Thursday, April 24, 2008

Apartment Hunting


Today we went to the park across the street from the hotel. It looks like lots of people get their wedding photos taken at this park. We saw two different brides there this morning. Check out the really cooL tree of flowers.

Today we met Isabel who took us to many different apartment buildings. I'll try and summarize for you.

The first one was Yanlord Gardens - a huge complex - indoor and outdoor pool, gym with volleyball and tennis INSIDE, ping pong, a gym with machines and a dance floor where they have "dancing with the star-type dancing lessons".

The gardens are amazing. I really liked them a lot. However, it is not a service apartment which means it is owned by individual owners who will provide what you want. We wanted a 3 bedroom apartment that we could make one bedroom into a den/study/office. The kitchen at this one was okay - I did not like the furniture but Mike and Isabel said we can ask them to buy us something different. It is close to the subway and is in the NW portion of the city near the Renaissance Hotel we are staying in.

Then we went to the Garden Counsel and this one was dark and I didn't like it at all - there is a maid's room and all the furniture was Chinese.

The next place we went was Huntington Terrace. I liked this one a lot. It was cheaper than the others and it is a service apartment too - the plates and glasses are there for you. I wouldn't have to buy these. It is about 4,000 RMB cheaper than the others which means we could buy something else with that money. It is right next door to the flower market. It has a shuttle that takes you to the grocery stores and Wal Mart. I liked it - Mike didn't - it is far to the subway. I'd have to take a taxi there. It is closer to the zoo than where we are now. The rooms are bigger and the balcony is nice. The furniture is nice too. Kitchen is good.

Then we went to the Oriental Manhattan. This one had individual room air conditioners but it was close to everything and most everyone else who works for Westinghouse. It would take about 10 minutes to get to work for Mike. The others were maybe 20-30 minutes. Mr. Chen is a very good driver. He has been shuttling us around for the last 4 days and he has finally warmed up to us. He was talking about his little boy who is 4 and the Zoo.

The Oriental Manhattan all had 3 bedrooms but they were not as nice as the others. One thing about this complex is that it is close to St. Ignatius Cathedral but no one knew if it is even in operation. It is a legend and is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Asia. There are others but this was very close - you could see it from the balcony.

We saw 3 units here - all individually owned. The second one was fine - the man is from New York - he is managing it for his parents. Nice guy named James. Spoke excellent English. There was virtually no closets - only armoires. Not nearly enough space.

The last one was the Shama apartments and I LOVED IT. Unfortunately, the 3 bedrooms are very expensive and we'd have to pay $$$ out of pocket. It too is a service apartment - they provide housecleaning 6 days a week. The furnishings are beautiful and it is owned by Morgan Stanley. There are already 4 Westinghouse people living there. I WANT to live there TOO! Isabel is going to negotiate for us. The manager is very accommodating. It is a very new building - just finished in January/February. No pool but a nice gym and close to everything- subway, shopping, everything.

We'll just have to see how this plays out.

We are going with Ashlee again tomorrow to see the markets and the Bund along the river. Then we'll meet Isabel and go see one more apartment complex - La Cite. We expect to make a decision tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night, Friday, most of the Westinghouse crew will have dinner at Pete's Tex Mex. This is when I'll get to meet the wives I've talked with over the phone. A new family got here today with two little kids. Their apartment won't be ready until June so they are in a temporary apartment. It will be tough for them.

Well, it's late and I want to go to bed AND sleep all night. It would be so nice to sleep all night. The jet lag is killing me. . .

Until tomorrow then. . .

Italian Dinner in Shanghai

We dined at a lovely Italian restaurant around the corner from Hooters. It was very good. I started out with a bowl of cream of asparagus soup and moved onto spaghetti with tomato sauce, and a cold Coke to top it off. Beverages are served mostly warm here and because you shouldn’t use ice, they usually refrigerate for Westerners. Even the bottled water is warm – I put ours in the mini-fridge in our room. I was so happy to get a cold one.

On the way back to the Renaissance, I bought a Coach wallet for 75 RMB or about US $10.50. Mike says I should have negotiated some more but hey, it was my first time. I’m pretty pleased with my success.

Then we went back to the hotel and tried to relax. Mike watched Hotel Rwanda on TV and I called my new friend Kristin O’Keeffe. Kristin wrote a column last week in the Post-Gazette on her experiences here in Shanghai. She’s lived here for two years, following her new husband here due to his job with an international company I cannot recall.

Anyway, ironically, my friend, Theresa Melnick called me on Saturday to tell me about her article. I had already cancelled the P-G for this week so there was no way I was going to “read all about it” before we left for the airport - unless I went online. So after reading about Kristin’s experiences, I emailed her. She responded to my email before we landed in Shanghai. How’s that for technology? We had a lovely chat about places to visit and where to eat. She lives in the French Concession which is the older part of the city. The buildings are lower there – no high rises in sight. There are lovely streets with mature trees and beautiful walled gardens. It does seem quieter there.

Then I spoke with my fellow Westinghouse wife, Amy Shaqqo who has organized a group dinner at Peter’s Tex Mex for Friday night. She’s had a hankering for Tex Mex and there are some new families moving in this week. Both of them have small children, as does Amy so it made perfect sense to bring the group together for a small dinner party – we’re up to 25 by now for sure.

We slept like babies last night – finally - until about 4:31 am when someone from Oakmont called us – I couldn’t get to the Blackberry in time to answer it. Darn it – we would now be up for a while wondering who it was that called because the number is not in Mike’s address book.

I’ve emailed Kate to ask her to check messages at home. Then email us with anything important.

We received a wonderful email from Staci Rullo, our real estate agent in Pittsburgh. She’s listed the house and it’s already up on the webpage at Northwood – check us out!

AND – we have a potential buyer who will stop tonight – Wednesday night at 6:30 pm. Staci was worried about Snowball but I encouraged her to have the agent armed with a dog treat and put her on the deck while the buyers toured the house. This is good news – only 24 hours and already an interested family. It’s a great neighborhood with great neighbors. I wouldn’t be leaving if I didn’t have to.

My biggest concern this morning was the Pennsylvania Primary. I was so anxious to hear if Hillary had taken the state by storm. Sure enough the polls hadn’t closed when we woke up so I had to wait until I got into the Westinghouse office to read all about it. Yes, she did it. My faith in my fellow Pennsylvanian has been renewed – lol. That was said with tongue in cheek. I know my friend Val will not be happy. She was supporting the other guy. But at least I don’t have to vote for McCain just yet.

Lunch at the Westinghouse JPMO CafĂ© was quite an awakening. There was not much there I could figure out. There were no fish eyes staring at me but maybe some spinach and some mushrooms – Mike chose the tofu with gravy on it and steamed rice. I chose yogurt and a banana. I will be so thin after this 5 years living in Shanghai – I’m praying for it.

Now, we’re off on another trip back to the hotel. I hope to take some photos of the sites along the way so I can post them tonight.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Da Plane

Good morning to you East Coasters!

It's 8:11 pm here in Shanghai. We arrived yesterday on a wonderful United Flight. Business Class is THE way to travel. Every seat was taken by the way. The food, the champagne, the wine - a lovely Savignon Blanc. I can get used to this. . .

Rita, one of the flight attendants is from Chicago. She was wonderful. She brought me this lovely little Louis Vuitton business card holder that had maybe 35-50 business cards from vendors at the silk/cashmere/wool markets, flower markets, pearl markets. DVD's and CD's - restaurants. She was amazing. She gave lots of great tips. She takes this flight once a month and stays for 2 days. Buys what she needs and gets back to work and goes home for a week. Very interesting woman. I'm so glad I got to meet her. I told her about my interest to work once I get here and get settled - she thinks I should start my own business and sell jewelry - we'll just have to see about that.

Our flight was about 35 minutes early. You arrive and go through Immigration and then down into the hall with the luggage carousels. It took forever to get our bags - we were the first on the plane and the last luggage to come off. I thought USAir was bad. We were told to look for our driver who would be on the other side of the secure zone with a Westinghouse sign. He wasn't there. Everyone else was - PPG, Novatel, Siemens, no Westinghouse. Here, because we were early, he wasn't there yet - we had to wait for him. He was a fabulous driver - Chen Chen was his name and he got us safely to the Renaissance Yangtze. Mike's boss, John was there to greet us, waiting in the bar. We took a shower and went downstairs for dinner. We went to a restaurant with most of the procurement group. Even Maisie, the admin was there and it was a good thing. She is so valuable. She speaks Mandarin and English and translated the entire menu because the service staff at the Wang Steak house didn't speak English much at all. Very interesting foods. I'll upload some photos shortly.

This morning we had our government physicals. UPMC can take a lesson from these people. It took 30 minutes for the entire thing - Bloodwork, chest x-ray - eye exam, EKG, sonagram (the woman was brutal, she told me I have gallbladder problems so I must get that fixed before I leave Pittsburgh.

We came back to the hotel for a lovely breakfast on the Club Floor - omelet, French crossant, juice and coffee. Then took a walk to find a nail salon. We found one - they don't do acryllic nails and no one spoke English there. So we left.

Ashlee Lee came to show us the city at 1 pm. Lovely young woman, 25 years old, grew up here and her father made her take English classes - she speaks with a lovely clipped British accent. She took us to the hospital, two international grocery stores and will show us more on Friday.

Our friend, Kirk Allan checked into the hotel this afternoon. He will start his new job here tomorrow - without Denise, his lovely wife. She will come in June or July. Probably around the time I get there. . . if the house sells.

Well, I'm tired and want to post this for all to see.

Good day to you!