Saturday, December 27, 2008

le nom eiffel

An edible replica of the Eiffel Tower? I'm all over it.

I don't know how long it took Marilyn over at Simmer Till Done to create this gingerbread masterpiece, but it was totally worth it! Joyeux Noel!

I miss France. There's actually a significant population of French people here in Shanghai, mostly Algerians, so that's pretty cool. Every time I hear someone speak French, it warms my heart a bit and makes me wish I could find some decent bread in this country. Mais, tant pis, mon amie.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

everybody was kung fu fighting

Today is a momentous day. Not only is it my 4 monthiversary with China, it's also my 1 year blogiversary! How serendipitous is that?

To commemorate this, I would like to share a story with you. A very Strawberry story. One in which I kick ass and take names, of course.

A few nights ago a bunch of my grad school friends went out to celebrate our last day of the semester (that's right, I'm half way done!). Good times were had by all, cheesecake was eaten by some, it was a pretty kick ass night to say the least.

It's about a 30 minute cab ride home from Puxi (where all the night life in Shanghai is), so unless I plan on staying out until the subway opens at 6AM, I try to leave "da club" by 3:30 at the latest. Plus, the DJ was playing way too much Sean Paul and not enough B Spears, so Romy and I decided to call it a night a little after 3AM.

Our friend Penny lives kind of near us, but not really close enough to share a cab, at 3AM, though, a lot of things seem to make sense that normally wouldn't, so the three of us shared a cab back to Pudong. After dropping Penny off the cab ride was already more than it usually costs to get back to our dorms from Puxi, but since we were splitting it three ways it wasn't that big of a deal. At first.

It started to become a big deal when the tab was twice as much as usual (140RMB compared to the usual 70RMB), and we were nowhere near our school yet. Then, I noticed the cab driver was literally driving us around in circles. I don't know if he was legitimately lost or purposely running the meter, my guess is a mixture of both. He kept pulling up to other cab drivers and asking them stuff, but since I don't know Chinese he could have been asking them a number of things. Who knows.

Finally around 160RMB and the third taxi our driver stopped to ask for directions, I told Romy we should just get out, toss 100RMB at him, and jump in the other cab. In theory, this was an excellent idea. The driver was clearly lost and/or dicking us around, and there's no way that a cab ride from Puxi to our dorm would be over 100RMB, so giving him that much was more than fair.

In practice, however, this theoretical excellent idea of playing the ol' switcheroo on our directionally challenged cab driver turned out to be a very shitty idea. After all, it was 3:45 in the morning, I literally had to wake Romy up to even tell her about my plan, neither of us were exactly in the right frame of mind to do much of anything, much less ditch our cabbie and stiff him on the fare.

Once you set a ball rolling, though, it's hard to stop it. The problem is, once we got out of the cab, the other taxi had already driven off, so we had nowhere to run to. The driver comes over to us screaming and yelling, presumably about us paying him the rest of the fare. We start screaming and yelling and then the guy grabs my arm and tries to pull me back over to the cab so I started hitting him with my purse and we scream and yell some more. Of course, I couldn't have been wearing an outfit less conducive to fighting crime:

Me and my effing headware and peacoats, but I digress.

In typical Chinese fashion, a crowd starts to form of passersby (4 truck drivers on their way to work I'm guessing). Also in typical Chinese fashion, they did nothing to help.

I'm trying to get this guy off of me but none of the ball kicking self-defense moves I learned in college seemed to be working, probably because I was wearing ridiculous shoes and could barely even stay balanced. Romy is yelling at him to let go of me and also hitting him with her purse. The guy starts hitting me and grabs onto my purse (which, remember, I was using as a weapon) and we played a game of tug of war which ended with the strap from my purse breaking, my shoes digging a gash into my foot, and Romy throwing 30RMB at the driver to distract him as we ran off to another cab that had stopped to see what all the commotion was about.

Romy jumped in the front seat and I tried to open the back door, but all the adrenaline pumping through my veins made it impossible for me to perform any task that required thinking, and pulling a door handle was too much thinking for me at that point. I hopped in the front seat with Romy, and I'm sure we were quite a sight to behold with me sitting on her lap for the remainder of the taxi ride home.

Which, I might add, was a measly 15RMB.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

so this is christmas

Behold my humble Christmas tree(s). The little one lights up which is super cute, and the big one is, well, pink and sparkley. Enough said.

My family sent me an entire box filled with Christmas gifts about a week ago. They lasted probably 5 hours in my room before the temptation to open them became to great to ignore. None of them actually made it to Christmas day to open, but it's not really Christmas without family anyway so it's not like it matters.

It's so strange being in a country where Christmas is completely commercialized. People think it's bad in the States, but at least there's a little bit of pretending about the origins of the holiday, here it strictly revolves around buying crap you don't need. Which I'm all about.

Anyway, Romy got me something so I do have a gift to open tomorrow. AND, I splurged and bought some blueberry muffin mix at the market to make for Christmas day breakfast. Yum.

As the Chinese like to say, Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

if you give a mouse a cookie

...soon he'll be knocking down your door expecting reliable internet. Or something like that.

One of the reasons I was attracted to the school where I am teaching in Shanghai (other than it being an IB school) was the on-site housing and supposed dependable internet connection. Now, I've come to loathe the fact that I live on campus (way too much coworker/student interactions) and have been disenchanted in regards to the internet situation.

Sometimes it's fun to have a technology-free day or two, y'know, turn off your cell phone, leave your laptop in its cute little Kate Spade case, unplug the TV, and curl up with a good book while pretending we're not being bombarded 24/7 by the electronic world. That's by choice, though. When you're forced to have technology-free days, it's not so fun. Especially if you're in the last 2 weeks of your internet-based graduate coursework.

Finally, the internet problem here got so bad I decided to talk to my supervisor. He is definitely The Man, as it were. One phone call from this dude and problems get solved, if you know what I mean. So I went by his office, expressed my concerns, and he assured me he would get to the bottom of the situation "Maybe I will call the computer technician..."

Five minutes later The Man shows up in the office and informs me that, yes, there is an internet problem, and that the problem was students were draining too much server power (I don't really even know what this means) during the daytime so they just decided to shut the internet off in the dorms between 8AM-4PM.


At this point I did what I do best: threw a fit. Really, it's the only way to get things done in China. The Man said he would work on the problem, and had me bring in my laptop the next day for the IT guy to look at. I don't know what this guy's qualifications are, but judging by the horrified expression that came across his face when he saw that Romy had a Mac, I'm guessing he's not very experienced in the world of computers.

He "fixed" the problem. And by "fixed" the problem I mean he made it so I couldn't connect to the internet at all. Which, if you know China, you know is such a Chinese way of fixing something. Oh, you have a problem? Here, let me make it 100 times worse for you. No, no, don't thank me. Inconveniencing you is thanks enough.