A Trip to Beijing, and Our International Guests

We arrived back in Shanghai at the end of July, with my dad and brother following shortly after. They had planned a trip to China for three weeks, one of which we had left for summer vacation.  My father Dennis and brother Eric arrived on July 31 and stayed with us until August 17.

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Summer in Iowa!

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!

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June is here!

We have arrived to our last month of our first year abroad!  We have been keeping busy with work and the city!  Two weeks ago I danced in the school dance production and it was amazing!  The performance was about the environment and the students and teachers did a great job.  It was so fun to dance with my fellow teachers and our dance was a hit!

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Shanghai Birthday!

This past weekend I celebrated my 28th birthday here in Shanghai.   The week before, Jason was gone on a school trip which left me home alone!   It was fun to get a little shopping in and treat myself to some new birthday clothes.

By Friday, I was excited for Jason to be back and to celebrate my birthday!   Jason had planned a surprise dinner on Friday night!  This was a treat because he was exhausted from his trip and we weren’t planning on going out!  We took the metro to the French Concession and had a few cocktails at La Cocina before dinner!  We had plenty of time to spare so we casually walked to dinner.  I had no idea where we were going but it was recommended by our friend as a reasonably priced dinner!    After a nice walk we arrived at a cute little restaurant.  It was a little chilly so we opted to sit inside even though the outdoor patio was very nice!   Our dinner was perfect and the wait staff was extra friendly.  We shared a bottle of wine and each got steak!  My steak came with scallops and Foie gras!  We enjoyed the Foie Gras so much that we ordered more after our main course!   For dessert we shared the 10 minute cholocate cake!   I am not a huge chocolate cake fan but this cake was amazing.  It was sweet and melted in your mouth!    I only have a picture of our wine classes because I am trying to disconnect from my phone more and be more present with people!   The dinner was perfect!

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The Bicycle Project

 

*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!

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Chinese New Year Celebrations

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Chinese New Year Celebrations have started!  Which means for us NO SCHOOL!   Recently Shanghai has been having some nice weather and pollution, so Jason and I decided to take advantage of it by going to brunch and walking around the French Concession and Bund last weekend.   Our brunch at La Cocina was delicious. We weren’t planning on going to La Cocina but it was a good choice!  Jason ordered the Eggs Benedict which was very rich and savory! IMG_2417 Defiantly a unique take on Benedict but still delicious!    I ordered the Croque Madam which came with a fresh salad.  The bread was amazing and the taste was rich, toasty and CHEESY!   After brunch we decided to stay in the French Concession area and search for some bike products for Jason!  After sucessfully finding bike grease, we decided to continue our Sunday stroll down to the bund.   We jumped on line 9 and took it all the way to the river!   Since the pollution was so low (AQI of 75)  the views of the skyline were amazing. IMG_2425

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Bicycle Update

I thought I would take a moment to update all of you bicycle enthusiasts on how my project was going. I was ready to install my bottom bracket along with my crankset, but I discovered that I did not have any grease. I looked around many local shops, including Trek and Cannondale and realized that grease is not something you can buy just anywhere. I went to a local sporting goods store with lots of bike parts, and tried to explain to them that I needed some thicker grease than the liquid chain grease they gave me. The man there assured me that I could use WD-40 instead of grease. I told him politely that I already had that, and left. Finally on a whim, I checked the Giant store. They did not have any, but the repair guys speak a little bit of English. He ended up putting a little dollop of grease into a little baggy for me for free. I sure appreciated that! Once I had the grease and some wonderful instructions from my Uncle Dave, installing the bottom bracket was no problem. For those interested, I managed to install the circlips without sending them flying or poking my own eye out.

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In case any of my mechanically inclined relatives are concerned, I did realize that the brackets probably needed to be pressed in a tiny bit further in order to properly install the crankset, so I did that after these pictures were taken.

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I installed the crankset without incident, but discovered that I need a larger allen wrench than I own to tighten the non-drive side pedal. I did manage to get the pedal arm started by using some techniques that I’d rather not admit, but will have to find a larger allen wrench before I can finish installing the crankset. I was a little bummed, but happy that I at least have something to show for myself, minimal as it may be.

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On a side note, Angela and I ran to the local grocery store recently and had to pass on the fresh chicken.

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All for now.

A Week in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Angela and I recently embarked on a three week exotic holiday vacation with our good Canadian friend named Kat. I think it is safe to say we are a little spoiled. I had my week full of concerts right before Christmas vacation, and then was rewarded with three weeks off. On Saturday morning, December 21st, we woke up at 5 in the morning so that we might catch our 9:00 AM flight to Chiangmai, Thailand. We arrived at the Pudong airport with plenty of time to get through security. I was a little surprised at how much easier it was to get through the security in Shanghai than in Chicago when we left for China. I started to take off my shoes and belt when the security guard laughed and said “ok, ok”. We all made it on to our flight with no problems. I found it a little depressing how sunny it was outside once we rose above the cloud of pollution that rests over Shanghai. Below is a graphic picture of the wall where it abruptly ends.

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Concerts and Holiday Party!

We’ve done it!  We’ve survived our 1st semester of international teaching!  *Side-note: Jason still has 2 concerts this week*  Otherwise we’re done!   I had my concerts last week on Tuesday and Thursday and they were a huge hit!  Parents, teachers, and administrators loved them!  Besides the fact that we’re awesome, my co-worker and I think that our concerts went so well because we both come from being band directors and know how to run things!  The kids were also really cute! It did make for a long week.  Monday and Tuesday were spent rehearsing 2nd and 3rd graders with a full dress rehearsal and concert on Tuesday night.  Wednesday and Thursday we did the same thing all over again with 4th and 5th grade.  I also received 2 huge flower arrangements.  The packaging is a little crazy!

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Holiday Cheer!

It’s hard to believe that it is already December 8th and that we’ve been in China for 5 months!  We only have 2 weeks of school left until a well deserved 3 week break!  As you may have heard in the news, Shanghai has been hitting some crazy high pollution levels.   The beginning of the week, the pollution was over 200.  By Thursday it was pushing 400 and then on Friday Shanghai broke records with air quality above the index 500.  It is hard to explain what it’s like, but I”m really hoping this 500 business is not a reoccurring thing.

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