Archive for March, 2009

But it’s so much nicer to come home

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

We’re back! And so far it doesn’t look like jet lag should be too much of an issue: I’ve been up since 8 AM this morning, which is a little later than usual for me, but only by an hour or so. Karsten is still sleeping, but this is fairly normal for a Saturday morning. He’ll probably be up soon, if my schedule was any indication.

Here’s the details of the sleep schedule, for those who are interested in jet lag avoidance:

We were up late on Thursday night at a bar called Velvet Lounge (kind of a gay bar, apparently, though a very mixed crowd), and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. Then Friday, as is my habit no matter how little sleep I get, I woke up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Our flight out was at 6 PM (mind you: that’s 5 AM Central Standard Time). Around 10 PM China time, I started getting really sleepy, so I gave in and slept for about 4 hours, and then was awake until we got home around 10 PM Central time (which is 11 AM China time).

So I got to bed around 11 PM last night and was up at 8 AM this morning. Seems not bad for having been 13 hours off schedule for the past week.

ANYway, enough of that. I’ve missed the last few days’ worth of updates here, but it was a wonderful trip. I felt like we did just enough sightseeing to get a feel for the place and the culture without wearing ourselves out. That was balanced with getting a taste of living like locals (or at least like ex-pats) by doing things like going grocery shopping, etc. And that was balanced by getting out to lots of great restaurants and eating some of the best food of our lives. And all that was balanced by a comfortable amount of time in our friends’ modestly luxurious home, which gave us a very relaxed feeling of being on a sort of staycation.

Or perhaps more meaningfully, it also felt quite a bit like being on a cruise, where there are comfortable periods of time spent relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship, interrupted by excursions and sightseeing, all highlighted by wonderful food.

I think that’s a pattern that works really well for me, so maybe I’m a cruise-type vacationer after all. Only I think I prefer big city ‘cruises’ over tropical islands. I suppose that makes me weird, but hey. I’m just not that crazy about hot sun and sand, whereas exploring urban areas never gets old.

I guess, like anything, it takes experimentation to learn your ideal vacation style. I think we got pretty darned close to perfect on this trip. (Sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t been sick for the first third of the trip, but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not been staying in such a wonderful home.) And we both loved Shanghai enough to go back, which is saying a lot considering 1, how many other interesting destinations there are in the world, and 2, how long it takes to get there and back. But it’s an endlessly fascinating place and we only spent a little bit of time exploring its neighborhoods. We could easily do another two weeks there and not get bored.

So maybe we’ll try to squeeze in one more trip before our friends come back to Nashville or move on to wherever they’re going next. Or maybe we’ll put it on the list for some future year and just look for an apartment to rent or something. It’d be a totally different experience without a Chinese-speaking friend to guide us (so I should probably improve my own Chinese skills beyond numbers and simple greetings and ‘bu yao’ or ‘don’t want’ which is immensely useful in the shopping areas) and without a driver. But it would almost certainly shed more light on what it’s like to live in Shanghai.

At any rate, I would love to publicly thank Paris and Charles for their warm and wonderful hospitality and for not only putting up with our vegan pickiness but for making sure we were well taken care of. Because Paris spent all week with us, we enjoyed the luxury of having a trusted and knowledgeable guide as well as the wonderful company of a friend. Thank you so much, Paris and Charles!

And now: back to our normal lives, with taxes to file and deadlines to meet. But also kitties to pet and friends to see and favorite places to go. Vacation life is good, but our home life is pretty darned nice too.

Shanghai while sick, days 2 and 3

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

This has been an odd vacation: I’ve been struggling with still being sick (I came down with a virus infection less than a week before we left) and with having no energy due to weirdness with the timing of taking my Synthroid.

The Synthroid thing really threw me — hard. Here’s the thing: this is a medication you’re supposed to take at the same time every day. And for me, I’ve found that I need to wait at least an hour and a half after taking it before eating, and then wait at least four hours before taking my calcium supplements, which interfere with the effectiveness of Synthroid. But I have also found that to go back to sleep after taking Synthroid seems to concentrate it in some weird, intense way, so that I wake up jittery like I’m on speed or something. So trying to juggle all those restrictions and requirements while 13 hours off my normal schedule? Not easy. I initially tried just taking it at the same actual time (about 6 AM CST), which meant evening here, but that meant I was trying to fall asleep when I was just starting to feel energized. Yesterday morning that meant that I woke up (well, I never really slept) all shaky and with my heart racing. So I waited through the time difference and switched to taking it first thing this morning, and am just now starting to feel more normal, but I’m still a bit weak and woozy.

So I have truly been in the apartment almost the whole time we’ve been here. The only exceptions were on Saturday morning when we went out for a walk around the block (which wore me out) and for lunch when the driver took us to a Thai place for lunch, and we briefly walked around the Xantiandi area (which also wore me out). Yesterday I just resolved to stay in all day and let myself recover so I don’t ruin my whole week with this half-assed weak crap, but yesterday was also the day I was hardest hit by the Synthroid timing discrepancy, so while I was off my feet almost all day, it wasn’t exactly restful.

Nonetheless, I think the virus infection is almost gone (I still have slight sinus congestion and a trace of a cough, but it’s very minor) and I expect I’ll have my strength fully back within a day or two. Of course, we’re only here three and a half more days. So I’m going to try getting outside today, and see how it goes.

Shanghai skyline

In the meantime, I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck indoors, our friends have an awesome place to be stuck. I’ve taken a few pictures from their panoramic picture windows and have played with ColorSplash on the iPhone with the one shown above. More pics are here, and more will be added in the coming days, I’m sure.

Day 1 in Shanghai, in incomplete sentences

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Idea borrowed from Jae from her updates about her most recent vacation. I love the idea of documenting highlights, but not bothering to write up whole sentences and paragraphs to describe what can be 90% summed up in loose phrases.

Day 1:

Survived 14 hour flight with massive head congestion: blew through 3 pocket packs of kleenex; stayed high on Sudafed; read several chapters of ‘War and Peace‘ (seriously!); watched ‘Burn After Reading‘ (good stuff); ate too much; slept a bit. Happy reunion with Paris at airport (Charles is away on business but will be back Saturday mid-day). Introduced to Tom, their driver. Rush hour traffic into town.

Tour of apartment (wow!) & shown to our guest room suite (wow!). Paris should win awards for being super-thoughtful friend and hostess. It helps that their place is amazing.

Much-needed sickie nap for me while Karsten & Paris chat over snacks & wine.

Dinner of vegan fried rice and dumplings with tofu & spinach (and more wine), prepared beforehand by housekeeper apparently despite confusion becauseĀ  “egg is not meat” so it should have been OK to include. She did an awesome job anyway. Can’t wait to meet her and thank her for such a delicious meal.

Amusing overview of content on Chinese TV stations. Introduced to ‘True Blood‘ - watched first 2 episodes. Alan Ball is a genius. Belgian chocolates and yet more wine. Paris points out that we can see The Bund from where we’re sitting in the living room. Have I mentioned their place is amazing?

Off to bed. Cozy with Karsten. Not a bad night’s sleep.

Day 2? Coming soon.

Interactive meatspace

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009



Interactive meatspace

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

The woman sitting next to me in the doctor’s office waiting room
noticed all this writing on the cover of this issue of Newsweek. Maybe
people are so used to commenting on blogs that they can’t resist
defacing property to make their voices heard. Or maybe this cover was
just too irresistible. Whatever the case, I knew I had to take a
picture of it and share it.