01.07.2008 - 10.08.2008 37 °C
Well, I can't really seem to get the hang of this blogging thing, at least not doing it regularly. I can't believe it has been over a month since I wrote last, time really does pass by too quickly! We are in the full swing of Shanghai Summer these days. It's hot and humid and we are really starting to like it. It isn't as debilitating as it was last summer, we can actually go out during the day without dying of the heat! We have been having a really fun summer! Alot has happened but I will stick with the highlights.
In Early July we had some friends come into town which we always enjoy. It always gives us a chance to reflect on China and see the things that once were interesting but are now just normal everyday things. One thing in particular is the language. Although I would never claim to be able to speak any Chinese, my understanding of the language has improved significantly in the last year, I at least can understand what people are saying to me in day to day interactions (I can't respond to these people but I at least know what they are saying). See people fresh off the plane reminds us both of how overwhelming the language thing can be! New people also remind us of how cheap things are even here in Shanghai. After spending and earning in RMB for the past year, we have completely stopped converting things into dollars, but new people always want to know "how much would that be in USD?". It's a nice reminder when we realize that our dinner only cost $4! Having people in town also gives us an excuse to do some touristy things and get together with all our friends, which is one of our favorite things to do in Shanghai.
We took a short trip to Hangzhou with our friend Mark and his girlfriend in the middle of July. It is supposed to be the "Most beautiful place in China" (or so Marco Polo supposedly said). It's a smaller town just a 2 hour train ride from Shanghai. The West Lake is the main attraction of the city and we spend 2 days bicycling and walking around it. It is surrounded by parks and there are many tea places and restaurants surrounding it. We took a leisurely tour around it, stopping frequently because of the heat, and had a really nice time. It was a bit disappointing that we couldn't go swimming, its hard to be surrounded by water on a hot day and not be able to dive in! But! We went to the beach this week! I have missed that SO much. We found a beach just 1 hour south of shanghai and it was wonderful. We laid out and went swimming, it's something I never would have imagined us doing in Shanghai. We hope to go back soon!
And now, the Olympics have arrived! The city seems very strange! There are hardly any foreigners in town, ussually in the summer, there are swarms of tour groups downtown, but the city has been strangely quiet. This is partly because visas are hard to get these days and also because everyone in Beijing! There has also been a big initiative to clean up the city for the few tourists who do make it into town. Some of our favorite DVD shops have been shut down, there are no more people selling "watches, bags and DVDs" and the street vendors have disappeared! We hope that after the Olympics, that things turn back to normal, those street vendors are part of the charm of this city!
We watched the opening ceremonies on Friday night (Yao Yao and Xiang Zhenyu above). This was a HUGE deal in China, shops closed down and every restaurant in town had a TV broadcasting the event live (even McDonalds!). We managed to get reservations at Mexico Lindo, and watched the ceremony with about 12 of our friends. The excitement in the restaurant was contagious and you could tell that the Chinese people were especially proud of the ceremony. It was an experience I will not forget!
We will probably watch the games quite a bit this week. We have to go to a restaurant or bar since we don't have cable but we are pretty excited about that too. It's fun to go out and have people from several different countries watching the games with you. There is a different feeling of national pride and community with fellow Americans and at the same time, there is a connection with international friends as we watch the games and eat and drink together. It should be a good couple of weeks!
Finally, our contracts at our jobs are coming to an end in two weeks (hurray!!). We have spent the last month or so trying to plan what we will do in the immediate future and have finally decided to extend our stay in China for a bit longer (6 more months at least). We just don't feel that is time to come back yet, there are still opportunities and adventures to be had and since we probably won't live in China again, we thought we better pursue those things now. Nate plans to continue studying Chinese and I plan to start taking classes. We are also hoping to find jobs that are better suited to our skills and interests. And of course, we hope to do more traveling. This also gives all of you who haven't come to visit an extra few months to make the trip!
We love and miss all of you guys! Hope to hear from you soon!
Nate & Heidi