Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Hangzhou Pictures

Here are some highlights of my pictures from Hangzhou.

Us on the train to Hangzhou:
Our hostel:
A nice picture of West Lake:
A picture of some cherry blossoms (and a BEE!):
A Hangzhou lunch:
This is actually one of Lucy's pictures, but I thought it was cute so I had to share it:
The link for the rest of my pictures is HERE.

Just some stuff...

So yesterday I was a little frustrated because in two of my classes it was a struggle to get my students to pay attention. I snagged rubik's cubes and cell phones and constantly had to wait for them to quiet down so I could talk again. I was feeling pretty grumpy but then I went to the classroom and saw that one of my students (Simon/Zinc) had written "Stephanie" in big letters across the blackboard. The "S" was a special stylized S I had taught him how to draw one day in class. For the "PH" he used the Pinghe logo seen below at the far left.

It was really nice. It showed that he was thinking about me, was using something I had taught him, and also tied me in with the school by using the logo in my name. I keep flipflopping here between frustration and lots of warm fuzzies. It's confusing.

Also, my friend Ashley sent me an e-mail today to inform me that I was in Drew University's newspaper this week! She scanned the article and sent it to me:
If you actually want to read the article you can click it to see a bigger copy. It was in the April Fools edition of the "Acron" (instead of Acorn) so it's all a joke anyway. I just thought it was funny that I graduated and they are still using a picture of me...

I work so much faster with a deadline. I decided today that I HAD to get the tests back to my students today. After wasting time for a week I was able to finish all of class A's tests in an HOUR. Aiya.

Emily, the new Chinese name is 米雪飞. Xuefei is the Chinese version of Sproffee. It sounds more like a Chinese name and people seem to like it better than Mifengguan. :-)

Anyway, I am going to try and take it easy tonight because I still don't feel 100%. I do want to post some pictures though so hopefully I will get that done.

Much love,

Monday, 30 March 2009

D'Arcy in Shanghai Part II!

So on Friday after work D'Arcy and I got some coffee and then cabbed it over to the XinJiang restaurant to meet the others. Dinner was really good. I love lamb meat on a stick. Yum. We also got XinJiang (SingKiang) black beer which was surprisingly delicious. Usually when I go out in China I'll have beer cuz it's easy and cheap and it's what other people are having, but this was the first beer I can remember drinking and thinking "Tasty!"
We were there for all of five minutes before the waiters forced us up towards the front of the room to dance with the belly dancing girl. Like...the waiter had one arm and D'Arcy had the other arm and they were playing tug of war with me. Ouch. I went up and danced for almost a whole song but quickly slunk back to my seat when I had the chance to get away. It was strange at the restaurant because two of the waiters reminded both me and D'Arcy of Drew people. The guy who took our order looked like Drew Chen (the RD for my complex) and the waiter who tried to drag me on stage looked like Matt Miller (the guy who played the lead in Revels 2006). I couldn't decide if the second waiter was creepy or funny. He kept winking and encouraging us to cheers. I decided to be silly back and blew him a kiss. He hammed it up and pretended to fall over.

After that we went to Adobo. Their happy hour is great. We got margaritas and mojitos and pina coladas. We also got 3RMB chips and salsa. Win! We stayed there for a bit laughing and chatting and talking. Lucy also showed Erica a bit of salsa dancing. After Adobo we headed off to Windows Underground where we played Truth or Dare with fun/hilarious results. We had a long drunken cab ride back to my apartment and then fell into bed at some horribly late hour.

Saturday we all slept in. After a slow start in the morning we had New York Style pizza for lunch. (Remember that they live in rural Japan so getting good pizza is a treat for them...) After that we went to Liujiazui and took pictures of the buildings that define the Shanghai skyline; the Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao tower, the Financial building (aka the bottle opener). Then we looked at the Bund from across the river. We also took the bund sightseeing tunnel across. It was my first time taking it...it was weird. It was like as if Shanghai had given a group of 14 year olds about $500 and told them to make a ride. It was mostly composed of blinking lights and TV screens and a voice over saying stuff like "Now entering paradise", "Fossil variation". "Meteror shower", and "Liquid magma".

We then went to the Yu garden. We walked and shopped a bit. We stopped at June's favorite restaurant and got soup dumplings and xiaolongbao. We took pictures. After that we walked over to Nanjing road. D'Arcy felt like heading back to the apartment so I headed back with her after telling Erica how to get to the other places she felt like going to. D'Arcy and I knitted and watched "How I Met Your Mother" and chatted. It was really nice to have some down time with her just hanging out like we were back in college.

Sunday we had to get up early to go to SUZHOU! Whoo! We arrived and walked around for a bit until we made our way to the Master of the Nets Garden, which was more beautiful then the last time I was there since now things were in bloom. Outside of the garden I got another name stamp made with my other Chinese name. I already had one for MiFengGuan, and now I have one that says the Chinese version of Sproffee. We also went to another XinJiang restaurant and got more XinJiang beer. Ha! We went to another garden whose name I forget that was even better. I took tons of pictures which I will organize later.

After that we took some pedicabs to a market street only to find out that they were having a food fair. The place was PACKED and smelled like 12,000 different kinds of food. I had some lamb kabobs, shared a meat pancake with Isa, stole some bao from D'Arcy and bought some melon flavored ice cream. I remembered standing there and thinking how much Dave would have liked to be at this food fair...if there was about 1/15 the amount of people there. D'Arcy seemed a bit freaked out by the crowds. If I hadn't been living in Shanghai since August I probably would have too, but now I guess I've grown used to swimming through people. I still HATE it, but it doesn't scare me or surprise me anymore.

We headed to a KFC for some coffee and then waited a bit for our train. I fell asleep on the train on the way back. I bought some new sneakers when I visited home in January. They felt fine when I got them but it turns out they rub on my pinkie toe on my right foot. With all the walking I've been doing with D'Arcy and Erica my poor toe looks really abused. I've got like...blisters on my blisters. Last night when I tore my shoes off my toe looked swollen and almost purpleish. Eeesh. I think I might go to Decathalon and pick up another pair of shoes. With all the walking I do around the city I can't have my only pair of sneakers as death traps for my toesies.

Last night even though we were exhausted, D'Arcy and I stayed up for while talking and sharing and bonding. It was really nice. We had lunch again today with Erica and then said our goodbyes since I had to go to work and she had to get to the train station. I had such a good time with D'Arcy here. I really want to go see her in Japan. I want her to come back to Shanghai and she hasn't even really left yet (I think her plane leaves in an hour).

Anyway...it was therapeutic to have someone from back home with me. It was also EXHAUSTING. I feel rather broken after 5-6 days of GO GO GO. I am super excited to just go back to my apartment tonight and go to bed. Although I can't really do that since I still have that pile of tests to correct. Ugh.

So, much love to you D'Arcy! You are welcome back anytime.

Pictures from Hangzhou and Suzhou should be up soooon.


Friday, 27 March 2009

D'Arcy In Shanghai!

Before I get into what I've been doing with D'Arcy, I thought I would share some good news. I had an open class Wednesday morning. The only person that watched was the head of my department, Jane. Afterwards she said some really nice things. She seemed impressed that I had come up with the concept for the class myself (having the students split into roles of judges and applicants to be on a reality show). She also said that the students seemed confident to speak in my class. It was really nice to hear.

D'Arcy and her friend Erica arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday late afternoon. I picked them up at the airport, which was actually kind of fun. We took the Maglev back and stopped at my apartment to drop off stuff, then headed right out for some quick shopping and a lunch of shengqianbao (fried meat buns). Then I left them on their own for a few hours while I finished up the work day.

Wednesday night we decided to take it easy. We went and got massages. We got hour long full body Chinese style messages and half hour herbal foot messages. Cost about $14 total. Oh yeah. We were all in the same room and had fun talking to the masseurs and each other and laughing A LOT. We were very ridiculous.

After that they said they wanted Chinese food for dinner. On June's suggestion we went to the Chinese restaurant on the corner that I pass pretty much every day but have never been to. It was delicious. We got lots of vegetables, pepper steak beef, bull frog, shanghai style noodles, some AMAZING sweet and sour pork...it was all very good. After that we went back to my apartment and hung out. We talked about different plans of what to do while they were here and D'Arcy and I also made our plans for the next day.

Thursday Erica went off to Nanjing. D'Arcy and I went to work. I thought it would be a fun idea to have her guest teach my classes for the day so I had switched classes with a co-worker to make sure I saw all four classes. D'Arcy had prepared a power point about herself and working in Japan and showed my students. Then they asked her some questions (one of which was "Can you tell us some gossip about Stephanie?" She ended up telling them about how I played an old lady for Revels one year and how silly I looked) and she taught them to play shiritori, a japanese game she plays with her students that involved writing a word on the board and then having the next person write a word that starts with the last letter of the word before it. (ex: ORANGE-ELEPHANT-TANGO-OCTOBER) D'Arcy seemed to have a lot of fun talking to my students, saying she was jealous of how good their English level was. My students in turn really seemed to like her. One student asked if she would be teaching another class before she left.

Here is a picture we took with D'Arcy's webcam in the school library in between classes.
Yesteday D'Arcy decided that she would really like some more international food (since she lives in a very rural area in Japan and hardly ever gets the chance there). For lunch we went to the Indian Kitchen. The tandoori chicken was SO TASTY. D'Arcy, who has actually been to India, said it tasted like genuine Indian food and was very happy about that. For dinner we went to Big Bamboo for burgers. She said it was the first real burger since she had moved to Japan (in August). It's strange to think that she came to visit me in China and that gave her the chance to have a burger.

After dinner we got some DVDs at my lady and then went to the underground mall beneath the Science and Technology museum (kejiguan). I was impressed with D'Arcy's mad negotiating skills. I think the highlight of the evening was when she bargained down some knock off designer sunglasses from 150RMB EACH to 50RMB ($7) for two pairs. Well done, Miss Sarnelle. She also got some t-shirts and jewelry and shoes and such. A productive evening. My only purchase last night was a good one. Something I've wanted for a while and had never seen on sale before. Chinese fortune telling sticks. They are basically numbered sticks in a round container (the one i got is very pretty). You make a wish and you shake it until one stick falls out, then check the book that comes with it. The number gives you a fortune and says if your wish will come true or not. Here is a picture of them in use (from wiki)
I had asked around where I could buy some but everyone always told me that you couldn't buy them, they were only at temples. I was very excited to see them in kejiguan. The shopkeeper for that particular store was quite a character. She kept saying that if she sold us stuff for the prices we were asking for, her boss would kill her. Which led me to ask what the lowest price was that she could give us where she WOULDN'T be murdered, and offering to protect her from her boss if she gave us a really good price. Another woman in another shop also quipped that D'Arcy needed to realize she was trying to buy shirts, not socks. These guys and gals are good at what they do. They have a lot of practice joking and laughing and winning over customers for a good price. They were no match for D'Arcy and I, though. We had secret looks and hand signs and often played the part of the impatient/stubborn/cheap friend.

After all that, we left the mall with our bounty and I brought her to Enoteca for a bottle of Van Loverns. We sat at the bar and chatted about our successful day. We headed back to my apartment with plans to keep hanging out (possibly with more wine) but we were so tired we just went to sleep.

I let D'Arcy sleep in this morning while I went to work. My one class today (since I had switched my other class to yesterday) went fine. I am slowly slowly slowly going through grading these tests. Bah. I wish I wasn't so easily distracted. D'Arcy is off wandering by herself today and I am going to meet up with her later. Tonight her, me, Erica (who should be back from Nanjing soon), Isabelle and Lucy are all going to this Arabic style restuarant that supposedly makes great lamb and also has belly dancers. I'm really looking forward to it.

Tomorrow we are planning on doing some more sight seeing, hopefully to the yuyuan garden for xiaolongbao and soup dumplings. Sunday we already have tickets for me, D'Arcy, Erica and Isa to go to Suzhou. I'm really excited to go back. I hope the weather is nice.

That's all for now. I'm really really happy to see D'Arcy. It's great to have a friend from home right now, especially one like her. I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. It's going to be really hard to see her go on Monday. My apartment will seem really empty again. Hopefully I will be able to visit her in Japan soon. My fortune sticks did say I would get my wish and that I would "benefit from a journey" when I wished to visit her in Fukui.

Much love,

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Cities In China I've Been To

I thought it would be fun to do a list. Here it is currently. Alphabetically.


Here's hoping I add some more to the list soon.


After making tentative plans to go many times before, I finally went to Hangzhou with Lucy and Isabelle.

Friday we met up at the train station. We compared what we had packed. Each of them had a backpack. I had my small suitcase. Darn it. Oh well. I was prepared. When we first got in the train there was a weird moment when we realized that my seat was in another car. We were able to switch to a three seater easily enough. We spent the hour long train ride snacking on chips, crackers, M&Ms and moon cakes.

We caught a taxi when we arrived in Hangzhou and went to the hostel. We were in a six person dorm room. We locked up our stuff in our lockers, freshened up and immediately headed out. We found this bar that had these like...cool attic areas. We climbed the twisty stairs and sat in a corner under the low ceiling. We ordered lamb kabobs that were SO DELICIOUS, pistachios, dried squid, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cucumber...pretty standard Chinese bar snacks. We also got a weird deal where we order like...14 beers but only paid for 6. It was weird. And tasty. We played Isabelle's dice game that we played in Windows. We walked around for awhile after that but eventually just went back to the hostel. We had some fruit and ice cream and nibbled in the common room before going to bed.

We all took quick showers Saturday morning and had breakfast at the hostel. The weather was beautiful. We walked and we walked and we walked and we walked. We walked around the gorgeous West Lake. We took tons of pictures. We acted like silly tourists. It was great. We stopped for lunch on this little street that Lucy suggested and has some Hangzhou food. We got sour fish, a pork and mushroom dish, cabbage, and some sort of bamboo root? I think? It was all very good. We stuffed ourselves. We then bought a pineapple from a little shop and walked down the street eating pieces off of toothpicks.

After lunch we went for an hour long boat ride with two other tourists who happened to be from Shanghai. It was lovely and relaxing. I think Isabelle actually fell asleep for a little while. It was nice to sit in the sunshine and hear the water. There were little tiny ducks on the water that kept diving for food and then flying off.

After the boat ride we realized how late it was getting and that we really had to get over to Lucy's grandmother's apartment to make our dinner plans. We ended up sitting in horrible traffic for about 40 minutes. It sucked. We stopped to get some fruit (strawberries, pineapples, cherries, etc) as gifts for Lucy's grandmother. Because we had to rush from the boat ride to dinner, my presents for Lucy's parents were still at the hostel, so Lucy had to give them their gifts the next day. (She said they liked them).

I always like the share when my students use English in odd ways so I feel like I should share my "almost incident". I was practicing how to refer to Lucy's family before we went inside. I should address her mother has "ayi" (aunt) her father as "shushu" (uncle) and her grandmother as "waipo" (grandmother). As I was double checking on all this, I accidentally said "laopo" instead of "waipo", which means wife. I very nearly called Lucy's grandmother my wife. Ack!

We went in, took off our shoes, gave the fruit and were immediately escorted into the living room for some porridge. Yum. When Lucy told her father that I liked fried dumplings, he grabbed a plate of the boiled dumplings, went to the kitchen and fried them for me. :-)

Lucy's family were all very very nice. I liked her dad a lot. The experience was a little humbling though. I was surprised I had SO MUCH trouble with my Chinese. I would say something in Chinese and Lucy would actually have to translate my bad Chinese. UGH. It was awful. And of course if I make a mistake I lose my confidence. I could hear myself getting quieter and quieter. I felt very embarassed. It was also hard to see Lucy with her parents when I really wish I was with my parents right now.

After being stuffed AGAIN (I felt so bad because I was still so full from lunch and they had made so much delicious food) we packed up and walked to her parent's apartment. We actually walked along the Grand Canal for most of the walk, which was pretty cool. I don't know if I had seen the Grand Canal before that. There was construction being done on her parent's home (which is why we didn't have dinner there) but we went to see some of the pictures and letters I had sent Lucy. It was pretty strange to see them. She had a picture of me in my bedroom from when I was 13 years old, holding up some music boxes. There was also a picture of me and Savannah with our Christmas tree one year. We looked at my old letters and relived some memories. It was cool.

After that we decided to treat ourselves to some food massages. We went to place that Lucy likes and got hour long foot massages. First our feet got soaked in hot water. Then scrubbed. Then massaged. They also scrape off your dead skin. Some oil. More hot water and scrubbing. By the time they were done the three of us were just sitting in the massage palor feeling our feet and laughing. My skin felt like newborn baby skin. So soft! After that we went to an Irish pub. I got a Bailey's latte that was pretty tasty. Around 11pm the rain that we heard was going to ruin our Saturday finally arrived. After hanging out at the pub for a while we went back to the hostel and went to bed.

Sunday we got up and showered again. We had lunch/brunch in the hostel and then left our luggage at the front desk and went to a shopping street. I picked up a few different kinds of candy to bring back and share with my coworkers. I also got a bunch of little touristy presents. And a very pretty hairclip. One fun thing on this street were a few different guys making interesting candy. With one you spun a wheel and whichever animal on the wheel you landed on, that was the shape they would make for you. It was a warm liquid sugar that they drizzled out in a shape and then attached a stick. Another guy was using a kind of candy/taffy/clay. We watched him make what looked like a gourd. It was more like glass blowing then candy making. We mostly walked up and down the street, stopping in shops and looking at things. I also picked up some lotus root starch that June wanted me to get for her. Apparently it's a Hangzhou specialty?

We got some coffee on the way back to the hostel, then we all got our luggage and parted ways. Lucy went back to her parents and Isabelle and I went to the train station and back to Shanghai.

All in all it was a very fun weekend. I really like hanging out with Lucy and Isabelle. We were joking around and calling ourselves Charlie's Angels.

I have an album of my pictures up on facebook. I will post a few here with a link to the rest later. Right now I really should be correcting tests.

Much love,

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

My Brother

I am sorry for the delay in posting.

I think mostly everyone who reads this blog already knows this, but on Monday the 9th around midnight I got a phone call from my parents with some very bad news. My brother, Robert, died.

It's been a really hard week for me. As hard as it was to be alone in a foreign country away from all my friends and family during the holiday season...this is 10 times worse. I attended the funeral yesterday morning over webcam, which was pretty torturous, but better then not being there at all.

Getting back to work has been hard, especially since my job involves being the center of attention a lot of the time. The first class I taught after coming back to work I broke down crying, luckily with only a minute or two left in the period.

I am lucky, though, to have amazing co-workers who covered my classes for me without hesitation when I needed it. They also took me out to dinner all of last week to make sure I was eating and getting out of the apartment. Becky even bought me a chocolate pastry which she said was "the perfect comfort food". Lucy and Isabelle have also been wonderful. I spent most of Saturday with them and after dinner, wine, talking and watching movies, I felt almost normal again. Some of my students even wrote me notes expressing their sympathy and condolences.

Every time I think about my brother I get this wrenching empty pain in my chest like there is some sort of black hole under my ribs that's pulling me into myself. He and I had a complicated relationship to say the least and it's hard for me to sort everything out in my head. I've been writing a lot recently as a kind of personal form of therapy and I think it's been helping.

I don't plan on talking about this again in this blog (mostly because it's a personal matter and this is a public blog), but of course plans might change.

I've spent much of the last week in my apartment crying, watching TV and knitting. I am trying to move on, get out and do stuff. This weekend I am finally actually going to go to Hangzhou with Lucy and Isabelle. The train tickets are already purchased and the hostel will be booked today. We leave Friday. Considering what a calming effect they had on me last Saturday I am really looking forward to spending a whole weekend with them. Also, D'Arcy (a friend of mine from Drew) will be arriving with a friend of hers from Japan in a week. They will be staying with me for 5 days. I am really happy about the idea of seeing someone from home, and D'Arcy has already promised to give me about 1,000 hugs when she arrives.

So...that's whats been going on with me.

If anyone is interested in watching it, my mother put together a really nice video memorial about Robert.

Thank you to everyone who has been sending me e-mails, facebook messages, or calling. I really do appreciate and I'm sorry if my responses have been short or non-existent. I really just don't know what to say to people.

Much love,

Monday, 9 March 2009

Pictures From Saturday

Cuz you know you all like pictures...

Some lovely drawings on the wall of the restaurant...
Our spread for the evening (not sure why this picture is a little green tinted...)
The four of us at the restaurant.
Our "martinis" which were served in lowball glasses and made with vodka...um, k?
Coming down the stairs from the restaurant.
Isa shaking her dice cup at Windows.
My very dramatic roll in the middle of the dice game.
I forgot to mention this in my wordy post, but at Shanghai studio we ordered a "Flaming Mountain", which was SO COOL. The guy layered Kaluha, Bailey's and vodka in some glasses, then stacked some brandy snifters on top, filled a shot glass with rum (I think?), set it on fire and poured it over the whole thing. I know it's really hard to tell, except for some wavy heat lines, but the entire structure in the below picture is ENGULFED with blue flames.
You stick a straw in and slurp up the drink super fast. It was delicious...and warm. :-) After I was done with mine, I realized my straw was on fire. Ha!

That's all for now!


Right now I am supposed to teach my students how to write about statistics. I hated statistics class in college so I am not looking forward to this.

This weekend was pretty good. Friday night I got my first real good nights sleep that I could remember for a long time. It was nice.

Saturday ended up being a rather unlucky day, although overall it was a lot of fun. First of all, I was in desperate need of a shower but the water was off in my building. I had plans to meet Lucy, Isa and Isa's friend Nora (who was visiting from Beijing) at 7pm. As it got closer and closer to you-should-really-leave-the-apartment-in-order-to-get-there-in-time o'clock, I was getting more and more worried. I kept running to the faucet and checking to see if the water was back like I had bad OCD. Finally, when I had almost given up hope, SUCCESS!

I immediately stripped down and hopped in the shower. I wasn't in there for 10 seconds when there was a knock at the door. UGH! I considering ignoring it but I was worried it would be a maintenance guy telling me that I shouldn't be using the water for some reason. I hopped back out, wrapped a towel around me and went to the door. It WAS a maintenance guy, but he just wanted to know if I had water. (Umm...didn't he hear the SHOWER?) I told him yes, he smiled and went away, and I got my wonderful glorious shower.

I got all prettied up and headed out. I had just turned right outside of the school gate and was still walking on my street when I slipped, fell and coated myself in mud. I am not kidding. Luckily I didn't get any on my face or in my hair, but everything I was wearing was a mess. My shiny white sneakers I got a month ago, my purse, my jeans, both the inside and outside layers of my jacket, and worst of all a brand new white blouse that I was wearing for the first time (I hadn't even taken the tags off yet!) Oh I was mad.

In the bathroom sink I rinsed off the majority of the mud from my purse, jeans and inner layer of my coat then threw them in the wash. I left my sneakers out so that the mud could dry and I could beat the dirt off later. The outside layer of my coat got washed in the sink and hung to dry, as did the blouse. Luckily the blouse wasn't stained.

I got prettied up...AGAIN. I had to use my very touristy Mao ZeDong bag because it was my only other purse. I had to wear dress shoes because I had no other sneakers. I also had to use my shawl because I had no other jacket. I took a taxi the whole way (60 RMB...bah) since I no longer had time for the subway, and still just barely made it there in time.

The restaurant was delicious. We went to the Lotus Flower for Indian food. It was a very cool restaurant where they had the low tables and you take off your shoes and sit on the floor with cushions and such. We got garlic naan, mutton curry, some sort of delicious sausage type thing in a cashew nut sauce, saffron rice, spinach with cotttage cheese, yogurt...it was all VERY good. We got beer with dinner and then martinis afterwards. Oh...and did I mention that the waitress spilled and entire glass of water down my back? And because I was sitting on a cushion area my seat was wet for the rest of dinner? Seriously, what was WITH this Saturday? The manager came over to apologize and I told him not to worry about it. The girls said I should have freaked out and maybe got us some free food, but I know it was an accident and I didn't want the waitress to get in trouble.

As we leaving and putting our shoes back on, one of my shoelaces broke. At that point I wasn't even surprised anymore. I even told the girls as I was heading to the bathroom that if I wasn't back in 10 minutes, to just assume I had fallen and broken my neck.

After the restaurant we went to Shanghai Studio since they were having free drinks for Women's Day (March 8th). We sat around chatting and playing "Never Have I Ever" for a bit. After that Lucy headed home and Isa, Nora and I decided to go to Windows Underground (for my faithful readers, the last time I went was with Benno and Kyle way back in October). This time the place was packed, but the drinks and food were still just as cheap and delicious.

We played a dice game for a bit that Isa and Nora play in Germany where you roll two dice, not showing the other players and say the higher number of the two first. So if you rolled and 2 and a 3 you would say "32". Obviously the highest you can get is 66, except that 21 is the max for some reason. You take turns rolling and the number has to go higher and higher as you go. If the number you roll ISN'T higher than the person before you, you have to lie. If the next person thinks you are lying, they reveal your roll. If you were NOT lying, they have to drink, if you were lying, you have to drink. Nora was after me in our game and I think she was getting more and more annoyed at me because she always thought I was lying and 9 times out of 10 I wasn't.

We also played foosball for a bit and I found something out. I rock at foosball. I started playing with Isa and Nora in turns, but they dissapeared for a bit and I ended up playing with other people at the bar. Sometimes two against one, sometimes with this super excited guy in a black shirt you wanted to high five me anytime ANYONE scored a goal. Big, enthusiastic high fives when we scored, and low, calm high fives when the other team scored.

I also made sure to dance. I got pulled onto the dance floor in the middle of a foosball game once and soon after that was ushered onto the little stage right next to the dance floor. I was up there for a minute or two before someone passed me some wings to wear (you know, cardboard wings covered with fake feathers?). I figured what the heck and put them on. I already get stared at a lot. I got home around 3:30AM.

Sunday I woke up early-ish because there was a group getting a chorus together and I figured what the heck. I miss working with a group towards something and I miss singing and performing. I was happy to find that the meeting place was off of line 4 so I didn't have to go through People's Square. Whee! The meeting turned out to be excellent practice for my Chinese since, other than the woman running the meeting, I was the only foreigner there. We spoke Chinese for the whole meeting and also sung a bunch of Chinese songs. We also sang New York, New York (I said we should change it to Shanghia, Shanghai...hehe).

After I was supposed to meet up with Isa and Nora to finally go to the Financial Bulding (the huge one that looks like a bottle opener), so I went to the Super Brand Mall to get some coffee to wait. Turns out they slept late and there wasn't enough time to go or Nora would miss her flight back to Beijing so we had to cancel. That's makes for three times now where I had plans to go to that darn building that got cancelled last minute. Maybe fate is telling me not to go. Part of me was glad they cancelled. I was very happy to just sit outside with my coffee, reading my book and enjoying the first rays of sunshine I had seen in weeks. I also bought a book of Tridoku. For those of you that like Sudoku, you should try Tridoku. It's Sudoku in a triangle and it has some VERY COMPLICATED and CONFUSING rules. It's fun.

(I just realized that the students in the school next door are playing baseball TOWARDS our school. Like, if someone gets a homerun it is coming through a window. Bah)

Anyway, back in school now. This Friday is open house for parents that are consideirng sending their parents to this school. It's a little nerve wracking. I hate teaching with an audience. I've been doing a lot of lecturing and class discussions. I don't think I have had a "fun" class since I've been back. This week I am going to do some more songs in class. This time about money and being rich (since this whole section in the book has been about money). So far I've thought of "If I was a rich girl" by Gwen Stefani, "If I had $1,000,000" by the Bare Naked Ladies, and "Mo' Money Mo' Problems" by Notorious B.I.G. Any other suggestions? Preferrably new songs?


Saturday, 7 March 2009

Need Shower...Bluh


The water is out!

And I really need a shower!

And I am supposed to meet people for dinner. but there is no way I am going out without a shower!


Friday, 6 March 2009

Trivia Night!

So Wednesday night I went and got myself a massage. I got a Chinese style massage, so it wasn't like a calming, relaxing, essential oils and calming music kind of thing. It was a guy jabbing me in the back with his elbows for an hour. It was good though. I could feel him working out all sorts of pressure points and knots. It hurt so good. He must have a lot of foreigners complain, though, cuz every few minutes he was like "ok?". I always said yes. Afterward I bought myself a plastic tub so I can soak my feet. Yesterday was the first time in a month that I could remember my feet NOT being cold. I don't know if was the soak or the massage that did it, but I feel like I have blood in my body again. Still not 100% on the sleeping though. :-P

Last night was the first ever Trivia Night at FrangiPani so I decided to go for fun. I met up with Megan, met her wife Nicole, and also made some new friends Melissa, Darcy, Christina and Jason. I think I got their names right... Together we decided to call ourselves "The Drinking Dead". I forget why except that alliteration is fun. We did pretty ok. One of the questions was about the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo...etc), and I felt SO BAD because I got it wrong. I used to have the whole alaphabet memorized, but I only got one out of the four letters right. I don't feel too bad though, since one of our team members used to be in the Navy and she couldn't even remember past Echo.

Before the last question we were in 3rd place (out of 11 teams I think) but we gambled everything on the last questions and lost everything. The question was about what percentage of the average human body is composed of water. Apparently almost all of the teams (including us) said 70%. The answer was 61%. Ironically, the team that was in last place before the final question ended up winning.

I don't have finalized plans for this weekend, but I may be meeting up with Isa and Lucy on Saturday night. After going out for ladies night on Tuesday and then trivia night on Thursday ad my massage/shopping on Wednesday, I am a bit pooped. I plan on having a very boring and relaxing evening tonight.

I shall leave you with a silly picture! This picture is back from my visit home in January. Alicia just posted a bunch of pictures from my visit on facebook so this is the first I've seen them. I thought I would put one up here just for fun. I like this picture because it is ridiculous and it also shows me with some of my favorite people that I was really happy to see. From left to right it's Ciara, Tristan, Me, Jesse, and Claire.
Anyway, sending love,
Sierra Tango Echo Papa Hotel Alpha November India Echo
(aka, Stephanie)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Bulldog Tuesday 2

Last night I met up with Isabelle and Lucy at Bulldog for ladies night again.

On the way, while riding Line 1, a guy prepared to get off at the stop before mine. He went and stood with his back to door, which I thought was a little weird. He started talking loudly, addressing the whole subway car in the Shanghainese dialect (I couldn't understand what he was saying). Then, speaking just as loudly, he suddenly switched to English: "We must all work together against corruption and to make the world a better place!" I assumed he was looking at me while he said that since I was the only waigouren in that subway car, but I didn't feel like looking up. Then he said, "HELLO beautiful young lady!" When I looked up he was looking directly at me. Then he said "Welcome to Shanghai!" He leaned forward and said in a stage whisper, "I love you very much!" The doors opened and he slipped away before I had any time to react.

So I guess I met the Shanghai welcoming committee. Too bad he was 7 months late.

At Bulldog we had some more snacks and drinks. Since I picked up the tab for the snacks last time and the drinks were free all night, I didn't have to pay at all for last night. Whoo! At the pub we made friends with a very cool lady named Megan. She used to be a welder and now is back in school for environmental engineering. She's been here with her wife since August.

Here is Megan, Lucy and me from last night. (Not a good picture of me...oh well)
I really do love living here. You meet the coolest people. And you also have a few automatic conversation starters: Where are you from, how long have you been here and what brought you to China?

I am hoping to finally get that massage I keep talking about tonight. Tomorrow is Trivia night at Frangipani. Isabelle is planning on going, as is Megan. I figure if I get a good night's sleep tonight I'll make another trek out to Puxi and join them.

Anyway, back to workies.

Much love,

Monday, 2 March 2009

Making Chinese Dumplings!

Alrighty, here is how you make Chinese Dumplings!
First off you make the dough. Zeno made the dough with just dumpling flour and water. She kneaded it for a long time. According to her, you know when it's ready when it feels "smooth like a young girl's arm". After it's all mixed you set it aside for a bit and work on your filling.
Then you chop a lot. We made shrimp dumplings so the three main ingredients were shrimp, egg and what we called "grass" because I wasn't 100% sure what the English name for what we were using, and it looks like grass. I am pretty sure it's Chinese chives...Chopping up some scrambled up eggs...
Here is the lovely dumpling filling all mixed up. We also add some dried up tiny little prawns and some sesame oil. One of my favorite jobs that I did on Friday night was going through the mixture and picking out with chopsticks any piece of "grass" that was too long. Ha.
Now you start making your wrappings. You roll the dough out like a snake, making sure it's an even thickness.
Then you roll the dough stick back and forth while you cut it into sections so that the pieces look like this:
The pieces will be sticky on both ends. Only rub flour into one side, as the stickiness in the middle will help the filling to stick. Smush each dough piece with your hand.
Using your rolling pin, work from the outside in, turning the dough piece constantly, to get a nice round wrapper. You want it to be a little thicker in the middle so that it doesn't rip and spill out all the delicious filling.Here is the first wrapper I made by myself. I approve.
Then, using chopsticks, scoop up some filling into your wrapper. Don't overfill or it'll explode!Closing/folding it is really hard to describe and I don't have the best pictures. You start by pinching it in the middle and then fold up each side. You want it to be able to stand. The more folds you can fit in, the fancier your dumplings will look.
One of my fancier dumplings...
Once you have a big ole' plateful of dumplings, boil up some water and drop them in. Be sure to keep the water moving when you drop them in or they might sink to the bottom and stick. When the water seems like it's going to boil over, douse it with some cold water and let it get to a boil again. Do this a few times.If you want to fry up the dumplings in oil, you only want to half boil them. We decided to just have them boiled so we boiled them through.
Mmmm...a delicious dinner of boiled shrimp dumplings, jellyfish and Zeno's delicious chicken wings. Yum!

Here are some random clips from when we were making the dumplings if you care to watch...

In Like a Lion...

It's raining. What a surprise. Bah.

Friday night was a lot of fun. Zeno and I spent three hours making some super delicious dumplings. I took tons of pictures and videos and I will make a whole post about it ASAP. We had our dumplings and chicken wings and jellyfish salad and watched Slumdog Millionaire while we ate. It was a good night.

Saturday morning I woke up early to go to another River of Hearts clothes sorting party. Remember how last time I apparently looked "in charge" and had people asking me what to do, where to go, and even asking permission to eat and take breaks? Well this time immediately after signing in they had me run registration and bag check. I mean...wow. From 9am to around 2pm I sat behind the desk and asked people to sign in and then took their bags and coats. It was a little crazy. It was like a huge memory game. Everyone had to put a name tag on their stuff and when they came to claim it I had to remember where the heck I had put it. It was also good practice for my reading of Chinese since some people wrote their name tags in Chinese.

I don't have a picture from Saturday yet, but Zeno did send me this VERY VERY SILLY picture of me from the last time. While I was packing/sorting stuff, I found a mesh shirt and decided it would be funny if I put it on over my shirt and apron. Um...yeah.
Once things quieted down I went to the "buy stuff" table where they were selling donated brand new items to raise money to pay for the shipping of the used clothes. I got two very pretty chenille scarves, a ridiculous rainbow hat with a smiley face on the top, and a blue Hugo Boss silk tie. Total cost? 30RMB, or a little less than $5. Just cuz I was curious I looked up how much a Hugo Boss silk tie normally goes for and the average price seems to be around $80. Wow.

Our plans were to go to the Dongbei restaurant where I was going to treat Zeno for her birthday, but the sorting party wound down kind of early and we weren't really hungry yet. We decided to go to a foreign langugae bookstore and reschedule the restaurant for next week. I picked up Dune since I've been told by many people I should read it. My plan was to go back to my apartment and have a nap, then meet Isabelle for Ladies Night at Shanghai Studio, but napping only made me more tired, so I had to cancel.

Sunday I cleaned. I cleaned EVERYTHING. I swept the whole apartment, dusted, packed up my Christmas stuff (finally), reorganized some stuff in my bedroom, did a massive amount of dishes, two loads of laundry, scrubbed the shower, oraganized my desk and closests...it was intense. And now my apartment is SPARKLING. It's a good feeling.

I've been meaning to go get a massage for a while now, but I still haven't gone. I'm hoping once the massive pile of knots that used to be my back muscles get worked on, I'll be able to sleep better at night.

Anyway, if I get my butt in gear at work today and finish everything I need to by 4:30, hopefully I can put together that dumpling post tonight.

Sending love!