Monday, October 22, 2007

Um... This Dish Isn't Vegetarian

It was just pointed out to me that I learned more at IMSA than I thought. For see, we went out for lunch yesterday. It took me a while to choose, but finally I decided on a noodle dish, for the picture looked pretty good.

We'd both forgotten that we were at a curry place. Pictures don't convey spiciness. But that's not where I had learned. That's something I am sure I've known for a long time.

When my noodles finally got delivered, I was dismayed to find shrimp perched prominently atop my food. There had been no shrimp in the picture. There had been no shrimp in the (English) description of the dish. There had been no shrimp anywhere related to this dish. So I hadn't been expecting shrimp.

This is what I had learned at IMSA, though. It's fine to add shrimp to a dish that is otherwise vegetarian. Doing so leaves you with a dish which is still vegetarian. For at IMSA, between all of the maths and sciences, and somewhere around learning how to stack trays, we learned that this is fine.

We learned that shrimp isn't an animal, it's a mammal.

Thus, adding shrimp in as an afterthought should be expected. I'm so glad I'm not a vegetarian, so I don't have to eat shrimp.

Well.. It Doesn't Look Greek

I thought I was going to get to start taking Chinese classes today. It felt like it was set up pretty last-minute, since as of Sunday I still didn't know when they were going to start and yesterday they asked... "Well, how about tomorrow?"

Ok, the sooner the better I figured. It didn't give much time to figure out when and where I was going and to go buy the books and all. Thankfully there were no books to buy, so it made that go by much more quickly. But I still had to try to figure out how to get there. Again, should be fairly easy, with the building being right across the street.

So I'm asked for my contact number and given a name and a time and told that she'll meet me and take me to my first class.

Time to leave for class rolls around, and I still don't know where to meet, but she's got my number, so I'm not too worried. Time for class rolls around and I start to worry, so I send an email, being my only form of communication, asking... 'uh.. where do I go?'.

I'm given the name and told to go to reception.

Five minutes after class is supposed to start, I'm waiting for the one person working at reception to finish helping the people in front of me. A bit after that, I'm trying to figure out why reception has no clue who the person I've been told to meet even is.

Fifteen minutes after class is supposed to start I'm back at the office and finally get the call. "Oh, sorry, class is delayed. It'll start on Monday of next week."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Day in Shanghai

We did some sightseeing yesterday. Nothing major, no amazingly scenic trips or journeys to far-off places. Just a quick trip to the science and tech museum. But first, lunch at the Bund.

Eating at small restaurants is always an experience, and this one proved to not break the mold. We had some potatoes and green peppers (which aren't the nice sweet bells, but rather the really spicy green peppers), some vegetable that I don't know the name of, and some shrimp dumplings that I, of course, didn't touch. The food was good, but I'm not sure it's healthy to have potatoes drenched in that much butter. That's probably why the food was so good.

We'd thought we'd take the subway across the river to get to the tech museum, but on our way we found the 'sightseeing tunnel' across the river instead. We were being all touristy and everything (I even brought my camera for the day), so we figured we might as well go all-out. We've decided that our tour book was right. It certainly leaves you speechless. But at least there're lots of pretty lights. Otherwise, there's not much I can say. Something you have to see to believe, but have problems believing even then.

The tech museum itself was nice, although too large for us to completely see in a single afternoon. We saw the animal exhibit, with fake animals from all over the world. Looked at all sorts of life, and found that fake caves inside of buildings aren't nearly as scary as real caves. Even if they are filled with (fake) bats. We shrank to the size of viruses. And then we got to look at some spiders.

Sadly, the moon walk was 'in maintenance', but we did get to ride along on a strawberry going through a giant digestive system. (That guy really needs to see someone, though. Jaws shouldn't squeak so badly.) We saw a robot shoot a bow, another play a piano, and Liz lost a game to yet another. It didn't help that the robot was playing Connect Four while Liz tried to play Go.

We also remembered yet again that taxis are really good, and a few bucks isn't a bad price to save aching feet. Subways are fun and all, but it can be quite a walk from the station to the apartment.

We should be getting our paperwork done sometime really soon-like, so maybe we can start some real traveling in a couple more weeks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Forgotten Drum

We went out to see a show last night. It was the opening of the 9th China Shanghai International Arts Festival, a dance show entitled "Dragon's Song". This after running around in the afternoon to get various bits of paperwork taken care of, so we didn't quite manage to get dinner prior to the show.

I didn't know what to expect. Which is probably good, as I certainly wouldn't have expected this. I didn't know it was the opening of a fairly big festival until after we got there, or else I may have been less surprised to have the half-hour of speeches. And may have even been less surprised to see all of the TV cameras.

But probably not. I really wasn't expecting to be at a show that was being broadcast live on TV.

I also wasn't expecting there to be a drum in a gift bag at my seat. Which I got to play around with a bit before the show, as we were instructed on how to appropriately use the drum and still keep from injuring the people sitting near you.

After the drum instruction and the speeches, the show actually started. And for dance, it was quite good. The music was a bit loud, but I got used to it. My stomach was hungry, and I didn't get used to that. So even though there was no intermission (being broadcast live, there were instead 'commercial breaks', and we got to see the commercials), we ended up leaving early and going out for Thai.

I was fairly sad to leave early. The dancing was pretty good, even though I wasn't really sure what was going on. And had I stayed, I could say that I'd played drums live on TV. But we didn't stick around long enough for the drum playing. And I was so concerned with not disturbing everyone else that as I snuck out of my seat, I forgot my gift bag.

Of course, being at a show meant we had to turn the cell phone off. And didn't realize it was still off until after the taxi called this morning, so we got to walk to work for a change.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Our Missing Stuff

Moving countries can cause some difficulties. Some of them one might expect--not being used to the food and not knowing the languages. These big difficulties can end up taking your mind off of all the little difficulties that may crop up. Especially the little difficulties that you think aren't going to be your problem because someone else is taking care of them for you.

Or so you think, until your stuff is all boxed up and shipped, until your stuff is already supposed to be being delivered. You think it's not your problem until you get that email that says that there's the limit on media that they didn't tell you about previously, and that some of your DVDs may be confiscated, or your entire shipment may be sent back.

Then it becomes a not-so-little problem. And very, very much your problem.

But that's ok, you think, since you still have people that are taking care of it for you. There have got to be ways to get these things worked out. There's going to be some sort of solution. And you find out you're right, there is. You find out a couple days later when they email you to let you know that you shouldn't have to worry about DVDs being confiscated or your shipment being sent back. You find out even later, when things should have arrived already.

You don't have to worry about things any more. Except the solution. That has to be worried about, because it means it's going to take at least another 2-3 weeks before you get your stuff. And you packed expecting it now, you're out of books, out of movies, the weather's starting to get cold and your winter coat is sitting in a storage facility somewhere that is not your closet, but somewhere close by.

Now it's an even less-small problem. And even more so your own personal problem, as you start to think that maybe these people aren't going to be able to work things out for you.

We can manage with what we've got here now. If it gets too cold, we can go buy clothes. If we need books, we can go buy them. DVDs may be harder to come by for me--we tried to look for some yesterday, but I decided I wasn't interested in either (a) educational BBC shows, or (b) anything else, as they were only available in Chinese (or maybe Japanese, but that's even less helpful to me). And computer games don't seem likely until I get my computer.

Oh well, maybe it's a good time to catch up on my sleep. Or possibly it's time to write the latest great American novel. And when we go back, perhaps we should think about shipping by postal service. Or pure teleportation. I'll probably have worked that out before our stuff arrives anyway.

Or I guess would have, were I to have my computer.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Week 2 In Review

It's turning out to be another interesting week. We had to go get medical exams on Wednesday to allow us to work here for the full year. The exam process went pretty quickly--they had a whole assembly line setup thing going. But then we got to ride another cab back to work.

Taxis in this country are quite an interesting experience. This one being moreso than most so far. Ignoring signs, driving on the wrong side of the road, it was quite an exciting ride. Similar to being on a roller-coaster, but not having the security of knowing that there are safety inspectors making sure the car isn't going to go careening off the track.

We did manage to stay on the road, though, so maybe there are safety inspectors after all.

We also got to continue with the saga of the stolen credit cards, as it's apparently very difficult to pay off a canceled credit card if you're nowhere you can really get a paper bill in a reasonable time-frame. Oh well, her cards can only be stolen once before we don't have them any more. Now we just have to get her a new license.

Then for the rest of the week we've been dealing with the lovely news that the rest of the stuff we shipped may be delayed, or may require paperwork we don't have, or may not be able to completely make it through customs. Some of it may be confiscated, or it may all be sent back.

So it's been quite an interesting week. But work's going well, and we've found a few good places to eat so I don't have to live on rice and noodles for the rest of the year. I don't care that one of them does happen to be Pizza Hut. I just avoid the fish pizzas.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New Desk

Yay, I have a nice desk at work now. And I didn't even have to fight for it, I just had to ask nicely. So now I get to sit by the window and get a nice view of the city. Or yesterday, of the very large amounts of rain blowing in a very large variety of very interesting directions. Somehow none of those directions seemed to be 'down'.

The wind was pretty amazing, and the howling past my window made my day that much better. But even without the nice window view and quiet work area, I think I'd still be pretty happy here. The environment is much smaller and closer than I'm used to, but it's also somehow much less crowded. I'm a very big fan of less crowded. We'll see how long that manages to keep up.

It rained on us all day yesterday. But I didn't melt or anything, even after we ended up heading the wrong direction for a couple blocks after getting off of the subway. A couple of blocks wouldn't seem too bad, but our walk from the subway was supposed to only be a couple of blocks anyway. And it was raining. A lot. Still.

It's better today. But still cloudy. At least we know how to use the subway. Or today, maybe I'll manage to just walk home.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Lighter Load

It's been quite an interesting and busy week. Lots to do, and it's nice to have a holiday to do a bunch of it. We've moved into our new apartment, although we don't yet have all of our stuff delivered. Our place is fairly nice and large, and has a nice view of the city.

Tuesday brought us to the aquarium--quite an adventure, taking the subway in Shanghai. Getting on and transfered wasn't a problem, but you have to swipe your card again when you leave the subway. And for some reason it didn't like mine. I'm not sure why, or what went on. I just know the people that apparently were working there tried swiping it themselves, but then gave up and brought it to the desk, having them swipe it for me. They tried a couple of times, shrugged, and waved me through.

The aquarium itself was pretty nice. They had a lot of underwater viewing with a really, really long underwater tunnel. The only downsides to the aquarium were that it was so crowded, and that it was set up much too linearly, so you had to view the exhibits in the order they set, and had to view them all. No fair picking a favorite one and just going to see it.

Wednesday then we relaxed for much of the day, before heading out to see fireworks in the evening. A great dinner followed by borrowing someone's apartment balcony to get a similar view, comfortable seating, free drinks, and no cost compared to the people that had to pay in the park. And it was quite a long fireworks show, lasting about an hour. And I thought the four song show in Mountain View was long this year.

Thursday we again got to relax... for a couple of hours. Out for lunch, and then down to visit some of my wife's family all afternoon, and out to dinner with them in the evening. I still think it's quite interesting having meals with people that I still can't talk to. I'm trying to learn Chinese, but don't have much yet.

But that brings us to today. I used some Chinese for the first time, after ordering ice cream for myself (at McDonalds)--I gave exact change for ice cream at the ice cream window, so it was obvious what I wanted. That was the easy part. But I managed to thank her in Chinese. I'm proud of myself, and managed to make my wife laugh. It was good to get her laughing. We'd gone shopping earlier today, and as we were looking at puzzles, she realized that someone had stolen her wallet.

It takes quite a while to call credit card companies to get cards canceled. But at least with the time zone difference, there isn't particularly much of a wait. I suppose either thieves in the states need to sleep too, or at least their victims are still asleep at the time.