Writing on the internet is weird, isn’t it?
On a purely fundamental level, these posts that I write are for myself – to de-stress, to preserve memories of my life in Shanghai for that time when I finally come home, and simply because once there was a time when I truly loved to write and somehow I’m finally starting to feel that feeling back again.
Now that I write for a living (I never thought I’d say that), it is a little more difficult to keep blogging since my days are filled with red strikethroughs, gerunds, and the (not-so) occasional peek at a thesaurus (how many different ways can I say soup? slurry? sludge? potage?). Yet, just this simple act, of simply sitting down at the end of a long day, with a hot cup of Japanese genmaicha tea and knowing that I have something to write about is incredibly comforting, when for years, I used to look at blank pages for hours, unable to come up with a single word.
Years ago, in middle school I used to keep diaries (I don’t quite think this counts as a diary, there aren’t enough heart scribbles and notes about boys for it to be considered a diary) and I filled up seven journals with nonsensical things about my days, about the silly details that came my way, and about.. well, life. And I’m still an embarrassingly slow writer, but I feel like as long as there is something to keep writing about, it doesn’t matter, you know?
At the same time, I am aware that people are reading these posts – from the comments, the likes, and the (ever so inaccurate) WordPress stats counter. And now that I’ve reaches a sort of milestones — over 50 followers, over 50 posts, and over 100 likes — maybe it’s time to go back to the roots and figure out what this blog is actually about. I gotta be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the blue and white color theme, but I have neither the time nor the patience to play around with CSS until I figure out something that works. Now, the name and tagline are a different story:
Last fall, I saw an infographic (I really like infographics) of six pages of every type of pasta imaginable and the foods that pair in a sauce with them. And I thought, “I’m going to cook everything on this list”
And so the name Pasta Republic sort of stuck. And now that I can no longer eat pasta, the name seems.. silly? Perfunctory? Unnecessary? But then again I kind of like it. The problem is that the name describes neither myself, nor the nature of the blog. In Shanghai, I barely cook (being able to get decent dinner for $4 and my lack of an oven takes care of that). Yes, I still think about things like apple pie, but that is (mostly) not what I write about. I can’t help but wonder whether the name is throwing people off.
The tagline is a little more complicated The original tagline of this blog was “one girl’s struggle with frugality, pasta, and kale”. When I moved to China, I changed the ‘pasta’ to ‘Shanghai’, so at least something on the blog made sense, and yet the tagline still feels unnecessary. Now that I am in a new city, an adult with a new job, it somehow no longer fits. I do still like kale (and miss kale smoothies like no other), but my days of being a frugal college student are over. I am living a lot more comfortably than I could have imagined. I’m still sticking to my guns however and being a huge spendthrift. I feel that in China, the cultural tendency is to buy everything in sight. But I like nice things a little too much to do that. I also hate spending money on myself, so most of my salary is going into my brokerage account back home. And besides, China doesn’t have Amazon Prime, so I can’t even de-stress from online shopping (although really all I used to buy from Amazon were rain boots, cat toys, and chia seeds). Needless to say, I am no longer living frugally and now, I feel like at least 2/3 of the tagline is a lie. Although I’m sticking to the silly blog title, I do feel that the tag line will get revamped in the coming weeks.
Which I guess brings me back to my original point. I am not keeping this blog for anyone but myself, not trying to impress anyone but myself. And that, in a way, is keeping what I write closer to the truth. There are still some things that are too private to post about online, like details about my personal life or my job, but I feel like this is an outlet for a lot of my fears and frustrations living abroad.
Cafe de Arte
I feel like I have finally found my little corner of Shanghai.
Tucked in somewhere between Changle lu and Xiangyang is Cafe de Arte. It’s remarkably tiny. There are about 5 seats, facing a wooden bar counter and white-washed walls covered by watercolors and black oil drawings right on the surface. Each seat has its own miniature goldfish bowl, which is at once delicate, but made me a little uneasy (do these goldfish have a larger tank at night?). It is also the only place I’ve been to in Shanghai that served a proper afternoon tea. All the hot tea I’ve had so far in cafes has been slightly of because it’s either served in a highball glass with a napkin handkerchief to keep me from burning myself (I’m looking at you Wagas) or comes in a lukewarm teacup with a Bigelow tea bag hastily spattered over it. In Cafe de Arte, darjeeling tea is served from a delicate tea pot into a porcelain glass. The owner kept insisting that I try the brown sugar milk because it was ‘good for woman’, but last time I was too intimidated to take her up on the offer, partially because I didn’t feel like drinking anything sweet and because I wasn’t quite sure what ‘good for woman’ could mean.