One of the few challenges that we encounter living in the mega-convenient city of Shanghai is where to go for a nice bicycle ride. Over the past three years, my standards for great bike rides have dropped dramatically. I used to consider a great bike ride to involve open country and absolutely zero cars. Now, if I have a protected bike lane that I am sharing with a thousand scooters, next to a road with heavy traffic, I call it a good day. However, I can still appreciate a great ride when I find one, and I have found a few in the past couple of months.
After spending a week exploring Chengdu and Shanghai with Angela’s brother and sister-in-law, we flew back to where our hearts are:
Iowa, USA! It is always such a pleasant feeling to exchange big city life with rural Iowa for a month. My dad met us at O’Hare, and took us home from there. It worked well, and probably saved us some time rather than trying to fly to Iowa from Chicago (although it cost my father some extra time…). We spent the first few days enjoying some of the things that we miss most about our home state. We will often talk with our friends about the meals that we have to eat while we are home. Below is Angela’s staple must-have, purchased from That Place near Marshalltown, Iowa.
Angela recently agreed to share our blog on a website called Shanghai Bloggers. I was initially excited about the prospect of sharing our blog with a larger community, but then I felt a little bad about being a ‘seasonal blogger’. By this I mean we typically only post after we’ve taken an exotic vacation somewhere, and we have a lot of pictures that we need an excuse to share. This led me to the decision to write a post about our normal lives, which for the past few weeks have seen some interesting activities.
Angela and I decided that for our Spring break, we should see some of China. We have seen embarrassingly little of the country that we are currently residents of, so we settled on a trip to the ancient capital city of Xi’an. I had a gig with my jazz band on Friday night, so we stayed up until around 1:00 AM the night before our 7:50 AM flight. It was a little bit of a bummer, but we made it to Xi’an, and to our very accommodating hostel called the Han Tang House. We had arranged a driver to pick us up from the hostel, but they never showed up. We managed to communicate with a cab driver and found our way. Once we arrived to our hostel, we took a nap! The room was pretty basic, but the bed was very comfortable.
We have started our summer break back in the USA! Our flight from Shanghai was a little rough and we ended departing 1.5 hours late and then at a standstill in Chicago. After some running in the airport we made our flight to Minneapolis and ended up getting in around 11:00…we were supposed to land at 8! A few of my cousins who were staying near by even stayed and waited with my parents! We had a 2hr drive to get to Lake Osakis and didn’t get to bed until 3 am…so needless to say it was a long day!
There are many benefits of teaching internationally at our school. One of them is without a doubt our annual China trips. Every grade level (except for senior IB students, whom everyone seems to want to make as miserable as possible) takes a trip in May to some part of China. I had the fortune of chaperoning the 7th grade trip to Yangshuo, China. I was supposed to go with the 8th graders to the tropical location of Hainan, but after learning that Yangshuo was the ‘outdoorsy’ trip, I realized that this was my place. We flew out of Shanghai at 7:00 AM on Monday, May 5. The plane was being flown by the father of one of our students. We took over the entire plane. I was surprised at how rowdy the students were during the flight. Flying was so common for them that they could not have been less concerned. I, on the other hand, was concerned enough for everyone. We arrived in Yangshuo and were met by our guides from Insight Adventures. Insight is a company that runs trips like this for schools all over China. Our guide’s name was Kevin, and he was awesome. Kevin was born in Southwestern China, but moved to Yangshuo for this job. After dropping our luggage off at our hotel, we immediately set off to the park for some group building games with Kevin. As you can see, Yangshuo is a beautiful place. Continue reading
*Warning: This post is about my bicycle, and some viewers may find it incredibly boring.*
Many months ago, while sitting at the Shanghai Brewery, Angela and I were discussing our life goals. I decided that one of mine, as silly as it sounds, was to build a bicycle from scratch. So I started. Now, many months later, I have actually made some progress.
I had purchased several parts, but I did not realize that building a bicycle would require so many unique tools that most people did not own. I bought a few that I knew I would use later in life, but I needed to do several things to prepare my fork and was not willing to purchase the right tools. So I decided to find a bike shop. I found Factory Five. Factory Five specializes in fixed gear bicycles, but it was soon apparent that these guys were experts for all things bicycle. I brought in my fork and had the crown race installed, the steerer tube cut down to size and the expansion nut installed. I also bought two tires and two inner tubes. All of that cost me 190 RMB, or around $30. I could not believe it. What a steal!
Angela and I had a wild, but incredible trip to Vietnam over our Chinese New Year holiday. We did not have school on Thursday or Friday, but we decided to not fly out until Friday. That allowed us to have one day off, and to bring in the year of the Horse with a celebratory drinking outing on Thursday night. We had a buffet of Indian food, and some beers at the local Shanghai Brewery. On Friday, we were to depart for Vietnam. Friday morning, I threw up the entirety of the Indian buffet that I had eaten the previous night. At first I was concerned that maybe I had one too many beers in honor of the new year, but soon realized that I had some sort of 24-hour flu. I am also a little skeptical that maybe the Indian buffet was partly to blame. Either way, I did not have a pleasant trip to Vietnam. I spent the morning throwing up in various bathrooms in the Pudong International Airport, while Angela took care of checking our baggage and leading me to where we needed to be. I did manage to stop being nauseous right before we actually boarded our plane, which was a relief. I had the chills and aches, but we made it to Hanoi, Vietnam without incident. We were to stay in Hanoi for the weekend before departing for our Spice Roads bicycle trip on Monday.
On Saturday, I was feeling much better. Angela and I decided to wander around the Oldtown quarter of Hanoi. The traffic was not as bad as it normally was, because the Vietnamese people were in the midst of celebrating Tet. The first thing that we did in Hanoi was to get scammed into paying for the photo I took below of Angela.
We celebrated our second Monday of the year by going to our friend Joel’s apartment to watch a movie. We watched Ghost Busters. This past Friday, we had a school happy hour that a lot of staff attended. We stayed there a long time, and then went to our Canadian friend Cat’s house to have a low-key night. Saturday we went out to dinner via bicycle in the French Concession to a place called Abbey Road, based off of the Beatles album. It was a very fun adventure.
On Sunday Angela and I got foot massages! We went to separate places. Both of us had awesome foot massages, but my place was much more expensive! All for now.
The final 2 weeks (or less) are here! Since moving from New Hampton, Iowa Jason and I have gone to our respective childhood homes to unpack, repack, hang-out, relax, and freak out! I was lucky to spend 2 weeks at our family cabin with my aunts, uncles, cousin, and Grandma. I love going to the lake–it is my favorite part of summer!
We were also able to spend some time with Jason’s side of the family! We went on a bike ride around Okoboji! Here are Jason, his dad, brother, and uncles mid-way through the ride!
This past weekend we ventured to Minneapolis to hang out with my family and our friend Joe. We had a picnic around Lake Harriet, flew kites, grilled out, and had a great time!