Sunday, October 22, 2017

Shanghai Diary: One Month In

I got to Shanghai one month ago today.

If this hasn't come through before let me just state it outright: if I could stay here in Shanghai longer than my three month tour, I would in a heartbeat. I'm kind of hoping that I can go home for Christmas and then come back in early 2018. I am absolutely loving this city and being here.

There have been some struggles to get by but they've been minor and each time I get jump over one of those hurdles, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Now that I've got my mobile, bank card, and scooter, I feel like there's nothing I can't do. Of course, some of the language stuff -- especially reading characters -- still flummox me but, again, those are things to be overcome. Every day I learn a little more Mandarin and eventually I plan on trying to learn how to read some of it. I can barely write (my handwriting is atrocious) so I doubt I'll go into that area but if I could figure out a few characters, I might get by a bit better.

I'm already dreading the idea of selling my scooter and not having that daily challenge of trying to get around just on my incredible good looks.

Of course, (I miss the earth so much) I miss my wife (it's lonely out in space), I miss Avery, and I miss the animals. But, I'm just so excited to be here.

When it comes to the podcast, I feel like I've not been able to dedicate enough time to some of the shows that I've got scheduled and I'm thinking I may have to put the show on hold and move out some of the scheduled episodes a bit. This 12/13 hour time difference with the East Coast (15/16 with the West) is kicking my butt a bit. Where I've got interviews recorded, it's not been an issue but setting up times to interview and record have been a real challenge.

I think, too, that I need to be more protective of my time. Last Monday I got to work at 8AM and left at 6PM for trivia and then was back on the phone for meetings by 9:30 PM and would have gone to midnight had I had a call-in number for the 11PM meeting. Things are only going to get worse when the US "falls back" due to Daylight Saving and China stays the time. That'll increase the time difference to 13 hours with back home.

The more I'm here, the more of the jokes in this makes sense to me. And that's kind of scary.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Mustn't Keep Princess Waiting

When everyone around you is speaking a different language, you can get paranoid. Or, at least, I can. But then I have to remind myself of how egotistical that is. If someone was talking about me, it would have to mean that I'm worthwhile enough -- or embarrassing enough -- to discuss and I know I'm not.

When I was in my teens and early twenties -- before I got onto anti-depressants -- I used to get really paranoid. I remember driving myself crazy, thinking that my college roommates were talking about me behind my back. Again, that would require that I am worth talking about and I'm not.

Shanghai isn't the backwoods where seeing a white person might be akin to seeing a yeti. Moreover, no matter where you go, American cultural exports like music and movies continue to put us front of mind.

The more I'm over here, the more angry I get about "whitewashing" of characters in movies. It's like I've said on the podcast several times: imagine being in a world where no one on TV or in movies looks like you do. Or, if they do, they're a horrible stereotype. Now, I don't think that seeing a white face will ever be a rarity, but maybe it should be once in a while just to help drive that point home.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Step Into the Future

Spoiler Alert: We won Monday's trivia (by all of one point).

A team -- Pudongs Make A Right -- adopted me for the game and we did a pretty decent job. I would have gotten fairly thrashed without them as there were a lot of things like years for movies(!), the theme song for "The Walking Dead", and more that I didn't know. I was able to help out with a few categories. I thought we complemented one another pretty well. Unfortunately, I've got a meeting next Monday at 8PM that I can't miss so I'll have to sit out the horror-themed night.

Tuesday (10/17) started off rough. My scooter battery died on the way to work (thank goodness I was just a few yards from my office building). I need to do a better job about charging it weekly.

Also, and far worse, when I went in to pay for my usual cup of morning coffee, I found that my ATM card was missing. Where I keep my card, it has fallen out a few times from my wallet but I always noticed it. I was in a blind panic, though tried to keep my head.

I got up to my desk and called the "Lost or Stolen ATM Card" number found on my Credit Union's website only to have them tell me, "Oh, we don't deal with that. Just with credit cards."

I tried to put it out of my head. I had a few meetings that morning and went out to lunch with my co-worker, Emily. She had volunteered last week to send me some cash via WeChat if I gave it to her, so I knew that she had some (of my) money so I wasn't worried about being broke. However, she sent me just a few Yuan (RMB) via WeChat to pay for a coffee and I figured out that there was no way to accept it. I just had to have a Chinese bank account!

After lunching, I couldn't take the suspense anymore and went back to my apartment to toss the joint and see if I could find my ATM card. No dice. In a desperate measure, I went down to the front desk to see if they had a lost & found. As soon as I started speaking, the desk clerk reached down and placed my card on the counter. I couldn't express how grateful I was. "Xiexie" only took me so far. At least with Spanish I know to add a "muchas" in front of that "gracias" to emphasis it.

Crisis averted.

Going 40 kph on my scooter can get a little chilly. I've got a heavy winter coat but nothing light enough to wear on the bike without roasting. That said, I asked Serena if she could look on TaoBao or T-Mall (two popular shopping sites) and buy me a light jacket.

There's something I like about how frank she is. "When we met, your pants look like you lost weight but they didn't." Yeah. The jeans I brought with me from home were really big. I had started purging out larger sizes but mistakenly brought some bigger ones. Big in the waist. Too long in the leg. And baggy as heck. That was Serena's way of telling me that I should also buy some new pants. After a lot of back and forth about inches to centimeters and pounds to kilos, she ordered me a new jacket and jeans.

We met yesterday on the other side of the Huangpu where she gave me my new clothes and where we looked for a bank that would open up an account for me. She's a bit of a tigress. We tried four different banks and she was undeterred. Finally, at the fifth bank, my lack of a year-long visa was not a problem. We sat down, applied for, and got me a bank account and card from ICBC. We went out and grabbed some lunch in Xintiandi (my first taste of real Shanghai dumplings, a dish they're famous for) and connected my card to my WeChat.

I can't emphasis what a big deal this is over here. There are really three main forms of paying for things: WeChat Pay, AliPay, and cash. Even then, cash isn't the preferred method. Tuesday I took a taxi from work to my apartment (carrying my dead battery) and the driver didn't have enough change for my 100 RMB note (that's only approximately $16 US). Monday I took a taxi from the White Horse to my apartment (it was pissing down rain so no scooter that night) and the driver gave me a hard time for giving him a 20 RMB note with a slight tear in the corner. There's nothing quite like being yelled at in a foreign language. After a while it goes from upsetting to ridiculous.

Now, between the China Mobile phone and the WeChat pay (and I can enable AliPay if I want), I feel like a real boy. There's something liberating about it. Now I can order a taxi (or Uber/Lyft equivalent) via DD and pay for it via the app. Now I can get my QR code scanned at any restaurant or shop and pay immediately. I can almost leave my wallet at home and just use my phone for everything. This is what we've been promised for years in the US but Shanghai is already there. The phone is the passport to just about anything and everything.

Shanghai reminds me of Seattle. Even when rain isn't in the forecast, it's not a surprise when it arrives.

There's something I call "umbrella culture" here. Since rain is so much a part of life here, there are conveniences that have been crafted for it. When you go into restaurants they often have "umbrella caddies" where you can hang or place your umbrella while you're inside. Or, a place might have a dispenser wherein you can place your umbrella and have it wrapped in a plastic bag. Oddly, these plastic bags are easy to come by but finding a plastic bag for fruit or vegetables at Carrefour is damn near impossible...

With all the rain, one would think that other things in the city might get an adjustment, especially walking surfaces. When Laura and Jason were still here, I almost took a header in the Marriott parking lot because the damned walkway was slick marble that only got slicker during the rain.

Yesterday, as Serena and I were going from bank to bank, we were going down a tall flight of metal stairs and I could tell that they were going to get slippery with our wet shoes. No problems there. But once we got out of the stairwell my foot hit the top step of a little four-step walk-down and BLAMMO; I was on my ass before I could even make a sound. She absolutely panicked, thinking she was going to have to call an ambulance for this giant American. Fortunately, I was more shocked than hurt, though I think my ass might have some bruising and the palm of my left hand definitely does. Why there are still such slick surfaces for walkways in a rainy city will remain a mystery.

At Xintiandi I saw a movie theater with a "coming soon" poster for Blade Runner 2049. I'm very excited to see that and am hoping to take Andrea with me when she gets into town on November 2. I've been working on an itinerary of "touristy" stuff to do while she's here. Yesterday was kind of a scouting trip for tourist stuff to do.

After lunch, we went to Tian Zi Fang, a densely packed little neighborhood that's been turned into almost a bizarre of shops. This seems like the place that I'll want to take Andrea for souvenir shopping and to partake in some great food. I saw something that looked like a corndog but it said it was octopus. I was too full to try it. I did have a durian-flavored ice cream and I have to admit that I found the taste intriguing. I look forward to having some real durian soon.

I got myself talked into some headphones (the girl yelling out numbers after me until she came down a couple hundred RMB to 100 RMB) but that was it. There were some kitschy items with Chairman Mao on them that I may pick up next time I'm back.

And, since I'm a tourist, Serena took me to The Bund. It started raining again so the top of the Shanghai tower was in the clouds and people were quickly walking away. It was all pretty gorgeous. And, speaking of Blade Runner 2049, it reminded me a lot of the future.

We got some dinner at a place called "Lost Heaven" (I kept wanting to call it "Lost Highway" -- partially due to the Lynch film, partially because it's got a Silk Road theme) which was another killer meal.

I got to call a taxi with my DD (app) and pay for it with WeChat pay. I felt like I had just taken my first step into a much larger world...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Trivial Pursuits

I suppose it was a little over three years ago that my friend Jeff Dunlap moved back from Chicago to the Detroit area. When we (our college roommate, Jonathan, and I) asked him what he'd like to do when he came in, he answered simply, "Pub trivia."

I haven't been the same since.

The time was ripe. Over the months previous Andrea and I had wandered into a few places (thanks to Groupon) where we happened upon a trivia night while at my day job (I was at DTE Energy at the time), one of my co-workers shared his pub trivia exploits. I even tracked down a few places in Detroit to play a round with two of my favorite DTE co-workers.

I had played a little "Quiz Bowl" in college with Jeff, Jonathan, and a few other housemates. We named our team after Matt Lieberman. We called it "FOJWPP" (pronounced "Fodge-Whip") which, of course, stands for "Friends of Jewish Water Polo Players." We didn't fare too well, having our asses handed to us by a team called "Lamer than Last Year."

I don't remember if Jeff, Jonathan, Andrea and I won our first pub trivia game as a team but once we had a taste, we were game for more.

Or maybe it was just me.

I finally found something that I was halfway decent at.

Jeff was always good for finding the answer to something crazily obscure. Jonathan and Andrea could always provide good scientific answers (they both have biology and anatomy in their backgrounds) while Andrea is also terrific at brands and cooking (not to play into stereotypes). Meanwhile, I just know a lot of stupid shit that has never served any purpose before.

We found a game night that worked with Andrea's bowling schedule for the Fall and Spring and fell into a routine. It was a something of a big deal for me when I cleared out my calendar for every Tuesday night (no podcasting allowed) and committed to my first real team event that I'd ever been in. I take that back. I'd been on a bowling league before. This was the first team event where I could actually make a difference and not be a burden.

I know I went overboard with my newfound love. I became the jerk who would immediately write down the answer if I knew it and would often forget to even show the rest of my team what I'd written before I marched the answer slip up to the host. And, worse, I would second-guess my teammates, especially if they just had more of a gut feeling and didn't say, "I know this." Yet, I was fine going with my gut (which was often wrong).

Is it any wonder why things fell apart after two years of me being a bully?

I wanted to feel wanted and when it came to the second time we were in the regional finals, I felt like my teammates were being a little wishy-washy about who was going to attend. We could only have four people out of our usual seven or eight (Jonathan and Jeff's spouses joined the game as well as a friends of Jeff's and Jonathan's). I "gracefully" demurred to be part of the four that went to regionals in an effort to be fair. Yet, I was secretly hoping that this offer would be refused: "Oh, no, Mike. You need to be there, you're so great!" When that didn't come, I seethed. Then I became apoplectic. It was all part of my horrible passive-aggressive personality.

I wasn't graceful when I texted the group the day before the contest that I should be there and basically gave an ultimatum. Not cool, man. Not cool.

This posting was supposed to be about me looking for pub trivia here in Shanghai but, instead, it's turned into another round of facing my personality defects. Not cool, man. Not cool. Too much damned self-reflection and navel-gazing. That's not entertainment.

Suffice it to say, the Tuesday Night Trivia fell apart after that. Plus, there had been some dissent about the time and night that we would play. I admit, too, that the menu at our venue had become a little stale after two years.

I removed Trivia from my calendar and started scheduling interviews for Tuesday nights.

Before I left for China, one of my old trivia teammates sent me a link to an article about "Pub Quiz" places in Shanghai. It hadn't dawned on me in the slightest that this would be a something to even consider over here but then it seemed completely natural. A bunch of ex-pats getting together in a bar, drinking, and reminiscing via trivia? Yeah, that sounded about right.

I started looking at the places in the article -- most of the venues had closed or stopped doing trivia nights. I also wanted something local to my apartment so I wasn't taking the Metro an hour and a half across the Huangpu.

After posting on a Shanghai Ex-pat group on Facebook, I finally found a location just a few kilometers away from my place that does Monday night Pub Quiz, The White Horse. And, if you're gonna ride, ride the white pony.

I went there last week where a group of Canadians was supposed to adopt me. Alas, it was Canadian Thanksgiving so they weren't around. Fortunately, a nice chap named Lance came over (from the "Damned Yankees" team) and we teamed up. Between Lance's knowledge and some blind luck, we managed to win handily. I earned a free drink voucher and got to pick the following week's theme (Sci-Fi).

One of the strangest things about going to Pub Quiz last week was being in a place where almost everyone spoke English as their primary language.

This trip is definitely making me more empathetic to people who can't speak the language of a place (like me). There's this attitude in the U.S. of "If they come to the country, they better take the time to learn the damn language. English, motherfucker, do you speak it?!?"

Yes, I'll work to learn Mandarin but I can get around most of the time without it. Likewise, I'm sure a lot of U.S. immigrants would think or say the same thing. And, don't I know that English is an incredibly difficult language to use. Even just trying to find translations for English words and phrases in Mandarin lead me down rabbit holes of, "Oh, wait, that can be a homonym for this other word..." Just today I was thinking of how I'd ask for a receipt for something. Receipt is both a noun for the piece of paper and a the fact that something is being received. It's also a verb for marking a bill as paid. So, should I ask for a bill instead? But a bill usually implies that something hasn't been paid. And, again, one can bill someone or receive a bill.

This morning, too, I was trying to remember the word to tell the barista at Starbucks that my coffee was "to go." Or, in British vernacular, "take away". Just think about how many variations of those phrases you can think of. Are you talking about verbs or adjectives here?

BTW, you'd most likely want shōu jù (receipt) and dǎbāo (to go).

I'm off to The White Horse for that Sci-Fi trivia. #LLAP

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Crunchy Frog

The days are getting a little colder. Not too bad for a fat-ass like me. My layer of blubber keeps me warm even at the coldest depths of the ocean. However, riding around on my scooter, the wind cuts through me like an icy knife.

I asked Serena on Friday if she could order me a jacket and a new pair of jeans. After a lot of math (inches to centimeters, pounds to kilograms), she placed the order at T-Mall and it should be arriving today or tomorrow.

Before I came to Shanghai, I tried to do a lot of research. I've found that some of the things I "learned" are bullshit while others are holding fairly true. The people at the "Passport Health" place where I got vaccinated made me feel like there was disease lurking around every corner here. "Don't shower with your mouth open! Don't shave in the shower! Always wipe off your chopsticks before you use them because they don't clean them well!" You could say the same thing about any big city -- save for the chopsticks -- if you eat at a crappy restaurant you should expect crappy conditions. Even the tiniest hole-in-the-wall that I've been to here has been as clean as I'd expect from a big city greasy spoon (or greasy chopstick in this case). It's all good.

I was warned "Chinese people are very rude." I disagree with this broad generalization. There are things that Chinese people will say or ask that Americans tend to avoid. That brings me back to Serena ordering me pants. She told me that the jeans I wear are not very flattering at all and that they make me look fat. She has asked me a few times why I'm so fat and if I'm doing anything to lose weight. That's not something that you hear from relative strangers in the U.S. but I know she doesn't mean anything malicious. And, hey, I'm working on it so I don't feel that bad either. Moreover, I agree that the jeans I brought with me are awful. They're at least two inches too big in the waist and as much in length. I look like I'm swimming in them. The same goes for some of the shirts I brought. So, here's hoping these new jeans will be able to fit me.

About a year ago I ordered a leather jacket via eBay. It was a 3XL which should have fit me fine. When it arrived, I could barely fit my arm in one of the sleeves. Now I realize that this was a Chinese 3XL. In China I take at least a 7XL which is as big as the vendor for this new jacket carries. Again, I hope that this fits.

The other thing that Serena has asked me about a few times is why I don't have any children of my own. I tried explaining about how selfish I am and that I spend time and money on myself and am too involved in my own navel-gazing that I didn't feel mature enough to take care of a new life. I barely can give Andrea enough time, much less another human who would be wholly dependent on me.

When I look at the friends I grew up with (all those people I mentioned in my UK Journal posts), I don't see many kids. I don't know what it was about us but no one that I still talk to or occasionally hang out with is a parent: Jeff, Leon, Steve, Aimee. Most of my college housemates have two kids: Jonathan, Buck, Matt, and Matt. Yet, the Riverview group is childless.

Back in Southfield, the majority of my direct co-workers don't have any kids, though most of them are in their twenties. Yet, here in the Shanghai office, it seems like not having kids is the exception rather than the rule. It feels like most of my co-workers here are ten to twenty years younger, though it's hard for me to judge ages for white people so I'm rubbish at Asians.

On Saturday, the office had a big "family day." In fact, it felt like the whole area (the whole city?) had a family weekend. Some of the restaurants around me put up playground equipment and there were kids everywhere. I felt a little bad that I wasn't invited to the family day stuff at work but, after seeing pictures, I wouldn't have been comfortable since it was truly all about catering to the kids.

This experience is making me realize just how much more I need to reach out to guests that visit the Southfield office. Traveling can be a lonely affair. While I love the idea of going back to my apartment at the end of the day to watch movies, read, edit podcasts, and write, I also would like the occasional outing and seeing "the real Shanghai." Again, I don't know if it's a cultural thing or because everyone has their own lives and families, but there are times where I wish I had co-workers saying, "Hey, let's go out to so and so on Saturday..." Or, "Drinks after work tonight, are you coming?" Then, again, I think I'm okay without that. I imagine I missed that window and it was open when Jason and Laura were here.

I've talked to some people here and they're amazed that I don't have a "handler" from my office. An assigned friend, as it were. I told them that this would be perceived as weak in American business culture. Likewise, people are amazed that my co-workers aren't checking in more often with me, especially the mucky-mucks. Again, fine by me. I know enough of how to do the work assigned to me and try to help out with other things so I don't need constant contact. Just unconditional love.

Photo Dump

"Take me to Raccoon City..."

View on my ride home from work

Morning line for pork buns(?):

Enjoying some shade and reading:

Two of my co-workers at the local noodle shop where I had some "Crunchy Frog":

Friday, October 13, 2017

Shanghai Diary: A Little Too Ironic

The other morning one of my Shanghai co-workers came up to me and told me that she was listening to the news out of the United States.

"Oh, good," I thought, "Something stupid Trump has done again..."

No, instead. she was telling me about how expensive Szechuan sauce is in the US and that she heard that an ounce of it can go for $14K US. Then she assured me that Szechuan sauce is not nearly as expensive here in Shanghai and that I can get it for quite cheap.

It took a beat for this to register (sometimes it takes a second to work through the accent) and then I exclaimed, "Oh! Rick and Morty!."

She looked at me askance. Nodded. Laughed a little bit. And walked away.

Suffice it to say, I've found that some bits of irony, sarcasm, and pop culture references don't translate too well across cultures.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shanghai Diary: 555

I had my first panic attack of the Shanghai trip on Monday and it was over such a stupid thing.

Here I was, feeling so empowered and self-confident about my ability to get around in Shanghai when I ran across the simple problem of buying lunch.

My office building has about a dozen or so little restaurants around it, most of them around the bases of the several tall buildings around here. Some of them seem to be apartments, others office buildings. At the base of my building is a 7-11, a Starbucks, a little market, and a few other places I've yet to visit.

I strutted into one of these restaurants, ready to sit down and enjoy some fine local cuisine.

"E Ren!" I proclaimed (one person) as I entered. The guy started speaking very quickly to me and I wasn't quite sure what he meant. It was only through hindsight that I learned that I'd walked into the equivalent of a "fast food" restaurant where people didn't get sat, they ordered and then sat down. Alas, the menu to which he pointed was purely in Chinese, nary a picture to be seen for me to point at.

"Uh," I stammered (I don't understand). Finally, I turned tail and fled. I started going around the entire building, looking at every restaurant. All of them seemed to be the same set-up. I had met my match. Why didn't I take a picture of the menu and use Google Translate to help me out? Good question. That's another thing I thought of later.

I went in to the little market and started picking up things to eat only to realize when I went to check out that the store is somewhat self-service and I didn't find anyone taking cash, just WeChat Pay or AliPay -- two things I have yet to master as I don't have a Chinese bank account or credit card. Again, another suggestion for my company is to have a few accounts like this set up where everything can be paid out of that, esp. for travelers coming here for shorter stints.

So, long story short, "555" or "wu wu wu" or "the sound one makes when crying".

The rest of this week I've been going out to lunch with coworkers -- one from the Southfield office, the others from the Shanghai office -- and though I feel a bit like a tag-along, I know my limits at the moment and will try again when I gain some more confidence and language skills.

What I think of every morning I get on my scooter:


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

UK Journal: The Journey Back


The circle is nearly complete.

Here in Heathrow I sit.

It looks like the Please Mind Your Head posse shall be together on our trek back to the good old USA.

Yesterday we went to Wimbledon where I again bought batteries and then Michelle and I went to Big Star records where I almost bought the Cameo picture disc or the Fireworks 12" or the Hong Kong Garden 45 or the B-52s First album or the Wildflower 12" by The Cult but I got Burning from the Inside by Bauhaus which I'll listen to on the plane.

Natasha can kiss my ass! She's been saying shit about me. [Probably all deserved].

Hey baby! I'm just gonna follow the Way Out signs to America.

Then we went to Piccadilly and hung out until High Tea. It was nice to get the posse in effect at the formal event [that explains the clothes in the last post].


I want to leave but I'm really going to miss Michelle and Jimmy and Kevin. I'll miss the rest of bit but those guys are really cool.

DAMNATION. I really hate Panda Cola. But I hate leaving these dues even more. And that's a lot, let me tell ya.

I miss my home.
I miss my friends.
I miss my Mom & Dad.
I miss my family.
I miss Beat Box.
I miss Black Shampoo.
I miss The Mack.
I want my MTV.
I miss my stereo.
I miss iced tea.
I miss the pool.
I miss my room.
I miss America.
Steve, Leon, Jeff, Aimee, Andy. I miss 'em all.
I miss Tony & McGraw. Hell, even having Mollie and Dave.

[On the plane]

It's 7 o'clock AM. Back home - I woke up at 10PM Eastern Time. I'll arrive hopefully at 8PM. What a nice day I'm gonna have (am having). I have a sore throat. Not cool.

I'm just waiting for today's feature presentation... Rain Man.

Doug Dalryple's address

On the way home:

England: 11:15
Home: 6:15

Home sweet Home sweet Home sweet Home, Home, Home.

I called Leon while I was at JFK. It was so good to hear from him. Then I charged it to Dean Stahl's phone [is it any wonder why I was so hated?]

Later I called Steve but he wasn't home. And, it looks like neither would be able to come over Friday night. Leon has a job: Pizza Boy.

I miss my pals so much! I want to see them all!

Aimee and Steve are supposed to go to Aimee's cabin. DAMNATION.

Looks like they're gonna miss the hearing of the virgin Car Wash soundtrack.

Back in the USA meanwhile...

Here is is, BAM, and you say God Damn! [Public Enemy reference]

I miss my parent. I miss 'em all. Here I come! MORE GOLD! [Orgy of the Dead reference]

Whew. I am so tired.

England - did you enjoy it?

Uhhh... Kinda.


Yeah, somewhat.


It was nice to get away.

It was good to go somewhere a million miles away.

It was nice to leave Riverview, the one thing I did not miss.

[Postscript -- Two additional notebook pages were shoved inside]

Well, a month ago today I was in England, probably on my way to High Tea.

In that month I've found that I really enjoyed and needed these little books in order to remember stupid little things. I've also discovered how much I enjoyed the company of the Please Mind Your Head posse and needed them while I was in England.

So far I've gotten letters from Kevin and Michelle. I believe everyone here thinks I was going out with Michelle while there. Don't I wish. I guess it only adds to the Legend of Mike. I have come to accept that people will always think of me by that name.

[I had a real problem being called Mike for a long damn time.]


A month ago today was my first day back in the country.

I didn't tell you - Friday night, Steve and I went to the Record Exchange where I got "The Cramps Gravest Hits" and Isaac Hayes's "Juicy Fruit Disco Freak." Then, that night, Steve and Aimee went to the Shelter.

Now I find that trough story alone, Michelle seems infatuated by Steve Chesney. Damn my life.

I sincerely hope to see her soon. I'm homing I could on Spring Break but I need someone to go with me.

[Here endeth the journal. More thoughts to come.]

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Shanghai Diary: Nàgè Por Favor

There must be some kind of weird "language wiring" that happens to one's brain. I'm not dreaming in Mandarin (yet, here's hoping). However, when I grasp for words (which happens a lot), if I don't know the word in Mandarin I dip back not to English but to Spanish. This makes for some undoubtedly comic moments like when I was trying to remember the word for "and" (Hé) and kept falling back to the Spanish "y" which sounds like the Mandarin word for the number one.

Reminds me of that exchange from Casablanca:

Carl: To America!
Mr. Leuchtag: Liebchen - sweetness, what watch?
Mrs. Leuchtag: Ten watch.
Mr. Leuchtag: Such watch?
Carl: Hm. You will get along beautiful in America, mm-hmm.

I'm in the office today. I can't say it's the first time because I was here two weeks ago and even spent a little time at my desk but this is my first day really being in the office proper. The drive on my scooter was a tiny bit adventurous insofar as trying not to hit other people who were going slower or being hit by people going faster. And then there was dodging cars and pedestrians. But, I made it without any (known) close calls.

The area where I'm at has a lot of little shops and there were people lining up at a number of them. I almost want to queue up to see what's being sold to merit such a crowd. Or maybe I'll take a picture and send it to my new Shanghai friend, Serena, and ask her to translate. Did that poor lady ever realize what kind of Pandora's box she was opening when she offered to help me? I can't imagine she did.

There's also some stores on the first floor of my work's building. We're up on the 16th and 17th floors (I'm on the 17th).

I rolled in around 8:30 or so and found that I was one of the first people on the floor but a lot of people all rolled in after me. Now I feel like the elephant in the room. A few people have acknowledged me and one guy even gave me a piece of grapefruit for breakfast. A small but very nice gesture.

Every desk in the office has a plant and there are air purifiers everywhere I turn. The air and water purification market has to be huge here. I've started drinking the water straight from the tap, without using my "Life Straw" but Serena warns me that I should boil it first.

I've been struggling with the internet in the office a lot today. The speed is pretty slow, probably because of having to run everything through a VPN.

Hoping that maybe someone will take pity on me and ask if I want to chī wǔfàn (to eat lunch) with them.

I'm also wanting to go over to the White Horse Pub tonight and try some local trivia there. Again, might be a little lonely on my own but maybe I can try to make some friends while I'm here. Or, if not, maybe I can kick some butt in trivia (fingers crossed).

Every night starting at 9PM local time the emails start pouring in from the Southfield office and I'm supposed to start getting on conference calls. That limits my ability to go out and be social. However, I'm hoping the Southfield group will recognize the need for me to go out once in a while.