november’s end

Wow this month has been crazy. Crazy busy, crazy stressful. But the good news? I have a work visa! Woot! Well, not really … but after many trials and tribulations I have finally received the employment license, which will allow me to get the work visa. Still quite a long way to go before everything gets finalized. Next step: Hong Kong! More paperwork! And more cash to shill out! (Ugh, I have a headache already.)

Below is a picture I took on the subway, er … “metro,” on my daily commute. For no special reason. It’s just so clean!

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Thanksgiving was good fun and I’ve basically gotten over my cold, but the weather’s steadily advancing towards full-on winter, my apartment is cold even with my heater on, and I really miss American food. Like, I really want Domino’s. And I would kill for apple cobbler. Sigh. Moving on, work is good! I like the people I work with, I like the day-to-day, and I really think Shanghai’s good for me. So, to the powers that be that finally granted that employment visa: Thanks! It only took you FOREVER and a day.

As hectic as November was, I have a feeling December’s gonna be pretty crazy as well. Wish me luck! And stay warm out there!

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christmas season? begin!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Well, not really. But some decorations have started to go up! Christmas isn’t really celebrated in China because there’s not much of a history of Christianity in China. Most people don’t adhere to any religion due to the impact of communism, and though some people follow Buddhist philosophies, organized religions aren’t well accepted in the culture. But I LOVE Christmas.

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And every evening when I walk out of the subway, I get greeted by a tree! And reindeer! Aw, how nice. It’s a little gaudy and it looks out of place in the basement of a mall, next to a supermarket, at a subway exit. Eh. But it’s Christmas! Well, I guess Thanksgiving has to come first, but that’s an American-only deal so there’s no sign of turkeys anywhere. Sigh … Happy Turkey Day!

singles’ day: to the spender goes the spoils

Monday was November 11, which is a pretty notable holiday in China. It’s Veterans Day back in the States, but here, November 11 (11/11) is Singles’ Day … also referred to as “Bare Sticks Holiday” (光棍节, guānggùn jié) or “Double Eleven” (双十一, shuāng shíyī). And it’s a big deal. It’s a newer holiday that started out as an anti-Valentine’s Day thing for single people to hang out so it doesn’t really have any traditions … except shopping. You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Well Singles’ Day in China is kinda like that … but Cyber Monday pales in comparison to Singles’ Day.

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TMall (the more regulated sister site of the ever-popular online shopping extravaganza that is TaoBao) as well as a bunch of other sites do crazy sales for Singles’ Day. I’m talking 50% or more off … for that day only, sometimes for only the first few hours of the day. So everyone’s online waiting to pay at 12:01 AM on November 11. I didn’t go crazy like some people, but I did do some shopping and when I went to pay, I kept getting the above image … and a message saying to be patient. And for the rest of the day it was hard to access my bank account online, probably because the poor website was getting flooded with people paying for things via online bank transfer (people rarely use credit here).

Life off the web was normal, no crazy celebrations or people camping out (since very few brick-and-mortar stores had any special deals), but online was a financial frenzy. Things were selling out left and right. Within the first hour, 6.7 billion RMB was spent. IN AN HOUR. And by day’s end, 35 billion RMB was spent. That’s 5.7 billion USD. IN ONE DAY. CRAZY.

mmmm … wagas

Ugh. I’m exhausted. Sooooo much going on. And I’m behind on so many things! Uh oh. I have a whole host of partially-prepared posts, but I just don’t have the time to finish them up. So here’s a picture of food. Yum. Yay.

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This is a picture of a chicken panini … or rather a “chicken, bacon bits and sun-dried tomato salad with avocado leaves” on “Turkish panini” from Wagas. Mmmm … Wagas. For those not in the know, Wagas is a chain of restaurants in China that’s pretty popular with the Western crowd. Why? Because it’s Western food (sandwiches, salads, wraps), the food is good/clean/consistent, and their restaurant spaces are more appealing to a foreign crowd – casual/comfy decor, clean, higher-end locations, and free wi-fi. Prices are at a manageable expat level (about 50 RMB for a sandwich), so I only eat it every now and then ’cause I ain’t on an expat salary. But they do delivery! When I was waiting for the internet at my apartment to get set up, I spent a fair amount of time at Wagas for the wi-fi. Good food and good atmosphere but not so good on the wallet. I recommend their spinach wraps – the chicken curry is absolutely delish.

Now off to finish some of my overdue work (for Company A)! Or maybe some of that deadline-approaching freelance work (for Company B)! Or … maybe I should sleep? I have to go into the office early tomorrow morning (for Company C). Argh. Decisions, decisions. Ah, it’s cold. And now I’m hungry.

lunch at the local cafeteria

There’s a cafeteria near where I live called 日全食, which means a total eclipse of the sun. Funnily enough, the three words can also be interpreted as “all-day food,” a fantastically appropriate name for a 24-hour cafeteria. Yep, that’s right. This place is open 24 hours. I’ve never gone at night, but I had a late lunch there around 2 PM, and it was like a convention of the world’s most depressing people.

Seriously. I have a tote bag with a joke that says 单身就是一个人在食堂吃馄饨. Translation? A single (unmarried/unattached) person is a single (singular) person in a cafeteria eating wonton. It’s a play on words, but it is SO TRUE. The cafeteria is like a collection of the city’s lonely rejects (with all the stereotypes), and for one afternoon, I was one of them. I won’t be frequenting that place. Not only because it was a sad, sad experience, but also because the food was kinda iffy. But I suppose that’s to be expected when you have lunch at 2 PM (after the lunch rush) so everything is basically picked-over leftovers. I had rice, 狮子头 (translation: lion’s head; what it actually is: giant pork meatball), and cauliflower with pork, which came out to a grand total of 16 kuai (about $2.50). Dude, so cheap. Then again, the texture of the pork meatball was more mush than pork-like.

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