Sunday, November 30, 2008

This Is Better Than A Drive-In Movie

Good morning,

The St. Andrew's Ball was absolutely FANTASTIC! Being from Beaver, Pennsylvania - U.S.A., I'd never been to a Ball and when Sandy suggested we all go, I thought, "Oh sure - I'll never make it with the Brits". Boy was I wrong on that count.
It all started last Wednesday when Sandy signed us up for Scottish Dancing Lessons. It was at the Blarney Stone Restaurant on Dongping Lu. Lovely little pub. Irish by nature and we had Mr. Chen take us there after work. We ordered - I had the fish and chips with a wee salad and it was great! The others had Cottage Pie and said it was good - large portions. Then Gus showed up and he began teaching. There were maybe about 12 Westerners and about 18 Chinese who were fabulous dancers. I got a little angry when I couldn't do the Dashing White Sargeant (name of the dance) because I was in the wrong position. But the Triumph (name of the dance) was a piece of cake. The Gay Gordon (another name of a dance - no kidding) was very difficult. Lots of "move 3 steps forward and 3 steps back and turn and spin the girl and polka - YES - POLKA. Can you believe it? Lots of fun - lots of sore feet.

Saturday I had my hair done and a manicure at Hair Evolution. I really like it there. Jenny did my manicure and I don't know who did my hair but the head massage was divine. I almost fell asleep. There is a hair dresser there, Neil is his name - every time I go there he always asks me, "Have you had lunch yet?" He's trying to learn English - he's got a primer and there are photos and well, learning English is as hard as learning Chinese. So I always tell him, No, I haven't had lunch yet. Denice and Kirk stopped in for a wee bit of pampering as well. Needless to say, Denice said this is a cultural thing and I need to do some more research to understand what she meant by it. I'll get back to you on that. . .

So, I figure Saturday night will be a complete disaster because there will be hundreds of people there and no one will have had the benefit of the Wednesday night lessons. I was wrong again. Yes, there were hundreds there but some of them had been there before and so it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
The first photo is one of Sandy all dressed in his kilt. The second is a photo of our group. There is Mike - Denice - Kirk - Devin - Sandy - Ned - Sophie. Ned is from England and Sophie is from Madison, Wisconsin. Sophie's got coffee in her cup - - - yeah, sure. So many nice people we've met in Shanghai.
We saw some of our dancing class friends who stopped by to greet us. The hotel is amazing - there was a wedding reception going on and we saw the groom being escorted down the aisle at the reception - he was blindfolded. He had to walk up the stairs to the stage and pick out his bride from about 5 beautiful Chinese women. WOW - didn't stick around to see if he picked the right one.
The fashions were amazing - the kilts even more so. The Scottish Lads were gorgeous but we saw some gorgeous Lassies as well. Lots of different tartans - red, green, black, blue.
I took a photo of the Guinness Girls, missed the Bailey's girls but didn't miss the Bailey's! Annamae - I even got to take a bottle home! It leaked in my purse though.
The food was interesting to say the least. The appetizer was a cold one - seared scallops with a small pastry thing holding some lettuce leaves together. Then the duck breast with a puff pastry of sauteed mushrooms and peas. Some small potatoes. There were rolls and soda bread too. Oh, and cheesecake with raspberry ice cream. The wine was free flow as was the Bailey's, the Johnny Walker Red and a bottle of red wine was on the table but no one seemed to grab that one. I took the Bailey's as I said before and Denice grabbed what was left of the Johnny Walker Red (they all toasted quite a bit - not me!). I toasted with Bailey's and took the photos. Of course, since I took the photos, there are none of me - although I think Sandy took some. Maybe I'll upload those later.
Anyway the carriages were supposed to arrive at 1 am but we grabbed a Shanghai taxi with Kirk and Denice about 12:45 am. We finally got home about 1:30 - so much traffic on the roads in the wee hours here - cannot understand that - I don't think I'm supposed to understand it.
Sunday we did another British thing - went to see Quantum of Solace - Bond, James Bond - 007. It was great. Saw it in English with Chinese subtitles. Great movie if you like action and suspense. So glad I saw the previous one. The Russian woman in this one was stunning as was the British woman who dies - ooops - sorry about that - you won't care - she's just a flash in the pan.
Have a great week - Go Steelers!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Good morning everyone!

After a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at the Renaissance Yangtze, I'd like to share some great photos with you.

Left to right -

The first photo is Mr. Chen and his lovely wife, Li and their adorable son, Haotian. He really liked the pizza and the sushi. What a combination! The second photo is of me and Mr. Cui's beautiful daughter, Yijie. She is 9 years old and I saw her eating the strawberries off of the dense chocolate cake. The third photo is of David and (l to r) Hyde, Hattie and David's son, Yongqi. He wanted to leave his coat on throughout dinner and was not happy when his mother won that battle; but he finally "warmed" up to us and he liked all the fruit, pears and watermelon - all familiar things to him and to China. By the end of the night, he was running around with Hyde and having a ball.

We so enjoyed meeting the drivers' beautiful wives and children. Haotian greeted Denice and Lucienne with "Happy Thanksgiving". It was absolutely precious!

On behalf of the Westinghouse PSS Team, I'd like to thank everyone for participating in our Thanksgiving Celebration last night. We are so thankful for having each other here in Shanghai. This is a great team and we all get along very well. Last night, Mark gave the "blessing" and summed it up perfectly and of course, it brought me to tears. Thanks John for letting us put this altogether!

We are extremely thankful for our Chinese family and it was so nice to have them with us. Without these wonderful people, this power plant just couldn't happen. They are instrumental to our lives here; whether Mr. Chen, Mr. Cui and David are driving us to work or shopping or whether Maisie is coordinating everything or translating for us - we could not be here without them. I'm sorry Tony and his daughter couldn't make it - we'll have to have another party soon.

The food was great. So many different varieties. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and the cranberries were warm and were rather good. I sure hope Kate is buying up the Ocean Spray Orange Cranberry Sauce for me on Giant Eagle shelves - I want 3 at least. I really miss it. It's the closest to Mike's mom's recipe I can find.

I also want to say that I'm thankful to the Chinese government for giving us the opportunity for this cultural experience. Everyone we've met has been most supportive and kind and thoughtful. From the staff here at Shama where we live, to the security guards to the staff at Best Buy.

So today we are grateful and thankful for all of them and for the sacrifice they make for us each and every day. The Chinese work long hours - some of them work 7 days a week. They are amazing and I'm happy to be here.

BUT, on another note - I'm so happy to be going home - home to family, friends, colleagues, neighbors. We leave Shanghai in 14 days and we'll be back in The Burgh in 17 days.

All I want for Christmas is The Burgh! But I want the cake on the front of the December issue of Bon Appetit for my birthday! Kate, we'll go buy the ingredients. . .

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Time for Giving . . .

Good afternoon all,

Well, I'm gearing up for my trip home, and I've been out shopping as well. It's not nearly as cold as it is in The Burgh - it was 59 today - very overcast but the sun did come out for a little bit.

Today I purchased some of the gifts for my Giving Bag. I needed to do this because the bag is due to be returned tomorrow.

In America, we'd call this - our Angel Tree gifts.

This bag is a program of the Shanghai Community Center in Partnership with the Shanghai Charity Foundation. The children who benefit from these gifts are migrant workers' children. They go to a migrant workers' school. I know that my friend, Jane was looking to volunteer to teach in a migrant school. I don't think the government supports these schools.

As I understand it, in China if you are a migrant worker and your family moves with you, your children cannot go to the local schools. The school across the street from Shama is where children who are residents of Shanghai attend. I think the migrant workers schools are pretty far out in the suburbs.

If you don't want to shop, or can't shop because you are too busy OR if you are afraid to shop, then you can give the coordinator 150 RMB and they will do the shopping for you. I was afraid to shop until I talked with my Chinese friends here at Shama. They helped me a lot in what to buy.

The migrant workers' children are poor children. I understand that migrant workers perform some of the jobs that we see everyday on the streets of Shanghai. Maybe the street sweeper or a cleaner in a store or a restaurant. I think that migrant workers might also sometimes be ayis (pronounced EYE EES) too; which is what we would call a "maid" in the US. Lots of my friends here have ayis. Mike and I do not. We live in a "serviced apartment" where they come every day like a housekeeper in a hotel. I wanted to shop and cook for us myself.

I have a girl whose name is Wu Ling. She is 14 years old and she weighs about 110 pounds. She is about 4 feet, 9 inches tall. She wears a size 24 shoe.

So, I bought her a winter knit hat (black/white/purple), similar to the ones the skiers wear in the US. I also bought her some black gloves and some socks. I also had some shampoo and soap and a shower scrubbie so I tossed them in too. Then I bought her a pair of red (because red means good luck in China) Converse All Star tennis shoes. Tomorrow, I'll run by the Pearl Market to pick up a sweat suit.

When I see Converse All Star tennis shoes, all I can do is think of my cousin, Ellen. A little story about this.

Many years ago, I was visiting my Chicago cousins and my cousin Ellen was a star runner on her high school track team. She so wanted a pair of running shoes and my uncle told her he would run downtown to Maxwell Street in Chicago to buy her a pair of shoes. I knew she didn't want the black high-top shoes that my uncle was suggesting. She wanted a pair of sleek shoes that would enable her to run faster and leap buildings in a single bound. So, when I saw these shoes, Ellen is who I thought about.

Anyway, Wendy at the Concierge Desk said I did a good job. I put the hair things in some little bags and tied them with red ribbon. I hope she enjoys these items. I just hope she gets all the items I put in there.

Also, today - I took the minutes at the November American Women's Club meeting. I called Malone's American Pub two days ago and tried to explain to the young lady there that the American Women's Club would be there at 9:30 am this morning. She kept telling me that the restaurant didn't open until 11:30. Of course, I knew that but Lisa, the former recording secretary, told me to let them know a few days before the meeting so I did call them. When I wasn't sure they would be prepared for me, I asked one of the concierges at the desk downstairs call them yesterday. He told me he would take care of it. This morning when I arrived at 9:15, they were all ready for me. With coffee and everything!

I set up the laptop and Kathy and I waited for the others to join us. Usually these meetings take about 2 hours but today there was a skeleton crew and we were done by 11. I had asked our driver to come for me at 12:15 but I had to call back and request an earlier pick up time and a change of location. Kathy and I walked over to The Ritz Carlton Hotel and had a Starbucks there. You know, I don't know what I'd do without him. The laptop is so heavy and I just knew I couldn't carry it all around Shanghai with the other errands I had to do today.

He dropped Kathy off at her place and then we were off to the Fabric Market to talk with Ball about the skirt I had made. Guess who I saw there? Yep, you guessed it - Margaret and Lisa. Margaret helped me convey my concerns to Ball about the skirt. Poor Ball - she thinks I'm 25 years old! I told her we needed to lengthen the skirt considerably and she will have it ready for me on Friday. She also said she can drop it off at my hotel (giggle) so we'll have to see if that happens. She has a friend in our neighborhood so it is not a problem - Mei wen ti! Then we stopped by the lady who has silk scarves and met a lovely Chinese / American family from New York City. We also met a lovely British woman who only had Pounds Sterling on her. She was wondering where she could get her money changed and we had to give her the bad news that she needed her British passport to do that at the bank - any bank. She would have to go back to her hotel to get it. It has been suggested to us many times to keep your Passport or a copy thereof with you at all times. The authorities have the right to ask you for it. I keep a copy as I'm so afraid of losing the original thing. Especially after Jane had her purse stolen. But I digress, again. . .

Then we went to the Commodities Market over by Yu Yuan Garden. This place is AMAZING! It's got a little bit of everything and a lot of anything you'd like; Christmas decorations, jewelry, clothes, socks, hats, hair ties and barrettes. We had 50 minutes to look around and purchase everything we needed or wanted - as Margaret says. Needless to say, it was my second time there and I could not find the cards for the places I had been to before. Thank goodness I still have my wits about me and was able to remember the general vicinity of the second floor. I purchased some more jewelry items so now I am good to go!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Hello again,

The title of this post is Guanxi. You pronounce it Gwonshe. It means relationships.

The Chinese people are big on relationships. Business relationships are what we find everywhere we go here. But the business relationships turn into friendships - at least that is what we are finding. We really like the people we do business with.

When we had our two-day cross-cultural training, the Cartus relocation people spoke about it quite often. But you really don't understand it until you are here for a few weeks and then it finally sets in.

When you go to the markets you realize that the Chinese people really do remember you. They see Western people and remember who you are or what you bought at their shop.

When I go to the fabric market, my friends Ball (who makes my suits and pants) and Miss Shi (who made our coats) recognize me. I introduce each of them to more of my friends. Well, because that is what you do when you find a good tailor and they do good work - work that meets your expectations. The fabric is nice, the seams are straight and the lining is silky. AND the price is right! It's the BEST FRIEND price. The more friends you bring to them, the better the price and the better the price, the more things you get made because they do a fabulous job! Sometimes they'll give you a tangerine or a bottle of water. Other times, well, they deliver - like Domino's. . .
Last Friday, Mike was on his way upstairs from the gym after his workout and he sees Ball in the lobby of Shama, our apartment building. She was here to deliver some clothes she made for a friend of ours. Now, that is good service.
Another example, last week, I had some chinos made by Ball. She charged me a great price and when CeCe saw how nice they were and how great they fit - NO FITTING either, she had her make two pair for her. Then Mike saw how nice they were, he wanted two pair made.
Now Mike is a different story because you all know how tall he is. BUT she gave him the same price as me and that so impressed us. AND because he wanted a different fabric, we went to look at fabric around the corner behind the scenes; and he got to choose his fabric which was a little bit heavier than mine.
I love these pants - they fit great - and the fabric is so comfortable. When we went back to get Mike's pants on Sunday, they needed a little tuck in the waist and lengthened a wee bit - just about 1/2". Ball also made Mike's coat and he really likes it. It's long enough and he says it fits great, even with a suit jacket underneath.
Everyone is happy - CeCe and I are happy because we got new pants and Mike is happy too because he'll get new pants at the same price and they look just like the Dockers he bought back home at twice the cost!
Ball said she's got a gift for me next month - a cashmere scarf - gee, I cannot wait. . .

Shanghai Street Scenes

Good morning all,

I was out walking around with CeCe and we decided to stop and have a Frappacino at Starbucks around the corner just taking in the sights!

Everywhere you go there are amazing things to see. Whether it be architecture or people. I find Shanghai soooo interesting. Yes, Italy was beautiful and amazing in itself but Shanghai, well, it's just China -

Check out the photos of the people on bicycles I've uploaded. The man with the empty bottles of water must be on his way to the recycling plant. You will also see men on bicycles with FULL bottles of water too, just like this. I don't know how they get around - the full ones are so heavy. We have a huge bottle of water in our apartment. That's the water we cook with each and every day. I go through one of them about every two weeks. It costs us about 20 RMB which is about $2.85. It goes in one of those dispensers and you can get hot or cold water at the flick of a wrist.

The Chinese are very big on the environment. Their country is so huge and they realize the need to clean up the place. All over town, you will see people with these huge plastic bags that have recyclable items in them like plastic water bottles. On the Bund the little old ladies will walk by you as your are finishing your water, hoping that you'll give the empty to them. Some of them rely on this to supplement the money they receive from the government.

Every so often you'll see little men on bicycles with huge piles of cardboard broken down. They are taking them to the recycle plant too. I wish we had people in the US that are as environmentally conscious as the Chinese. We talk the talk but don't walk the walk. . .

The Chinese people are very proud but they realize the need to make a Buck - or a Yuan. I so admire them for that. In the US you don't see many people on welfare getting out there to help themselves. That's a shame but that's another story for another day.

Check out the man with the plants. I cannot figure out how he gets around. He's not a very big man but he manages to get those plants to where they need to be. He must have powerful legs, maybe that's why he's so thin. . .

In the evening, maybe about 6 pm, you'll see men and women who are riding bicycles with floral baskets, filled to the brims, on them. I think they come from the flower markets and try to sell the leftover flowers on the street. I sometimes pick up some calla lillies or some carnations. The jasmine smells divine! On the way to the subway, there is always a little lady sitting on the ground creating jasmine bracelets. We've talked about buying them - maybe we'll do that this week. The Hongqaio Flower Market is one of our favorite places to go. They don't just have flowers and plants there.

The Chinese love their gold fish - koi - I think that's what the term is. There are lots of vendors there who sell koi and fish tanks and food. At one vendor last week we saw a huge lizard - makes me get chills each time I think about it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Well, it's over!
Thank Goodness! No more political ads - no more robot phone calls!

I'm not happy about this election but from what I've heard in the last 30 minutes, I think President-elect Obama WILL reach across the aisle, choosing capable individuals to head up his Cabinet. It looks like he will work with competent, educated men and women who know their business.

He'll need all the help he can get! Only time will tell but let's just hope and pray that things look UP! It can't go anywhere but UP as far as I'm concerned.

I've been checking the election results in Allegheny and Beaver Counties and it looks like the other people I voted for have won their seats - Jason Altmire, (when will Melissa Hart give up?), Tom Corbett, Tony DeLuca. Yes, there are two Democrats and a Republican - I cannot vote straight party - it should NOT be an option for any American - I don't care what you say Miss Y!

I spent this morning at the Hilton Hotel where the American Chamber of Commerce and the American Women's Club hosted a party for Americans in Shanghai. Check out the photos! I saw many Chinese here too. Lots of women which is what I expected because we are always up for a party; but there were many men there too who I assume decided to play hooky and share their political views with others. McCain and Obama showed up - check out the photo above!

The Hilton is a beautiful hotel - this was my first time there. Lovely lobby and of course, they won me over with the calla lillies and the hydrangea.

They had Blue and Red M & M's so that was fun. AmCham provided some cheap US Flags and some cute hats too. The McCain and Obama buttons were plentiful and I think the Chinese enjoyed the excitement, as well. The US Consulate Public Affairs Department provided some really great handbooks to help the Chinese understand the election process. I grabbed three up for our drivers and staff.

I saw lots of babies and elementary school children whose parents thought it would be great for them to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event first hand. And there were lots of college students whooping it up.

We watched CNN as the polls closed and I was amazed that Pennsylvania was called so early. Way too early as far as I was concerned - I'm sure Wendy hadn't even closed the District One poll at Plum High School. The turnout in Allegheny County was very high. I think it was high all over the country.
I just checked Allegheny County records and Plum has yet to provide all results. I bet District 19 - also at the High School -couldn't close their poll - they have trouble every time!
Do I miss being in Pittsburgh for this election? NO WAY. I don't miss the phone calls because I'm getting them here. I don't miss the TV commercials either because I'm watching Slingbox here. AND, I don't miss the mud slinging one bit.
As I said above - time will tell - and we still have two more months of George W.
God Bless Us All!