HOT. We’re on the same latitudinal line as the southern U.S., like mid-Georgia or Alabama, and it definitely feels like the South. At least our hotel rooms are air-conditioned. (Service otherwise is sub-par, but that’s a different story.)
The other day Rachel and I meant to go to Old City Shanghai, which is west of the Bund area. We figured it would be a place where we could see the sights—some museums, a tea house, etc.—and not spend a bunch of money. Not so. We started off at the Fabric Market, which is a conglomeration of clothing booths squished into two huge buildings. They have designs galore, and what you do is pick out designs you like, then the person measures you, you put down a 50% downpayment, and then the seamstress makes it for you and you pick it up a week later. Imagine having something tailor made to fit you! Only problem is Rachel and I haven’t mastered the art of bargaining. We haggled some for the dresses we bought (sarong-like things that can be shaped around your body in a million different ways), but then later realized that the seamstress accepted our haggle too quickly and moved on to the measurements and the colors before we knew it. We probably could have talked her down another 50 yuan. Oh well. Still cheap. We literally stayed there all day browsing. I got a beautiful pearl ring—don’t worry, we did the scratch test—in an antique setting. Now we’re sitting on considerations for further purchases before going back to pick up our dresses next week. Rachel wants a soft blue wool coat that’s shaped sort of like a pea coat but sort of has that modern military look. I’m considering buying a suit fitted perfectly to my body. The jacket has a beautiful scooped neckline with a collar that bends out over the shoulders. That doesn’t sound cute, but trust me. The woman at the stand claims that it’s a direct replica of Dolce and Gabbana. These people will tell you anything for a sale, so who knows. I also want a slim black jacket with red Chinese details on the cuffs. Where the coat comes together the one side is longer than the other, adding angles to my torso in the trendiest way. It’s completely unique and completely China. But how much to spend. I might ask for more of an advance for my teaching salary.
Teaching is going well. I’ve got the 9-10 year olds. They’re sweet as sap, but the short attention spans stress me out sometimes and make it difficult to get a lot done. I’ve got to be part entertainer part teacher to hold their interest. I do like it, but I think I’m glad to be heading toward teaching college freshmen in a few months. At least our salaries are pretty good, and offset the cost of the trip and all expenses while I'm here.
Today we went to meet a few ladies who work at the 3M’s Shanghai office. They know Rachel’s aunt, who works at the Minneapolis branch and comes to Shanghai at least once a year for work. They took us out for pot dinner. Or was it “hot pot” dinner? Absolutely delicious. We each chose a type of soup, fish soup, “Chinese medicine” soup, and a few others. Rachel and I went with “Chinese medicine,” which was surprisingly good. There was ginseng, Chinese wolf berries, mini dates, and some sort of bark in it. Didn’t taste “medicinal” at all, in what I think of as medicinal anyway. Herbal. We each at a pot with our chosen type of soup, which we allowed to boil. Then on little plates were served various meats, vegetables, and tofu creations, which we put into our boiling soups to cook for 1-3 minutes, then dipped in our sauces. The sauces were gathered from a smorgasbord of them, which we were instructed to dip our cooked pieces into. The drink served was a cool vegetable broth, actual chunks of carrot and corn and whatever else anchored at the bottom, with a piece of sugar cane in it. The ginseng boosted my energy, and I felt a little high, actually. I must figure out how to cook Chinese food.
The ladies were impressed, of course, with Rachel’s Chinese. It’s surprising for many people to meet Americans or native English speakers who speak Chinese. They know how difficult it is. At any rate, I felt a bit like a wallflower, but that was okay. A free meal and a chance to hang out with four other successful, single women. I don’t get enough of that in my life in the States.
I’m hoping Brandon will come visit while I’m here, but unfortunately even if he does we can’t get the same flight home. That 12-hour flight would be so much better with him there. I can’t really gauge whether he even wants to come, which makes me disappointed. He’s had a lot of other things going on in his life lately, though, and I know international travel isn’t as much of a priority for him as it is for me.
Gotta run. Need to plan for tomorrow’s lessons. The last full day of teaching. Short day on Tuesday, then Wednesday off, then the whole things starts over again with new students. Whew! I can’t believe a third of our trip is already over.