happy year of the horse!

For those of you not in China, you may not have heard, but it’s the Chinese New Year! And according to the zodiac calendar, it’s the Year of the Horse! Happy New Year! 新年快乐! Woot!

The nation of China has basically shut down at this point, which might be a hard concept for people to understand. It’s not just that it’s a holiday … it’s DEAD here. I’ve stocked up on snacks (maybe not enough given the rate I’m chowing down) and plan on basically hibernating. Some places will reopen on the second day of the (lunar) new year, but the official holiday (which most people follow, crazy make-up days and all) is for one week starting today, from January 31st (first day of the new year) to February 6th (seventh day).

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There were some fireworks earlier in the evening around 9 and 10 or so, but wow … once the clock struck 12, it was like complete madness out there. There were fireworks going off left and right, some of them really really close. It looked like the apartment securitiy guards were having a ball :) The air quality was pretty bad today so the sky wasn’t very clear to begin with. But now, with all the smoke from the fireworks still lingering in the air? Visibility is … pretty darn low. Cheers!

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every breath you take

On December 6, 2014, the PM2.5 in Shanghai went “beyond index” … which is scary speak for WOAH WE DIDN’T REALIZE IT COULD GET THIS BAD. Sigh. They say it feels like life is longer in cities like Shanghai because everything moves so fast and there’s always something happening or new to do. But … that gets canceled out by the crappy air that’s slowly killing us and drives us into our air-purified apartments.


Since then there have been a few other days of “I really should start wearing an air mask,” but for the most part the air quality is much better (meaning that we’ve been staying in the Moderate to Unhealthy range). But when I was here a few years back, most people never even thought about air quality because Shanghai’s air was always fairly decent, especially in comparison to Beijing’s. It’s actually quite frightening.

You know that song “Every Breath You Take” by The Police? Good song. Well, here’s the Shanghai version (keeping in mind that I have no sense of rhythm):

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every day in China
Every step outside
You die a little

Oh can’t you see?
Oh wait no you can’t
It’s a blank white sky
That definitely isn’t fog

But how I still love Shanghai! Sigh. Despite the air problems, I’m here and loving it. Maybe not as much now that I’m worried about developing asthma, but China’s still the place to be. For me, for now. A donation to cover my future respiratory medical bills would be appreciated. Thanks.

streetside barbecue


I completely agree that there is something sketchy about eating food on the side of the street. But it’s really hard to beat! There’s just something so alluring about eating freshly cooked stuff off of sticks while cars are whizzing by and you’re sitting on a bright blue plastic stool with your jacket and scarf on. It’s fun, cheap, and I have yet to get sick off of it (although I tend to go to the places that are a little more established … er, offer stools and use separate tables/grills rather than the ones that consist of only a little wheelie cart).

I went with a Shanghainese friend for a streetside barbecue dinner, and it was great. I’ve been before in other places around China, and it’s pretty much the same everywhere, always pretty cheap. You pick what you want (meat, vegetables, random things like mantou, et cetera), they cook it, you eat it. Simple as pie. When they cook the sticks they sometimes add a spice mixture, but I prefer my food non-spicy so I have them skip it. Places like this run the gamut in selection and cleanliness, so it’s always a good idea to stick to the ones that are larger and less mobile.

Oh, and you see the scallops and oysters in the photo? My friend had the scallops, which she apparently does often and lives to tell the tale. I might be brave enough to eat street food in China, where food safety is a widespread concern, but seafood streetside China? I’m definitely not that brave.

my new dream: making it as a google doodle


Google has its faults (it’s desire to become an all-encompassing know-it-all for instance) but its search engine is unrivaled and good gracious it’s useful. Normally I don’t click on the Google doodles, but this one intrigued me … something about it stirred my architect little heart and I clicked it. And voila! Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, noted French architect and theorist. Heck, I wrote a paper on him last year. And without his Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle [Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century], my thesis would never have become what it is. So even though he was kind of a crazy ol’ fellow (seriously, you call that a restoration?), I owe him a lot.

Happy 200th birthday, Viollet-le-Duc! Congratulations on your Google doodle! It’s the true sign of making it in today’s world.

so-called tex-mex

I am by no means an authority on Tex-Mex. I can’t really cook, but I can make pretty good enchiladas, quesadillas, and tacos ’cause they’re easy. (Although according to my friends, mashed potatoes do not belong anywhere near a tortilla. I disagree.) Being from Texas, I take my Mexican, er … Tex-Mex, seriously. Yeah yeah, I know there’s a GIGANTIC difference between real Mexican and Tex-Mex, but in Texas we just call it Mexican food and usually assume everyone knows that we’re actually referring to Tex-Mex. It’s like how the French don’t say French fries.


Anyhow, for dinner I went to Cantina Agave on Fumin Road here in Shanghai. It’s a pretty famous Mexican restaurant in Shanghai … famous because it’s one of the few Mexican restaurants here and it’s been around for a few years. My opinion: It’s decent. Eh. Didn’t really hit the spot. I found the flavors quite bland. Maybe it’s because the burrito I had was kind of dry, the tortilla was definitely not fresh, the nachos didn’t have the right crunch, and the guac/salsa/beans/rice were simply lacking in lemon/spice/whatever. Sigh. Overall, it was okay, just not that yummy. Maybe I have too high of standards? I feel like I could have done better myself. My friend liked the food, but she’s Chinese and it was her first time trying Mexican food. So really, her opinion doesn’t count. Not to say I don’t value her opinion, but it’s like asking a person from Maine the best way to prepare barbecue … he/she really doesn’t get a say.

hello 2014, nice to meet you

Happy New Year!

Even though it’s already January 13th, this is my first post of 2014! I didn’t end up going out because I felt like being an old lady and snuggling up next to my heater. I could see some fireworks from my balcony, which was nice. The first picture below is the result of me moving the camera mid-shot. Pretty nifty, eh? Far more firework-y than the actual photo of fireworks.

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