10.04.2007 - 08.04.2007 17 °C
Hello everyone! We hope that you all are having a good spring! Although I must take a moment to rub in the fact that we have not had snow since February and the temperature has not dipped below 50 since the beginning of March, sorry for all you in Michigan who are still getting occasional snow showers! Spring has always been a marker for new life and opportunity and so it seems here in Shanghai as well. The streets have been bustling with people and Nate and I have felt a re-surging energy and excitement about our time here as well. We have had more opportunities to go out on the streets and experience the culture and also do some sightseeing.
In the past few months our street has slowly been getting busier and busier with street vendors and outside restaurants. I would estimate that there were over 100 small shops set up on the sidewalk. By shops I mean people with small blankets and a small selection or clothes or trinkets that they are trying to sell (see below). There was even a carnival game set up and you could win a giant stuffed animal! The outdoor restaurants are just small kitchens on a cart with wheels, people set up maybe half a dozen tables and you can choose from a variety of prepared dishes. The service is always fast and very convenient.
All of these types of vendors, food and clothes vendors, are technically illegal. Like in the states, there are rules about health codes (don't act so surprised) and selling stolen or pirated goods. Mostly, these shops are overlooked by the police but occasionally, the government will remind everyone that what they are doing is illegal. That was the case on our street last week Monday. On Sunday night, the streets were bustling as usual but on Monday when we went for a walk there was not even one vendor on the street! Instead there are huge red banners talking about "food safety for all". We were quite disappointed, especially Nate, he often would walk down that street and have small conversations with the vendors and its overall carnival feel was really energizing. Luckily, we have noticed some vendors slowly setting up shop over the weekend, I counted 10 last night. These vendors are still being cautious though, they mostly were selling things from the back of their bikes in case there was a need for a quick get away! We are hopeful everyone else will come back soon.
Also, we have bought a Nintendo Wii. The only Wiis available over here are all the Japanese version so all the menus are in Japanese which was a little tricky at first but I think we have figured out what we need to now. The game system itself is about the same price as what you can buy one for in the States but it came with a mod chip that allows us to play games from any country. Although the system was kind of pricey, the games only cost about 70 cents! We have already bought like 20 games. It has been a nice party game and have had friends over a couple times to play some boxing and bowling, its a pretty big hit and we are really glad that we decided to get it.
Nate also started doing some Kung Fu again. Our friend Mark and him are going 2 times a week to practice Wing Chun, a different kind of Kung Fu than Nate was doing before but he is really enjoying. Although, after a couple nights of punching the bag, he has some pretty beat up knuckles and I'm hoping that he'll get some gloves soon.
Work has also been good, both Nate & I have full schedules now with 7 classes each. There have been some more personnel changes at both of our centers, which has been a constant problem since we got here, but I think that we are both really happy with our teams right now which makes work much more enjoyable!
Sadly, our friend Henry's restaurant, which we used to go to several times a week, has closed down. They ran into several problems and discovered that it was much more work than they anticipated, we were really sad to see it close as it was a place to meet with friends, it was like "Cheers" and a really nice place to relax. Below is a picture on closing night from left to right is Nana (a co-owner with Henry), Amara, Erik, Nate, Heidi, Mark, Cheng Jia and Li Jun.
In the next few weeks, we are hoping to do some more traveling. There is yet another holiday coming up the first week of May which means that we have about 2 weeks off of work. We haven't really traveled to the center of China yet and we are hoping to head to Sichuan for about a week (thats the spicy food province of China, I think thats secretly why Nate is interested in going there, haha). After some time in Sichuan, we are looking into taking a Yangtze River Cruise back towards Shanghai. The cruises start on the east side of Sichuan and travel all the way to Shanghai, although we will probably not take the boat that far as it takes too much time. We are hoping to go through the Three Gorges area and see some beautiful scenery (although we will NOT be doing any swimming!).
So thats whats happening over here! We can't really believe that it has been nine months since we left home, in some ways it seems to have gone by so fast and in other ways it seems like a lifetime since we have seen any of you guys! We love and miss you all and love to hear from you, let us know whats going on in your lives if you have the time!
Love, Nate & Heidi