Monday, December 28, 2009

What's A Girl To Do?

Chinese propaganda posters
courtesy of

Here's the skinny, we are moving to China. We will be packing and storing all of our loot and heading to the other side of the planet with just a satchel or two. I have literally been in a state of shock since my husband came home with this news. We went to China in November to check out housing and schools and found many lovely options. Lulu and Deke are thrilled to begin this life changing adventure, so we feel extremely lucky.
I have been racking my brain on what I should do during our stay in China, Gar will be busy peddling dolls and the kids will be getting a wonderful international education and I am simply terrified. If only I had the skills of my friend Rebecca Ramsey, she wrote the most wonderful book about her adventures in France. I have also been pining for Keith Johnson's job at Anthropologie. Have you caught his show on the Sundance Channel? Keith travels to cool spots around the globe finding treasures for the designers at Anthropologie.
Can I open a cupcake stand in Shanghai or scour the countryside for kitsch? Yikes, any ideas?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lulu in Shanghai

Me in Shanghai

Gar and Deke wanted to visit the Shanghai Aquarium and Lulu and I wanted to visit the old French Concession, so we very bravely parted ways. Lulu suggested I bring a map and a clunky tour book with us, I scoffed at this saying "where's your sense of adventure?" and "we aren't the kind of people who need to follow a guide book." Plus I did not want to lug it around all day.

First stop was the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum set in an old mansion in the French Concession. This is a perfect spot for me, a museum plus an elegant old home. It seemed like everything in this museum was for sale, another plus in my book!

Second stop was a French crepe restaurant and it was actually brimming with chain smoking French businessmen, go figure.

Third stop was to find the long list of stores that I had circled in the clunky tour book. Lulu and I walked around for a couple hours. At every street corner I would tell her that things looked promising just a bit further down the street. When it started raining and we had not discovered any of the promising shops, Lulu declared that "we are indeed guide book people!" I believe this was accompanied by a glare.

Fourth stop was completely spontaneous, a chance to win over Lulu and her sense of adventure. I had taken off my glasses in the downpour, but I could see from across the street that there was a perfectly charming hair salon without any customers inside. I grabbed Lulu by the arm and dashed inside before she could start protesting. I had read volumes about Shanghai's famous shampoo service that included a head, neck and shoulder massage for less than $8.00!
The haze of cigarette smoke was a bit surprising and Lulu was glaring at me again, but we were going to have fun!

The service starts off with something called a dry shampoo. The stylists work a lather up in your dry hair and makes your head look like a giant Dairy Queen ice cream cone. After your hair is rinsed you receive a massage and the most vigorous Karate chops to your back, imagine Lulu glaring at me with watery eyes now.

I am now presented with a laminated card listing different services in English, so I have to retrieve my wet glasses. I manage to communicate that Lulu needs to have her bangs trimmed and I just need to have my hair blow dried. I can now look around the salon with my glasses on, oh my! I see things moving on the ground. I had to ignore the fight or flight response, our body's primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight" or "flee" from danger. I put my glasses back in my purse. Two men with long pinky fingernails were introduced as our stylists.

Lulu ended up with a fabulous haircut, I was not quite as fortunate. For a very brief period I held the title of biggest hair in China! My coif reached some spectacular heights vertically and also broke some records horizontally. Finally, Lulu was smiling.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There's Soup In Them Thar Dumplings!

I bought no less than 13 travel books on China in preparation for our trip. Loads of information on the Great Wall of China, the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Forbidden City, but the overlooked wonder of the world is the Shanghai soup dumpling.
The soup dumping is an engineering feat with scalding hot delicious soup contained inside a delicate little dumpling. These are insanely good and well worth the third degree burns to your chin. I feel like somewhat of an expert on this regional delicacies and I would highly recommend wearing an absorbent terry cloth top and slathering the lower half of your face with aloe vera before dining on dumplings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Made In China

Found loads of cute food.

Shanghai's skyline designed by George Jetson

Blue Gumby is everywhere for the Shanghai World Expo

Neat sculpture on our way to the airport.

(Chinese symbol for junking)

I am back and completely turned around, wide awake all night and sleepy during the day. We had fun shopping in Shanghai and found a few cool things to bring back home. Chinese junk shopping involves some serious negotiating with a calculator being passed back and forth. On more than one occasion I heard the merchants getting a hardy chuckle at how much this dumb American paid for something.
Very little of old Shanghai is still standing. I saw a few old buildings waiting for the wrecking ball with cool architectural details that clearly weren't being saved. I was tempted to jump a construction fence and pry off a carved wood frieze hanging over an old door. Gar is always so quick to poo poo this type of activity, such a party pooper!
Lulu and I braved they very crowded market and she scored a Mao watch. I was always drawn to the rickety old stool or chair that the merchant was sitting on, but I new the limitations of our luggage. We thoroughly enjoyed venturing into the grocery stores and looking for packages of cute food. I bought the kids something that I thought was like Starburst candy. After eating one of these "Starbursts" Deke narrowed them down to being gum or soap, we never did figure it out.