Sunday, February 10, 2013

My First Trip to Shanghai

**post backlog**

Early December of last year, I had the opportunity to head to China for a work-trip. My first time on the mainland (I have been to Hong Kong before), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Other Indian people at work in Redmond had told me to be prepared for the difficulty of getting wholesome vegetarian food and the difficulty to explore the city on my own without being able to speak Chinese. Both were great advice but not as optimistic as I’d hoped. Thankfully, only one of them proved true when I visited.

I was impressed by the infrastructure in Shanghai and also by the fact that there were SO MANY people everywhere! We landed there late Saturday evening and headed straight to bed. The following morning, my manager, who also travelled with us and had been to Shanghai a few times before, showed us around the city. We walked miles and travelled even more miles on the subway which he expertly navigated. Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that, like a lot of Indian cities, manages to be cosmopolitan and traditional all at once.
A few truths:

  1. Subway can get you anywhere. For the rest, there are cabs. It helps to be planned and prepared and to carry the little cards with addresses written in Chinese (and carry extra cards)
  2. You need to haggle. It’s amazing how with zero common languages between you and the storekeeper, you can still score a great sale.
  3. Food- okay, this is tricky. There are vegetarian food options; you just need to know where to go. If you’ve got a local with you, you’ll do fine. On your own, you need the cards (that say “I do not eat meat”), some patience and a little bit of spirit of adventure. Since it was my first trip, I was cautious about not wading into fried-lizard territory for fear of being (physically) intolerant.  Maybe next time… I also carried a bunch of protein bars, ate lots of noodle soup (delicious), steamed veggies and rice. On my last working day there, I managed to get the office cafeteria to custom make veggie-egg fried rice for me all on my own. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is!
  4. The teas are really awesome. And yet, you’re more likely to find Starbucks and other coffee stores and Lipton tea bags. I fell in love with this bottled sugarless Oolong tea and I don’t know what it’s called. It helped me quench thirst when I was out of my bottled water.
A few reflections:

  1. There is definite westernization happening in Shanghai… more pizza joints and Italian restaurants.
  2. People have their noses in their phones ALL.THE.TIME even while crossing the road
  3. Roads bring me to traffic. The traffic is all kinds of chaos. And like India, it all seems to work.
  4. The people I met at work there seemed ambitious, eager to learn and very hard working.
  5. People love to sleep on buses. Employees carried neck pillows to sleep on during their commute. I thought that was a little unusual.
                                          The Shanghai skyline in the night

On Being Thankful

**Post backlog**

Thanksgiving is huge in the US. Every year, Thanksgiving officially ushers in the holidays, the lightening of the wallet, the heavying of the closet and the weighing scale. Having no family in the US, Thanksgiving offers me an opportunity to squeeze in a trip since it’s a day more than a traditional long weekend.

This year I decided to head back to the Bay Area to meet all the friends I have been missing since I moved to Seattle. Also, the weatherman called for clouds and rain here (surprise!) and beautiful summer weather in SF. It was a no-brainer! I hung out with the bestie, meet up with OR and NR and their adorable 7week old K! I also drove down 101 to meet AC and her adorable new baby, L. Both my girlfriends make beautiful, natural mothers and it was a pleasure watching them in this new role.

My last evening in SF, the bestie and I ate at one of our favorite joints in Burlingame, where they still recognized and remembered us. We talked about the things we can’t tell anyone else, fears, hopes, dreams, insecurities. We talked about being thankful for each other and the life we were given.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin