Friday, August 29, 2008

Whine Wine

Good morning!

It's Saturday morning and you know that means GOLF in Chinese! Mike played 18 holes yesterday at the Shanghai Country Club and today he is participating in a Westinghouse/Shaw golf tournament at the Hongqaio Golf and Tennis Club. He's a lucky man! The reason he's lucky is that he got a great deal on Callaway clubs at the Hongqaio Pearl Market. Yes, I said Pearl Market. They call it the Hongqaio Pearl Market because its in Hongqaio, a lovely "village" (as Mr. Chen our driver likes to call it). I call it a suburb - like Plum or Mt. Lebanon. I don't know why they call it the Hongqaio Pearl Market except that they do sell lovely pearl jewelry there (that's where I bought mine) but they also have Coach, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and you-name-it-you-can-get-it bags there. They have silk, cashmere, iPods, you name it - they've got it.

Anyway, this is where he got his golf clubs. Got a great deal - bag, clubs, drivers, woods, and travel bag too! Woo hoo - he IS a lucky man. His game is getting better. He sunk a 40' putt yesterday - amazing his friends and himself. And his scores have gotten better too. He's pretty consistent now. So Eric and Bobby and the rest of the K of C better watch out.

Another plus about Hongqaio is that they have a Flower Market there. Mr. Chen has taken me there twice now and I think I'm going to have to make another pilgimage out there again next week. My orchids have died! They were beautiful while they lasted - I cannot grow them here - in the Burgh or probably - anywhere. They need tropical heat and humidity but we need the air conditioning turned on here so it just doesn't work. I can go to the Flower Market to see them and admire them but I'll just dream about them.

Hongqaio is also the area near the Carrefour (French grocery store) where we go because we're foreigners. It's in Gubei. And there is a huge City Shop (the other western grocery store) near there as well. The best Israeli / Mediterrean restaurant and bakery called Haya's is on Hongmei Road - we so enjoy going there too. They have great hummus.


Today I'm talking about - oops - whining about wine! I told you the other day that we had a wine tasting the other night with Jack from Vin. I was pretty disappointed this week as he only brought one wine I thought was any good. Last month he brought some very good ones and we bought two. This time, we bought only one bottle from South Africa for our cavernous wine cellar. Please see the photo so you can see what a wine cellar looks like in China!

This week Denice and I investigated an Italian Wine Shop down. John Mallory told us about it. We followed his directions - took the long way around and realized it is close to - catty corner to the Shanghai Stadium which is right down the street from us about 4 city blocks. They did have quite a few Italian wines there and some liquor as well. The prices for liquor were decent - better than City Shop. Denice found a red and I bought a white wine.

We were chatting with some women at the American Women's Club who mentioned that sometimes the Chinese even pass fake Absolut off reducing the price. One woman told us that a friend of hers put Absolut in the freezer and it FROZE! Imagine that?

I'm not going to talk politics on this Blog. There is no sense in doing it. It will only rattle some people and they will wonder what kind of rice wine I've been drinking. So, politically speaking - make up your own mind - vote your own conscience and don't complain about it once it's done on November 5th. Wendy Painter will be the only person who knows who I vote for - she's the Judge of Election at Plum High School and I'll make a point to key her in. . .

Have a great Labor Day everyone! We don't get to celebrate it here but we'll be celebrating the Autumn Festival on September 15th. Then we hope to be jetting off to Seoul for a few days on the 29th.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

American Women's Club of Shanghai

So, as I told you, I'm very busy! It turns out that every Wednesday from 10:00 am -12:00 Noon, Denice and I jump on the Metro and ride it four stops to Huangpi Road which is the Metro stop for Xintandi (pronounced Shin Tan Dee). It's a lovely area - somewhat like Southside Works in Pittsburgh. However, the Sikumen buildings here were once located somewhere else and an architect took them all down, brick by brick and had them moved to this location where they are all two and three story buildings housing great restaurants and shops. We've been to some of the restaurants and some of the shops. We've determined what shops are too expensive for us and what restaurants are just out of our price range. We've eaten at the Latina restaurant - Brazilian Bar B Q and Luna which was a Spanish tapas. We've also bought a few items that are great!

There is a wine shop there called Vin - who is run by our good friend, Jack who comes to Shama - our housing compound - once a month for a wine tasting. Mike and I have managed to buy maybe 4-5 bottles from Jack. His prices are high - yes, much higher than the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. However, his shop is much smaller than the typical PA Wine & Spirits store and I'm sure his overhead is higher. He's very nice and trying to make a living so we give him business and stop in to see what else he's got once in a while. He gives us a 20% discount on bottles and that is good. Last night we had a wine tasting here at Shama and there were 4-5 wines - I only liked one bottle last night - a South African red wine. We bought one bottle of it. The Pino Grigio from Chile and the Reisling from Australia just were not what I'm used to - Mike didn't care for either of them either. There was a French Medoc but it was very dry and we tasted it but tossed it out. I usually like French wines but not this time. I think the South African should arrive tomorow by courier. What I wouldn't give for a nice glass of Snoqualmie Reisling. Ginny, please help me out here and drink a glass tonight?

Back to the story - anyway, the reason we travel to Xintandi is for the American Women's Club Coffee each week at the Coffee Leaf and Bean. It's not Starbucks (there is a Starbucks at Xintandi but we don't meet there). It's like Crazy Mocha in Dahntahn Pixburgh - nice neighborly feel. Good food BUT they don't know how to make a French Vanilla Coffee.

Each week we go to Coffee Bean and Leaf and meet new friends and we have lunch somewhere new and enjoy the scenery. Last week, we met Elisa DeParolis, who's husband Raffaele is an Italian diplomat. They are here from Rome. Lovely woman who is about our age and has two children - a daughter who lives in Tel Aviv and a son who lives in the Ivory Coast. Both are diplomats as well. She is lovely and she lives now in PuDong, the part of Shanghai on the other side of the Huang Pu River. We live in Puxi (pronounced Pu Shee). Anyway, she has not received her sea shipment yet but she lives in a big house and we were so happy to meet her. We have been comparing restaurants and clothes and food and she has even promised me a bottle of Marsala wine because Jack from Vin cannot even order Marsala for me. Can you imagine that? No Marsala - what is this world coming to? It is just cooking wine but we cannot buy it here so Elisa will make sure I get a bottle when her shipment comes - am I a lucky girl, or what? No, I guess the story is that once again, Mike is a lucky boy!

Yesterday we met Debbie from Philadelphia and Lynn who is from Hershey, PA. We were just a bunch of Pennsylvania girls sitting there with a lovely woman from Italy - what does that tell you? We also met Anne Lee who is the Webmaster for the American Women's Club. She was telling us that the recording secretary has left Shanghai and they are in search of a new one. SO, that is now my new job. Other than laundry, that is. I'm happy to help and I'm happy to keep my typing skills at about 75-80 WPM.

We also met Julie Richardson who is a nurse and she told us to be careful about where and what we eat. She explained that even though we are very very careful, we will no doubt acquire a parasite of some type during our stay here. That didn't go over very well with Denice or I. In fact, we have taken such steps to avoid such a thing. I am just very glad that we've got the Parkway Health Clinic and they've got Cipro. I so miss Dr. Dan Steiner and Rosie Martin in Oakmont but this place is great.

Mike and I are planning our Autum Holiday. Yes, the Chinese have an Autumn Festival - they celebrate the harvest and pass around moon cakes. You can order these specialty cakes from anywhere - the grocery stores, Starbucks, Coffee Leaf and Bean, hotels. They come in many varieties but I don't think I'm going to order them. They have some odd flavors - chocolate is good choice for me but our cross cultural expert, Rachel Hsia, tells me that red bean paste is a Chinese favorite. I somehow cannot imagine a red bean paste being any good. I hate beans and it sounds like tomato paste, doesn't it. Maybe I'll try just a taste. . .

Anyway, we are trying to plan a trip to Seoul, South Korea for September 29-October 3. This will be nice for Mike to get back to Seoul to see his Korean friends, DY and JK and I can finally get to meet Miss Lee - the fabulous administative assistant there and her handsome husband and her beautiful daughter, Rebecca. We have been in contact with them for ages. DY and JK have been to our home in Pittsburgh for dinner but I've never met Miss Lee so this will be a treat. I am also excited to visit the Korean Folk Village that Mike has visited before and see the grandfatherly gentlemen that Bill Slaman tried to impersonate lo those many years ago when we all worked for Westinghouse PSPD/NOD in Greentree. I'll be taking photos so watch for those.

Well, Denice and I are jumping in a cab for a ride to dinner. We'll be meeting Kirk and Mike at a Japanese restaurant near the Renaissance Yangzte. Mike's colleague, Da Li has made a dinner reservation for maybe 6 or 8 of us so we're all going as a group. I hope it is like the Samurai restaurant. I hope it's not too off-the-wall. I'm still sensitive regarding food, how spicy it is and how clean the restaurant is. Da doesn't seem to care about such things - he just worries about quantity!

So, for now - Bon Appetito!

Clothes Clothes Clothes

Good afternoon everyone!

I know, I've not been keeping up with my Blogging. I'm sorry - I'll try to do better. I know you are just itching to get your hands on this very important information. So I'm going to try and update today and then again tomorrow and maybe again on Saturday. So much is going on. . .

Clothes is the hot topic this week!

See the photo of my washer/dryer. Yes, it's small and it is one contiguous piece of machinery - Tim the Tooltime Taylor has nothing on me, my friends. . .

Yes, before I got here, it took Mike 8 hours to do a load of laundry. Since I've been here, we have condensed that to about 2.5 hours. Thirty minutes to wash in cold water with Tide liquid and Downey April Fresh - although I really miss my Downey calla lilly, you cannot get it here. So I have to make do. Then once the wash cycle is finished you need to dry it in "less" heat for about 2 hours. I never let it go the entire time because then you get a wrinkled mess and have to iron the wrinkles out and of course with all the permanent press clothes we have, like dockers and polo shirts, it takes longer to iron than it does to wash them all over again. So now I can pretty much do two loads in an afternoon, if I'm staying home which doesn't happen that much anymore because I'm very very busy. Read on. . .

Clothes is the topic this week. Last week, Denice and I went shopping. She's about 4'11" tall and very petite and you all know I'm NOT. So, we go to 3 department stores in our general vicinity which is about 3 good-sized city blocks away. You can access them all from underneath in the Xujiahui (pronounced Shu Shaw Way) Subway Station. It is ideal - then you are out of the sun and the heat isn't nearly as bad and well; there are no buses, cars, taxis, bicycles or motorcycles riding on the sidewalks. Therefore, you are not taking your life in your hands or someone elses' hands. So, it is much safer under ground.

So we go to this nice department store close-by that has a Sephora store on the first floor as well as a MAC cosmetics counter along with Estee Lauder, Clinique, L'Occitane too. We ride the escalator to the 3rd floor to look around. I completely decide right then and there that I'm not going to even think about purchasing any clothes here because I'm not a size 0 or a 2 or even a Size 4 - Ha Ha - so I'm just checking out the fashions which are amazing - some funky, some odd, some elegant, and then there are some that I wouldn't give away. Enough said.

So we wander around and Denice sees this very nice silky black and white and gold (yes, it's Steelers' colors but maybe not like you'd wear to Heinz Field). It's way too nice to wear to Heinz Field. The clerk takes one look at her and runs to the back of the closet and pulls out this fabric rolled up into a ball and unfurls it. It's lovely but its a Size Large. No problem - Denice doesn't seem to be fazed by that fact. She goes to try it on - it looks cute and she decides to purchase the garment. The clerks here speak NO English.

So she goes to pay the cashier for the dress (here in China, the casher has a very important job) Only the cashier can accept cash for purchases - we haven't figured out why yet. So then Denice goes back to the clerk and gives her the receipt and the clerk hands her the bag and says something in Chinese mentioning the number 4 and points up. So Denice and I figure we need to go to the 4th floor for something. So we proceed upstairs where NO ONE speaks English again and no one understands what we want. We don't know what we want.

However, on each floor is a man or woman who stands guard at the escalator and; well, we don't know what he or she does. Maybe he / she monitors theft or maybe he/she is the risk manager or maybe he/she is the boss. Who knows. So we approach a man who is standing there and Denice is convinced that he thinks she wants to return the dress. She doesn't but he takes us downstairs - back to the department where she bought the dress and accosts the clerk.

Now, the clerk has no idea how she will explain to us what is right OR what is wrong. So, I pull how my handy-dandy China Mobile cell phone and call the Westinghouse Office and ask Maisie - the fabulous administrative assistant - to help us out. I hand the phone to the sales clerk who promptly talks to Maisie in raised tones. I look at Denice and she looks at me and the voices are raised and lowered and pretty soon people are staring and Denice is convinced we have created an international disturbance.

This happened when the Olympics were going on and we didn't want to call attention to ourselves so we waited until the sales clerk calmed down and handed me the phone. I meekly said hello to Maisie again and she laughed and said, "they just want to give you a gift." Oh my goodness - that is all????? And here we were totally convinced we were in BIG BIG trouble. So the sales clerk takes us upstairs to the 4th floor to a table set up for this specific promotion. Denice presents her receipt and they ask her to choose a card. The clerk scratches off the scratch-off space on the card and lo and behold - Denice has won - Ta Da - a bottle of SHAMPOO! We howled! Everyone looked at us and laughed and we walked away. Another day - another shopping experience with Denice and Annie.

So, then I get home and I'm thinking - where can I get some Liz Claiborne clothes here? All I want is Liz Claiborne pants and tops and skirts. I'm not asking for the moon - I'm sure they are made here - if they would just open a Liz Clairborn Outlet here in Shanghai, the thousands upon thousands of Western women who live her could buy great clothes at decent prices because they would be sold BEFORE they are shipped to The States and before the Tax Man gets a hold of them. So, I go to and send them an email. Darn it - I get an email back the following email - - -

"Thank you for contacting Customer Support at

Our website does not currently ship to destinations outside the United
States. In addition, we do not accept payment with an international
credit card or a credit card with a billing address outside the United
States. We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause but our
current systems dictate these limitations.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and
thank you again for contacting Customer Support at"

So, I wrote them back another email and they have NOT responded. I'm hoping they are trying to figure out how I can provide their marketing department with expert advice. At least, I'm hoping I'll get a discount out of the deal.
Then last Thursday I went to the Fabric Market to pick up my charcoal gray pantsuit. Alas, it turns out that the tailor thought I wanted a dove gray pantsuit and it was only half finished. Oh well, that's fine - I'm going to keep it because the cashmere feels great and it looks lovely. So I ordered some sleeveless shells at my favorite blouse tailor at the other end of the floor and I picked them all up today.
Perfection! I'm very pleased.

So sometimes things do work out and all is not for naught. . .

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meetings and New Clubs

Hello from Shanghai!

Last week was pretty crazy. My friend, Denise Allan, wife of Kirk, sister of Rob Donatucci arrived last Saturday. Kirk works at JPMO with Mike and back in the day - 1973-1986, Mike, Kirk, Rob and I all worked at Westinghouse PSPD, NOD, NSD - whatever. Anyway, we've been having fun exploring all week.

Sunday was 2008 Olympics Day - a group of us went to the Argentina/Australia and the Ivory Coast/Serbia soccer match at Shanghai Stadium - about 4 blocks from our apartment. We walked and were drenched before we passed the first side street. Torrential downpours and frequent lightening strikes forced us to stop and wait under an overhang. Once we got to the Stadium, we needed our ticket just to cross the street to enter the stadium grounds. Then the push was on. The Chinese push everywhere and all the time - you have NO personal space here. So it got a wee bit hairy as we approached the gate to security.

I have to admit, I was smart - I bought a small fancy umbrella once I got here - Kate had brought her dad a Totes-like umbrella from home and I brought my Ralph Lauren red USA umbrella from the States so Mike, Kate and I all had a small umbrella. The others all had large full-size umbrellas and the security group made them leave them in the security tent. . . along with hundreds of others so they could claim them once the game was over.

The security tent consisted of the typical x-ray machine and an adorable Golden Retreiver who sniffed at everything that came off the belt of the machine. He was adorable and the staff was kind although they would scream through megaphones in Chinese and we had no clue what they were saying. They were efficient and looked in purses but there were no smiles - it was all business. There are police everywhere. I've been very impressed with the security in Shanghai, since I got here.

The food in the stadium left a lot to be desired - where were my nachos? What about M & M's - a hot dog? No Primanti's! Ugh - what we did see and smell was something else. I saw a lady two seats away with a foil bag of popcorn and it didn't smell like the popcorn we know - it smelled like corn from a bag of frozen corn. The hot dogs were just down right gross - no buns - they are in these plastic cases - and they peel them to eat them - the smell is terrible - the man beside me was eating four (4) of them. I guess without the bun, you need more of them. . . I drank a Coke - Mike brought me a cold one - no ice but it was chilled nonetheless. I didn't need much else to make the event special for me.

Mike had purchased these tickets for the three of us from Craigslist - Yes friends, they have Cragislist here too. He bought them from Andy - a guy from Detroit who lives and works at Bosch, a car part manufacturer in Suzhou - about 45 minutes away. He paid RMB 680 for each ticket - face value was RMB 150 - so Andy made out on this deal. Argentina beat Australia 1-0 and Ivory Coast beat Serbia 4-2. We left before the end of the second game - it was hot and humid and we were tired.

Monday, Denise had to go prove that Denise Donatucci and Denise Allan are the same person so she can prove she's married to Kirk so she can get her Permanent Residency Permit so she can stay here. So she had to go to the US Consulate just like I did. Then Tuesday she went off to the Residency Bureau to prove all that and get her transit card. It will come back this week along with her passport. She carries a copy of her passport with her as do I - 24/7 - I put the real thing in the safe back at the apartment.

Monday I went to the JC Mandarin hotel - took two (2) subway trains to get there and a cab just so I could join the Shanghai Expatriate Assocociation. Lovely get-together with maybe 75-100 women who are in the same boat I'm in - following their husbands to Shanghai to work. Theresa said that there are usually hundreds of women at these monthly coffees. It cost me RMB 300 (membership dues for 2008-2009) and after a lovely brunch later, I walked out of there with an ENJOY card - yes, K of C members, they have them here in Shanghai too! Can you believe it? Although they cost roughly $42 here so tell your friends who are crying the blues about the price in the Burgh to quit their belly aching! However, I did receive a bottle of wine for buying the ENJOY card and after my friend, Theresa recruited Sue and Julie from Michigan to join, I got another bottle. Spanish Reds - that's okay - I'll either drink it and like it or cook with it.

I met some lovely new friends, after the brunch, we moved onto Starbucks and I met Julia from England and Jeannine from France. Judy from Philadelphia showed up and they all went to play bridge while I grabbed a cab to the Fabric Market to meet up Kate and Mike so she could pick up her new clothes. They ALL fit perfectly and I hope I'll have some photos later to post.

Monday night we went to a wonderful Italian restaurant - DaMarco's in the Grand Gateway Mall. Good food.

Tuesday was a bad day - Kate's departure - and we were up early waiting for Mr. Chen to take us to the airport. Needless to say, it was emotional. After she left for the gate, I proceeded to the ladies room in anticipation of the long trip back to the apartment. I stood in line waiting for a stall and lo and behold, this petite Chinese woman comes barging in right in front of me. I remembered the conversation I had the day before with my new Expat friends and they said, "you need to make your own space." So, I said to her, "My turn, please" and she quickly moved behind me. Task accomplished! Nice bathroom too! Tuesday turned out to be a very down day - I haven't had too many of these since I've been here and that is good. I think it's better to be busy and not think about what you all are doing on the other side of the world. Kate leaving just put things into perspective - I've got to snap out of it. And I will. . .

Wednesday, Denise and I jumped the subway to explore Xintandi where the American Woman's Club was holding their weekly coffee. Lots of coffee - lots of tea ---- We had our RMB 300 all ready to join there too. They meet at the Coffee Bean and Leaf at 10:00 am. Lo and behold, we saw Sue and Julie there and met Myscha, the president and Stephanie who was taking membership applications. Luna was the lovely Spanish restaurant we ate lunch at and then we were off to explore the rest of the cute shops there. Lots of things we couldn't think about buying. There is a lot of money here in Shanghai...we just don't have any of it. We stopped to see Jack at Vin - the vendor who holds our Shama wine tastings once a month. I ordered a bottle of Marsala so I can cook something nice for Mike. He had some lovely Reislings but none from Washington or Oregon - mostly Australia and New Zealand and France. He's bringing one of those for next week's tasting. Then we stopped at Staples to get some mailing labels and look for some pen refills for Mike - turns out they don't carry them and the lovely clerk wrote an address down for us to search for but we didn't have the time. Another day, another adventure. Denise was looking for index cards. She's determined to learn Chinese in 30 days or less - lol but they didn't have any so she'll have to make her own flashcards out of paper. Resourceful, that's what we are.

Thursday was Innoculation Day for Mike and I. We had to get more shots so Denise went along for the ride and Mr. Chen delivered us to Parkway Clinic and Haya's for lunch. Haya's is the Israeli restaurant we've found. Great hummus and babganoush and pita bread! In fact, they have a fabulous bakery and we loaded up on apple crumb cake and muffins and peach croissants for breakfast. Yum Yum. Then we took Mike back to work and Mr. Chen dropped us at Carrefour for some quick shopping. We were safely enscounced back at Shama by 2:30 and before the frist downpour came. We had 3 storms that afternoon and evening with lots of lightenting and thunder. I love thunderstorms. We lost cable and couldn't watch The Olympics, but we had a grand light show.

Friday, Denise and I ventured out to the beauty salon. Everywhere I've been, every time I've encountered Western women, I've asked them, "who does your hair and nails". More than often, I've heard Eric's Paris. So, I did some investigation and found one of his shops closeby on Heng Shan Road. One subway stop away and a few blocks walk. Actually, it's on the way to Sasha's - our Friday pizza favorite. Stuck between a Starbucks and a Papa John's Pizza Parlor. I made an appointment with Beatrice who did a great job on my haircut and it was reasonable RMB 400 (about $57) and since the shop was clean and well lit with lots of English magazines, we decided to have other things done too. I had a pedicure for RMB 180 (about $25) and Denise got a manicure RMB 140 (about $20). I didn't have my color done and I don't even know how much that is yet - I have to have it done no matter what so money is no object - hehehehe. Anyway, we thought it was pretty reasonable. In fact, the other day when we were in Xintandi, we happened upon the Vidal Sassoon Academy and stopped in to find that their prices were exhorbitant. So I'm sure Mike and Kirk are pleased we've found a good place to go at reasonable prices and we can take the subway which cost about RMB 3 which is about $.40 - yes 40 CENTS. Such a deal. Take that Port Authority . .

Mike and I have come down with some cold symptoms so he didn't golf yesterday - we were just slugs and we did nothing so that pretty much accounts for my week.

Michael Phelps has been the hot topic of conversation here among Western / US people. We are proud as peacocks about him and the other USA medal winners. Although we cannot get any English commentary on the Olympics here, it pretty much runs on CCTV all day. I can see swimming meets and gymnastic tournaments and scull races - I can see who wins - I just can't understand what the commentators are saying about it. We are anxious to see if the USA gets to the Women's soccer finals and we have tickets to the Men's soccer Bronze medal game to be held in Shanghai next Friday night. I'll be taking my USA flag again - I don't go to a sporting event without it. So if you are lucky to get the Bronze medal match on NBC - watch for us. I don't think our seats for this game are as good as the first game though.

Speaking of sporting events - what happened to the Steelers? In Canada of all places. . . and losing to Buffalo - Linda Sherry Larson - comments, please?

Ginny Zapsic Flick tells me the new quarterback is not all that great - he used to play for the Jaguars. Brian Lefkovitz - She should know, she lives there. I wonder if he turns out to be another Neil O'Donnell . . .

Have a great week. I hope to hear from you once you read this. It's my link to "the outside world". I crave your emails so keep them coming. . .



Friday, August 8, 2008

Sightseeing in Suzhou, China

Friday - 08-08-08 - Olympic Opening Day! We decided to travel to Suzhou, China - the silk capital of China to experience touring alone - without an English guide. What were we thinking? No, really - we hopped on the Metro at 7:30 am - RUSH HOUR - and went 8 stops to the Shanghai Railway Station to get our Fast Train to Suzhou. The metro car was jammed - we didn't even have to hold on because there were so many people. Security is amazing. The Chinese are taking no precautions when it comes to safety. We've seen many officers in brown uniforms - traffic cops - and officers in blue uniforms - regular policemen using wands and checking large bags and today we saw men in camouflage - they were helping checking tickets and putting bags in the scanners. The small shops in the Metro stations have been closed for about 3 days and will remain so until after the Olympics. You can usually buy some food or small electronics in this little shops/kiosks but now they are locked up with what I call bumper stickers across the doors - like that will really keep people out. . .

Anyway, at the train station, we had to put our purses through the scanner move to the waiting area to wait for our train to be called. We got there quite early so we had about 40 minutes to wait. What a madhouse. Whole families traveling with taped up suitcases and boxes and children. No animals.

Then the train was called and you would have thought someone was giving away money. Run for the exits - thousands of people. Thank goodness we bought tickets in advance and had seats already allocated to us so we were good. There are so many Chinese people that they violate your space all the time - when I say that I don't mean anything mean by it - I just mean that in the States, you can pretty much stand there without someone touching you or brushing by you or hogging the arm rest. Here - all bets are off. There was a woman sitting beside me with a young daughter who needed her hair re-braided. Both the mother and the child were putting combs and hair ribbons and barretts on my tray table the entire trip to Suzhou. I didn't bother me much but I find it so amusing. The children are so interested in touching our hair because it isn't like theirs - it's not black and straight.

Once we got there I was concerned about getting around. The guys on Mike's team persuaded him from going on a bus with a tour guide. It is costly - it would have cost us about 2100 RMB or about $291 just for the tour bus with the guide and there is no guarantee we'd have an English guide. So Mike and Kate opted for the "let's just get there and find an English driver". Scary to me. It worked out great. We spent about $35 instead and he was fine. His English was pretty good and he was funny. Took us to a Buddhist Pagoda (Ann, Kate and Mike), #2 Silk Factory (where the ladies are pulling pure silk together to make the "down" inside a silk quilt), Tiger Hill (construction on the pagoda at the top of the hill began in 959 A.D., It has a 3 degree 59' lean - just like the leaning Tower of Pisa) and the Lingering Garden (music provided by these lovely dressed Chinese couple playing antique musical instruments). Also check out the beautiful re-cycling container. I want one for my living room!
I'm having trouble posting photos - I don't know what I'm doing wrong but they don't always come out the way I post them. I guess practice makes perfect.
Well, off to Brunch with the boys of Westinghouse. Should be a good time. I laugh so hard everytime I'm with them.
I'd also like to welcome Denise Allan today - 8-9-08 at 1:35 on Delta. She's married to Kirk. Mike and I and Kirk and Denise go back a long time. As do John and Joy Mallory. Mike/Kirk/John/Joy and I all used to work together at (W) PSPD/NOD in Greentree. Denise's brother, Rob Donatucci worked with us as well. Ah, the good old days. . .
Stay tuned - tomorrow, we all venture out to the Shanghai Stadium where we'll see Australia play Venezuela play soccer - I cannot call it football!
Hey - the Steelers played tonight - Winning 16-10 over the Eaglets from Philly. What happened to Charlie Batch - please tell me it's not true!

Shopping with Kate AND Mike

Wednesday, Mr. Chen took Kate and I to the Renaissance Yantze so she could meet the catering manager. We had a lovely breakfast and then met the sales manager who showed us the property. Then we were off to the knock-off markets at the Hongqiao Pearl Market. When we got there, the store I've been to twice had their curtain drawn. I peeked in and the woman wasn't there. Then a man came and said there was a huge police presence and she was in the back room. He opened the curtain and we entered and he opened the false door to The Back Room where Kate bought two Coach bags for some good friends. Then she opened The Back Back Room and we were amazed at the beautiful large leather Gucci and Prada bags. Not in our price range. We went downstairs and she bought two packages of chopsticks - 20 sets in all for about US$12. Then we went to see Alina, the Pearl Goddess who made my scattered string of pearls and earings two weeks ago. She remembered what I had bought. I was amazed. She was whining at some cheap German tourists but she made a string and earrings for Kate and some earrings for some friends of hers.

We jumped back in the van for the short trip to visit Mike's office and Kate got to see the "company cafeteria". I've already been there and had NO desire to see it again. . . nor to smell it again. . . actually, I don't want to experience it again ever. So Mr. Chen took us to our favorite Israeli restaurant and then home so Mike could change clothes. Then off to #1 Fabric Market so Mike could get measured for some dress shirts. He ordered five and they'll be ready next Wednesday - usually a week leadtime. I guess I'll just have to grab a cab and go down there to pick them up and maybe pick up a little something for myself along the way. Then off to Yuan Garden so we could take more photos and pick up some additional gifts for Kate's friends. She's got so many! We saw lots of interesting things here.

Shopping with Kate

Tuesday we went to the #2 Fabric Market with my friend, Theresa DeVito and Jill, Katherine and Jonathan Fung (their husband and father, Raymond is Chinese working with Westinghouse and they are from Charlotte, North Carolina where Jill plays in the Charlotte Symphony and teaches cello and Jonathan will be transferring to UNC Greensboro for music. Katharine will be a junior in high school this Fall.) We had a great time - I picked up one blouse and Kate had 3 more made and a skirt by a lovely woman named Geng. I'll show my new items soon. We had such a great time. Her daughter designed a beautiful qinpao on a mannequin and Kate tried it on. I think I'll buy one for her for Christmas. Then, we were on our way to the 3rd floor to pick up my slacks and never got there because Kate found two - count them - TWO - 2 - cashmere coats she just fell in love with and we ordered them both. Both for about US $114. We'll pick them all up on Sunday after Mass. Many thanks to Theresa for her bargaining lessons - Kate is now ruthless and won't even talk to people who don't come near her offer price.

We had lunch at a very famous Dim Sum restaurant in Yuan Garden called the Hanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant. Bill Clinton and many other famous people have eaten Dim Sum there. This restaurant has been in operation for over 107 years. They even have other restaurants in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. It is so popular that people come from kilometers around to sample the steamed dumplings which are sort of like pierogi or ravioli. We ordered some with shrimp and some with vegetables and spring rolls that weren't rolls at all but came in a triangle shape - something like a spanikopita. Very tasty and very interesting.

Tuesday night we went to the USA Men's Basketball game - USA versus Australia - we left at the beginning of the 4th period so we don't know who won. It was a great time. They did the wave and the arena was filled. The Chinese LOVE NBA basketball - they LOVE Yao Ming and they LOVE Kobe Bryant. He had his own cheering section right down in front of us.

Kate Lynch Lands in Shanghai!

Kate ARRIVED Sunday evening safe and sound! Monday morning, our driver, Mr. Chen took us to the flower market and to the Chinese immigration office where Mike and I had our physicals last April. This is where the ultrasound technician found my gallstones. I wanted to present her a little thank you gift for finding my stomach problem and giving me the time to have the surgery in the States. She was lovely and so appreciative. I don't think many people stop back to this intimidating government location. The entire staff knew we were there as she was thanking us and thanking us profusely. Sophia, the young lady from Fraggomen, the immigration attorney's office met us there and became our translator. She told us that the staff is not permitted to accept gifts. She then took us "to their leader" who we think is their boss. He was not dressed in scrubs but in a military uniform and he spoke some English. I explained why we had come and he told me he would let her keep the gift because it was not large and nothing significant - just some lavender bath products from Bath & Body Works. I've included a photo so you can see how happy she is.

Friday, August 1, 2008

This week in China


It's been an eventful week here. I've been very busy trying to keep up with the Chinese - they are wonderful people. The Chinese nationals I come in contact with daily are phenomenal. So kind and so willing to help in any way.

Sunday and Monday I h

Tuesday was a lot of fun. My friend, Theresa DeVito (her husband, Paul works with (W) in the Consortium Office). Mike works in the JPMO (Joint Procurement Management Office). Anyway, Theresa needed to pick up a jacket she had made at the tailor so her driver, Jack, picked me up and off we went to pick up her friend, Judy at her apartment in Times Square.

It turns out that Judy's husband, George, works at Tyco Electronics. They are from Philadelphia. Well, it turns out my good friend, Debbie Reid Wallace, Beaver Class of 72 lives in Philadelphia now AND works for Tyco Electronics. Debbie was in Beijing last Spring but in Switzerland last year. I think that is where she heard his name because he went to Switzerland. It IS a Small, small world.

So off to the fabric markets/tailors we go. We get to the tailor that made their Chanel jacket and I get measured for a pair of slacks in a crepe fabric for $16. Then we're off to another tailor where I was measured for a lovely white cotton blouse - tone on tone with 3/4 sleeves and pearl buttons. Beautiful tucking in the front and back - $18. Then off to another tailor where I was measured for a turquoise linen blouse/jacket with long sleeves and French cuffs. The lining in the neckline and cuffs is lime green and the buttons on the cuffs are turquoise and lime Chinese frogs. Ed Gillett, I know you are making some wise crack about that! All these clothes will be finished next Tuesday the 5th when Kate will be here and we'll get her some suits and dresses. It's going to be such fun!

You should see the cashmere! Rust, plum, green, black, grey, white - OMG - and the designs - you can see Chanel, Lacoste, Burberry, they are all copied here. I've been told to get measured for my coat soon because the prices will go up and up the closer to winter we get.

Then on Wednesday, my wonderful driver, Mr. Chen, took me on a shopping spree of Europe - he came to get me at 10 and we went to the French grocery store - Carrefour and the German grocery store - Metro which is like Sam's Club or Costco, you need a card and then to IKEA. We had a great time. He practices his English and I practice saying all the Chinese street names.

Thursday and Friday this week, Mike and I had intensive Cross Cultural Training with Rachel Hsia, from Cartus - the relocation company. Rachel has a great background. She's got a Masters Degree in Information Technology from the University of Pittsburgh so we chatted quite a bit about Pittsburgh. She was raised in South Carolina and she can turn on that Southern accent Miss Edie! I laughed and laughed!

Very interesting experiences. We met with Ms. Spring Liu who taught us about Chinese history and customs/manners. Her background was amazing. She worked for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington and spent some time in the military. Beautiful woman.

Then we met a Mr. Kai Kim Yin. He spent 25 years with Pepsi and has also owned/operated/managed many companies - he is 70 years old but you'd never know it. Very likeable man and very funny. I enjoyed his experiences.

Friday we met Jennifer Dawson who has lived in China for 18 years. She is a real estate broker and she also has copyrighted these fabulous "taxi cards" that you take in your purse when you want to go somewhere and show the taxi driver the name of the place you want to go and he takes you there because the words are in English (for you) and in Chinese (for the taxi driver). Very innovative! She taught us all about the ins and outs of living in Shanghai - where to get groceries - what stores to shop at - what hospitals to go to. I'm feeling better and better about being here. She is also convinced I'll enjoy meeting the many expats at coffees and teas and that the Australian women are wild and wonderful! So much fun. She provided us with brochures on the American Chamber of Commerce, The Shanghai Expatriates Association and the American Women's Club. All important groups to join. I will probably do it all. You know me!

Well, I'd better get a move on - Mike will be home from the golf course soon. He's really enjoying playing here and he's doing so much better - wonder why that is?????

It will only feel like 101 Degrees today so that is much cooler - thunderstorms tonight. Wonder where we will go for dinner.

I'm attaching some photos of our apartment.

Kate arrives Sunday night so I might be busy next week. I'll try and update though.