Thursday, September 25, 2008

Toto, We're Not in Kansas Anymore...

All has been quiet on the Justina front because I have reentered the looong, dark cave that is called Novel Revision. At home for most of the week, I've been journaling away on my fantasy series, filling an entire notebook in five days with plot ideas and setting thoughts and character motivations. The one and only good thing about having my husband away on a business trip (to Australia this time) is that I can work guilt-free until midnight and then wake at 4:00 a.m. to write!

I realized it was time to engage in society when I knocked over a water glass absolutely freaked out. Thankfully, it wasn't because of the sheer amount of work I have to do on this revision, which is rather frightening. But no, the broken water glassis the result of the writer-scaringly loud cracking of fireworks.

A new neighbor moved in across the street, but before a single box could be carried over the threshold, firecrackers were lit. Proof: do you see the smoke? Would you like to see the remains of my cup?


From what I gather about this Chinese tradition, new homes and new marriages are celebrated with firecrackers, which are meant to scare away evil spirits. We bring over a plate of freshly baked cookies to new neighbors and shower rose petals on happy newlyweds in the U.S.; the Chinese use firecrackers. I love that.


Anyway, the men who set off the firecrackers stared at me as though I were a crazy woman when I ran out of my house with my camera. But come on, I had to take a picture of the remains. This is just one more example that underscores what I've learned over these last 5 weeks: Toto, we're not in Kansas (or Seattle) anymore...


Just consider this.


1. The line separating Dinner from Pet is a very slim one. In fact, an almost indistinguishable one. In fact, one that is so insubstantial that I worry that mistakes are frequently made.






Test: which is FOOD? Which is NOT?
2. Popping out for an errand or a lunch or an interview is an all-day adventure. Any trip in Shanghai basically entails a one-hour drive each way. Honestly. So if you're able to do two errands in a day, you are superwoman.

Sitting in traffic is actually a godsend. I have decided to use my commute time as my Mandarin practice time. So that means two hours of practice a day if I venture out. And it means getting to see new areas in town like Zhibei where I finally got to meet one of the women who eased my transition to China.



Meet Emily, wonderful blogger, fellow geocacher, and all-around-girl-in-the-know (even if her passport called her a "trailing spouse" when she had a very nice career in Shanghai, thank you very much). Anyhow, Emily is the one who told me about Chinesepod.com--a fantastic podcast with Mandarin lessons and insights into Chinese culture. Hailing from a small town in South Dakota with just 800 residents, she's come a loooong way from home. Thank goodness for me. While still in Seattle, I became a devotee of Emily's blog on her life in Shanghai. So I contacted her with a ton of questions. She answered them ALL.
I really respect Emily for leaving the known and creating a home in a place that is wholly different from South Dakota.
3. There are sensational restaurants in Shanghai with amazing design that rivals anything in the world. Like the one my son and I discovered on our recent Adventure Day when he had a day off school. Bull Noodle, a brand new Taiwanese noodle shop in the French Concession that offers just 5 dishes on the menu, all noodles, including my favorite ultra spicy beef ones that my mom used to make. All of them are 18 RMB (which is under $3 a serving!). And then there are the shopping enclaves in the French Concession like Ferguson Lane or here in Le Passage Fuxing (#299 Fuxing Xi Lu)where you really could be in Paris. Yet just out the door of all these swanky places is China in all its bamboo scaffolding glory.




Now, this is something you don't see walking down Main Street, USA.


3. You can have anything you want made and customized here in China. Even an Olympics mascot costume for your child's Halloween costume. Here is the amazing tailor, Wong Tai Tai (Mrs. Wong), with the hat that she made to complete my daughter's costume. She even makes house calls. Now, when have you ever seen that in the U.S.?

5. And then, of course, there are the bathrooms with their squat toilets. And the fact that you must be your own mobile sanitary station since many bathrooms are not equipped in the dispensing deparment, either for toilet paper or soap. But what makes me realize I'm really not in the U.S.? The signs.

1 comment:

slayground said...

#1 = Save the turtles!

#5 = Nice sign.

I just finished a book you might like: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xialou Guo, a novel about a young woman's time in Beijing. Apparently, the author had written it in Chinese, and it was published in her native land, then was translated into English, but ten years later, she revisited it, wanted to change some parts, and rewrote portions in English over the translation, thus creating the new edition that came out this August. I thought the book was all right, overall, but you might like it more than I did.

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