Wow! Life sped up after we returned from vacation and has not slowed down for a second. “Comings and Goings” is a good theme for this time period where spring has come and winter has gone and many other things have been going on.
Spring Coming (yea!)
With the spring weather, Andy and I have been compromising on our weekends. I get to choose what we do on Saturdays and then we go sailing on Sundays. If he had it his way, he would be sailing both days every weekend, but it is just too exhausting as a day of sailing has you leaving the house at 9am and returning past 7pm usually.
Last Saturday, we went for a run down under the bridge and found an area with a lot of abandoned warehouses and randomly, a driving school. Later that afternoon we went down to the German restaurant, Paulauner for lunch and basking in the sun. We ended up sitting next to a really nice, interesting gentleman, originally from America but who had been living in Australia for quite some time. We enjoyed a long conversation in the sun over beer and wine and found ourselves very happy by 5pm.
Rocky’s Return (Coming)
HP raised our relocation allowance so we immediately gave Rocky a call to see if he could drive for us again. He has upgraded to a new company and a nicer car, so we are now the proud passengers of a dark-grey Buick LaCrosse. Ya, we hadn’t heard of it either…General Motors is really big here. We would have been fine with our old car, but Rocky loves this one as it has a DVD player that he uses extensively as he waits for us. As nice as the subway was, it is infinitely nice to have him back!
Visitors Coming & Going
The week after we returned from our vacation, Allison, our friend from Boise and fellow HP employee came to Shanghai and stayed with us for the week. She brought with her all of the stuff we needed from the US: girl scout cookies, shampoo & conditioner, two carbon monoxide detectors (we don’t trust the Chinese version), a book, miscellaneous mail and really way too much stuff, bless her heart. As when our friend Lindsay was here, it was a tour of good restaurants in Shanghai, so it was a good thing she is also a runner so I was inspired to get a work out in and in turn burn off some of the calories. The weather had finally warmed up enough that running outside was a nice option and it allowed Allison to see a lot of the “typical Shanghai” or as typical as you can get in Lu Jia Zui (the financial district). We saw dozens of construction workers on their way to one of the many construction sites of large new buildings in the district grabbing a bowl of street noodles or stuffed buns; many men and women doing some form of exercise from fan dancing to Tai Chi to using the metal exercise machines along the canal bank; a group of men and women ballroom dancing outside of a high-end mall in Ba Bai Bund; and finally the ugly side, she jumped over a stream of urine as she nearly brushed the source as we ran by an indentation in a wall that you could not see until it was too late; with all of the construction in Lu Jia Zui, the sewer smells were numerous and rank especially when I took us on a wrong turn on one particular run.
As with any visitor, it is always necessary to do a bit of shopping as I think that is really the greatest attraction that Shanghai has to offer. Thursday night, before going to hot pot with a group from work, Allison and I headed down to Ke Ji Guan (the fake market) and I showed her some of the best stores to buy things. The first time I bargained for her, she was standing there laughing at me. As I have mentioned before, it really is quite a process to get the price down to the “real prices” and it can often become a bit dramatic. From an American perspective, it is quite entertaining.
We took Friday afternoon off of work and first went to a nice lunch at the famous Jean Georges (their lunch is much better than their Christmas Dinner set meal). It was amazing in that I have known Allison for years but with our busy lives back home there are so many things that we never have had the chance to talk about. Staying with someone for a week really gives you an opportunity to talk about a lot of things. It was fun. After lunch, we went to the fabric market where she was shocked by all that could be made. I was amazed in that she found a few things that she liked and the vendors agreed to have them made the next morning by 9am (since she left at 10:30). We joked all night that some poor seamstresses where slaving away over a sewing machine while we were out having fun. Next we went to the jewelry market which I think overwhelmed her.
One of the bad things about shopping in China is that you have SO many choices. At the fabric market you can choose the style, color, quality, fabric, everything! of the article of clothing you wish to have made. Same thing at the jewelry market. What pearls, stone, etc. do you want? How will it look made up? A designer could have a field day over here! But if you are not a designer, you generally look for ideas from the already made up items and often those are quite gaudy. Anyway, it can quickly become overwhelming.
The evening ended meeting Andy for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant and a trip to the Dolce & Gabana bar for our favorite martini. The entire week, including that Friday night, we went to bed fairly early as Allison’s jet leg seemed to rub off on Andy and I as well.
The following week, there were a lot of HP visitors in town for the R&D Directors meeting and a variety of other reasons. I ate at the Yi Cafe twice, took people shopping multiple times and had a chance to talk with and spend time with some important people from HP. While the entertaining can get tiring, both Andy and I enjoy this aspect of living here. You really get a chance to talk with people who you only see in a meeting once every two to three months in Boise. For example, I had an opportunity to spend an entire afternoon with my lab manager, since I am his only employee in Shanghai, where in Boise I probably see him once a month and never actually talk with him. It is fun!
Expat & Sailing Club “Mates” Coming & Going
Our good friend and Andy’s fellow Calypso (sailboat) owner, Patrik has moved back to Germany, sooner than his contract required. The big big bosses at his steel company needed him back there so he went and is already missing the dynamic, fast-paced life in Shanghai. Often in Shanghai, as a foreigner, you get treated as a VIP…so when you go back to your home town and live in a normal house or apartment and nobody thinks you are anything special since you are just like everyone else in your country, it can be a bit depressing. We will be experiencing this soon. We will really miss Patrik and our other sailing club friend who will be leaving soon, Allan. The comings and goings of fellow expats is just a part of living in Shanghai Expatville. My yoga teacher says she deletes half of her cell phone contacts each year which she actually likes because you always have a chance for new beginnings with people.
I swear getting a haircut in Shanghai is as adrenaline causing as participating in an x-games event. I went to the Esprit salon and basically said (in Mandarin) “shorter” and then put my fingers to my neck indicating the length. Then I used the words my Mandarin teacher had helped me prepare for the occasion “layered not thinned” since the Chinese often thin their hair and I have heard countless stories of this happening to foreigners, essentially ruining the chance of a nice hair style for a few months. Finally, I cupped my hand at the back of my head indicating how I wanted it layered and then Kenny Liu said, “Okay.” I began passing the time by studying my Mandarin words but it quickly became too stressful to concentrate. He was taking massive, dramatic cuts of my hair which, while exciting to watch was literally causing me to sweat a bit in anxious anticipation of the final outcome? I could go on and on about all of the things I thought during the 45-minute hair cut but I think in the end it turned out okay and it accomplished the goal of “I am so sick of my hair, chop it off.” Now I can do my hair in five minutes, which is what I need!
Job Going & Coming
I have been ready for a new job for quite awhile…really ever since we moved here. I finished my MBA last year and now have over eight years of experience at HP, most recently a lot of coordination and project management but still a fair amount of programming. My goal has been to move into a project management role, but it has been nearly impossible to do while we are in Shanghai since if you are hiring a manager, you either want a local hire or experienced manager from the US as an expat. In February, a great Project Manager within my organization decided to leave the company to become the R&D Manager at a start-up in Boise. I put my feelers out about the job and started getting a lot of feedback that I would be a good candidate to replace him. I applied for the job not knowing for sure if I would make the short list and then went on vacation. The week after we returned I found out I had interviews later in the week. Because I am in Shanghai, it turned out that my phone interviews were 6:30 and 7:30 am on Friday morning and 6, 7, and 8 am on Saturday morning followed by the final interview on Tuesday morning. I prepared pretty extensively for them and woke up early enough each morning to try and be cheerful by the time they started. When all was said and done, I felt like they went well but was not sure how I did since over the phone you get very little non-verbal feedback about how people are reacting to your answers.
The answer came a week later when I received an email from my new manager asking me if I would accept the job as a Project Manager in her section in Boise. I promptly accepted but was not able to tell anyone that I had been offered the job until she had had a chance to contact the other candidates. Since she was in Rome on a business trip, she was not sure how long that would take. By Friday afternoon Boise time, she had sent out the announcement to the lab and I was officially able to say that I got the job!
We celebrated last Saturday (after Paulauner and furniture shopping) by going out with our friend Cathy to Bubba’s BBQ for pulled pork sandwiches and Rogue beer followed by a visit to a jazz club we have heard a lot about but never visited. It was really fun and especially crazy after some friends from the sailing club showed up unexpectedly celebrating their recent engagement. I swear Shanghai is worse than a small town with how often you run into people you know. Quickly after their arrival, the wine was flowing and I would pay for it the next day in the back seat of the small van going out to the lake for sailing (nothing dramatic, just hate feeling hung-over!) The night ended when Cathy was about to fall asleep on the couch at the jazz club and I was talking with some guy from Slovenia about his country as a vacation destination and Andy calling Rocky to take us all home.
I am SUPER excited about this new opportunity as I will not only be doing the job that I have longed to do for awhile now, but I also have a VERY talented team of engineers AND the work the team is doing is very exciting and crucial to the MFP business.
What this does mean though is that I will be repatriating to Boise in May instead of our scheduled date of October. In fact, I have very little time in Shanghai now as we leave for a previously planned vacation to celebrate our seventh anniversary next Thursday. The day after we return, I will fly out to Boise for a two-week business trip to meet with my new team and collaborators in person. Following that, I will come back to Shanghai for a couple of weeks to finish everything up here and get ready to move back to Boise mid-May. It is still up in the air, but with Andy’s project schedule, he will probably return mid-July. While it is not ideal that we will be away for each other for two months, I think we will both be so busy that time will go quickly.
While we will miss many aspects of Shanghai, we are very much looking forward to being back in Boise for awhile. We really miss the nature, our family and friends and a smaller city. If given the opportunity again, I would definitely come back to Shanghai as it is a great place to live in so many ways. We need a break for awhile though. I can almost taste the clean air and feel the dirt of the foothills underneath my running shoes!
Now that I am leaving soon, I am trying to finish up all of the shopping that I had planned to do at the end of our stay in Shanghai. Last week we went to a furniture store and picked out a couple of small Asian-looking pieces to take back with us. I think I want to go one more time and get one additional item to remind us of our time in China. I have also made a couple of trips to the fabric market for one last chance at $70 three-piece tailored suits. I tried to stock up on purses, but I think my love of fake versions of expensive brands has mostly faded as I was only able to find one purse I liked and it was quite expensive since it was very close to the real version and nice quality leather. I also made a trip to the jewelry store to have a couple of designs I had thought up recently made. I actually took in one necklace I bought at the Farmer’s Market in Boise years ago and they made a copy of it better than the original using different material. I will tell you what, the Chinese are good at copying!
Holidays Coming & Going
Maybe it is because we don’t have kids but holidays seem to have become so unimportant. We ignored Valentine’s Day, almost completely forgot about Saint Patrick’s Day (except I did have a corned beef and hash and a Guinness at an Irish pub a week ago off of their Saint Patty’s Day menu) and made plans to go sailing on Easter before we realized it was Easter. So, Happy Easter!
I randomly just found out from a friend that they have an extra ticket to the Maroon 5 concert tonight so that will be my holiday celebration.
US Economy & Dollar (Going)...yikes!
Based on the news this week, the economy seems to be tanking back home. It will be very interesting to see how the global economy is affected as the dollar and stocks continue to slide.
CNN (Going…well really just censored)
The Tibetan monks and the unrest around Tibet have been in the news a lot lately but we only see the portion of the story that the Chinese censors miss. While watching CNN, you see something to the affect of “and the unrest in Tibet has injured more than…” and the screen goes black for the next 90 seconds. Maybe it is just because I am used to the freedom of speech but it would seriously upset me if it was so obvious that my government was keeping me from hearing about things. Always the devils advocate, when I mentioned this to Andy, he said, “and you think the U.S. government doesn’t keep things from us.” Maybe it is really all the same just called something different…
The next entry will not be until we return from vacation on April 6th. Happy Spring! And I look forward to seeing more of many of you soon!
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