Catch-up blogs

I think the Chinese censors are slipping, because I got onto Blogger tonight! So I caught up with my posts. This means that you need to read back all of the way until July 9th so you don’t miss anything. Sorry, but it makes more sense to put everything on the day that it happened.

The past couple of weekends we have been going to the Fabric Market and having clothes made. It’s great! Having clothes custom made to your body makes everything look good on you! and it’s so cheap. I’ll post some photos sometime. Any visitors, please note that we should go there right away to order some things. Suits run about $70 USD. Crazy, huh?

My friends from the NOC sent me a care package! It was amazing. It was a bunch of things I said I missed. For instance, I miss the smell of warm clothes when they come out of the dryer, so they sent me Bounce dryer sheets! Febreez, hand sanitizer (today I actually found a bottle here. It was $4 for the tiny purse size), a big packaged of Reece’s peanut butter cups, a scrapbook (made in China so it’s been around the world), a flag decoration, etc. And the invitation to Jessie and Seth’s wedding – sorry we can’t make it guys!!

Today we went to the Portman grocery store, which is where you can find international foods. The prices are outrageous!! For a jar of Fat-Free Mayo, it is $10. No kidding. They even have frozen foods like Weight Watchers meals or pizza – for about twice the price. Campbell’s soup is $2.50 per can. We paid $4 for a small bottle of vanilla so Jon could make a cheesecake. We’ll use it for other baking so it’s OK though. We looked for Graham Crackers for the crust, but none were to be found.

Storms in Shanghai

We’ve had some storms that have scared the crap out of me (just the lightning, actually.) It cracks so loud sometimes – we’re sure it hits things all of the time. Yvonne and I were going downstairs at work when a huge bolt hit. It sounded like it was on the building next to us and I swear I saw a yellow flash come in the window. We both actually screamed because it scared us so much!! I normally don’t mind storms at all, but for some reason it is really different in a big city.

Sometime maybe I’ll get some cool lightning photos. It rolls in so quickly and then the skies just open and buckets of rain pour down. Every time it happens, I think of how thankful our parents would be if they got rain like that right now. I wish I could send it to you!

The 2nd failed trip to Australia…

I don’t think I wrote about the first failed trip. About 2 weeks ago, a Dak sales guy wanted us to come to Sydney to take photos so we could create a proposal for a potentially HUGE client. Abram and I jumped on a plane the next day. And then we sat on the plane for 3 hours. We did finally take off, only to be turned around 45 minutes into the flight. We couldn’t get on any other flights so that was the end of the trip there.

So, it was planned that I would go this Wednesday. My flight was supposed to leave at 6:00 PM. Then… after hearing it was delayed for a few hours (no takeoff time given) a notice was put it. It was a fill-in-the-blank notice, which was pretty funny. The main part was that flight CA 177 will be delayed due to mechanical issues. We sat at the airport for hours. Time went pretty quickly because I met a girl from NY, Kelly, who had been visiting friends in Shanghai and was next visiting friends in Australia. It was pretty cool – she told me about how she had went to school for Journalism and now wrote for blogs… (sound familiar?) and the things we had in common just went on and on.

Then, the airline said we had to go to a hotel. I would have rather stayed in my own bed, but you had to stay at the hotel so they could wake us up and bus us to the airport when the plane was fixed. We were taken to a Super Motel 168. No joke. It is a rip-off of Super 8 and Motel 6!!! We had to share rooms so Kelly and I were roommies for a night.

One of the funny things about China is all of the incorrect English translations. I’ve started taking photos. There is a book called Chinglish that has been published – maybe I’ll do a Chinglish II. The following are from the hotel flyers.

Breakfast, Bar Coffee & Tea and Snake. For when you are just a little hungry…. (we haven’t had snake yet. I’m sure we’ll come across it sometime though.)

Thanks for all of the warnings. The 5th from the bottom is by far the best.

Follow no strangers to the fun places. What fun places would those be? And if the person isn’t a stranger, can I go to the fun places? :-)

For more great laughs, go to Some of the best are in the adult section. Look for the toddler with a pacifier and a shirt with the f-word. Seriously.

We put on something to sleep in (I was lucky because I did just carry-on so I had everything) and turned around to discover we both had pink pants and a black tank top. Too weird.

We were woken up at 6:30 AM and hustled onto a bus, taken to the airport, and then we waited some more!! At this point we discovered yet another coincidence – she was in seat 23K and I was in 24K. Crazy.

At about 10 AM they started loading the plane, but a bunch of people were furious because they were only giving 500 RMB ($65) for our inconvenience. Then they were claiming that the plane wasn’t safe because they hadn’t test-flown it yet. At this point I gave up. I’d totally missed my meeting and would have had about a day there and it just wasn’t worth it, especially if the plane really was unsafe. I took the payout and left. Kelly later told me that the plane didn’t leave until 1 PM.

I don’t think I’ll be trying to go again anytime soon. At least not if I don’t have 2 or 3 days down there before any meetings!

Stuff on Bikes

You see everything being carried on bikes. People with motorized bikes or scooters will help out by putting a foot on the cart and letting the scooter do the work.

Chinese people are very concerned about the sun. Note the big hat, the white sleeves, and gloves. Most of the women have these sleeves to keep the sun off. It seems to be due to vanity (everyone wants whiter skin) and not health. All of the body and face wash claim to be “whitening.”
Many of the bikes have a passenger. This girl was sending text messages from her phone while the guy did all of the work.

A motorized bike – I think I heard that they get 35 km per charge (but that is carrying a slim person.)

Pajamas are fashionable now.

Driving to work

A few buildings that we pass every day on the drive to the office. In the bottom photo, you can see an open space in the middle of the building. It’s to let the chi (energy or life force) flow through. No buildings are built without a feng shui master coming in and telling them what is good.

Daktronics Shanghai

I thought it was appropriate to put a few pics of the Keyframe office up. We took some for the next edition of the Keyframe internal Daktronics newsletter.
Abram, one of our digital artists, has been here since October 2006.

Yvonne, who is an account executive like me.

Shelley works at the front desk and makes all of our travel arrangements.

Beijing Duck

A group of about 12 Dak people and family members went to a restaurant that specializes in Beijing Duck. It is so good! We ordered about 100 dishes as usual and were stuffed before the duck arrived. It was a nice place and even with drinks, it only cost about $10 per person. We actually got a certificate with the number of our duck on it.

Scorpion was on the menu so we all wanted to try it! It actually doesn’t taste like much – just crisp and crunchy.

Shopping with Mike and Mike

Mike Hyde and Mike Cooper (Jon’s boss before Dan) came to Shanghai last week. They have a Vortec project at an American high school in Pudong. Thursday the girls took them shopping and out for supper at a Cantonese restaurant. We went to Yuyuan Gardens, which is old but totally redone. Pretty touristy but OK. Mina taught them to bargin well – one lady told Cooper he must have lived here a long time.
Mina (my Chinese teacher too!) me, Mike H, Shelly, Cooper and Sheena.

Street scenes. I just had the point-and-shoot, so had to set it on a garbage bin to get these shots. I used my business card holder to prop the camera up at an angle.

Hair Washing

Life here happens on the streets – cooking, eating, games, etc. Also personal grooming. This girl was washing her hair. Judy said that you used to see it all of the time. The guy was just staring at me as I was taking photos. That’s not unusual – we are taught in the USA that it’s not polite to stare, but it’s not taboo here. White people, especially big blond people or girls, get stared at a lot!

Night shots

Here are a couple of shots I took using a long exposure and my new tripod.

Shopping scenes

These are a couple of dragons that Jon would like to buy to take home. They said they were 18,000 yuan though! That’s before bargaining though. The photo is from his camera phone. both of our phones have 2 megapixel cameras on them.

This is Xu Jai Hui, the electronics market. (It sounds like “Shoe Ja Hway.”) This is just part of the bottom floor. It’s in a building that is in the shape of a soccer ball, and is just massive. You can buy anything electronic here. I bought a tripod, headphones, and Jon and Dan bought their new phones here. Later they realized the phones were smuggled in – they were told to come back for the reciept the next day, then they refused to give them a reciept.

Saturday Outing

After our bedroom furniture was delivered, we went to the Fabric Market. It’s four floors of hundreds of small shops that custom tailor anything you’d like. Here Jon got 3 shirts, for 125 yuan each. He also had a summer suit made and I had a traditional Chinese-style shirt made. We also got a duvet cover. We pick them up next Saturday.

Next we went to People’s Square to check out the new LED display that a competitor put in. It is really horrible. The color is very bad, the modules all need to be calibrated, and their control system can’t control the whole thing. BUT – it’s cheap. Jon is texting Dan about the display here. The building in the background has terrible feng shui, and we heard that it’s had many deaths and suicides!

Soon we got caught in a downpour! This is right after it. We went to Haagen-Dais to enjoy some ice cream while we waited for it to let up. People’s Square is the Times Square of Shanghai. Many things are still neon so there’s a huge market for LED displays.

Sunday Shopping

Sunday we went to the Antique market. It’s most fakes and we have no idea what really would be old, so we just assume everything is fake. Lots of old-looking trinkets. We bought an old camera and a door knocker.

Across from the Antique Market was a Pet Market. Animals of every kind. They have big plastic aquariums – Jon will probably get one. They seemed very cheap! But nice and well-built. Notice the guy in his pajamas on the right. That’s pretty common to see. Everyone sits around, smokes and plays games in the markets.

Pet crickets – they are more like huge locusts. Dan said they are sold to fight. They don’t fight til the death; one just backs down. He said after it backs down it’s fighting days are over because its spirit is broken.

We also found some more waxberries! The last one we had were too old and very bad tasting. I examined these closely and tried one before buying them though. Good thing we have our hepatitis shots…..

So I be a Hooter’s girl (actual lyrics)

Monday and Tuesday all of the sales people were in Shanghai for sales training. Everyone went to Hooters for some wings and beer. The Hooter’s girls dance here – they stood up on stools and did the YMCA, they did the chicken dance (with some of the guys at the table, only they sang “I don’t wanna be a chicken, I don’t wanna be a duck, so I be a Hooters girl”), and they danced to “Keep Your Hands To Yourself ” by the Georgia Satellites (the Chinese girls were very impressed that Dan sang and played air guitar to the whole song.) The slogan is: Hooters makes you happy.

Since they do the embarrassing birthday thing, everyone said it was Larry’s birthday…

Aileen, Louise, Judy, Lin Lin, Kelly and Grace having a good time singing to Larry.

Peering down below

These were taken from our balcony today using my 300mm lens. These are the bits of old Shanghai between the new skyscrapers. Soon there won’t be any old stuff left, at the rate construction is going now.

The houses straight below us – I actually put my camera over the balcony and leaned over to take this!

Balcony Views

We overlook a girls’ school – the only one in Shangahi and probably in China. (according to Gina, an engineer here who attended this school.) They do excercises every morning.

Closer view of the most interesting buildings we overlook.

Shanghai Scenes

There may be more bikes and mopeds than cars, but I’m not sure.

Everything gets carried on bikes! These chickens were probably the most unusual thing we’ve seen so far. They were alive, but not moving at all due to the blood rushing to their little brains!

Laundry is always hanging everywhere. The washers are so small! The dryer is the same machine. It seems no air gets blown in the dryer – everything just heats up, then requires ironing. Hanging is a better option.

Balcony View

Taken from our apartment on an unusally clear day. Usually the pollution hangs in a gray cloud over everything.

Friday – Buying Pearls

Jon went to the office again and spent all day in meetings. They were so busy that he didn’t even get lunch. Larry scrounged up a cup of noodles for him.

I caught up with email and blogging, and then Sai took me to the knock-off market. It was tons of little stores in an underground station that sold (fake) name brand purses, belts, shirts, ties, cuff links, jeans, suitcases, scarves, wallets, shoes, watches, pirated DVDs and anything Chinese-looking. You have to bargain to get things. The first store we walked into, the girl said her best price on a purse was 780 yuan ($98.) You have to offer something really low, then keep saying it’s still too high when they counter offer. This goes on and on until you reach an agreement. Usually, you will have to walk away and let them call you back a few times. It was kind of weird at first, but then I really got into trying to see how low I could get stuff for. It’s such a big act – they act like they are losing so much money by giving it to you at that price, but you know it is totally an act. It is a big drama. It was really fun to get something for a super-low price that you didn’t really think they’d go for. I got the purse for 100 yuan instead ($13.)

We stopped at another subway station that was connected to a new mall. We have a 12 mm board inside and a big 23 mm outside. They don’t look great though – a couple problems with how the buildings designed the access to them. It was raining so we didn’t stay outside looking at it very long.

I went back to the hotel and Sai went home in the afternoon. After work, Ritchie and Gislain picked us up and we headed to the pearl market. The whole second floor of this building is pearls. All shapes, sizes and colors. Once again, you have to barter. Sai goes to one place where she knows the owner and gets good deals.

I wasn’t planning on buying anything, as Jon bought me a pearl necklace in Australia. The guys got a couple things for their girlfriends (after consulting our expert options). I thought maybe I should get a ring to match my necklace and some earrings too. The earrings have about 15 pearls each on them, but they are smaller and some are far from round. The ring has one nice big, round pearl on it. Both of them together were…. 25 yuan. That is $3.25. I couldn’t believe it.

I tried on a couple of different necklaces that were nothing like the one I already had. I didn’t really like any of them. Gislain handed me one that was three strands of pearls around the neck and many strands hanging down in a triangle, with aquamarine beads between each pearl. It was really beautiful and easily has over 100 pearls in it. I bartered it down to 80 yuan. $10. I would be very interested in knowing what it would go for in the States.

The four of us met Dan and Jon back at the hotel and walked to the Always Café. They have a nice selection of food and of drinks. The best part of the meal was dessert – I ordered a banana split that had three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream and a chocolate wafer.

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The Always Cafe

Ritchie and a beer girl. We’ve seen these girls in various bars – they dress up in short skirts and tall boots and promote their brand of beer. Most of the American guys are quite a bit larger than the Chinese girls….

Ritchie thought it was funny that Jon was still working.

Jon and I – check out the new pearls!

(photos courtesy of Ritchie Hart – thanks!)

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Photos from dinner Tuesday

Emily, Maggie and Sai

Jon eats the duck head – not only fish are served with the heads here.

Judy, Dan and Ning


Jon and Dan went on a business call together. The hired driver got them lost so they were delayed in getting there. They sent the car back for Sai, Maggie (the HR/Office assistant here) and I to go look at furniture for our apartment. Yes, we have decided to move here. Maggie translated prices and such all day for us. She is so cute – she giggles frequently and covers her mouth while doing it. That is quite common among the Chinese women. She and Sai LOVE to shop. It was a lot of fun. We had lunch at Papa John’s. It is the most popular pizza place here. KFC is the most popular fast food, followed by McDonald’s.

Furniture here ranges from cheap to outrageous, just like anywhere else. I didn’t find anything that was really soft – most of it was modern and hard cushions to sit on. We did find a couple Slumberlands and a Serta dealer, so we will be able to get a soft mattress. I saw a couple of western recliners and couches, and they were about what you’d pay in the US. Everything else was about half of that.

Sai bought a huge hand-made vase. It was priced at 830 RMB and she got it for 400 RMB ($50). You have to bargain and walk away a few times and usually they will follow and barter more. Even meals are negotiable – Grace (Dak Shanghai saleswomen) won’t let up if she thinks she is not getting a fair price. When we buy furniture, we will pick it out first and then let Ning or another Chinese person go bargain for it later. The assumption is that all foreigners are rich and we will definitely get ripped off.

I got my nails done again – they glued on acrylic nails, painted them pink and then painted three tiny flowers on each nail, with glitter for a center. It was 50 RMB ($6.50).

The three of us met Dan, Jon, Ning, Judy and two guys from Dak Canada (Ritchie and Gislain) at Lu Lu Restaurant. It was another huge meal! I don’t believe I explained how the meals are served. In the middle of the table is a huge round piece of glass on a turntable. The dishes are set, one by one as they are ready, on the glass and people turn it slowly throughout the meal so that every is able to sample every dish. With the ten of us, probably 20 to 25 dishes were served. One course is always soup, although it is hard to count courses since the food just keeps coming and is not taken away until the dish is empty.

Dan bought a bottle of Maltese, which is traditional liquor that is quite strong. It is poured into a decanter, which is used to fill what look like tiny wine glasses. You drink them like shots. Our group managed to finish off the whole bottle, although I didn’t try it.

After that we went to the Blue Frog for a couple drinks. It was a very modern bar, although it was very smoky. 80% of the men in China smoke, and China consumes one-third of the cigarettes produced world-wide. People smoke everywhere. In one of Jon’s sales meetings, the guy chain-smoked in a conference room. The lobby of every building has people smoking… really, anywhere it is permissible, it seems. The Dak office is non-smoking though.

Sunday in Shanghai

We slept in until about 9:30. Dan had to get Lisa (his 14-year-old daughter) a new cell phone, so didn’t pick us up until about noon. We met Sai and Sally (Dan’s oldest daughter) at a new restaurant called California 101. It is a Japanese restaurant. It had about 10 different buffet lines, with mostly seafood on them, such as many types of sushi, California rolls, whole crabs, and king crab. They also had a grill so they’d cook whatever you wanted. I tried two things I didn’t like: stomach lining and bone marrow in a gel. They were both very chewy with and odd taste. There were two stations full of gelato, a chocolate foundation, and many little bite-size desserts such as cheesecake and tiramisu. At the drink station, along with pop and juice, they had beer on tap and bottles of wine and champagne. Even Lisa had a glass of wine and of champagne. (There is no legal drinking age here.) All of this for about $15 each. The whole place was gorgeous, with black leather seats, glass tables, and lavender sheers draped from the ceiling.

Sally has been talking Chinese lessons here, for four hours every day. She is really good. She wants to come back to teach English after she graduates from college. I would really like to learn the language. It is certainly not like Europe, where everyone speaks some English.

After lunch, we walked around this shopping complex a bit. Sai showed us the grocery store and started telling us where to buy certain things at. They had some interesting items, such as a whole pig’s face smoked. It looked smashed, but everything, including the eyeballs, was still there. I took a photo of Dan holding it up.
We walked around more shops in the subway station. Jon and Dan went back to their apartment while Sai and I got our nails done. I had asked to get them filled, but this didn’t come across as they didn’t speak any English. I pointed a lot to try to explain and they said they could do it. I sat down and she started putting stuff on my nails and wrapping them in tin foil. Then we realized she was taking them off! I wasn’t too happy about that but it was too late. So now I have a manicure instead of acrylic nails. My real nails are so weak – they really need new fake ones.
This took so much longer than planned that we missed part of looking at apartments. Amanda, the manager of the apartment complex that Dan, Sai and Ning (Chinese engineer) live in, showed us several different apartments. The complex has a pool, a gym and a restaurant too. It is very nice.
After having tea at their apartment, they decided we needed to go to the spa. Spas are very big here. We went to Sai’s favorite one, Spa de Regent. The entrance was very impressive. Over half the room was a pond with lilies in it! Two wooden brings crossed the pond. When we walked up the stairs to go to the massage room, red tea lights were burning on both sides of each stair.
After we were finished, we went to a restaurant/bar called YeeHaws. It was a piece of Texas in Shanghai, complete with country music, and billed as such.


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