Traveling the World Within China

September 29, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

You may have heard of the “ghost towns” of Shanghai. These are suburban developments with European themes that have not necessarily been big successes. We visited Thames Town a while back and found it very interesting and charming. It was also not a “ghost town.” It was clear that there were people living there and businesses operating.

We recently visited Holland Village in northern Pudong, although it wasn’t our intention to do so. We were headed to a music festival to hear Ajinai, a Mongolian folk rock band that we love. We were running late, caught a taxi, showed him the address of where we wanted to go (in Chinese), he said “ok,” we got in and he began to drive — THEN he motions that he wants us to call someone who can tell him where to go. There isn’t anyone we can call to give him directions in Chinese. Thus began the worst taxi ride we have had. He was a terrible driver, weaving all over as if he couldn’t keep the car in the lane. I came very close to telling him to pull over so that we could get out, because I didn’t want to die in this taxi.  He also chose the worst possible route, driving through the heart of the city instead of taking the outer ring elevated road. So, the trip that should have taken 40 minutes took 1 1/2 hours. He then drove right past the destination. We got him to pull over to a bus stop so we could get out and kiss the ground. (I kid. We didn’t, but we heaved a sigh of relief at still being alive.)

During this 1 1/2 hour ride we came up with a Plan B, because it was obvious that we weren’t going to see Ajinai that day. Holland Village, one of the 8 or 9 “ghost towns” was not far away and we plan to visit as many of them as we can, so we hopped on a bus and traveled north to find Holland Village.

New Holland coat of arms on a two story restaurant building

We took a stroll down the street.

Dutch style buidings

Crossed the draw bridge to the island in the river where there is a non-functioning windmill.

a Dutch style windmill

We walked back to the restaurant and had a lovely dinner. A rather pleasant day, despite how it began. We took the bus back to the metro and the metro back home.

To see all the pictures click here.


Not Our Favorite Summer

July 22, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Ocean, sail boats, coast line

This summer did not go according to plan. Only three of our many plans came successfully to fruition. DaddyBird was able to attend the university graduation of BabyBird. I was able to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. We both (separately) were able to spend time with family. Other than that, all plans fell apart.

Early in June, we found out that we were going to have to move out of our apartment by July 31st. Since we had planned to be in California until July 21st, we decided that some change to our plans was needed to accomplish this feat. DaddyBird’s USA trip plans were significantly shortened. He returned to Shanghai two days before I was scheduled to leave.

The move was accomplished, but two days later DaddyBird was seriously injured while assembling and moving a large bookcase. He attempted to survive on his own, but on the third trip to the doctor, it was determined that surgery was necessary. Therefore, my trip was shortened by four days so that I could return before he was released from the hospital and be here to take care of him while he recuperates. He is healing well, although he wishes it would happen faster.

In addition to the inconvenience of having to move out of an apartment we were very happy with and the pain and frustration of being injured, we missed out on seeing friends and family members. I don’t start back to work until August 10th, so had hoped to get to do a little travel within China, but that won’t be possible either.

On the bright side, we easily found a new apartment, there are many shops and restaurants in the new neighborhood, and the apartment staff have been VERY helpful – taking care of DaddyBird in my absence and helping with transportation to and from the hospital. It is not all bad, but definitely not our favorite summer experience.


San Jose Tourist

July 9, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Almost all of our summer plans have gone wrong. The last time we were in the States we were so tired from running errands, dealing with business, and shopping, we promised ourselves that next time we would just be tourists and do touristy things. So, despite all the disruptions to our plans, I am trying to do a few of those touristy things.

Starting with the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

quilts hanging on a wall

The above quilts are kawandi, quilts made by African Siddi women who live in India. The quilts are made with a unique style that bypasses the initial sewing of the pieces together. They are stitched together as they are attached to the backing.

Hanging art quilt made with embroidery cut from tea towels and pillow cases

Another display focused on embroidery. My favorite pieces were made from found pieces of embroidery (from tea towels and pillow cases) that are reassembled into wall hangings. The designs were very familiar, although it interesting just how many jugs of moonshine there are.

a birds nest made out of glass

There was also a display of works made with glass, some of which were based on quilt arts. I have no idea what this bird’s nest had to do with quilting, but it was beautiful.

Bedouin weavings

A display of Bedouin weavings was quite familiar, too.

San Jose Art Museum building

Next museum – San Jose Art Museum

two pictures, an antique picture of a Native American man, a recreation of the photo showing an Indian woman

My favorite display was a series of pictures in which an antique picture of a Native American is recreated by the Indian artist. The collection was called “An Indian from India.”

two photographs

Another display of interest consisted of found photographs that show young Indian girls in all cases with a bouquet of flowers to the right and a mirror to the left positioned to show the back of the girl in the photo.

displayed color photographs of Indian girls

close up of one of the photographs

The amazing thing is that there are 83 of these. The artist who created the display did not take these photographs, they found them and assembled them. So, it seems strange that they are all posed exactly the same.

entire display of 83 photos


Books, Books, Books

July 5, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

four books - Samurai Rising, Bamboo Sword, Beastly Bones, A Monster Calls

I attended the annual conference of the American Library Association this year. I have difficulty remembering when I last attended, but I think it was 1997 in New Orleans, so it has been a looooong time. It’s still a fabulous experience, but a few things have changed. Improvements, I would say.

The most obvious being that book publishers give away pre-pub copies of books like mad and there are more author signing opportunities. Back in the “old days” we bought copies of books and then got them signed by the authors. I attribute this change (giving away copies of books for signings) to the impact of ebooks and social media. Publishers seem to have recognized that librarians not only read books, but they also promote them to other people. With the advent of social media and book blogging, the reach of one librarian is much farther than just their library community.

My conference experience began Friday evening at the opening of the exhibits hall where all the publishers and book equipment/supply vendors show their wares. It was a bit overwhelming, so I just roamed around taking it in and picking up free books, buttons, posters, etc.

The second day began early with viewing the movie Wadjda by Haifaa al Mansour. It is really excellent and I highly recommend seeing it, if you can. Following the viewing, Haifaa al Mansour spoke about her experience making the film. Next, I attended a session with Sarah Vowell about her new book Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. She was joined by Nick Offerman and they sat on stage and discussed the book and other random topics. It was informative and funny. Nick Offerman was scheduled for a session in the afternoon (which I also attended) and they did the same thing in which Sarah joined him on stage and they discussed his book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers. It was great.

Nick Offerman and Sarah Vowell sitting on stage

Sunday was my day to get books signed. I was very pleased to get to speak with some of my favorite authors – William Ritter, Patrick Ness, and Dav Pilkey. Mr. Ritter is new to the writing scene. I just recently finished reading his first novel, Jackaby, and picked up the pre-pub copy of the second in the Jackaby series – Beastly Bones. I picked up a total of 33 books and Beastly Bones will be the first I will read.

I was happy to speak with Patrick Ness because A Monster Calls is definitely one of the best books I have ever read and I urge you to read it, if you haven’t already. I told Mr. Ness that this was my second copy of the book since I had given the first away because I think everyone should read it. He signed it accordingly.

signed title page

For the Castles – Keep this one! It’s yours!

I also enjoyed talking with Dav Pilkey. I saw that he was doing a signing at the Scholastic booth and attempted to get into the line, but it was VERY long due to the popularity of his Captain Underpants series which is published by Scholastic. I just didn’t have an hour to stand in line, so gave up, regretfully.

Dav Pilkey at the Scholastic Books booth signing books

Thankfully, the ALA has a great conference website that lets you search the schedule and I was able to search for Dav Pilkey and find that he would also be signing at the Little Brown Books for Young Readers booth later. Happily when I arrived at this booth, there was no line at all and I could step right up and take my time. I told Mr. Pilkey how much my stepdaughter loved his books, but I forgot to tell him that I wooed my husband with a boxed set of Captain Underpants. He signed two copies of One Day for me.

Monday was “visit facilities and equipment vendors day” for me. In the next two years, I will be designing a new library for my school. Therefore, I needed to gather information about furniture, shelves, self-checkout systems, etc. This was actually a bit fun. Having the words “Shanghai China” on your name tag always serves as a conversation starter.

All in all, it was a great time. Not only did I get to do all of the above, but I was able to spend time with a dear friend and former co-worker I haven’t seen in a long while.


Tailor Made, Part Two

June 7, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

man in black linen Chinese tunic

We went back to the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market to pick up DaddyBird’s new shirts. He looks very dapper in the black linen traditional Chinese tunic.

entrance to the mall

Across the street from the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market is the Shanghai Zhongfu Soft-Spinning Material Mall. I was curious to see how they compare. So, in we went.

hallway lined with clothing shops but no customers

Compared to the hustle and bustle of the South Bund market, this was the opposite end of the spectrum. Very few customers. Much more pleasant to walk down the aisles without having your personal space violated constantly. The clothes of the first floor were quite formal – tuxes, gowns, suits, traditional Chinese dresses (qipao).

Chinese restaurant

Next, it was time to eat, so we just dropped in here.

menu showing "slobber beef"

The menu English translations were quite entertaining. So, we ordered some “slobber beef.” The Chinese characters are “mouth water beef meat.” We suspect that it was tongue or maybe it is just mouth wateringly good beef. (Also pictured – jellyfish in vinegar, fried jellyfish, a chicken goose, local guild roast duck, wine ??? little yellow croaker)

"cuts the mutton in vain"

“Cuts the mutton in vain”

"the palace explodes the shrimp ball"

“The palace explodes the shrimp ball”

"grandmother red-roasted pork"

“Grandmother red-roasted pork”

"the salty egg yolk stir fries before stewing the taro"

“The salty egg yolk stir fries before stewing the taro”

set of dishes wrapped in plastic

When we approached the restaurant I noticed that there were plastic crates of dirty dishes on the sidewalk. The dish sets come like this on the table. I assume this means that instead of washing the dishes in house, they use a service that picks up the dirty dishes and delivers clean sets all wrapped up in plastic and ready to go. We have seen this at other restaurants as well.

landscape painting of autumn forest and river

Over our table was a painting with “happy trees.”

dishes, two beer large bottles

A couple of tall beers and we are ready for the slobber beef.

plate of buns and mixed meat and vegetables

First to arrive was the “pork burgers.”

bun turned over showing the hollow underside

We are not certain how to eat this, but we decided the most likely plan of action was to fill the hollow underside of the bun with the meat and veggies. The buns are different colors due to slightly different ingredients, but the taste was not significantly different.

two dishes, one of salted egg taro and the other of beef

Then came the slobber beef and the salted egg taro. The slobber beef turned out to be wickedly spicy, so I used the rather bland taro to put out the fire on my tongue.


Tailor Made

May 31, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Yesterday’s adventure was to go to the South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market to get new shirts made for Daddybird. ( A suit was contemplated also. I checked, he isn’t running a fever.)

So we hopped on the metro and headed across town.

large red sign for the South Bund Soft Spinning Material Martket with a map

The metro exit was clearly marked and then at the top of the exit was this big red sign complete with map of how to get to the market.

pole sign topped with a sewing machine

This sign was a good clue (and cool looking), but this is actually a competing market. The one we were heading for was across the street.

Street Food

At the corner there were at least 10 food carts extending out into the intersection. Why were they not on the sidewalk?

jewelry laid out on the sidewalk

Because the sidewalk is for the jewelry vendors, it seems. Plenty of jade and other interesting things, but not exactly how I prefer to shop for jewelry.

tailor made goods on display including Christmas tree skirts

You can get just about anything custom made here, including Christmas tree skirts.

I was wearing a scarf on my head, so everywhere I went I heard “Scarf Lady!” I did eventually buy two scarves. That was an adventure in haggling. They were two single color cashmere scarves. Nothing particularly complicated or special (no embroidery, etc.). She wanted 500 yuan ($81.00) as her starting price. I said “no” to that. She came down a little, but not much. I said “no” and started to walk away. She came after me, grabbing for my arm and finally said “okay, 300.” It was still too much ($48.00), but I did want them, so I agreed. We hate negotiating SO MUCH. It is so anathema to the American psyche.

Booths selling tailor made clothes

Daddybird’s shopping mission was interesting, too. He was very specific about what he wanted – black shirt material with a design in it (black on black). He had brought his favorite shirt as an example which had a herringbone pattern to it. The shop clerks would see that and say “I have that exact thing” then pull out their fabric sample books which never had the exact thing in them. Also, Daddybird would explain that he wanted a different pattern like flowers or paisley. In three floors of shops (hundreds of shops) there was only one that actually had a fabric that matched what he was looking for.

black fabric with a pattern

Finally, something that satisfied him. So, we ordered two shirts to be made exactly like his favorite shirt, which he had to leave with them. In one week, we will see what we get for our trouble.

There were several shops with classic Chinese style shirts on display, so we asked at the shop on the main floor under the escalator for a price on having one made for him out of black linen. (I didn’t take a picture, but it is a simple shirt with a band collar, frogs* instead of buttons, and two pockets near the waistline. Not very complicated.) Her starting price was 500 yuan. (This may be a popular starting price for simple things when dealing with foreigners.) So, $81.00 USD for a simple linen shirt, not even silk or brocade. We left that stall and decided to shop around for a better price instead of having to do the negotiation thing. As a seamstress, I find it amusing when their arguments for the high price are that the frogs* or pockets require more fabric. Not 80 bucks worth.

There were three floors and we had been to all three before starting to look for the classic shirt. I had noticed that there were fewer customers on the third floor, so thought we might get a better price up there due to the lack of customers. So, up we went and sure enough we found a shop with linen classic items and their starting price for the same black linen shirt with frogs and two pockets was 350 yuan. Daddybird talked him down to 300 ($48.00), still a bit high, but it is custom made to fit.

In one week, we will see just how well our choices worked out.

food cart serving egg and cheese wrap

Back out on the street, we stopped for some of that street food. At this cart, we got a flat bread, with fried egg, a slice of cheese and a leaf of lettuce. The price was outrageous – 15 yuan ($2.42). We did not buy a second. It was delicious, but not 15 yuan worth of delicious.

flat bread wrap with egg, cheese, and lettuce

So, we went elsewhere to get dinner. The food cart prices outside a popular market/tourist attraction are too high.

*In case you do not know what a “frog” is, it is a fastener made out of corded fabric with a loop and a knot.


Something’s Afoot

April 23, 2015

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

It’s possible that reading a paranormal Sherlockian mystery novel* is having an effect on how I look at the world around me.

a key ring tied to a lamp post

Last month, DaddyBird noticed these keys tied to a lamp post. They are still there, piquing my curiosity.

a photograph of a man sitting at a desk laying on a street curb

This photo appeared one day, just below the keys on the lamppost. I start to wonder about the story of this street corner.

a park path covered in leaves

Another mystery appeared in our park. The leaves had been swept into piles, but abandoned, as was the broom and garbage bag. I wondered what happened to the sweeper. The piles have since dissipated with traffic. The broom has disappeared, but the bag remains.

*Jackaby by William Ritter ISBN 9781616203535


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