My Past Few Weekends: Harry Potter, Lanterns, and Floating

March 7, 2016
As you might know from my past post about leaving Thailand, I've been back in Shanghai and am three weeks into our second semester for the school year. My weeks have been busy, so the weekends are always a welcome break for exploring and recharging. I'm trying to make the most of them without going overboard and then feeling like I need another weekend to recover from the weekend I just had.

Here are the highlights of what I've done lately:

Back in November, Rachael mentioned that the Harry Potter Exhibition was coming to Shanghai and wanted to know if I would go with her. Of course!! A group of us went over to Pudong and found The Superbrand Mall, which was the location of the event. When we got there, we saw that the line was so long that it wrapped down several levels of the mall. We walked to the top of the line near the entrance and asked the people waiting how long they had waited for, and they told us three hours. Our tickets were only valid for three hours more, so that day we decided that it wouldn't have been worth it to wait in line for three hours only to possibly be turned away due to the time. Instead, we went and saw The Martian. We thought we might not be able to see the exhibition, but after a few phone calls, Rachael sorted it out for our group and we finally got to go a few weeks ago with our old tickets!! The one drawback for us was that everything was dubbed in Chinese. I was kind of hoping everything would be in the original version, but I mean I obviously understand why it had to all be in Chinese. I was pretty impressed with the exhibition and thought it was well done with a large collection of costumes and artifacts from the movies. Some highlights were: finding all of the Horcruxes, sitting in Hagrid's chair, pulling out a mandrake, seeing the costumes for the Yule Ball, seeing Snape's robes, and posing for a picture with the Slytherin banner.

I've only read the Harry Potter series once, and sometimes I had to wait for years in order to read the next book due to it not having been released yet. Seeing this exhibition made me want to go back and re-read everything all over again!

Besides the Harry Potter Exhibition, I tried out a new restaurant called CH2 by Whisk which was recommended to me by another teacher at my school. Rachael, Steven, and I met my bff Scott and the four of us had a nice dinner. Rachael ordered the cheese plate for us to split, and since I was starving, I grabbed a piece of bread and put a triangular piece of cheese on top. At first when I started chewing, I thought that the cheese was tasteless, but after a few more seconds I realized that it wasn't cheese I was eating and that it was actually a big piece of butter!! I so wanted to spit it out, but the waiter was at our table and I wanted to avoid looking like an idiot, so I consumed it, ha ha ha. In my defense, the others with me all told me that it really did look like cheese. Other than the cheese incident, it was a great dinner! There are so many fantastic restaurants in Shanghai, so Scott and I told each other that we would try to get out there and try some more of them. We feel like we always keep going to the same (good) places.

Scott and I made it out to Yu Garden on a Sunday night because Chinese New Year celebrations were still going on. The garden was decorated with hundreds of lanterns commemorating the start of the Year of the Monkey. Apparently this lantern festival was canceled last year because of the incident that happened at The Bund on New Year's Eve. (There was a stampede and almost 40 people got trampled and died.) At any rate, going to see all of the lanterns at Yu Garden was spectacular. The New Year's song "Gong Xi Gong Xi" was on full blast and it put us in a festive mood.

We sampled some desserts and then we did something that we had been wanting to do for a long time... We got our English names translated into Chinese and then carved into a stone stamp. I personally think it looks cool and might even use it to stamp my students' homework assignments instead of initialing them. First, I have to check with my Chinese co-teacher to make sure the translation is right.

I saw on Facebook that one of my friends had gone for "a float" in a sensory deprivation tank and she talked up the experience. Scott and I were curious and searched about what this floating business actually was. You basically go into a dark tank filled with salt water and float around, but it is supposed to relieve stress and anxiety. The water is heated so that it's the same temperature as your body. We both wanted to try it out, so we found a place in Shanghai called Floatasian that has two tanks. The owner is Swedish and imported his tanks from Sweden. He was super nice, made us some tea, and then explained the procedure to us.

There was a changing room area where we changed into robes and then Scott and I split up and each got our own "floating room," which was equipped with a shower. You shower off, and go into the tank, which is lit up at first. Music is also playing in there to relax you. The float tanks vary, but the one I was in allowed me to control whether or not the light was on. That was useful because halfway through the float some salt water got into my eyes so I had to go into the shower to rinse it out. I could also choose whether or not I wanted to close the top of the tank, which I did because I wanted the full experience/no light to get in.

During floats, people have said that they see colors, hear voices, or feel like they are floating through space. I didn't experience any of that, but I did feel relaxed and think it helped my back pain a bit. At
around $75/session it isn't cheap, though, so this is something I'd like to do again but probably cannot maintain on a regular basis.

Finally, last weekend Rachael and I met another Shanghai Blogger, Amelia, who worked in the radio in Australia. We met her for blog consultations, and she was extremely helpful! Some of the big takeaways were: watch the location of the text when creating Pinnable images, use alt tags on pictures to boost SEO (before the session I had NO IDEA what that was), and she recommended that we try to engage our audiences by writing in a friendly way. Overall, it was really useful, and now I just have to apply some of the advice I was given!

What's something exciting that you did over the weekend?
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