Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Evolution

After 3 years of blogging about Bailey I am starting to hit a wall.  Some months I struggle to find interesting topics to write about and others I feel like my posts have ADD and are all over the place.

I decided to diversify my blog to not only be stories about Bailey but also about our travels, faith, running this house as a housewife, stuff I love, and celebrity gossip :)  I have always wanted an outlet to discuss important details about the Real Housewives or my favorite hair products, and this gives me just that!  LOL!

Stay posted for new and exciting happenings and I hope everyone enjoys this evolution :)

In the meantime...


Monday, March 24, 2014

Shanghai!

I spent 5 years in college studying History as a major and spent 9 years teaching high school history, mainly focusing on World History - my favorite :)
Growing up, my dad always made every opportunity available for me to travel - He sent me to Germany, Austria, Italy, France, England, all over the US, and the Caribbean.  In my adult life, Christian and I have enjoyed even more traveling.  We have done Spain, Tokyo, an now Shanghai together and two dozen US cities.
All of my studying in college and 9 years of teaching still do not hold a flame to the education you get from experience.  I wish I would have done this trip years ago because I feel like what I learned I would have loved to pass on to my students.

A few overall thoughts from my trip:

1- Politicians hate each other, most citizens could care less.  Don't let politicians tell you what countries you like and don't.  Go see for yourself.  They have different motivations for their opinions… so if you are not a politician, don't think like one.

2.  Things aren't always what they seem.  Many people use the word "Communist" to describe China and that may be their title, but there are few signs of that in existence.  They are a mixed market who love the buying and selling of goods and services but feel very strongly about the preservation of their culture.  That is where government control comes in.  If you want to know why the Chinese are so wary of new ideas… google the Opium Wars.

3.  The fewer hands that power resides in, the more corrupt that institution will be.  To follow my last point, there is a huge disparity of income in China… and it is quite sad.  The wealthy will control the nicest areas and preserve them while letting other parts go.  It is very black and white.  On one hand they don't offer all of the welfare programs that we provide to our struggling citizens, but on another hand those who struggle, keep moving on.  It's funny what you are capable of when you know there is no safety net.  And as a side note, crime is extremely low in Shanghai - for a city with 24+ million people in it, that is impressive!

4.  Once and rebel, always a rebel.  I am from the South and am sure that I have been accused of being a redneck once or twice… Why?  Because people are stupid.  I am neither reactionary nor do I reject modernism.  I am religious though, so I suppose that is why… Either way, we as American's are all "rednecks".  We rebelled from our mother country in a way that has really never been done before in history and that attitude sticks.  It is in our blood.  I know this, because when you go places that do not have that history, the people are far more reverent and dignified, i.e. the Chinese.  I am not kidding when I say that returning to the US and sitting in the Atlanta airport gave me reverse culture shock.  People are loud, rude, selfish, and many crazy.  You sit in a Chinese airport and everyone is quiet and patient.  But then again, is it really fair to let Atlanta speak for the rest of the US?  Probably not...

5.  Personal Space.  I will never get used to the lack of personal space in Asia.  Queing up for a meal is like a mob rush.  People at your back pushing you in!  My obvious reaction is to turn around and freak out… but, when in Rome!  Also, it is important to remember that it is not to be rude, it is just cultural.  They see nothing odd about it.  So next time you are in line at Starbucks and you can wiggle and inch to all sides, be thankful!

Now, more about our trip :)  We had an AWESOME time!  We hit every site that was on my list and then some.  I will say, I realized while there that my threshold of being away from Bailey is about 5 days… after that, I began unraveling… My sister tells me it gets shorter and shorter and soon you won't even be able to leave for a night!  Uh oh…

Gifts:
Christian and I got some awesome stuff in China!  But none that I am more proud of than my Buddha.  I was hunting all week for the perfect one.  I finally found it from a antique market - Dong Tai Road.  In actuality, most of the stuff is NOT antique.  These shop owners are experts at buying something new and rolling it in dirt and telling you it is an antique.  I was not really wanting a certified antique, but I did want something unique.  I finally found this one… she told me it was white jade but I think it is granite.  Either way, it is heavier than all get out!  I didn't bargain that well on it because I was emotionally attached and the "walk away" strategy would completely ruin my bargaining advantage… so I had to put my tail between my legs and buy it… I got it down a little, but not a lot.  I guess one good thing is that I did not see another one like it made of that material… So maybe it is a real antique ;0  The best part was once we purchased it, we had to walk to the hotel.  I guess we could have gotten a cab, but we love walking.  Christian carried this thing all the way back!  It was hysterical!  I was laughing so hard I almost peed my pants and people just stared at us like we were NUTS when we walked by!  It was great… what an awesome memory :)

Bargaining:
China is so fun!  The first day was hard because it was so different and I had to get my bearings… but by day 2, I was ready.  The first task is to learn the art of bargaining.  EVERYTHING in China is negotiable - so, we started with little things - earrings, scarves, knick knacks… so then we would be ready for the big stuff.  It is stressful - but I love it!  I also like the game - first you ask the price, they tell you some RIDICULOUS number and then you basically counter with about a quarter or half of that… Then they tell you that you are a "special friend" and that today they will give you "this" deal… but it is usually only like 3-5 percent less than their original high price… So you go hard on your first counter - when they finally start coming down then you can start coming up a bit and hopefully meet in the middle or below :)  The fun part is that most merchants don't speak a ton of English so all of the numbers are typed on a calculator.  EVERY vendor has a calculator… so, if you ask the price, they grab it and type it in… then you take it and type in your price, and it goes back and forth.  Crazy!  For Christian's suits, she originally asked 1500RMB per suit… at the end of the deal, I got 2 suits and a coat for a little under that price!  It was tough, but I felt pretty good about it. That is where a concierge comes in - I did some research on what we ideally should pay so I had a plan… The hard thing about bargaining is sometimes you get so caught up in the game that you lose sight of what you are doing!  I did this with some scarves.  The lady said they were 35RMB - which is about 6 dollars - I know, 6 dollars for a SCARF!?!?!? I wanted 6 of them, so I was fighting and fighting trying to get them for half of her original asking not even realizing that they were so cheap!  Christian was like, "Katie, relax… you are freaking out."  So, I ended up getting them for about 180RMB or $30USD…

Strange Occurrences:
Some things about the Chinese did crack me up - one was the spitting!  Seriously, the men walk around hawking up lougies all day!  It is so gross and sounds so disgusting!  While I was haggling for a gift for Bailey a man was behind me spitting and I turned around like so annoyed and the lady running the shop just started laughing - then was like, "Chinese love to spit!"  I said, "yeah, I realized that"
It was a pretty funny moment where we both laughing about it so hard that I think I got ripped off on my purchase, but whatever :)  The other was smoking!  I cannot believe how much people smoke, and they do it everywhere!  Like, strait up walk in a shop with a cigarette in your mouth!  LOL!
The pollution is as bad as everyone says too - the smog was CRAZY!  Some days you couldn't even see the tops of buildings!  A lot of locals wear masks… but we didn't - I did wonder if we should though?  It does make for a beautiful sunrise though ;0

Tasks:
One thing that does get frustrating is that people there all have a job or task.  So for example, at the hotel there is a woman who runs the front desk.  She can check you in, answer your questions, give you instructions and lead you to believe that her English is impeccable!  But… the minute you have a question outside of "check-in" she is like a deer in the headlights and has to start calling for reinforcements.  At one point I realized that they probably never understood us, they just memorized what that conversation sounds like - so that explains their apparent confusion and lack of understanding of English when you ask them something outside of their "task".  I remember once reading about the psychology of communism and absolute rule and one thing that they had in common was that at some point the subjects cease to innovate and be creative because of a lack of intrinsic motivation (which is of course the point)… I wonder if some of that comes into play when considering the assignment of one task and lack of knowledge of any other.   Well roundedness is NOT a virtue...

Overall:
We loved it!  I really love Asia.  I love the richness of culture, the history, and of course the food :)  China is overall very clean - even in the cities.  I think that is impressive!  26 million people and no litter!  It just shows that it is so cultural… that is, Americans constantly throwing their trash on the ground… Ugh!

Final Thoughts:
I got my first zit in like 20 years while in China… I was both repulsed and enamored by it.  Let's hope that doesn't become a trend ;0
Facebook is blocked in China… but Instagram isn't… hmmm
I was disappointed that I didn't find a medicine man to give me acupuncture :(
Tea did not seem as big of a deal there as in Japan last year… that was sad - I LOVED the tea in Japan!
I recommend whenever you go to a new city that you do a half day tour.  They are so informative and really help you get a sense of direction.  In a city like Shanghai where all you see is buildings, it helps to break it up.  I always like to do the tour the first morning and plan the rest of my week based on that.

Until next time!

xoxo



Before leaving, I went in to give B a kiss… oh my heart :((((
Bloody Mary's were in order
Christian and I got pods across from each other…. I went and snuggled
in his… the flight attendants laughed :)  They said crazier things have happened…
We took the Maglev Train from Pudong to Shanghai's center - it was a cool
experience… it feels like levitation at 187mph
Traveing to Asia is hard on the internal clock…
I was up at 3am pretty much every day ordering coffee… 
My breakfast friends… every morning at 6am… I was the FIRST person there everyday!
Really, there are no other westerners in this hotel??
Christian swears we are putting one of these in our next house… I am not so sure…
What I did at 3am… mapped out our travels on this kindergarten map…
the scale is RIDICULOUS… none of these places were even CLOSE to each other!
First morning out… took a long walk around the Bund… so nice!

Beautiful sunrise 



Every morning, older men and women meet all over town… like every block and do"exercise"
I was so impressed!
Bikes on Bikes on Bikes 
Nanjing Pedestrian Road… can not get away from the peddlers!
It can be overwhelming!
First dinner out… cocktails first :)  Do I look tired???
Peking Duck… we had to make these reservations like a month in advance?!?!
Carving the bird...
Day 2 headed to Old Town
making dumplings… mmmmm
Stinky Tofu… when I tell you that it smelt like raw sewage,
I am not lying!
Can I get that recipe?  NOT!  but really, that is why it is sooooo good!
Then we headed to the Yuyuan Garden… we spent about 90 minutes there because there was so much to see!
Lions guard EVERY door in China… there is always a male and female… this is the female
and the male :)
Loved all the doorways
The garden was BEAUTIFUL!


300 year old Ginkgo Biloba tree…and I thought it was a root!
That is limestone!  It is really cool up close
Love the architecture



Next, we headed to the Confucious Temple
People write prayers for wisdom on this yellow paper and tie it to the trees
This reads, "Confucius Say"… "Say" looks like a baby's mouth :)
Our guide told us to rub on the limestone for good luck!
The last stop on our tour was Xintiandi or the "French Concession"
The was my favorite area to eat and sit outside for drinks
The magnolias are about to bloom and it is so pretty!
The French carved out this little area during their occupation and you can see their architectural touches
all over.  The streets and the forums feel very European.  This is definitely one of the more expensive areas of Shanghai… I just LOVED going there for lunch and sitting on the patio :)
One of the Historical Buildings in Xintiandi - This is the site where the Chinese Communist Party was formed in 1921
Inside, everything is left as it was 80+ years ago… The Chinese Communist Party has over 80 million members!  
Pearls are cheap in Shanghai… we went to this "pearl" lady and she showed us how they extract and choose
the perfect pearl.  It was pretty interesting 
Dim Sum lunch…mmmmm


One of my goals in China was to purchase a Buddha… we got one, and it was 30 lbs… Christian
carried it like this for a 30 minute walk home!  People stared at us like we were crazy!!!  LOL!
The Buddha
Got Christian fitted for some custom suits and I got an awesome cashmere coat made.
We paid just under 1500RMB for 2 suits and a mens coat… that is roughly $240USD
Notice the calculator?


Mid morning Prosecco in Xintiandi :)
We headed to the Jade Buddha temple… it was packed… full of worshippers!
I can't imagine trying to have mass and a bunch of tourists walking through!!!




Our Favorite Dumpling Spot


Some things don't need any explaining...
We even found a brewery on St. Patricks day that had green beer!
Last morning :(
Good Bye Shanghai!


Meanwhile in Iowa…
Bailey had a blast baking with Boppy (Christian's mom)

and eating Chinese food…
Christian's brother came to visit… he and Bailey bonded :) He is also her godfather :))

and Otto of course had fun!