red maos make china go ’round

October 1st was National Day, for which we got a one-week holiday as one of China’s two Golden Weeks. But that’s over and done with, and now it’s work work work. So here’s a picture of money. It’s Mao! Because this is why all of China basically shut down for a week and why we’re all back to toiling away.

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Red Maos are the 100 RMB banknote in China, and even though they’re the highest-denomination note, they’re worth less than 20 USD. Credit cards are becoming more widely used, but cash is still more widely used, especially among older people. Which is super annoying because you end up carrying a fair number of bills and it just feels oh so sketchy. Or worse, you end up stuck at the bank waiting behind a line of old ladies with stacks and stacks of bills that need to go through the counting machine. And as opposed to when I was in China three/four years ago, I have yet to encounter a fake bill! Progress!

And in related news: I’m going to be working in Shanghai for at least one more year!

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no work! weird fruit!

Today was my last day of work. Yay! It was also my first final. Boo! The person who handles payroll wasn’t here today, so I’ll probably have to go back tomorrow to check in with her. If she’s not there tomorrow, then I’ll have to go in on Monday. And then … that’s kind of pushing it. I don’t have much time left over here!

As for the final this morning, I’d rather forget about it. It was horrible. Wow. So bad. No matter, I got three more to go. Last night I made a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese because unhealthy American food is my kind of study food. I only ate part of it last night, so I just finished the rest off. It was delicious. But now I feel like my stomach is simultaneously gnawing at itself while verging on explosion. It’s very annoying and kind of painful. It’s a love-hate relationship.

Before the cheesy goodness was some lovely weird fruit. They’re called mangosteens. And they’re very, very weird. When I type “mangosteens” I get the red squiggle line underneath because my computer thinks it’s a typo – but it’s not. The shell is pretty thick and a bit hard, but the inside white stuff is really good. Really sweet and yummy. My friend had given them to me … without actually knowing what they were. Ha. We’re great friends.

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juggling two jobs

I currently have two part-time jobs. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I’m busier than ever and it’s actually not too bad. I prefer to be busy, because then I feel forced to manage my time and actually get things done. All in all, it’s been a mixture of interesting, frustrating, and wow-this-is-so-much-like-studio.

About Job A: On the weekend (only a few hours), I teach three high school kids who are preparing for the SAT and I feel like they want to drive me crazy. I think all teenage boys are the same – immature and apathetic. Maybe if I taught them individually it would have been okay, but when they’re together … mayhem.

About Job B: I’m working for an architecture firm part-time on weekday afternoons. I basically do a lot of SketchUp and AutoCAD busy work, which is fine. I’m still getting used to paper sizes like A0, A3, and A4, but I spent a few hours folding A0-sized sheets the proper architecture-y way, and it was kind of fun. It’s a lot like studio with fast-approaching deadlines, “lying” in drawings, and late nights. Last Thursday we got dinner from 7-11 (the office building actually has its own 7-11) and I got off work around 11, but thankfully that’s not typical.

I’m getting paid peanuts, but it’s all good so far.

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making pasta

Yesterday morning I took part of the SAT. Oh standardized testing, how I have NOT missed you. Blah. Anyway, so I think I might have a job, a different one. This one would be to teach the SAT and some AP tests. The last one, which was to teach a public-speaking class in English kind of fell through, mostly because the boss guy didn’t really have his deal together and was annoying me.

Anyway, all went well. I made my own lunch – pasta. Easy, right? The classic staple “I don’t know how to cook, but I’m hungry” food. Went through a lot of pasta (of all different shapes) with Roommates 3 and 4. Especially 4. Wow, lots of pasta there. Fond memories. But hey now, I’m getting distracted. The reason why I bring attention to my luncheon of pasta is that it was supposed to be easy … if you have a can opener.

Who doesn’t own a can opener!? The pasta sauce was in a can (and expensive – yay for imported stuff). I searched all over the apartment and while the pasta was already boiling, I finally accepted that we own no can opener. I ended up opening the damn thing with a bottle opener and a garlic press. That was talent right there. I was darned proud of myself, and you should be too. Who knew making pasta could be such an adventure? But I have one question: Why do we have a garlic press yet no can opener?

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now what?

Classes are done! At least for the next two weeks. The summer session has ended, and I have two weeks before the fall semester starts. And apparently we register a few days before classes start and everything sounds like a bit of a headache. What else? Oh, I might have a job for a few hours a week. We’ll see, it seems rather fluid and uncertain at the moment.

Saw some giant order Ionic pilasters on a building yesterday. Made me realize that one of these days I have to go to Rome. It’s hilarious to me when I see classical columns in Shanghai. It’s just so wrong.

Other random things I have noticed: Grapes here are annoying. There are no seedless grapes, so they all have seeds. And moreover, they all have to be peeled. Well, you could eat the peel, but it’s tougher than in the US and even if you wash them really well, they’re still not really really clean (especially since the water here isn’t that great). The elevators skip a heck of a lot of floors. The number 4 is considered unlucky because when pronounced in Chinese it sounds a lot like the word for death. Therefore, elevators (at least the ones in my building) skip every floor ending in 4 and the number 13, like in Western countries. It confuses me every time when I see it skip from 12 to 15. Weird, eh?

say can you see

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I totally just sang that out loud … to myself. Happy Independence Day! Unfortunately no one here cares, so no cookout or any such indulgence. Instead I must content myself with going to my aunt’s for dinner. Sad. Oh well. Now if I could just find tortillas I think my spirits will be raised. I can manage eggs, bacon, and potatoes. All I need are the tortillas and I can have breakfast tacos. Goodness gracious I miss Tex-Mex.

Work still sucks but I think now that I’m thinking it’ll probably be for just one more week, I’m thinking it’s going to be a bit more bearable. I think what I hate most about it is that I sit at a computer the entire time. I miss working with kids. At least all their kicking and screaming kept things interesting. Also, I might make some friends. Yay for meeting people from online forums! And hopefully not getting killed!

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is re-posted here for my own sake.]

working

Today was my first day of “work.” That word is in quotations because I feel like hell and I’m not even getting paid for it. Oy, how do people manage to work full-time? There should be a nap break in the afternoon … I want a siesta. I was on the computer all day, researching precedents for a design competition I’m supposed to help this guy work on. Utter tedium. Thankfully, the University of Texas library system still allows me access to all its wonderful sources. Yay. Unfortunately, it’s ridiculously hard to find information on the mass of chaos that is the internet. The project is for a high school in Henan province, but it’s ridiculously big (estimated around 100,000 square meters), with dormitories, classrooms, 10 basketball courts, et cetera. Anyone know of any projects that I could use as precedents? It’s not just architecture, there’s some urban planning and landscape elements to it too … which I’m not familiar with. Any help would be appreciated. Ugh … so tired.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is re-posted here for my own sake.]

busy busy me

First post of September! Life is so busy right now, in a frantically wonderful way, that I feel compelled to share everything with the world (but edited as to remove anything that could be remotely identifiable). Posts and projects are probably going to become a bit more sparse, but oh well. School is starting to pick up, and good golly, all that homework – sheesh! Anyway, I still have quite a bit of free time, so I had been looking for a job. And I found one! YES!

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I celebrated by going to Michael’s and buying myself stuff. Only spent $3.89. The picture came out showing everything as blue, so I tried photoshopping it to the correct shades of purple. Eh. Ribbon was an odd texture, but the spool was only a dollar. Then I got a skein of embroidery floss because I was running low on #333. And … I bought myself the magnificent disappearing-ink pen that I have been craving for years. I first used one in high school and found them to be simply magical. They’re not expensive, normally $4.50 (or $2.25 with a 50% Michael’s coupon), but I could never bring myself to buy one, until now. YES!

Also, last but definitely not least, my darling sister is coming to see me. Well … I don’t know if “darling” is the right word to describe her. But I’m so excited! And then of course, Monday is Labor Day. Don’t you just love holidays? This means I can be lazy (and catch up on sleep) since I won’t have school and I won’t have work. YES!

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is re-posted here for my own sake.]

mia and muffins

Ack! It’s almost been two weeks since I’ve made a single post. Bad, bad me. So much has happened in the last two weeks and I just went to download pictures off of my camera today, so there will be a few posts in quick succession. First of all, the reason why last week was so busy was … wait for it … I GOT A JOB! Okay, it was a temporary job that ended on Sunday, but still! And it was with Mamma Mia! I sold programs and CDs before and after the show and during intermission, so the rest of the time I was free to do homework or watch the show – which was amazing. Bass Concert Hall is a beautiful space. The renovation a few years back made it really modern and simple, just my style. Although now I can’t seem to stop humming ABBA songs.

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But in the mail I received a silicone muffin pan from an online offer thing.

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So … because I had these spiffy new silicone pans, I had never used silicone before, and I was craving chocolate, I decided to make some oatmeal chocolate chip muffins. I love these things and they’re sort of my go-to recipe for yumminess. And the oatmeal makes me feel healthy despite all the chocolate. I’m not quite sure where I got the recipe from since I’ve had it for a while, but I’ve made it a few times (great each time). The recipe follows below.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup (+/-) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Process:

  • combine the oats and milk and let the mixture stand for 15 minutes – let the oats hydrate, otherwise the muffins won’t be soft
  • stir in the egg, oil, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, and vanilla
  • stir the chocolate chips into the mix
  • in a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt
  • once you have the two mixtures ready, add the oatmeal mixture into the flour mixture until just moist
  • fill the muffin pans about 2/3 full
  • sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes

So what do I think of silicone? Eh, works okay. It’s kind of annoying because since the pans themselves are pretty flexible, you have to put them on a cookie sheet when baking so they don’t flop all around. Also, they don’t brown as nicely so the edges of my muffins looked uncooked and kind of weird. On the other hand, they did clean pretty nicely and they are blue …. They might grow on me, but for now I think I still prefer metal muffin pans and glass for everything else. But for just a dollar, could you find a better muffin pan?

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is re-posted here for my own sake.]