Friday, June 12, 2009


Goodbye Shanghai!!

Wow... the closing day finally comes. I literally just completed a marathon posting session. This journey turned into something I don't think Jim nor I could have ever imagined.

To begin he was here for 14 months, about 5 of which were without me. In the end I was here for a little more than 12 months, and spent 3 without him.

I say it very often, and will probably continue to do so, but I cannot believe it. It hasn't been as hard or scary as I ever imagined. I think my mom would attest to that fact from the two weeks she was here too. I've made some awesome friends and had the experiences of a lifetime.

Its funny to admit, but I am a bit hesitant about what follows: readjusting to small town life. I am essentially about to move from a mega city that has close to 20,000,000 back to a town of a little more than 2,000! A factor of 10,000!!

Jim has assured me its not that bad. I'm looking forward to the clean air I've longed to have in my lungs, the friends and family I have missed seeing grow and live their lives, and all the other sights, smells, tastes and sounds I've been away from for what seems so long. I have a feeling a lot of little things will make me very thankful and probably emotional.

One of my favorite songs on my iPod is by Josh Gracin called "I Keep Coming Back." I don't know if the song is on the radio, or if its well-known, but the lyrics in the chorus always make me remember the life I have in Texas and that is truly where I call home...

I keep coming back, Time after time,
No matter where I’m at
I can’t pretend
I’ve found something better than where I’ve been
Cause where I’m from
Is who I am
And no matter how far that I run
Yea I keep coming back

So my bags are packed (Please, Lord, let them be under 50lbs. Amen.) and I start the 24 hour travel session tomorrow.

Wish me Godspeed.

Goodbye SRC

FINALLY!! That Winkenwerder girl is posting some pictures of her complex...

The sign beside the front entrance and my building. My apartment is behind the second tree from the left - which is literally blocking my balcony.

The big pool. There is a sandy beach area for kids to play on the far side.

Different view of the big pool, although it still does not portray the size appropriately.

Views of the inside of the complex from my friend Michelle's apartment.

My building is in the far back right.

Goodbye JinFeng Lu

The road I live on and work on is JinFeng Lu, and I figured that it would be nice to put some photos up of my environment the past three months.

The intersection of JinFeng Lu & BaoLe Lu... the only light I pass through. But this isn't the busiest intersection.

These are the Chinese shops: there are restaurants, tailors, barbershops, think of it as downtown Shiner meets China - mom & pops places.

This is the 'expat section' of Jin Feng Lu: Pines Market, Rendezvous, ColdStone, Starbuck's...

Boxingcat Brewery (yep, they brew their own stuff), a local coffee shop (which supposedly has ties to the Chinese mafia), another local coffee shop, a local (legit) massage parlor...

... The monk, a few Chinese shops, a newly opened Subway restaurant, some 'other' massage parlors.

Peking Duck

Last Saturday, I joined a few friends at the Hyatt on the Bund for a dinner of Peking Duck. It's pretty neat how they are prepared, but rather than launch into a diatribe, I'm going to let the folks at Wikipedia do my dirty work:

The lighting wasn't very good (or more appropriately, I didn't change my setting on the camera correctly) but the pictures follow.

A duck being roasted in the oven.

The chef preparing the duck before it was served.

Day 2 Classes

My school runs on a rotating block schedule. There are eight periods: A through H. Periods A-D take place on Day 1 and E-H on Day 2. Easy enough. The fun starts in when you throw in the rotations... for ease of explaining, I'm going to list the days and order the lessons run in:


Then the cycle repeats. The idea behind this madness is that certain classes are not always at an advantage when it comes to test days. It also helps if you are not a morning person who stinks at math (or a different subject), you don't always have math class first thing, only 1/4 of the days you have math.

Anyways, I meant to take pictures of all my classes, but the last class for my day 1 students arrived and I didn't have my camera. So I was only able to take a picture of my day 2 classes. The other sad thing about this is I only have two classes on day 2, so I didn't get a picture of my three day 1 classes at all. :(

So here are my day 2 classes.

Period G AlgebraII/Trigonometry consisted of freshman and sophomores and was a class of 18. (One kiddon absent.) This is the maximum size of a class at SAS and is extremely large for a math class, most of which are topped out at 14.

Period H Core-PreCalculus consisted of juniors and seniors and was originally a class of 11. The two seniors had already graduated so these are just the juniors.


The night of graduation I stayed at my friend Jane's place. The next morning we went for breakfast and shopping in downtown Shanghai. Below are some pictures from our day.

We went to brunch back at the place where my first birthday party was, The Closed Door. Below is the entrance to the restaurant... there is no additional sign. Interesting, the place is owned by the same people who own Cantina Agave. They also have a few other restaurtants that are hits in Shanghai.
A picture of the tree-lined streets in the French Concession.

Another similar to above. It was a gorgeous day, but by mid-afternoon was as sweltering as South Texas.
A building that my friend Jane loves. Just thought this was a neat angle, please excuse the power cord cutting the picture diagonally.

A very clean lane (alley) in Shanghai between buildings.

Teachers Only: Post Graduation

After the graduation ceremony, there was a going away party for several departing teachers. We reserved the popular restaurant, Cantina Agave, for the whole evening. Cantina Agave has the best Mexican food in Shanghai, hands down. To give the place some credibility for all the hard-nosed-Mexican-food-snobs, let me add that this place also has two all important extensive bars: salsa and tequila; in separate locations. I did more damage to the salsa bar, than the tequila that night, but I did partake in a few margaritas. Left is a picture of me on the patio as the evening wore on. Below more pictues and descriptions follow.

My office mate, Pat, and friend Kevin talking out front. I imagine Pat making some silly tech joke and Kevin is laughing to be polite. J/K Pat. :P

How can you not love these two?? Drunk Peter and giddy Dachpian.
Sheryl was probably telling Dachpian something significant that he won't remember. I think this was before the man with the monkey came along. No, I did not drink so much to hallucinate a monkey. Just as there are people trying to turn a buck on the corner of any city in the states, the same is true in China. Apparently in this section of town, the old French Concession, men will have little monkeys they take around in hopes that drunken expats play and pay. No one pictured here (or writing this) played with the monkey, and I will not incriminate those that did.

Dachpian is sad that I'm leaving, or that his drink is empty, maybe both.

Friday, June 5, 2009


The graduation for my school was last Saturday afternoon at the Shanghai Grand Theatre. The ceremony lasted 2 hours, which isn't that bad as far as graduations go. We, the faculty, were recognized in a similar manner as college/university graduation: adorned in robes. Our robes were blue, whereas the students' were black.

I didn't get any photos of the ceremony itself, but below are some friends & me in the dressing room.

Myself, Emel & Michelle
Myself & Allan; we both teach core-precalculus and collaborate well together.

Castro & myself; I think he was delaying putting the gown on.

Celia, Myself & Emel

Dachpian... acting goofy.
Myself & Bob, a former bus buddy from when I rode the bus to work from Pudong.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

American School End of Year Party

Last Wednesday the American School had our going away party in downtown Shanghai, which was organized by our HR Department. School employees from both campuses are invited. This year was the first year the event was at The Glamour Bar, one of Shanghai's ritziest bars on the Bund.

The Bund is the old concession-era financial district on the waterfront property on the Huangpu River. In days gone by this area was known as "Wall Street of the East." Essentially the Bund is what put Shanghai on the map to become the major city it is today.

The party had lots of free alcohol, and very little food, a bad combination for teachers at the end of the year. :) Luckily for all of us the next day was the Chinese Dragonboat holiday. Below are some pics of me and friends (their respective discipline in paraenthesis) from the event.

Emel (French & Spanish teacher, one of my office mates & best buddies) and Celia (Chinese).

Me and Javier Castro (Spanish & office mate.)
Me & Emily (Math department chair)

Hannah (2nd grade)

David Dachpian (Economics & history)

Jane (Biology) & Karen (elementary ESOL)

Castro & Emel

Got Pictures??

As many may know, one of Jim's assorted hobbies is photography, and our adventure in China led him into a whole new level of the involvement.

Photo printing places abound here, as do framers. Through research and seeking recommendations from other expats, we found a printer and a framer that are in the top tiers of their traits in Shanghai. The additional bonus is that both of these services cost fractions of what they would typically run stateside.

We had several items printed and framed before Jim left and the first batch is pictured below. Jim did not get to see the results, so seeing these final products are a first for him too. Some of the items are not photos, but other art pieces we had framed.

Descriptions (left to right, in indicated row)

Top Row: Large silk scarf we bought at the Forbidden City in Beijing; two window boxes of Pudong skyline.

Middle Two Rows: Vertical Shanghai Sunset; two overhead photos of busy intersection we lived by in Pudong; (ivory mattes) two photos of interior of restaurant in Beijing; (green mattes) Chinese guards taking down the Chinese flag in downtown Shanghai & angled shot of Rachel looking at the happenings on a Beijing sidewalk; (Dark blue matte) Neat shot of Rachel at Shanghai World Finance Center - tallest building in China (aka my facebook profile pic.) (Light blue matte) old bicycles in Shanghai alley;

Bottom Row: Row of doorways & windows in Tibet; alleyway in Shanghai early one Saturday morning; 'reconstructed' terracotta soldier in Xi'an.

After Jim left, and the first shipment came in, we decided to get more...

Top Row: Large picture of Shanghai skyline, Pot on open fire in Yangshou.

Second Row: Framed Chinese Paper-cutting; Stairs to nowhere in Yangshou on Canvas

Third Row: Two Chinese paper-cuttings on mirror; Chinese Paper-cutting of Chinese woman's profile.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Birthday Party #2

The week after my birthday, my friend Michelle and her family (Kevin, Maya & Cooper) had me over for dinner. It was actually a dual-celebration, for both a me and another of friend of their family. We had thai food delivered from a local restaurant and a Cold Stone ice cream cake. The entire evening was fantastic, as was the leftover Michelle sent home.
We were greeted at the decorated threshhold by our young hosts.

While dinner was prepared, mood music was played by one of our hosts.

The evening moved onto other forms of entertainment. Maya sang her award-winning Chinese song and dance, followed by a rendition of Cooper's wu-shu routine.

I'm really upset I don't get any other pictures of Maya - she is such a beautiful young girl, the spitting image of her mother.
Then we ate and had cake!! I will say that while I am not 7, I am prime, so the candle wasn't a total lie!

Kevin & Michelle have been great friends and have taken me in as a part of there family since Jim left. This was not their first show of hospitality to me, and they will be sorely missed. I hope that I can pay their generosity forward in the future and always cherish the memories they have allowed me to share with their family.

Monday, May 18, 2009

By Invitation Only

This past Saturday was my birthday... to celebrate Saturday night I went out to dinner with some friends at an Italian restaurant called The Closed Door. The place only holds about 40 people when filled to capacity, so you have to have a reservation. Our group of 10 took up about 1/4 of the restaurant. It doesn't look like a restaurant, but literally a closed door with just the street number on it: 808. It was raining outside so we weren't able to enjoy the open air patio, but it was still a nice evening.

The restaurant is located in the former French Concession of the city. We had appetizers, 2 bottles of wine, entrees and dessert. Of course my dessert (chocolate banana tart) was brought to me with a huge firecracker/sparkler ablaze. The plan was to go dancing afterwards, but I think the rain was wearing on everyone, so we all went our separate ways after dinner. Another friend of mine has birthday this next weekend, so we might go dancing then.

I didn't take pictures, but just thought I would let everyone know I had a good time for my birthday. If you're ever in Shanghai you need to try to make it to the place... it beats the socks off Olive Garden. :-)

Link to a listing for the restaurant:

Fun Times at the Fabric Market

One of the things that all the expats take advantage of out here is the fabric market. I've been travelling to that area of the town on the weekends to take care of the last items I'm having made.

We've had several items made including, cashmere coats for me, leather coats for both of us, and even the suit Jim wore to gala. Like most things in China, you haggle/bargain for the price as everything is negotiable, but sometimes you do want to pay a little more to have a nicer quality.

So this weekend, I went to pick up our "Chinese items." I had the name of a specific tailor on recommendation from a friend (and a copy of Jim's measurements). Below is the tailor's shop, his name is: Jim (his English name anyways). All the shops pretty much look like the one below. The other funny thing is that the fabric market is one of the few places in Shanghai where there is no smoking... I wonder why? Could it be because of all of the fabric??

Next is the Changshan (more commonly called an emperor's jacket) that I had made for Jim. Not entirely sure where he'll where it, but its a fun piece. (I editted the pictures with PhotoShop so the pieces would stand out.) The silk brocade looks red in the picture, but it's really more of a maroon. When I tried adjusting the tone of the color in the picture it made the gold look funny. The gold embroidery is dragons and an old horse-pulled Chinese caravan. Dragons convey power and represent masculinity in China and the caravan represents an elite status.

Finally, there is the qipao I had made for myself. It's a silk brocade with vertical stripes in black, chocolate, caramel, champagne and slate blue. The silk has gold dragonflies (again a symbol of power, but much more feminine) embroidered on it. I will probably wear this here to our school's graduation or end of year party. I'm hoping I'll have the oppurtunity to wear it sometime this summer. The dress doesn't look that nice in the picture, but fits nicely.

Want to know more on the Chinese garments? See: &

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Record

WhooHoo!! Two, I mean, three posts in one day! That is a new "Shiner to Shanghai" record!

I realized that at this point the blog could now be properly subtitled, "and Shanghai to Shiner," since my time is almost done here... This past week I bought my return ticket home. I depart Shanghai on Saturday June 13 at 12:25pm, and I am scheduled to land in Austin at 4:54pm on Saturday.

I only wish the flight would only take 4.5 hours. The total flying time is 14.5 hours and I have a 3 hour layover in San Francisco. The layover seems like a long time, but it won't be, since that is where I will have to pass through U.S. customs.

So here's to hoping I finish the last stint of this blog in good form. Stay tuned!


Last Saturday, when I took pictures of the road construction in a taxi, I also snapped this one.

Its a quintessential China moment - one of the many times of my days when I'm out and I see something, and just think to myself "What in the world is that all about?"

Usually, right after I think this, I remind myself that its not fair to call it a China moment. I think its just be because I'm totally engulfed in a culture that is not my own.

I don't know if it is possible to explain this feeling in any other way, but I thought about this picture over the past week, and thought it would be interesting to share with everyone.

Other possible titles for this post included:

  1. Hey, what does this wire do?
  2. No, don't touch that!
  3. How many Chinese men does it take to...
  4. Stealing in broad daylight.

Road Construction

The area I moved to when Jim left China could be considered a suburb of the urban sprawl that is Shanghai. There are new elevated roads being constructed in this area, because there are plans to put in more railways, and I think one that will eventually connect Shanghai and Beijing.

Anyways, the changes that the local landscape has undergone since Jim left 2 months ago is unbeleivable. I no longer commute in on the roads with the contruction on it on a daily basis, so I really only see these changes on the weekends, and am always amazed at how drastic the changes are from week to week. I decided it would be neat to post some pictures of what elevated road construction looks like in China.

Disclaimer: I don't have any background in construction, so I'm sure some of the terminology I use will be humorous to anyone who does. This post would probably be much more informational if Jim were posting it - but he's not here - so you are all stuck with me. :)

First the buildings in the path of the new roadway have to come down, and the first picture shows a common sight, a hollowed shell of a building before demolition. I think this building used to be an apartment building. Along with the roads being constructed there is construction for a lot of new apartment buildings. I would estimate that the new buildings are at least 15 stories tall.

Next the 'legs' of the elevated roads are built. Scaffolding is errected as the legs are constructed. I think most of this scaffolding material is wood/bamboo.As the height of the legs increases so does the height of the scaffolding. The short legs are not as interesting or amazing.

Can you see the guy on top of the scaffolding on the right-most leg?

Panoramic shot of more tall legs.

Once the legs are done, other stuff is put on top of them with cranes. I don't know what these things are called, its just huge. I sure hope that concrete had time to set...

Then, more scaffolding! In this picture its some type of metal, as opposed to the wooden scaffolds used when the legs are constructed. I am almost certain that this scaffold is used as a support on which the forms for the roads are built.

View of the forms atop of the metal scaffolding. Notice the zig-zagging bamboo scaffolding running up along the metal scaffolding behind the light post. All the pictures were taken from inside a taxi. I couldn't crop the door out of this one.

Another view of the legs, forms and scaffolding.

View of part of the new road once the scaffolding is removed. That's it, I know my comments got shorter, but I think the pictures say a lot where I didn't.