August 2014

A wild attempt to try and show you how awesome of an apartment I scored in Chengdu. I live on the top floor (11th) in an area overlooking the river and 2nd ring road. I have a nice balcony, a large bedroom with closet, a kitchen with 2 burners (unusual but very welcome!), and a Western Style bathroom. I also have a large living room with a fridge, sofas and TV which I get many channels because my internet connection came with TV for the year. It is very nice here. I live far enough away from town that I get peace and quiet and can walk along the river while listening to the cicadas in the trees. I also get to watch the cranes fish in the river and dance on the bridge. It is very nice here. Thank you Patti the UW coordinator and DaAn the apartment agent for finding me such a lovely home for the year!

Hi Everyone! I spent my Saturday touring Shanghai with my tour guide Heidi. She took me to Xintiandi which is the former French Concession, the Bund (where the Pearl Tower is), the Confucious Temple, People's Square, Yuyuan Garden and the old part of Shanghai, and also the Silk Museum. We mutually agreed to skip the Shanghai Museum as the lines were about 2 hours long and it was pouring rain. Besides, I need something to see next time I am in town :)

So I learned about pearls, jade, silk and tea on my adventures with Heidi. Our driver was very good and didn't hit any pedestrians. I think that is the main challenge in a city where lanes are suggestions and merging is always an option even if there is a car in the way. My favorite part of town was Old Shanghai, it had the classical architecture and felt very natural. The Yuyuan Gardens were wonderful and I enjoyed my time surrounded by dragons, carved faces in the eves and all elements of nature (wood, water, rock and air). I really enjoyed the silk museum and did purchase some silk pillow cases (Marcy eat our heart out!). They are tan colored and feature the phoenix and the dragon which also symbolizes man and woman. I must admit to some vanity in that I also purchased some pearl face cream which is really cheap here. It has silver flakes, pearl powder and ginseng gel. I look forward to trying it as it feels very nice and soothing.

Today is Sunday my time, and I decided to take it easy as my authentic lunch and tea yesterday did not do well in my stomach. For those traveling to Shanghai beware that the food is very oily. Heidi the guide and also a native even has problems, she suggested you drink 6 or more cups of green tea to help cut the oil in your diet and feel more healthy. I must be a glutton for punishment though since I do like the food very much.

So, no one will guess where I went today, Wal-Mart is about 25 minutes by foot from my hotel. It was the food section and it was so cool!! I bought sesame duck, chili peanuts and chocolate. Don't worry if you don't speak English when grocery shopping, chocolate does not translate, it is just "chocolate" so everything in the world is just fine.

So final thoughts: don't stay in Wujiaochang district if you don't speak excellent Chinese as you won't be able to get around and can't order food since the locals don't understand and there is no English translation or pictures. Another thought, take a tour, they are cheap like $100 plus tip your driver and guide 100-150 RMB which is about $16-25. Next visit I will take the harbor tour, if you come ask your concierge who will be priceless how to book things. FYI on tours they take you to places that expect you to buy things, you are not obligated I chose to buy from the temples instead of street hawkers as the temple purchases go towards maintenance and scholarships to poor students. Last thought, start at the silk museum and work your way down that street, so many vendors which things like mystery meat on a stick, turtles and snakes for pets or food they didn't care which, and make sure you haggle for good deals.

Take care everyone and my next blog will come from my future hometown of Chengdu. Wish me luck finding my apartment and getting settled.

The stories I have from being in the Vancouver B.C. area must be abbreviated for my audience, but here are the highlights from the last day and a half. Arrival into Canada was uneventful, except we got stuck at the gate watching a man push his car over the border. It was very nice of the border patrol officers to assist him in pushing it out of the gate area and to the side (yes, small hill involved and 4 patrol officers were pulled from their posts to do this). We decided to visit Gastown and Chinatown Saturday evening after checking into the hotel. We met a fellow Olympian while bar hopping and avoiding panhandlers. About 4am we had a moment of hilarity when the bed literally fell off its supports without provocation! Our Sunday included some awesome Chinese food, stores, and garden tours. I must say that I have seen more police action in the last 27 hours then I had in over a year at home. Those Vancouver PD officers sure are fit, watched one scale a residential fence with room to spare! Oh, did I mention we got blocked into a parking spot while at dinner? Yeah, took us an hour and a half to wait for the family to move their vehicles which made us miss our karaoke event, but it gave us an excuse to check out another Hong Kong Restaurant. I can't wait to see how the rest of our time in beautiful Vancouver turns out. We have met some wonderful people and even learned how to make tea properly Cantonese style.

Hi Everybody! It's almost 11pm and after spending the last 12 hours packing, unpacking, repacking and sorting, I am finally ready to leave tomorrow. I had to repeatedly laugh at myself regarding how much stuff I feel I need and keep justifying that it is because I'll be gone for 12 months not for short term. In the end I found out I have a weight limit on my backpack which is unusual but eventually I got my carry on bag to the right weight, and I also managed to get my checked bag within a couple pounds of limits and feel rather satisfied with my hard work.

Tomorrow my partner Joe and I will drive to Vancouver, B.C. for 3 days of relaxation and then I will depart for Shanghai. My only concern is that the airports in Shanghai are having some issues because of military drills in the area. So I am crossing my fingers that things go smoothly and as planned but if they change I can work with that too.

Take care friends and I will post more in the near future!