Posts/April, 2009/

A night on the Bund & Days with 7th Graders

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
The Bund at night

The Bund at night

Monday night was the perfect night, temperature wise. The air was brisk and the sky was so clear that I even saw a sliver of the moon….that rarely happens hear due to a little smog issue this city has. The only problem was that Nik was at work.

Unfortunately, that is becoming more and more common these days, so I decided to take advantage of the weather and ride solo into the night towards the riverside destination of the Bund. I rode down the familiar street of Changle Lu and was pleasantly surprised by how empty the downtown area seemed to be. Of course, this also led me to be even more weary of my surroundings so I went against my safety rules and ran every red light. I figured it would be safer if I was moving. Believe it or not, this was the first time I had been to the Shanghai riverside at night. The buildings on the Pudong side were lit up like fire crackers, river boats cruised along the Huangpu with lights draped across every edge like a suburban house at Christmas, Chinese tourists flocked to the boardwalk with cameras in hand, and the Bund was perfectly lit as though it was dressed for the opera. The sounds of jackhammers and miles of construction barracades reminded me that this is China, the city that is growing at lightning speed, and I’m pretty sure that construction crews don’t sleep.

Jackhammer at work. They are building a new metro line underneith the Bund, as well as every other street in town.

Jackhammer at work. They are building a new metro line underneath the Bund, as well as every other street in town.

Despite the fact that half of the Bund was blocked off because of construction, I think I got some decent photos. Most of my favorites are looking straight up the faces of the buildings into the pitch black sky.

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Isn't this lighting dramatic? I love it.

Isn't this lighting dramatic? I love it.

Here is Pudong....all bright and flashy.

Here is Pudong....all bright and flashy.

In my daytime life, I have been substitute teaching at one of the local international schools. (is that an oxymoron? but how else would I describe it?) I applied for the job on a whim in the midst of sending stuff out to architecture firms around town, and when they wanted me to come in, I said sure. Honestly, it’s a really great filler job. The work is pretty sporadic, the campus is immaculate, I get at least two hours of break time between 8am and 3pm, the school cafeteria has the cheapest latte’s in town at 12rmb/$1.75 per cup, AND I get to hang out with pre-teens all day. Some would call this a living hell, but I love it.

I have only worked five days so far, but I already recognize most of the kids. It’s fun to see how chatty they are. And they are so touchy-feely! Yesterday in the computer lab a boy was “helping” a girl on her project. I definitely noticed that they both had their hands on the mouse at the same time. It was cute how he lingered, but I did have to play the bad guy and ask him to go back to his own project. The touchy-feely isn’t just the puppy love, it’s everyone. The 11 and 12 year old girls can’t walk down the hall with their friends without their arms draped over one another’s shoulders. Even the boys hang all over each other in such an innocent and brotherly way. It’s also fascinating to watch how they interact with one another. As soon as they walk into the classroom they form little clusters of friends, but they are also completely comfortable with everyone else in the room. I must say that I am impressed with this group of kids. They are respectful of their teachers and their peers, and they really seem to be having fun.

I do wish that I could have a more active role in their education. As a sub, I only see them for a day, maybe two, and don’t really know what their class routine is or what their personalities are. By the time I start to see bits and pieces of that, they’re gone. I don’t know what they’ve already learned this year, and I don’t know what they are going to learn next week. My biggest frustration is that sometimes I feel like they don’t make any progress during the classes that I teach. I know that is exactly what the middle schooler wants, but to me it seems like wasted time. I want them to get everything they can out of their day, and out of their education. I don’t want to be a hiccup.

Shanghai Bike Polo & Lunch at Pier 39

Saturday, April 25th, 2009
Shanghai Bike Polo

Shanghai Bike Polo *

Today was a simple day. Lunch and polo. Easy as that.

Lunch was had on the roof deck of Pier 39 on Jinxian Lu. The cafe is known for its version of San Francisco clam chowder, and it was quite good. Sourdough bread bowl and all. Somehow, Nik and I managed to have the entire roof deck to ourselves, so we spent the time voyeristacally watching the neighbors and day dreaming about having a roof deck of our own. We decided that Shanghai would be 10x better if we did. For now, we’ll have to settle for Pier 39’s.

Rooftop dining Shanghai style

Rooftop dining Shanghai style

After that we headed to Shanghai Stadium to meet up with some friends and strangers to watch bike polo. We had heard about it last week, and decided that we’d go see what the big deal was. Of course once we got there, Nik couldn’t resist, so he hopped on and grabbed a mallet. I was happy chatting with everyone and watching the brave souls risk their lives diving after a little red ball. The games were organized by Tyler, and you can find all the information and a lot more photos, promotional posters and videos at his Shanghai Bike Polo site. I think the plan is to meet up every Saturday afternoon around 1:30, so if you’re in town, grab a bike and join in or simply grab a beverage and join the spectators.

The riders moving on to location #2 after being kicked out of location #1

The riders moving on to location #2 after being kicked out of location #1

The boom box

The boom box

A casualty

A casualty

* Photo taken by Nik who also posted on Shanghai Bike Polo

Shanghai Lane Houses and Fuxing Park

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Sunlight

Sunlight

I have been wanting to go out into the city by foot for a couple weeks now to take photos of every day stuff, and today I finally did. The weather was perfect. Clear skies and about 70˚F. I did cheat a little bit by riding my bike to Fuxing Park, but I figured it was best that I save my energy for the real walking rather than the “getting there” walking.

I decided on Fuxing Park because it is THE bench park in the city. Everywhere you turn, there is a bench. This meant there would certainly be a place to rest and people watch, but I also wore a dress today because of the summer-like weather, so benches meant I didn’t have to do the awkward fold-the-skirt-to-sit-on-the-ground maneuvers. And one more thing about the benches….the locals only sit in the shade. I would really like to see the statistics for skin cancer in China because it seems like everyone here shades themselves quite well. Go figure that the only sun-sitters I found were pasty-white turning lobster-red foreigners like me!

Fuxing Park also has beautiful gardens. Right now rhododendrons are blooming in full force, but I am most excited to see what the rose gardens offer in May and June.

Rhodedendruns

Rhododendrons

Green Sprouts

Green Sprouts

Whenever there is good weather in Shanghai we see photo crews.

Whenever there is good weather in Shanghai we see photo crews.

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Shanghai Plane Trees

Shanghai Plane Trees

After the park, I made my way down Huahai and into a little group of lane houses. The lane houses in Shanghai scare me a little bit because I feel like I’m intruding, but today I was brave. I quietly made my way down each alley of doorways and was rewarded with amazing little things. I spoke with one of the occupants for a couple minutes, but I didn’t understand a word she said, so we didn’t get very far. I think she mentioned something about my blue eyes, and I asked her if she rode a bicycle…but that’s about it. No one seemed to mind that I was there, so I’ll probably go back!

Into the Lanes

Into the Lanes

Iron window gate

Iron window gate

Laundry and Light

Laundry and Light

I still don't know what these are...first aid boxes perhaps?

I still don't know what these are...first aid boxes perhaps?

**Update: Thanks to John, I now know that these are milk delivery boxes, and they are everywhere in these little lanes. If only I could read Chinese….so many of my questions about this city could be answered. I would love to see the delivery guy winding his way through and opening each and every box. I’ll let you know if I do.

Chair...notice the bike lock on the back?

Chair...notice the bike lock on the back?

Linens

Linens

Shared Sink

Shared Sink

Little Window

Little Window

Knock

Knock

Yellow Rug

Yellow Rug

Old - New

Old street level - New street level

Taking advantage of light

Taking advantage of light

After walking through this neighborhood today, I think the thing that is really fantastic about these houses is that they use every inch of space. They don’t have the immaculate front stoops just for show, and a second floor window is the perfect place to hang your laundry. Everything is functional and I’m sure most of it is the result of perfect logic even though it can look like chaos sometimes.

Archives for April, 2009
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