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.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Tonight, my school's Performing Art Center (PAC) hosted Fragrance - an evening of traditional Chinese Dance by the Shanghai Dance Company. The production ran earlier in the year at the Shanghai Grand Theatre. The PAC puts on events like these in order to allow the school community to experience the local performing arts traditions that occur beyond the school gates. It also allows the American school to promote the culture and traditions of China, our host country. (Our school is non-proprietary and sponsored by the American Consulate, so essentially the school is a guest in China.)

Summarized excerpt from the playbill:
The piece takes it name from a translation of a classic Chinese poem written by Song Dynasty master poets Song DongPo and LiQing Zhao. Like the poem, the dances exemplify the rich history, refined style and diverse content that compromise the cultures of China whether it is traditional dance from Mongolia, the Korean and Tajike minority tribes or the Tang Dynasty.

The performance lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes and consisted of 11 different routines, most were traditional Chinese, but a few pieces were much more modern, but still had distinct Chinese charachteristics. Of course, since it was a live-stage performance pictures weren't allowed and my words could not begin to do the pieces justice. I think this has been the the best Chinese performance I have seen here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Cinco de Mayo" on "Dos de Mayo"

This weekend was a long weekend in China. Friday, May 1, is when China celebrates Labor Day* [see footnote at bottom], so it was a national holiday. I ran some errands during the day on Friday and Saturday, more to come on that in the near future.

Saturday night, once I returned to Zhudi Town, my current outskirt of Shanghai, I went to The Monk. The Monk is a local bar that caters to the expatriate community and is the Zhudi Town version of Cheers, where "everyone knows your name."

The reason that we were all meeting is that the owner of The Monk, Ralph, a lovely gentleman, organized a Cinco de Mayo event. Ralph, being a businessman obviously understood the gains he could encounter by putting the event on Saturday May 2, versus Tuesday May 5. That said, I'm sure there will be a crowd at Ralph's establishment on Tuesday.

There was a mexican buffet and a hoppin' salsa band. I had a good time visiting and even got out on the dance floor for a little while. Being one of the few (if not the only) folks from Texas present, I was asked several times if I had my honky-tonkin' boots on.

I just found it ironic that I was celebrating Cinco de Mayo in China... more than 8,000 miles away from Mexico.

* Labor Day Information
Curious as to why our (American) Labor Day is observed as the first Monday in September, and not May 1 with the rest of the world? See: If you follow the link, you can scroll above to see how different regions observe the holiday.

Follow: to find out more about our observed holiday.