My Abode

Only two months late. Here are some pictures of my room. Picked the smaller room to save money for future traveling. Also pictured is a view from outside of my apartment. Sadly for some reason the Chinese Walmart stocked either flowers or purple sheets and purple is what I ended up with.  


A few days ago one of my coworkers passed by my desk and made a remark that my health bar was in fact unhealthy and he wouldn’t eats such a thing. He stated that he didn’t know what path the food took to get to its final form and that there could be contaminants. I responded that the same applies for all foods unless you watch them grow and that there are lots of chemicals used in producing food. After five minutes of back and forth attempts at each of us explaining our points with him talking about contaminants and me talking about chemicals, he turns to my other coworker and asks, “What does chemical mean?”

Quiero un filete de queso.

Sitting around with my roommates one day back in the United States, discussion of Philly cheese steaks popped up and shortly thereafter we were on our way to Philadelphia to have ourselves a taste of the city’s  most famous meal. After a short drive, we parked the car and made our way to spend the next  half hour standing in line, standing slave to the delicious smells of the kitchen. As the line moved, I took the chance to observe all the interesting pictures and signs that filled the windows of Geno’s Steaks. One last sign stood as a warning to those about to order food: “This is America, when ordering, speak English.” While such a phrase is an example is of an extreme nature, I still feel that a decent amount of Americans to some extent agree. It’s almost as if the nickname the “melting pot” was given to the wrong country. 
Leaving the melting pot, I headed for a country I expected to be in a similar if not homogeneous state. To my pleasant surprise, my coworkers proved me very wrong. Every single coworker of mine speaks very good English as well as Mandarin and at least another Chinese dialect or two. Even more surprising than this was the discussion with my fellow foreign roommates. The average language count in my apartment sits at around two fluent languages with some knowledge in another one or two. It would appear as if the United States is actually looking into the melting pot, but only from the outside, not wishing to take part.
In the process of discussing language with my fellow foreigners and coworkers, I have been led me to realize just how bad the state of foreign language in America is. Starting with six grade we were sat in front of a TV for video language lessons. The only things these videos managed to do was turn me away from foreign languages. Seventh and eighth grade didn’t hold much promise either. A select few managed to find their way into the Spanish or French class but the majority of students were unable to begin progress on a second language. High school followed this theme and only required two years of language for college bound students. On the other hand, my coworkers and roommates are leaps and bounds ahead.
In my attempt to search for a means by which to conclude this post, I will take the lazy way out and present you with a request. Respect others, try and understand their culture and beliefs and where they come from. Listen to what they have to say, if you disagree, feel free to offer your own thoughts but please don’t try and shove it down their throats. Let us do our best to live up to the reputation and be able to proudly claim that it’s just a misunderstanding and we are in fact the melting pot. 

To what lengths must we sacrifice?

A quick note about the prices, I converted them to USD so ignore the rather odd looking pricing.
Thanks to Rutgers’ rather annoying engineering graduation requirements, an internship in Shanghai would require withdrawing from school for a year. The problem is, I’ve only planned about eight months of my time off for China and still have several months free time to fill. Since I’m already on the other side of the world and with no desire to return home just yet, I’ve began thinking of where to go. Before even arriving in China I dreamed of traveling across Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railway, eventually ending up in Moscow and then on to Europe to try and work or volunteer in Spain. Such a trip would not work on my current budget so I began looking for a new place to live. 
My first stop in my apartment hunt began with browsing two housing websites geared for English speakers. After almost two weeks of looking, nothing turned up. Next, I turned to my coworkers for advice. (A quick note before I continue, the Chinese in general are very helpful people. I will deeply miss this when I return to the United States.) They said I could save a decent amount of what I’m spending now on housing by moving out of the city and closer to work. This idea was rather tempting and I decided to think it over. Upon arriving at work the following day, my coworkers notified me that they’d gone home and spent some time searching Chinese housing websites and found some nice cheap places for me. 
Around the same time, one of my roommates was in the process of moving out of a rather small and somewhat cheaper room. I was temped to make the move to a smaller room in the same apartment but I couldn’t justify saving $46 a month for a room that is roughly ten feet by six feet with no window. Thankfully my roommate made a good suggestion that had previous been alien to me due to previous living in America, bargaining. Bargaining is everywhere in China, besides your chain stores, you can typically bargain everywhere. I am determined to get good at bargaining since the last time I bargained I got ripped off and overpaid about $46 on a $123 dress suit, I decided this was a perfect opportunity. With the assistance of my coworkers and some of my own good thoughts on bargaining, I set to work lowering the price on the smaller room. 
The original price of the small room paid for by the previous tenant was $384. Since apartments in the suburbs can run as low as $261 for a nice room, that became my goal. With several back and forth text messages (Can’t start bargaining in person, you’ll end up failing miserably!) with my landlord, the price slowly dropped. Sadly, I didn’t make it to my goal of $261 but still managed $307 and somehow managed to get free Chinese lessons from my landlord’s husband and free meals at his restaurant. 
With cost being a much smaller issue, it was time to decide if moving to the suburbs would be a better fit. To clear my thoughts I decided to utilize a pros and cons list to decide what would be the best move. As I began to write the list I quickly realized I could end up in a very bad situation which could potentially make the next six months of living absolutely horrible. I’ve managed to find probably one of the best landlords one could find in Shanghai. She has lived in the United States for four years, will come within the hour to fix any problem, and is a very friendly person. From here, a new landlord could only go downhill. I’ve had bad experiences with my two previous landlords and not too excited to end up with a landlord that never shows up to fix problems or doesn’t speak any English. Next up was the roommate issue. The people I live with are all great people and don’t have any notable problems with any of them. I continued to write out my list and the cons far out numbered the pros of moving out.
Thankfully the list wasn’t too balanced and a clear choice was made to remain living at my current location. I could have saved another $46 a month if I moved out of the city but I could have found myself in a position making me miserable for the duration of my stay in China. 
Lesson Learned:  In the pursuit of a goal, sacrifices may be a necessity but don’t make so many sacrifices that the journey is ruined.  Remember, the journey can be just as important as the destination.

The Perks

As I began to search for an apartment to call home during my stay in Shanghai, the word ayi kept popping up in many of the listings. With a quick Google search, I discovered that an ayi is the same as a maid. For a few dollars a month, having to clean becomes irrelevant. At first the idea of never having to clean strongly appealed to me. After living with several guys for two years and having to clean up after myself and the group, I was ready for a change. The first week was great, I came home to a clean room and apartment and didn’t have to do anything. With each passing week I’ve slowly started to enjoy the idea less and less of an ayi. Here is a person whose sole job is to clean up after me. That thought continued to rattle around in my brain until eventually I started to look my door when the ayi would come. She still cleans the other rooms and the common area but no longer will she clean up my mess.
Lesson Learned: How can you learn from your mistakes if someone else is fixing them?

The English Corner

Can you tell the difference between “listen” and “hear”? I can’t, but still managed to get picked as the resident English teacher at work. Two weeks ago, the idea of the English Corner, was first introduced to me. Two hours a week, after lunch, I would co-lead my colleagues in improving their English. With no proper training of any sort, I went into it the best I could. The first meeting went rather awkwardly with no real direction but each subsequent meeting has show great improvement. At first I didn’t take initiative but quickly realized, as the native English speaker, the harder I try the more I can help them learn. To assist in advancing their English knowledge, this upcoming Thursday I’ll be introducing the “American/Chinese Culture Exchange,” where I introduce my coworkers to the likes of Caddyshack, The Terminator, and other fine works of art that America has to offer.

Another Grab Bag for the Random Photos

I am starting to really appreciate the situation that surrounds me. As this appreciation grows, my observance of potentially awesome pictures grows as well but sadly I don’t have my camera with me most of the time. One pictures I really wish I could have taken contained several motorized scooters sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change. As it was raining out, each rider possessed a different vibrantly colored rain jacket. In the background sat grey buildings along with a dark and angry sky. I feel that maybe it’s time to bring my camera out with me everywhere I go. For the time being, here are some random pictures that ended up on my camera that have yet to find a home.
This here is the Bund on one of the many cloudy/rainy days so popular to Shanghai. This is the business center of Shanghai. Would have loved a better picture but no luck, thanks weather!
What is an international city without it’s one or two American restaurants? Not badly priced either, this cheeseburger, coleslaw, and milkshake for about $10.
Take a guess how high I rolled my sleeves up. It’s going to be a fun battle with the weather this summer.

This is the result of one of my many random wanderings throughout the city. I came accross an awesome park filled with massive monuments like this. For what, I have no idea but they look cool.