting. Thank god for that last one! I can only imagine what it would look like otherwise…
When they announce in the metro that the next stop will be the terminal station they start playing some music after that message. Sometimes soft and easygoing, mostly loud and very noisy. Then you really want to leave the metro!
Victory! I was finally able to make AND pay an order online!
New Year’s day (the regular one) is also a holiday here. To enjoy it to the fullest, you get Monday off as well. The only catch is that you do have to work on Saturday. That’s the Chinese way.
Below is a compilation of the things I noticed regarding the people here. Hope you will enjoy!
You guys probably know I’m not the biggest fan of kids, but I have seen something really cute in the metro today that includes a small kid. An older man with a little kid and next to them probably the kid’s big brother or uncle. The kid was really quiet and sometimes he just pulled strange faces to his brother/uncle and at some point even to me. It really was one of the cutest things I’ve seen so far.
My roommate told me she’s always surprised about the level of facial expression and body language foreigners use while talking. Chinese people do not have that much facial expression, making it even harder to understand them. On the other hand, an old man in the nearby supermarket made it very clear that he thought I was very tall by just using big eyes and a simple hand gesture.
I noticed a girl across from me with skin as silk who ate her noodle soup in the most gracious way. When she looked up, her appearance was pretty normal, but when she looked down at her food she truly was the most beautiful creature in the restaurant.
On campus I spotted a couple in love. The smile of the boy was so huge that even when the sun isn’t shining, his girl would be in the spotlight.
I noticed something similar in Holland, but now I know for sure: about half of the Chinese people are wearing glasses. Of the other half at least part wears contacts, so who knows how little of the people here are not visually impaired?! Why is that? Is it in their genes?
My roommate apparently talks about me with her friends. Heard from her sister that she’s a bit amazed on how I experience life, how I can act so crazy, but also that she’s fascinated about it. I showed her some videos of Salsa, Bachata and Zouk and even though she’s pretty shy, you could see her eyes starting to shine. She really wants to learn how to dance. I think in general she wants to experience life more and doesn’t want to be shy anymore. I’m certain she has it in her (she already joined me on the dance floor once, will not be the last time), she just needs someone to lead the way. Let’s see what we can accomplish.
Why are Chinese people so small (on average)? I think it might be evolutionary. They bow over their food in such a way it will be simply more difficult when they’re tall.
People don’t seem to be in a hurry when they’re walking. They walk pretty slowly and you rarely see a Chinese in a hurry. Then why is it that at the moment they step into the car everybody seems to be in a hurry?
When getting breakfast in a little store close by, I got laughed at when I said thank you. What?!
The girls here can eat properly, but some of the guys are really disgusting eaters. Are they raised differently? According to the PhD student in our lab (had a really nice long chat with him over dinner, about pretty much everything), the difference in eating habits between boys and girls is a traditional thing. Of course it is, but who says you cannot change that?
The spitting habit here is also worse by the man, although some women, especially the older ones, ate at least as bad. Dutch farmers could learn a thing or two from these old ladies!
There are supposed to be a bunch of international students at our campus. Then how come in 3 weeks I’ve only seen 3 white guys?! One in our building and two ‘in the wild’. I haven’t seen anything other than Chinese people here. Also at lunchtime or dinnertime in the restaurants, I haven’t seen ANYONE not Asian! Where do they hide??
In the first three weeks I’m here I noticed I didn’t see any fat people. They differ in height, but are almost always skinny. You see the occasional somewhat older man that might lose a couple of pounds, but that’s it. Today I saw the first really big boy. He was big in every way! He must have serious problems to find clothes here that fit him. And all the rest will be too small for him too. But still, obesity apparently isn’t very common here (or I’m blind). Will that have something to do with the diet here?
They do not only push you in the metro if you don’t move fast enough, they also run out of it to be the first one on the escalator or something. Funny sight.
I heard about people wanting to pay the bill here, but now I’ve seen it in action. When they (apparently) decided to and take the remaining food home (or wherever), the almost seriously fought over who could pay the bill! Amazing…
People still smoke in bars here. They do try to encourage them not to, but that clearly doesn’t work.
Now that I saw the first big guy, I’ve seen a few more (something about sheep and dams…?) Still not so much though. Have to day I saw some big young kids, I really hope that they will grow out of it when they get older, you don’t want to think about the future of this country if everybody got twice as big. There are simply too many people here for that! And the houses are way too small. Later my roommate told me she was a chubby kid as well, and she clearly got over that, so there’s hope for these kids.
It’s not even the spitting itself so much; it is the awful noise they make to collect the spit, like it’s coming from their toes!
There are lots of people everywhere on any time! Where do they all come from?
In Holland they always say the Chinese cannot pronounce the letter ‘r’, but replace it with the letter ‘l’ (“witte lijst elbij meneel?”). You know what? Chinese speaking English do exactly the opposite!
Friday before Christmas
I got invited to a Christmas market and then a Christmas party. Didn’t have any idea where and what kind of party, so I just went on my way wearing my Christmas earrings!
Well, it turned out to be a Weihnachtsmarkt and a rooftop party in someone’s apartment. The market was small, with stands selling stuff you really do not need, as usual. I think they had only 1 Christmas CD, since I heard the same songs coming by again and again. The funny thing is that ‘Christmas is all around’ from Love Actually was also on that CD! There was also glühwein and bratwurst! For the second time since I arrived in Shanghai, people were making pictures of me! While I was sitting down and eating my hot dog, how charming! The girl from the glühwein stand was very nice. She studied in Germany for a while, so he could also speak some German (like the person I was with). We hung out with her till closing time.
The rooftop party was fun. The basis of the group was the guys from the same (international) Kung Fu class. Met a small man, forgot where he’s from, who said he was 65 (he looked not a day older than 40), he still has an apartment in the Hague (the Netherlands) and he just came back from an assignment in Kazachstan. Also met a Spanish guy who was probably one of the youngest ones there and already experienced way too much in his life, but he was the neatest, most caring person there.
The night ended with a short visit to club Lola and a big soft bed all to myself!
My roommate and her sister wanted to take me out for Christmas. More friends would join us. So we went to a club, had to pay around 20 euros to get in (incl 2 drinks), but once in, there was nobody yet and the tables had a spending minimum. It was more than 400 euros for the cheapest table! So well, this wasn’t really what we had in mind, so gladly we were able to get a refund and went to Xintiandi.
Well, Xintiandi, the place where it all happened… It was so crowded and most places you had to pay almost 30 euros to get in and drinks were about 10 euro a piece. And then you got to enjoy a live band dressed in Christmas costumes (seriously, most places had something like that). So they were all too expensive and not even bar like, so not great to meet people. So in the end, we ended up at the Windows bar again.
Again they proved they have the worst DJ ever! About 70-80% of the songs he played, he played last time we were there as well. Almost in the same order! And the mixes he uses, just awful. But the atmosphere was great nevertheless.
I’ve met some Aussies, but they were clearly not interested in chatting with anybody else than themselves, too bad. Also met some Austrians and they clearly did want to chat with others. We created our own little dance floor and acted a bit crazy. Had lots of fun again! Too bad the handbag of one of the friends of my roommate got stolen and later I heard that the phone of one of the Austrian boys got stolen as well. For a city with so little crime, a lot of stuff gets stolen!
We were home pretty late again (I really should stop saying that I don’t want to stay too long…), while work is waiting in the morning. My roommate was clever though, we’re going to extend my visa in the morning, so we can sleep in a bit.
Didn’t work so much today. We slept in a bit and then went to extend my visa. We apparently had to go all the way to the other side of the city, so well, that took some time.
I had some proper Chinese fast-food today. Part was a sort of soup with egg, a sausage (knakworst) and seaweed. The other was like a ‘broodje Bapao’: soft dough with meat inside. This is so much better fast-food than KFC! And soooooo much cheaper!
Despite the fact I really like the Chinese food, sometimes I just long for something Western. Especially on a day like Christmas. So I went to the supermarket, spent forever there to find some nice things and made myself a home-made tuna pasta. It was a sort of fusion dinner since it included Chinese red wine (Dynasty) and with dessert a Chinese Milk tea (lovely).
I Skyped with my family back home today while they were preparing dinner: Chinese food! It was really nice to see them all again, felt a little bit like real Christmas.
I want to end this Christmas post with something that was written on the bottle of wine. The Chinese think lots of food and drinks are good for your body and health, which I agree on. The quote on the bottle made that very clear again: “This wine is made from world-noted grape varieties. Moderately drinking this wine is good to your health”.
In the weekend before Christmas I’ve hung out in Old town with the American girl I met at the Salsa party. She’s a tiny blond girl (2 blondes out on the town) and she teaches Chinese to teenagers, so that’s pretty convenient. I think we were the only whites again and therefor again subject for photos. We were chatting on one of the bridges with a very nice view when a man made pictures of us with his phone. When I turned to him and said “hi” to the lens, he pretended not to make our pictures. He clearly doesn’t have any sense of humor!
There were several small streets with lots of shops, mainly with clothes, jewelry, wooden combs and food. We had several things including jasmine tea, fried tofu, barbequed chicken on a stick (why do I have to think about Jeff Dunham now…), filled sticky rice balls and a sort of banana pancake in the form of a banana. Loved those!! Also wanted to try the little bird on a stick (yes, a whole one, and yes, the stick again, only thing that was missing was its feathers), but after noticing they reheated it all the time and the turnover was low, I let this one go for now. Have to look for that somewhere else. For the rest of the food the turnover was high, so no problem there.
Bought my first ‘souvenir’ here. Really tacky, I know, it’s a smiling Confucius. It made me smile the whole time, so I simply had to bring it home! Hopefully the effect doesn’t wear off.
It was pretty cold out and genuinely, we’ve seen snowflakes! They were small and not many, but they were real snowflakes. That in a city where they say it never snows. Later when we were looking for a place to sit down and have a drink (and warm up), we ended up at KFC, ‘cause that apparently was the only place around where you can do that. Had a nice connection with the girl, so think we will be hanging out soon! We’re already making a list of things to do together.
People ask me whether it is easy to adjust to life here. Well, it is. Maybe it’s me, but if you just continue your life (but in a different place) there’s no problem. One of the main things I’m still struggling with is that I have to depend on people for so many things. Not only here in China – because when you have to arrange something you have to bring a Chinese person otherwise you can forget it – but also regarding things back home. The things I can do from here are limited, so I have to ask for help, wait, etc etc. I rather do things myself! Always been like that, since I was a little girl. So yes, these things can be very frustrating. Think it will help when my defense finally is done.
The other thing is that I still do not have my own place, so I cannot make it my home. It’s not like I have to be able to decorate the place, I can pretty much live anywhere, but it has to be mine. At the current apartment I’m just temporarily and have to share it. So it feels like I’m just visiting. I would love to get some things to make my life a bit easier here (matrass, cooking supplies etc), but I don’t know how my next place will be, how big it is, what facilities are there etc… Thankfully we’re now working on getting me registered at university, so the time that I can finally see what kind of (little) places the university has to offer off-campus is approaching. Fingers crossed I will have my own place soon.
Further, well, it is difficult that I cannot read anything, but thankfully my dear smartphone can help a little bit in that department. The people are very nice and helpful, but their English overall is terrible and the spitting habit is disgusting. For a lot of things they have a different way of doing things, but who am I to judge? They get things done. And the food, well, as you might have noticed: I like!
Making friends is not that hard here, but it’s so much easier in the international population here. The Chinese I’ve met so far keep more to themselves, while the internationals are outgoing and open for new people. So far I already hung out with a Mexican German guy, a Spanish guy and went to Old Town with an American girl. I also think that when I really become part of the dancing scene here, I will meet more of both camps. Haven’t heard back from the salsa teachers yet, but hey, I just arrived here a few weeks ago, so there’s enough time for that. Do have to go dancing again this weekend, I miss it!
I do have to work on my posing skills here. Whether I just walk around on the Bund Boulevard, sitting down eating a hotdog or wandering around the Old Town, people find me interesting enough to make pictures of, or making pictures with me! If people stared at me in Holland, I would always check whether my make-up and clothes are still in order. Here I would have to carry the mirror in my hand then, because it happens pretty often. Pretty strange. This must be a little bit like what a (sort of) celebrity experiences when walking the street.
To conclude: life is interesting here.
Registration takes longer than I hoped, so getting my own place will have to wait a bit longer. As many of you might have seen on Facebook I was pretty bummed about that, because this is about the only thing left for me to really feel at home. The professor also said that it is much easier to live with a Chinese person, because the world out there is not English friendly, so he’s not in a hurry for me getting my own place. By talking to the two girls I found out that they worry about me. Especially because my roommate told the professor about my hypo when getting back from getting my visa extended. Apparently she got spooked and worried about me, because I’m normally so strong (her words). I tried to explain that this sometimes happens and I know what to do. But that it came much faster than expected, because I haven’t slept so much (duh, we were partying the night before). I’m not sure she understood completely, but I hope she will worry a bit less now. I did reorganized my room, got rid of the stuff from the one who lived here before me (well, I found some storage places in my room that I don’t need) and put the big television in the living room. I have a much lighter room now and the only stuff I see now is mine. That helps. For now.
Heard about this Salsa party from a Dutch girl I’ve met thanks to a girl that was in the Samba de Gafieira class with me back home. The party started pretty early, included an open bar and fingerfood till 9.30 and profits went to charity, later it would be the ‘normal’ Salsa night there with DJ and live music. They asked to come early and that the shows would start on time, but as always, it was quiet in the beginning and shows started a bit later, but it wasn’t even that bad.
I was welcomed by some Chinese people and a Swedish girl, my name was spelled Willeam on the guest list and I got a red bracelet for the open bar. Slowly it got a bit more crowded with people from all over the world! Relatively even more than at the expat party earlier this week!
There was one performance every half hour. The first one was a teaching couple from Shanghai. I saw them dance a bit before and she had some really nice styling steps and figures. Their show/demo was ok, mixing different styles and music, but personally I wouldn’t have chosen Reggaeton to dance Salsa on! Gladly I was able to do a dance with him before they had to leave again to teach, and he was pleasantly surprised about my dancing. Especially when I told him I’m a Zouk teacher, he immediately did some Zouk basics and said he would love to learn (how to teach) Zouk! They’ve got my number now, so let’s see what comes out of it.
Later two people called me over to tell me they liked the way I dance. So sweet! Really, this night was very good for my ego! She’s a Chinese teacher from the US and seems like lots of fun, so we will hang out later and he’s a match teacher from India and in love with her. They said they would love to learn Zouk, so they might be my first students.
The shows were mainly by beginner students (with guts!) and also included a burlesque show which was really fun. And loved the music of course! The rest of the music was so so. The DJ played a lot of Merengue (since there were a lot of non-dancers or beginners), but also some great Salsa and Mambo songs. Unfortunately most dancers didn’t know what to do with it. The band that played later in the evening was pretty good, so that was really nice.
The dances I did varied from a sort of Reggaeton with a really small dark guy, to a simple Salsa but nice Bachata with a (small) guy from Miami, close dances with one of the musicians, and Salsas with a Spanish guy, four Chinese guys (all about my height) and a tall dark guy. One of the Chinese guys was terrible, kept switching rhythms and legs and almost let me fall by doing so. The other four were the best dancers present at this party. Included was the Salsa teacher, the organizer of the Shanghai Salsa Festival and the other two belonged to the same group I think, but were somewhat younger. I loved their style: technical, musical, taking care of their lady and having fun. Surprisingly they were all dancing on 1, so I will have to find out where the on 2 dancers are.
With two wounds on my leg and an enormous blister on my foot (how did I get that one?!), I decided to go home around 2 am. It was a good first party, but I’m still looking for more. But, whatever you can say about their dancing qualities, the atmosphere and the people’s attitudes were great!
For some reason I can’t upload photos to my blog at the moment. I’m already glad I found a way to upload my blog text. Hope I can add the photos soon!
Time for some sightseeing! My roommate went with me to the city center where we met up with sister in the nail salon. They had a lovely cat there, named Lucky. So quiet that at first I wasn’t sure whether it was a real cat! We went for a great lunch, lots of fresh food prepared at the table, it was yummy!
Nanjing Road is one of the best know places in Shanghai. In the East part there are a lot of big fancy (and expensive!) stores. You can also found shops where they sell traditional Chinese medicine. The main thing I saw over there was some sort of worm, but I also saw seahorses there, apparently good for kidney problems. The chopstick store was also very nice, so many different kinds! I should get some of my own sometimes soon. For the rest we did not enter any shops (only to use the restroom, a lovely sit-down version with toilet paper, hand soap and hand dryers). At the end of the road we could see one of the other famous places: the Bund.
Actually the Bund is just a part of the city with a bunch of very tall buildings, but taken together it looks very impressive. It was pretty crowded there, but actually, it was crowded pretty much everywhere! For the first time Chinese guys came up to us and asked whether they could take a picture with me! Like I’m some sort of celebrity. Ah well, why not. But of course they all had to be on the picture with me as well then!
At the end of the Bund Boulevard there’s a monument about the time where the Chinese kicked out the foreigners that wanted to change the country or something (I’m not so up-to-date with Chinese history). This is one of those things that you see everywhere that shows the Chinese are really proud of their country (or so it seems). A bit further was an old bridge. Seemingly nothing special, but several married couples where taking their pictures over there. Some famous movie was partly shot there, so that’s what made it such a popular place. In the background you could see the Bund. I learned that red is the traditional color to marry in (saw some really great dresses!), but nowadays they do take in some Western traditions, so white is now pretty common as well. Poor brides, posing without coats while it is pretty cold! And smile…
On our way back I really wanted to enter one of the small streets. I’m really happy we did that, those are so much nicer than the huge shopping street! I ate something ‘off the street’ for the first time, I had something the man liked to call a Chinese pizza. I saw so many things there, including lots of food places, fresh fish (some even still alive), a kamikaze cat, meat, vegetables, dogs (with their owners 😉 ) and the smallest shops you can think of.
After dinner (rice soup for the first time) we went to a pub on West Nanjing Road, the Windows bar. Everything was bilingual, so that made it somewhat easier and apparently this was also a place where a lot of foreigners came to. Again a western toilet here, but later in the evening you could see that people still squat here sometimes, given the footprints on the toilet seat. Cocktails were pretty cheap here, but I think I know why; there’s not very much alcohol in there. We were planning on not staying to long, but hey, plans are there to be changed right? When some foreigners started dancing, I joined them (my Chinese friends weren’t really of the dancing kind, although they both did join me for a little while). They appeared to be German, working here for about a month. Their boss was also on the dance floor, a Mexican working in Germany but now stationed in Shanghai for about 6 months. We hit it off on the dance floor; he is as crazy as I am, so I had a really good time! In the end it was about 3 am when we took a cab home. First night out downtown and I already got my first kiss…
After a good 9 hours of sleep (I needed that!), I woke up pretty happy. There’s a real upside to Chinese drinks: since the amount of alcohol is so low, you feel perfect in the morning! Some of the students from the lab came over for dinner. But not before my roommate and I had to go get our bikes from the subway station, since we took a taxi home last night.
They arrived a bit before five and the cooking began immediately: chicken legs, dumplings (not home-made, but very delicious) and some sort of simple soup with flour and eggs. I still find it pretty difficult to eat the chicken legs with chopsticks, but they are really good at it. They also leave their bones much cleaner than I do, but they also eat more of it according to the sounds that came out of their mouth.
They all had about one drink, half of them had a beer (again, low alcohol percentage) and when the food was gone, somebody was asked to do the dishes while the rest tightened up the room. When they were don, they talked somewhat while eating sunflower seeds, and when also the dishes were done they left. They were barely here more than 2 hours!