the best is yet to come

The one-day weekend, or how I spent last Sunday between heaven and earth

I only have one weekend day (yes, I complain about this a lot, but it’s true). I’ve been in Shanghai for exactly four weeks, so here, presented in all of its (uncensored) glory, is how I spent my fourth Sunday:

9:00am : I wake up. It’s too early to get out of bed, but too late to go jogging. It’s my one day off, and I’d like to sleep in, but then I remember that my Chinese lesson is at 11 and I still need to have breakfast. Breakfast, however, requires that I have food in my fridge. There is a grocery store across from my apartment complex, but getting down 29 floors on the elevator can take almost 15 minutes. I realize I’m still complaining, so I get out of bed, throw on a pair of shorts (the high is 93º today!) and grab a tote bag.

10:20am: The gruff Chinese man at the check-out counter is yelling at me (is he really yelling? I’m starting to realize this is how most Chinese people talk) for putting the groceries too fast on the counter. Last week, he yelled at me for putting things too slow. If there is a method to his madness, I have not been made aware. On my grocery list today:

  • Chrysanthemum tea
  • Raisin and Hazelnut Granola
  • Spicy Ketchup (I couldn’t find Sriracha in the Asian grocery store!)
  • Two dark chocolate bars (I am finding that China has different standards for dark chocolate than the US. The dark chocolate here is neither dark, nor chocolate)
  • Snap Peas
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Red Onion
  • Okra
  • Coconut water (I think it may actually be coconut milk, but I’m trying to be adventurous and not try to buy the same groceries as I do back in the US)
  • Four kinds of yogurt (at least one of them will be edible with a spoon, right?)
  • One passion fruit
  • Fermented date milk
  • A carton of eggs (naturally)

11:45am: I gulp down a peach yogurt and run to meet my Chinese teacher by the Jingan Subway stop. I’ve been in China for 4 weeks, so it’s about time that I start taking lessons again. He says my reading and writing is around HSK level 4 (good), but that I’m still really nervous when I speak (bad). I trip over words, I am too nervous to sound silly, and I don’t quite understand the Shanghai accent.

We spend two hours working on lesson plans, trying to get me to become more comfortable speaking Chinese. It’s mildly successful. BaiBai (my Chinese teacher has a great name, doesn’t he?) teaches what I think is my new favorite word in Chinese. Here it is, no comment required: yanyu 2:00pm: I am late to get coffee. I don’t usually run late. Or do I? I decided it would be a good idea to shower, because frankly, I was starting to get sweaty. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was going out to Xuhui and thinking I would get there in 20 minutes. It took close to an hour. I stand on the (thankfully) air-conditioned subway reading “Masters of Sex” on my iPad while a girl in yellow corduroy pants is giving me side-eye. I finally make it to Yongkang and as it turns out, the coffee shops don’t serve coffee (it’s China, so I’m not surprised). Coffee turns into 3pm beers.

4:00pm: Getting lost on my way to yoga (the beer may have had something to do with that) leads me to Xintiandi. It’s fortuitous, because I’ve been trying to get out to Xintiandi for a few weeks now. Xintiandi (新天地), or New Heaven and Earth is probably the trendiest shopping neighborhood after Jingan and it feels like a street out of a German village. Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.11.13 AM There are artisanal soap makers, artisanal tea makers, a great Mexican restaurant, and of course Coldstone Creamery. I debate whether to go in, but the $8 small (or, sorry, the ‘like it’ size, cause it’s Coldstone) deters me. I also run into the creepy Chinese grad student I met on my United flight. At first, I think it’s an incredible coincidence. When he tells me he goes to Xintiandi on the weekends to stalk foreigners and get them drunk, I book it outta there.

6:00pm: I am meeting my co-workers for an IKEA adventure (and to buy a duvet). Chinese IKEA is wild, so we decide to brave it, beer in hand. All of the EXPEDITS and KASTRULLS start to blend together, when all I am looking for is a comforter for my improperly size blanket (I am still not sure whether I have a full or a queen-sized bed, Chinese bed sizes confuse me, but honestly at that point, it might be the Tsingtao). I finally settle on a winter blanket (it’s still summer, but I figure I am always cold, so it won’t hurt, right?)

9:00pm: I have made it out of IKEA alive, the only meal I’ve had today has been IKEA Salmon, which I am not even sure is Salmon.

10:00pm: My roommate and friends are in a bar where a bucket of Gin and Tonic costs me less than 8 dollars. Yep, you read that right, a bucket. I can get used to this. We listen to Kesha (no $) and Bruno Mars and play Liar’s Dice until the Gin starts to hit us.

11:30pm: We make our way to Mr. X, something that SmartShanghai can describe better than I ever can:

Mr.X is a chain of, for lack of a better word, puzzle houses. It works like this: You and a group of friends are locked in a room together — no smartphones, no cameras — and your task is to get out. How? That’s for you to figure out. Clues are strewn about the place. They can come in the form of billiard balls, building blocks, candlesticks, cryptic graffiti on the wall. Even the stuff you can see out the window on the street is fair game. It’s all completely devoid of context or explanation. You have to use your powers of observation, pattern recognition and logic to find connections and correlations. It’s basically a full-immersion brain teaser. There are five different puzzles to choose from, each with it’s own unique theme. It’s a quirky, unique, and surprisingly stimulating activity. Good for large groups, parties, and corporate team building exercises.

Needless to say, we are not too good at it, but I still make it past the laser room unscathed.

2:00am: Home at last, I throw my newly bought IKEA blanket onto my bed and take a shower to wash off the Shanghai humidity. For good measure, I try a Chinese face mask, because I’ve been told to start wearing masks as part of an Asian skin care routine. I kind of look like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies.

2:30am: Sleep. Off to another six-day workweek.

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