First Few Weeks in Shanghai

September 16, 2015
I've already written about my highs and lows since moving abroad, and last week I posted about my day trip to Zhujiajio, but I wanted to focus more on what I've actually done so far here in China as well as throw in some information on quirky cultural differences.

One thing that I'm obsessed with here in China are their milk tea shops! There are two about a 5 minute walk from where I live, and I think I usually get three drinks from there per least. Seriously, the people at the shop are starting to recognize me and they even gave me a loyalty card! Scott loves it just as much as I do. At first I thought it was a bubble tea shop, but only one of their drinks has the tapioca balls. To figure out which one it was, Scott took a picture and sent it to his sister-in-law who can speak Mandarin. We now know that it's the tenth one down on the menu, ha! Besides bubble tea they have all sorts of flavored milk drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, and tea drinks. My top one is what I'm pretty sure is a taro smoothie. Whatever it is, it's fantastic!

I had to make a hair appointment right away because I had a freak hair incident. I've long had trouble with knots, but when I arrived in Shanghai and washed my hair, I came out of the shower with a HUGE knot in my hair...It was bigger than my fist and impossible to brush out. Even Scott tried (without success) to brush it out, God bless him... but let's not bless him too much because he kept telling me that it felt like there was something in it. There wasn' was just pure knot. Anyway, I decided to wash my hair again and use lots of conditioner and then once I got out of the shower, I added some leave-in conditioner, but it didn't help at all. I booked an appointment as soon as I could, but I had to have that massive knot in my hair for five days until I could go in. Rachael recommended a salon to me, so I went to the hairdresser who usually works on her hair. It was embarrassing, and other foreigners were staring at me while two hairdressers slathered my hair down with conditioner and then used a razor to cut pieces out of the knot. Both of them were working on it for 40 minutes! The hairdresser said, "There's no way you could've gotten this out by yourself." He informed me that if I went to a local salon by where I lived that they probably would have just chopped the whole thing off. He asked me what happened, and I told him that I had no idea and was hoping he could tell me. He said my hair was a little dry but not dry enough to form knots like that. My hair WAS really dry in July because parts of fell into the Blue Lagoon by accident. Note to anyone reading: If you ever go to Iceland and float around in the Blue Lagoon tie your hair up with multiple hair ties for good measure. The water there is extremely bad for your hair and it made mine feel like straw for more than a week. (My hair fell out of the bun I had it up in and that's why it got into the water.) Okay..back on topic...Well, I ended up getting about 8 inches cut off of my hair and a conditioning treatment. I thought it was really expensive at $165, but I am picky about my hair and have had many horrible experiences, so I'll pay more for someone who knows what they're doing!

After and so much happier!
For our school, we had an orientation from August 22- September 1st with no days off. This culminated with a banquet which was loads of fun! The school paid for our food and provided us with wine and beer. Teachers who worked there previously all kept telling us that they felt sorry for the new teachers because in past years the banquet was much better, but I didn't know the difference and thought it was great! Afterwards, a group of us went out dancing. Usually I'm not a big dancer, but I had a ton of fun dancing that night.

Another wonderful perk of living here is the cheap massages! A friend recommended a local place pretty close to where I live. She told me that it was "sketchy" but that the workers do a good job. Now, it's not the nicest looking place and it was a little dingy/dirty, but Scott and I LOVED our foot massage! It only cost us about $7.15 for a whole hour! They soak your feet in hot water and then even give you a back and neck massage on top of the foot/lower leg massage that it comes with. I've been in there three times already. The women are very nice, surprisingly strong for their stature, and I leave feeling very relaxed. Now I just need to find a place for back massages since my back is not the best!

Since moving here, I've been to an area of Shanghai called Xujiahui a few times. There are a couple of shopping malls, and it's an ideal place to stop for electronics. This area was the first place I visited in the city! One of Rachael's friends helped some of the new teachers get cell phones. I ended up spending almost $1,000 on an i-phone 6, a years worth of service, and a phone case. I used StraightTalk in the States and couldn't unlock my phone in China like people who had AT&T and Verizon. Plus, my old phone was an i-phone 4s, so I needed a new one anyway. I returned to Xujiahui later because the keyboard on my laptop got messed up and I couldn't type the letters z,x,c, or v. I paid about $30 to get it fixed and picked up a USB flash drive. There is a famous dumpling place there that serves xiao long bao (soup dumplings), so I know I'll be back because Scott incessantly talks about them! We searched Shanghai for some and I finally got to try some for the first time! The broth is inside the dumpling. They are tricky to eat at first and on the first attempt I had spilled some broth, but by the end I got the hang of it.

In other news, we got this e-mail saying that if we wanted to that we could sign up and receive one free milk for each working day. I thought that was hilarious, and I do drink a lot of milk, so I signed up. One of my friends found out that I signed up and teased me, but now she is regretting not signing up because she wants it for her coffee, ha!

It was Teacher's Day in China on September 10th. One of my students drew me a picture, a few came up to me and told me to have a happy Teacher's Day, I got some homemade cookies, a small box of flowers, some chocolate truffles, and L'Occitane body lotion. That was so nice of the kids and parents to think of me, especially because I only just started teaching their sons/daughters. I also like the idea that Teacher's Day is celebrated here. I know that there's a Teacher's Day in the States, but I'm not sure when it is, so I didn't really expect my students or parents to know either. It's just nice to feel appreciated!

Last weekend, Scott and I decided to take the subway to People's Square and then walk down to the Bund. It was sweltering hot outside, but the view of Shanghai's famous skyline was worth it. We walked around Nanjing Road and then decided to have lunch at Shook. We sat by the window and had a pretty good view of the Bund, not to mention the food was delicious and we had a three course meal. We opted for their set menu, which was a way better value than trying to order individual dishes.

All over Shanghai there are these sellers that will approach you asking whether or not you want to buy their "flowers." What they mean by that are some fake flowers, mushrooms, or leaves on a clip. I've spotted adults and kids alike with these "flowers" clipped in their hair or on their belongings. Scott and I decided to join the club and buy some to clip to our bags! Fun!

Oh, and last but not least, I cannot fail to mention this awkward health check that we had to go to. In order to get a working Visa in China, we had to get checked. It wasn't like a bunch of us sat in a waiting room and then got called one by one to get an exam by one doctor. We had to change into these robes and then were given tickets and told which room to go to. Once we visited every room, we were allowed to get dressed again. We didn't know exactly what they were checking for in each room and the EKG room freaked everyone out a little bit because all of a sudden our robes were getting opened up, we were exposed, and there were suction cups all over us. It all happened so fast, but at least they were efficient and we got out of there quicker. Many of us were shocked because there wasn't any explanation as to what was going on in each room. It was also uncomfortable having to be in those robes with all of our future co-workers!

What's your favorite thing to do when you first get to a new place?

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