Monday, October 26, 2009

Malaysia 09

posted by Alan
(click on the pictures to see them fullsize and the link below to see a full picture album)

Two posts with ZERO comments? Ouch. Well, we'll assume people are still reading this site and post anyway. We'll try to update more often too. This way everyone can not-comment more frequently. =)

Every first week of October in China is National Day. One of the three golden weeks in China where the entire country has a holiday from work. There aren't many personal vacation days in the Chinese work culture, so these Golden Weeks are the time to travel for EVERYONE.

We (Me, Daisy and 6 other friends) decided on a hidden treasure of an island off the eastern coast of Malaysia called "Tioman Island." It is listed by Time Magazine as one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world. One of the reasons it can preserve its beauty is because it takes some real travel and determination to get there. For us, that meant a 6 hour flight (connecting) to Kuala Lumpur(KL), the capitol city of Malaysia, a 5 hour sleep in a hotel, a 6 hour, early morning busride from KL to the port city of Mersing, where we would catch a 2 hour ferry ride to Tioman Island. It took over 24 hours from the time we left Shanghai to the time we finally stepped foot on the Island.

Our plan for the week was to get away from the hectic city life and spend time just resting and relaxing while appreciating all of this natural beauty. Tioman is a small island that is mostly jungle. There are about 8 beach areas along the shore, which is where small, family owned chalets and restaurants have been set up to host visitors. The only real way to travel from beach to beach is via boat. The island is known for its Scuba and snorkeling. Many areas of live coral, crazy looking fish, reef sharks, sea turtles, etc. Monkeys and Komodo Dragons roam the island as well. We all had our share of fresh fish on the beach, soaking in the warm ocean waters and really had an amazing time.

One of the biggest impressions I have from our trip was the attitude of the local island people towards money. Coming from China, we're conditioned to always be on guard for people trying to take advantage or scam us out of some money. On Tioman, it was the total opposite. Because there really wasn't much on the island, there was almost no point in becoming rich. This resulted in a very relaxed attitude towards money there. They made what they needed to in order to maintain their lifestyle, and they were satisfied with that. We were in a few situations where we asked if there was a charge for something and the answer was "It's up to you. If you want to pay, you can pay, if not, its ok." Then we'd ask "How much?" and again, they'd shrug and smile and say "It's up to you." Even when there WAS a price on something, it was never asked for or negotiated up front. They just said, "Go ahead, take it, pay us whenever." Granted, we were staying at the chalet on a secluded island so we weren't going anywhere, but there wasn't an urgency to guard or hoard money. It was such a pleasant and comforting feeling to be around.

If you'd like to hear more about our trip, feel free to ask us anytime, or you can just take a look at the pictures here: MALAYSIA '09

As I type this, plans are underway for a big Halloween party at my company. I'm setting up a Haunted House in one of our meeting rooms and we're inviting friends, family and clients to come the night before Halloween. Halloween hasn't reached the status that it has in America yet, but every year, it's being embraced more and more by the Chinese as a time to dress up and just have fun. I'll be sure to update you next on what Halloween is like in China.

Daisy and I have also begun our plans for our trip home for the holidays. We'll be coming home a week before Christmas and plan on staying until about a week after New Year, so we hope to have plenty of time to see everyone. We love living out here in Shanghai, but we definitely miss everyone back home and we're both really looking forward to coming back for bit.

Hmm, Yankees and Phillies? What's a Met fan to do? I think I'm actually leaning towards the Phillies. Few things are more annoying than a gloating Yankee fan. hahaha. I know I'm inviting the Mets fan abuse. BRING IT ON. (besides, we were injured all year, not our fault.)

Response to comments:
....let the silence be deafening....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

last month...or so

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

I've had a month and a half to recover from my last entry so sorry in advance for the mega long monologue.

HK: I went to HK the last week of August to apply for my Z visa. When I wasn't at the visa office, I was exploring the city, eating, and window shopping. It's an interesting city where EVERYTHING is on top of each other, more so than any other city I've visited - with serious signage and space overload. The double-decker buses and the intense signage were overwhelmingly amazing. I was wondering if the double-decker buses don't crash into the signs above then if the signage ever falls off the buildings because there are just THAT many.

signage in HK; can't read but I think there's a sale at this store...

I've been there a handful of times over the last 10 years but it was a completely different feeling coming from Shanghai. It made me realize how different Shanghai's dynamic is compared to both HK and NY. The allure of ads and shops in HK and NY screams YOU NEED TO BUY THIS IF YOU WANT TO BE SOMEONE but in Shanghai I really don't get this feeling (or maybe the ads and shops aren't doing a good job attracting me). But I've noticed people around me could care less what I'm wearing, what designer, and where I go eat my meals, shop, etc. Of course when I dress better or go to pricey-er establishments, I receive more attention like anywhere else... but the pressure to be a certain way, dress a certain way, shop a certain place isn't here -- or I haven't felt it calling me. (Don't worry, I haven't become totally reckless to the point where I put on same unwashed clothes day after day...although the thought appeals to my laziness right now...) It's a liberating feeling and it made me miss Shanghai for the first time. After three days in HK, I was ready to return “home" with my Z visa in hand. And for you guys who go through this visa process periodically, you know my joy when I say I got my Residence Permit! No visa paperwork to deal with for a while!)

yummy Japanese honey lemon tea;
back in SH I was greeted by men covered head to toe ready zap me with their fever gun

TR: ...stands for Test Rite Group. That's the trading company I work for now... I've been here just over 1 month. The people on my team are cool. They're all really nice and Chinesey. I'm the only native English speaker on my team but their English is good and my boss is originally HK-nese so he speaks English (and Cantonese). But there’s always something comforting about meeting another native English speaker. About a month ago I recognized a girl walking out of our building. I met her briefly through a friend at ch'ch. Turns out she works here too! Yay! When she found out I worked here, it seemed like she was excited but at first in disbelief that I worked at TR too. There aren't many Americans here – there was her and now there's me. TWO! Nice... haha.

Every team has a different category so I'm in the Gardening Department. My team finds factories that make gardening tools and various sundry items and exports them to retailers all over the world – kind of like a middleman. I used to be on the buying end and now I'm on the sourcing/exporting end. Should be interesting! I came in at the end of the summer so it’s been slower than usual and people are still getting in last minute vacations – a good time for me to slowly transition into my new role.

And last week I got my first Chinese paycheck. Pretty normal but in my mind I wasn’t sure I was actually going to get paid until I got paid. My China mentality… expect nothing and deal with it when it does or doesn’t happen… Seems to work most of the time. When things work out, I am pleasantly surprised and slightly amazed with how things work out here. When things don't work out, I had no expectations in the first place. Doesn't work for everything but it keeps me rolling with the punches and from expecting America in China... all while trying to enjoy the China way.

a sea of cubicles...

+1 year: Thanks to those that sent emails and FB messages to wish us a happy anniversary! Feels like Alan and I met just a couple years ago…but that’s nearly eight years ago. Looking back on the last year, so many things have happened and it’s incredible seeing where we were and where we are now in a year's time -- and we did it together. I'm so thankful and I'm looking forward to more years together like our first : ) For our anniversary we spent the day riding bikes, walking through the park, and enjoying a Mexican dinner together.

With the help of some friends I helped throw two showers to celebrate the arrival of our friends Lizzy and Daniel's baby boy ~ Houston! It was tough planning something traditionally American IN China but totally worth it!

Baby Shower foods, pin-the-baby-on-Lizzy, and baby's most needed item ~ Huggies!" p.s. Lizzy baked the cake in the shape of a yellow school bus herself -- it was delicious!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bye China, Hi Malaysia

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

So, after the post about our Slingbox, I kind of take it back. First big Penn State game, get up nice and early to see ESPN's college gameday at my old campus and Iowa knocks us out of the championship picture for the second year in a row. To all my fellow combination Penn State/Mets fans, why do we do this to ourselves? At least I'm not a Knicks fan too.

I forgot where I heard it, but I remember hearing the realization that how much you actually use your camera is a good indication of the activity level going on in your life. I know it's been true for me, as when I'm doing things that are new, fun and interesting, I have plenty of pictures during these times. But there have been times when I don't touch my camera for weeks and it's because things just have been pretty routine and there's been nothing really worthy of picture-taking. I know this isn't true for EVERYone as there are some who never take pictures of anything (Daisy) and some who insist on pictures for everything ('let's take a picture together even though we're in a dark bar and the entire background is indistinguishable and we do this every weekend, and we're roommates/best friends, making every single picture look almost identical!')

As I was saying, this statement is pretty accurate for me, so I try to keep my life full of camera-worthy events and activities. There's hardly a boring moment out here in Shanghai, as EVERYTHING is new and different and interesting, but i think anywhere you live, its easy to fall into the comfort of routine. But if you know me, I don't like being bored, so I'll be doing my best to keep my daily life picture worthy..

Pizza and Game Night (Detective, head up....)

2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix. NO Usain Bolt, but featuring Tyson Gay and the return of Chinese National Hero, Liu Xiang. Go USA.

Dinner and bowling for my cousin Nick's birthday

A visit to the Hai from Cheryl and Brian

October 1st marks the start of one of the three golden weeks here in China. This year, it's the 60th Anniversary of the Communist Party taking power in China. The entire country has off and EVERYONE travels. We have a group of 8, headed down to Tioman Island off the Eastern coast of Malaysia for a week. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, known for its seclusion, scuba diving and just overall natural beauty. We're absolutely looking forward to getting out of the city and relaxing on pristine beaches for a few days. Pictures for sure when we return...