Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Random Observations 2/22/2012

I’m back with more random observations, this time from China. Most of these center on comparisons between Shanghai and Hong Kong, which we’re just starting to wrap our brain around. I’m sure there will be more of these as the semester moves on, but for now, here are some initial thoughts.
  • We have a cleaning lady who comes in each day at 10:00 am. Sounds way more luxurious than it actually is as all she does is empty the trash and then clean the floor with a wet mop. Yes - that’s right, she mops each day although she doesn’t sweep. As a result, the corners in all of the rooms are pretty nasty, as all the dirt and crap on the floor has just been shoved there. It looks as gross as it sounds, so a broom is definitely high on our list of things to purchase this week.
  • And really – China is much dirtier than Hong Kong, not just inside our apartment which seems to have a fine layer of grime on just about everything. Outside, as Doug mentioned, hawking loogies is de rigueur, and today we saw our first child relieving herself streetside. The latter is so common here that all small children wear split pants for easy access – be careful where you step!
  • China is also nosier than Hong Kong. The street we live off of is particularly crazy; at best, there is room for two small cars to pass, and even that’s a tight squeeze. But this street is also packed with bicycles, electric bicycles (both those for riders only and those for ferrying loads of whatever – cardboard, fruits, water bottles, etc), scooters and so on - all sharing the same road. Any time any one of these vehicles passes another, a friendly toot of the horn is in order which means that it’s constant cacophony.
  • At the same time, there seems to be a lot more that’s familiar here in China, at least in terms of chains and shops. Now, this may be because we’re much more centrally located here as compared to Hong Kong, but there are KFCs and Starbucks everywhere (which is helping to facilitate my new coffee habit) and in the mall near us, there are all sorts of Western chains (for food alone, we have Hagen Daas, Subway, Pizza Hut, Cold Stone Creamery, Burger King, and MacDonalds in addition to two Starbucks and a KFC – just of the top of my head and without full exploration of the mall).
  • This is a great comfort to us as we’re increasingly drawn to the creature comforts of home. When we were preparing to come here, we didn’t think this would be the case. We figured we’d been eating at all of the local hole in the wall joints. But those hole in the walls don’t often have English menus, which makes it a challenge for us vegetarians. Even with English menus in larger restaurants, we often find meat in what we order (as an example, Doug’s volcano vegetable ramens yesterday came with a heaping serving of beef on top), so steering towards what’s safe helps. On Sunday, this meant we hit the Shanghai Brewery for nachos and fries (along with beers of course). It was a big hit all around. Don’t get me wrong – we love exploring local cuisine, but it’s nice to have options. And the options seem to be a bit more expansive here – partially due to location but also due to the fact that Western food seems a bit less expensive here than in Hong Kong.

I don’t mean for all of these comparisons to sound negative as really, we’re very happy here so far. Our location is great (we were able to hop over to a pizza joint selling NY style slices in about 20 minutes – that would have taken over an hour in Hong Kong) and our apartment is just fine. More updates to come – I have my first class tonight, and the boys are off enjoying the first week of school. We’ll post more on both of these events soon.


  1. Glad to hear all is going well. It has to be so exciting and I can just see the street and hear the noise from your post. Anxious to hear how school goes for all of you

  2. Wow!! Another interesting segment. Glad that you have more eating options. But mopping without sweeping??? Yuk And that too shall pass.
    Sounds like the boys may like it better with more selections and proximity. Take care - Love to all - Mom and Dad