Ready or Not

We leave for Shanghai in a few days, with a stop in Chicago to visit family before we fly out of O’Hare airport. We’ll be there for six weeks. We’ve been doing a lot in preparation for the trip.

(Image courtesy of Wikitravel)

We made a list of things To Do and a list of things To Buy.

We did things and crossed them off the To Do list.

We bought things and crossed them off the To Buy list.

Between the buying, doing, and the usual day-to-day stuff, my Chinese studies have slipped a bit. But, hey, I’m about to get a crash course in Mandarin. I look forward to confused looks at my clunky tone-deaf Mandarin.

We counted out the pairs of underwear, socks, shirts, and shorts we would need. We’ve been doing laundry nonstop for the past week. We started to pack and realized we’ll need one more bag…

We’ve received help from some Chinese friends about using phones in China. They were kind enough to give us a prepaid SIM card. And as a bonus, we’ll get to see them in Shanghai while they’re visiting family.

It’s a good thing we never got around to recycling our several years old Motorola flip phones. Those phones work on GSM networks. Getting an unlock code for one of them proved more expensive ($25) than buying an old unlocked phone off of eBay ($18). Go figure.

We’ve researched Shanghai and China through guidebooks and the Internet, trying to learn as much as we can before we arrive. Reading about all the things to see and do has only made us more excited about the trip.

For instance, while researching food in Shanghai, I discovered CNN’s list of 35 Shanghai street foods that should not be missed.

All I can say is “yes” to all of those tiny little adventures in food, just like we’re saying “yes” to this big adventure.

Wish us luck!

What I’ll Have to Do Without in China

As I said in a previous post, my family is going to be living in Shanghai for just under a month and a half while my wife teaches in a Study Abroad program run by a Chinese university. We leave in two weeks. While there are many things we’re excited to see and do, there are a number of things I’ll have to do without and they fall into two categories: Websites and Food.

Websites

I will not have access to Facebook, Twitter, or this blog. The latter because WordPress is my blog host and WordPress.com and all of its blogs are blocked by the Chinese government. Facebook and Twitter are of course well-known social networking sites that are blocked by the Chinese government because they don’t censor content that the Chinese authorities find offensive.

(Incidentally, if you want to see which web sites are blocked at any given time by the Chinese government, you should check out GreatFire.org. It’s a website whose goal is to bring “transparency to the Great Firewall of China.”)

This means that as far as communication is concerned, I think my Yahoo account will be the only reliable one. Google is blocked, but I’ve read reports that Gmail is accessible but very slow.

There are ways to get around this, I know. From proxy servers to VPNs. But honestly, I’d like a break from these very useful but time-sucking websites that have become somewhat indispensable to my daily existence in the USA. I’m going to treat this digital inaccessibility as an experiment.

What I plan to do is write up a daily log of the things we did and saw and my impressions of them, and then, when I return to the States, write them up on this blog. I’d like to share our experiences of Shanghai and China through words and images. We’re going to use our camera quite a lot. So while you won’t be able to follow our adventures as they happen, which is unfortunate, readers of this blog will be able to “catch up” when I return.

Food

My wife and I are looking forward to the grand culinary adventure of eating in Shanghai. Our kids are a completely different story.

Our son and daughter are picky eaters, with our son being extremely picky. We’re going to bring peanut butter so that we have one familiar source of protein. I was heartened to discover that Kentucky Fried Chicken is very popular in China and that they sell Popcorn Chicken. This is the only animal protein we can get our kids to eat. (I told you they were picky). No, they don’t eat black beans, lentils, or any other legumes other than peanuts.

As far as the rest…well, without things like Cheerios and Frosted Mini-wheats, I’m not sure what they will eat in the morning for breakfast. They like pasta and noodles, but plain with maybe something like olive oil on it. I’m going to have to learn how to ask for “plain” noodles in noodle shops in Mandarin. I suspect I will get very good at it, having to do it so often.

Dairy products are not popular in China. Milk has become more popular with babies and small children starting to drink it. But yogurt and especially cheese are not popular. Our kids love kids yogurt like Trix yogurt and various kinds of yogurt straws. Us Americans consume a lot of dairy products. I’ve actually cut back on my dairy intake during the past year, due to health reasons. (There’s a blog post about that yet to be written.)

These are some of the challenges I’m going to face while in China. I’m sure there will be plenty of others still unseen.