Knowledge, Nutrition and Indulgence

Monday, July 6th, 2009
Shanghai Library

Shanghai Library buttresses



In the frustrating lack of decently priced English books in Shanghai, I turned to the Shanghai Library in hopes of striking gold. After acquiring a “visitors” pass for the day, I continued to the Foreign Language Reading Room on the 4th floor. An entire floor dedicated to foreign books!!! This was going to be perfect!!!

Unfortunately, the selection was not exactly what I was looking for. I was hoping for aisles of contemporary and classic titles organized by the Dewey Decimal system and piles of recent periodicals. I found a confusing hamster maze of tired reference materials, stacks of stuffy trade journals, about ten foreign newspapers that all dated from early June and a total of three shelves dedicated to literature. I realize now that my expectations were too high. Foreign language books are not the focus of this library and many foreign books and publications have probably been censored in this country. Oh well! The Shanghai Library will not be my source of free unending literary entertainment, but it does house some nice reading rooms that will be good for reading two week old British newspapers and back issues of National Geographic.

I also think that the library deserves a second shot. There has to be more interesting material than the June 12 Times newspaper that I found. There has to be a hidden gem in there somewhere….I mean look at this place! It’s enormous. The library complex covers nearly an entire city block, and Shanghai city blocks are HUGE. What is in that big tower? What is in that little tower? What about the courtyard I saw from the windows? Too much of this building is still a mystery.

Next time, I will remember to bring my passport so that I can get a “general reading” library card that will allow me access to the reading rooms. I could get a “general lending” card after paying a 100rmb deposit, but based on my first visit, I don’t think there is much I will want to take home. Also, I’m not very good at returning library books on time!

View from Huaihai Rd/Hunan Rd

View from Huaihai Rd/Hunan Rd

Tile relief

Tile relief

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Complex facade detail

Complex facade geometry


This week I finally stopped at a produce market that I have passed several times on Jianguo Rd. It is always packed with people, bikes and motor bikes, and even the lady with the Styrofoam fortress was parked out front. I wandered through the first floor meat area, but everyone else seemed to be going upstairs. I followed the crowd and found a figure eight market packed with people and produce. The best part is that they were too busy to mind me taking photos.

Wet Market

Wet Market

Eggplant and green beans

Eggplant, cucumbers and green beans


I don’t know what has gotten into me this week, but if a place sells sweets, then I have to stop. The first one was Awfully Chocolate, which I have wanted to try since the first few weeks we were here. It’s located on Xinagyang Nan Rd near Fuxing Rd. The interior is extremely sparse and the menu even more so. They have chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream, and that’s it. But let me tell you. Their chocolate ice cream is the best chocolate ice cream I have EVER tasted. It is a little pricey for Shanghai at 25rmb ($3.60) for one scoop, but one scoop is really all you need.

Awfully Chocolate
Xiangyang Nan Rd near Fuxing Rd
Metro Line 1, Shaanxi Rd
Single Scoop of Ice Cream: 25rmb

Awfully Chocolate

Awfully Chocolate

Next I found the Shanghai Cupcake Cafe & Chocobar tucked in a back alley of Taikang Lu. The shop just opened on May 15 by an American named Lee (sp?) who has been living in Shanghai for four years and recently finished culinary school. He said he wanted to focus on one thing, and he choose cupcakes. They have a selection of flavors that change daily based on Lee’s whim, so you’re guarnateed to have something new to try each time you go. I tasted the Belgium Chocolate and Mango. The chocolate was silky smooth and the icing and cake blended together perfectly. The Mango was a bit milder and not quite as sweet, so the pair was perfect together. As far as I know, this is the first cupcake shop in Shanghai and is similar to many that have opened up in America recently. I really hope they do well.

Shanghai Cupcake Cafe & Chocobar
Lane 210 Taikang Rd.
No. 10 (near Jianguo Rd)
t. 021-64741279
Cupcake + Coffee: 38rmb

Shanghai Cupcake

Shanghai Cupcake

And finally….a random photo of one of many skyscrapers that fill this city. “The Center” on Changle Lu/Changshu Lu.

The Center office tower on Changle Rd

The Center


Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
Child searching for the perfect toy

Child searching for the perfect toy

First, I walked into a lane filled with toy vendors and streams of parents walking to and fro with their young children. I thought there was some sort of carnival, but it turned out to be a children’s hospital. These toys were the ones that would make the young ones smile and laugh while they sat in the doctors office. There’s nothing sweeter than that.

Yellow Wall at the end of an alley

Yellow Wall at the end of the lane

Then I walked into another lane following a steady stream of elderly women into the courtyard of a Buddhist Temple. The women were gathering for lunch, and I was greeted with slight bows and smiles. Wishing that I had the ability to communicate, I decided to linger and search for visual clues for why everyone was there. They were laughing and socializing with their friends in a way that reminded me of every Christian church I have ever visited. If my grandmother lived in Shanghai, this is where she would spend her Tuesday afternoons. As I lingered longer, a sprightly woman with short blond hair approached, and then another, and then another. They were very animated and curious so I pulled out my phrasebook and tried to communicate. I eventually deciphered that they were offering me lunch, and I graciously accepted. One of them took me by the arm and led me to the serving line and requested my lunch for me. I found an unoccupied table and continued to observe while the women slowly migrated into the main hall. When I finished, I followed them in and participated in a Buddhist chanting ceremony. It was a peaceful and exciting experience for over a hundred women of Shanghai, including this tall blue-eyed American.

My skyline

Saturday, June 27th, 2009
After the storm on Friday

After the storm on Friday

It is not the typical postcard Shanghai skyline with all the new towers, but it is the skyline I look out to every single day. Some days I cannot believe I live here. I live in China. I live in a really big city. Kind of an ugly city, but cool in its own way. Crazy.

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