Monday, August 24, 2009

Shanghai Kiss

posted by Alan
(click on pictures to see them full size)

Movie Review - Shanghai Kiss
I watched this movie before we left for China. My brother Robbie had it on his computer and I took it based on the name, but had no idea what it was about, who was in it or what to expect. That's probably a good thing, because had I seen the DVD cover, I probably wouldn't have given it a chance. Turns out, it "stars" Hayden Panetierre (cheerleader from Heroes), before she was The Cheerleader from Heroes and Ken Leung (the Asian guy from LOST -not Jin-.) Also stars the miscast (but always welcome) Kelly Hu, who is way too good looking for the role.

Without revealing too much, the plot centers around Leung, being forced to confront his identity as an Asian-American. being both connected to, but not really a part of American or Chinese culture, he finds himself in the middle of both, trying to figure out where he belongs. In LA, as an actor, he's "the Chinese guy" and in Shanghai, as a visitor, he's "the American." It also involves some bizarre love stories between the characters, especially Hayden Panetierre, over-acting as a 16 year-old who has this awkward relationship with Leung (30 something). Every single scene that she's involved with made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. In fact, the first 24 minutes of this movie is uncomfortable, but after that, becomes unexpectedly interesting. It's a straight to DVD movie with no rating and although it seems like a romantic teen-type movie (because of Panetierre), it's really not. They only featured her on the DVD cover after Heroes blew up. In fact, I'm still wondering why she's in the movie at all.

Overall, I'd say it's worth watching. It's not a great movie by any stretch, but what I like about it is that it doesn't follow any typical Hollywood pattern of storytelling. It's kind of weird actually. It's also actually filmed IN Shanghai, really capturing the vibrancy and beauty of the city in a pretty authentic way. They even have a bunch of Shanghainese thrown in there if you wanna hear how crazy that language is. I think the movie will especially resonate with anyone that has ever visited Shanghai and especially for those who have spent some time here. Ken Leung is also pretty decent at his role, which he had to be because he really had to carry the movie by himself. Again, don't expect to be blown away by some great achievement in filmmaking, but if you're up for something different and wanna check out Shanghai a bit more, or just feast on some Kelly Hu eye candy, give this movie a try.

Here is a plot summary from the press release:
Liam Liu ( Ken Leung, HBO's THE SOPRANOS) is a likeable, struggling L.A. actor who inadvertently finds himself as the object of affection for a pretty Beverly Hills teen (Hayden Panettiere, NBC's HEROES). When Liam inherits his grandmother’s home in Shanghai, his visit to China and introduction to Micky (Kelly Hu, THE SCORPION KING, XMEN 2)--a woman who captures his imagination like no other—force him to reconsider his Chinese roots. Caught between two worlds (and two women), Liam must now sort out the complicated desires of his heart, and find out who he really is.

Response to comments:
Corey - Linkin Park puts on a good show, but nope, no moshing over here. In a smaller venue and if it's encouraged, then maybe, but this was a big production in Shanghai Stadium with rows of plastic chairs set up. But they were definitely into it and were up on their feet the whole time, but no choas. And I'm thinking that's a good thing...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Miss China

posted by Alan
(click on pictures to see them full sized)

Yes, we're still in Shanghai and yes, Shanghai is still part of China. By China, I mean what i call CHINA China. There are maybe 5 major cities in China that are modern, international, touristy and bustling. These are the cities that China likes to broadcast and show to the world and Shanghai may be the most prominent of all of them. The other 90% of China is underdeveloped, old school and somewhat neglected. That is where I lived from 2003 - 2005 and yes, I miss it.

There was such simplicity to life out in a small town like Xin Zheng. Its a town so small that the local Chinese people here in Shanghai have never heard of it. Life there was amazing because you adapt to the simplicity. You reach a point where you expect things not to work right, things won't be available and many things won't go as planned, but you're just ready to roll with the punches, no matter how unexpected. You lose that sense of entitlement and accept that things are out of your control.

The street I lived on in Xin Zheng vs. the street we now live on in Shanghai

Here in Shanghai, things are so modern and forward thinking, that you expect things to work the way you want them to. It's very easy to forget that you're in China here. Instead of knowing that you can't get something like cheese or ipods or doritos and being ok with it, you realize that things are available here, and we start to get consumed with desires. Accessibility breeds desire, which leads to coveting, which leads to uneccesarily complicated lives. I think it happens in any place with an abundance of wealth. I think all my New York people can understand.

I do realize that this is an internal issue and circumstances shouldn't determine character, but man, does it make it harder to maintain character. But how much is our character really worth until its proven under fire, right?

However, living in a city like Shanghai presents opportunities that you would NEVER have living in CHINA China, such as seeing Linkin Park live in concert at Shanghai Stadium. It was a short, but awesome show. I'm thoroughly impressed at how Chester Bennington can sing/scream like that for so long. I'm also impressed at how many Chinese kids know all the words to their songs.

I also get to see Usain Bolt race in person on September 20th at the 2009 Golden Grand Prix which is in Shanghai this year. $12 USD to see the fastest human being alive run for a total of about 30 seconds....totally worth it. (Its a whole track meet competition thing, but who's NOT going because of Usain Bolt?)


Response to comments(by daisy):
Kristen - Thanks for the encouragement :) The locals are also amazed with Alan's eating habits. When it's time to order lunch his coworkers say, "Get this one, it has a lot of meat!" But afterwards Alan messages me, "I just ate lunch but I have to go out and get more food." 8th Wonder of the World...Alan Gong.
Glennis - I'm getting used to the idea of writing and cooking. Two things I barely did in NY! I'm getting cool tips from friends here about how to make things like sour cream and cottage cheese! We have it so easy back home! Even if we can find certain ingredients here, they're relatively expensive. Like cheese. I do love it though... Funny thing is I'm lactose intolerant in the States but not here ~ one thing I love about China: I can eat ice cream, cheese, and cheesecake whenever I want! :) YAY!
Artemis(Prime): - Did you know Alan calls you Artemis Prime? Thought you'd like to know. I think it's kind of cute :) He calls me Cobra Commander when I wear my puffy collared coat. But yea, it's good to hear from you too! If you'd like to bring yourself over here, I'd be super happy!!! hehe No luck on the baking sheet but our friend Cheryl gave me a good tip! I can foil the rack in the mini oven! YAY! So when you coming huh? ;)
Angela - Thanks for being so persistent with commenting! hehe Shanghai has a lot of foods imported from all over so it's relatively easy to find most things.'s not as cheap. It'll cost what it costs in the States. For slightly less than 1 cup (200ml) of heavy cream it's about $4USD. That's a rip off... Know how to make heavy whipping cream without buying the prepackaged stuff in the supermarket??? If you know, tell me :p p.s. I have updates about my job in my next blog! Are you done with culinary?
Cheryl - Thank you for the tips! I can use whatever you can give me... Cooking here is like thinking outside of the box or problem solving. It's quite rewarding when I figure out or find out how to get around making "homestyle" cooking :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Daisy Who?

posted by Daisy
* click on pictures to see them full size

I’m the world’s worst blogger and Alan likes to taunt me by saying, “someone commented on MY blog.” My response is always, “can I see?” I admit I enjoy reading his blogs so much sometimes I’m afraid my musings won’t be as interesting… but I’ll try to have fun writing this : )

What have I been doing? Well I stopped tutoring. The little girl moved to Singapore and the university student is on summer holiday. Since then I’ve been volunteering with a local designer name NuoMi (which translates to a type of Brown Rice). I do the same stuff I did for my previous employer so if you know my last job…you know I love it : ) The label is cool because it’s a mesh of a lot of things I love… fashion, retail, renewable resources, charities, children, and good people. So they design, make, and sell women’s and children’s clothing using eco-friendly fabrics like silk, organic cotton, bamboo and soya. And some of the merch brought in is made by Pilipino women in jail for illegal things like drug trafficking to support their families. So NuoMi sells the products they make so these women can support their families legally. And another thing that NuoMi does is raise money for children with Spina Bifida for surgery. Yay.

Little girl I tutored -- only picture I could take before she grabbed my camera

I’m still waiting on the other job with the Taiwanese trading company that I “accepted.” I say accepted in quotes because I didn’t receive the written offer or sign a contract yet -- although they’ve already started the working visa application process (???). Still working on it… will let you know how that pans out : ) I’m just enjoying my time volunteering for now!

As Alan mentioned in one of his blogs, I’ve been playing housewife. Trying to cook more often and make sure he gets enough meat. I still haven’t completely figured out how much meat that really means. Cooking’s more fun than I thought. I’ve transitioned from sneaking up to the stove to making real food. For a while, I was turning on the stove incorrectly so it would make these loud snapping sounds (oops)… another time I was afraid the oil was too hot and would pop…so I had to sneak up to it then too. Alan’s been patient with me…like when his steak ended up well done :p Spaghetti was my best meal for a while but chicken parm (minus the cheese) made it to #1 in the last 2 weeks. Yay.

Baking brownies (batch #1); #1 dish: Chicken parm (minus the parm)

Some of you at home are probably used to having an oven but locals don’t have ovens here. Most homes just have two burners unless you’re in a fairly fancy apartment building. About a month or so ago we bought a second hand oven. It’s like a large toaster oven that could fit an entire chicken but not nearly as big as the ones at home. So far I’ve baked brownies twice … three times counting the one I burnt (oops). I finally have all the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies (thanks to Alan’s mom!) but I’m missing a baking tray that will fit this oddly sized oven. Because people don’t bake here it’s hard to find baking trays. I went all the way to the HEC (Hotel Equipment Corp) only to be amazed at the industrial sized baking trays they had. It was a pretty cool store, but the baking trays were as big as two of my ovens put together. I eyed another one at the local expat grocery store (City Shop)…but when I returned to get it, it was GONE! So the search is on again! Once I get that baking tray, I want to bake some yummy chocolate chip cookies : )

It’s been so long that I almost forgot, I went to Suzhou for a day trip with some friends about a month ago! Suzhou’s known as China’s Venice and about 45 minutes away from Shanghai on the express train. There’s a manmade canal that goes throughout the city. We got to go to the Suzhou Museum which has some awesome architecture : ) And there was this man there with this hat – I told him I liked his hat and he tried to give it to me. Haha. Here are some pictures:

Yuan Yuan, Jessica, and Jennifer canal-side in Suzhou; Probably the 6th picture attempt I took of this guy -- he was so nice; Pagoda behind the Suzhou Museum

Response to comments:
Kristen - HK seems sturdy despite the numerous tall buildings. Pudong, Shanghai on the other hand is sinking from the number of huge skyscrapers being built. The Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center sit right next to each other…and China’s planning to build the Shanghai Tower not too far from the first two. It’s supposed to be taller than the first two. So as crowded as it is in HK…at least HK isn’t sinking?
Joyce - Joyce – thanks for your pr8yers :D You guessed right! “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” haha Alan owes you 2 rmb. I think there are only a few things you can buy …for 2 rmb you can ride the bus, for 1.5 rmb you could get a rice cracker snack, and…for 0.8 rmb each you could have 2 steamed buns.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

HONG KONG (not to be confused with China)

posted by Alan
*click on pictures to see them full size and click the link below for a full photo album

After weeks of research, it has been determined that in order to get a work visa in China, one must leave the country to do it. The most common place for those in China who need a new visa to go is Hong Kong. American passport holders are allowed 90 days free in Hong Kong without any type of visa. FREE. That word gains more and more meaning to it everyday that we live here.

Hui Lau Shan drink shop , my boy Mike and his gf Evelyn, with Nicole at Tsim Sha Tsui

So I take a 3 day, 2 night trip down to the City That Doesn't Belong to get the visa I will need to live and work in China. For those that don't know, HK was under British control for over 100 years and was only returned to China recently in 1997. In that time, it has flourished as one of the major port-cities in the world and is light years ahead of China in many areas (just kidding Chinese govt, if you're reading this.) I suppose this explains why most of the Chinese in New York and other parts of North America are cantonese speaking. It takes money to go abroad. This trend is starting to change as mainland China is growing. Since the handover, HK virtually has been untouched by China, with it's own government, laws, money, flag, quarter-pounders with cheese, etc. It's basically autonomous.

Please, Shanghai, Please?!?!

Quick impressions of Hong Kong:
(It's worth noting that i've been here before 5 years ago, but had an oddly-timed, culturally confusing, strange experience here. If you really want to know, I'll explain it to you, but not in this post.)
- Ok, maybe the US can agree to disagree on using things like the metric system, calling soccer football and using Celcius temperatures, but this left-hand driving thing is ridiculous. Can't we all just agree on one side of the road before someone gets killed? I was so confused that I just looked in every direction when crossing the street in case a car was coming from somewhere.
- Hong Kong feels extremely claustrophobic and cramped. Coming from New York and Shanghai, that's saying alot. It's physical area is very small and split up by mountains and rivers, which leaves the only direction in which to build being UP. As a result, it feels like the buildings and people are all on top of each other. Not enjoyable.
- People speak better English in Hong Kong than people in New York Chinatown. That made things slightly disorienting, but pleasantly easy to get around.
- The food and food choices in Hong Kong beat Shanghai. The mango drinks at Hui Lau Shan alone beat all the drinks in Shanghai combined.

Good eats - Beef Noodles, Won Ton Noodles and Mango Jelly, Coconut Juice and Mango perfection at Hui Lau Shan
Apparently someone kept swiping my camera as I was eating and took pictures of me.

Caught up with some old friends, made a couple of new ones, ate some famous stuff (most notably, the scrambled egg, noodle soup, milk pudding set meal at Australia Dairy Co.) Almost got stuck in a typhoon 8, got carsick on top of a double-decker bus, got alot of reading done and came back to Shanghai with a shiny new work visa.

The famous Australia Dairy Company. Constantly packed, make new friends at your tiny table, simple set menus.
Milk tea (or coffee), noodle or macaroni with roast pork soup, the famous scrambled eggs with soft bread toast and equally famous milk pudding. Awesome meal..and I don't even like scrambled eggs. 28 HKD ($4 USD).

Click here for pictures: PICTURES OF HONG KONG VISA TRIP

Response to comments:
Angela - All these dialects are such a pain. My cantonese (what little there was) is destroyed from trying to learn Mandarin. When I was in HK, everytime I tried to say something, it came out in Mandarin. The ability to speak many languages is truly a gift.
Kev - Chicken parm IS mad good. I could go for some right now. Oh, and you're wrong. I said a FAMOUS author, not some unknown comic book writer. By famous, I mean EVERYBODY has heard of this person. Even children....
Lina - Hey Texas! Much is always going on over here. When should we mark down your arrival date? Next week? Week after? Be sure to bring over some ribs and beef brisket.