Year J, Two Thousand Fourteen

*Everything that was 2014. Entries below were drafted  in Shanghai, China – where internet connection is restricted and can drain happiness off you even from merely trying to get online.
*Currently fluttering somewhere in the District of Columbia, Land of the Free

I just realized that I have not updated this blog for the last n months years. Here are special random highlights of the year that was.

Starting you off with some classy Bling Bling Holiday greetings from a mall next to Jing’An Temple.

2013 Bling Bling Holiday Greetings from Jing’An, Shanghai, China

(1) New Job
I moved to a new job to teach MYP/Pre-IGCSE Science somewhere in Minhang District, Shanghai.

View of the hallway from the Science and Math Block
My work corner when I started. I was transitioning into the Macbook life here.
Also, there’s more clutter on my desk when school is in progress.

(2) New Home
Michael and I moved to a new apartment in June 2014. Our landlady is an interior designer / architect and her place was one of her early projects. Photos taken below during our 1st tour of the house with our property agent.

Entry area reminds me of the ocean. 
Bamboo ladder was kept as part of the house interior.
Property agent’s pair of shoes not included.
Intricate detail on the dining table stand – lovingly hand-crafted 
by my landlady and her daughter.
Hallway to the guest bedroom and bathroom
Living room zen area – where we spent most of our times appreciating how awesome life is.

(3) New Adventure: Gourmet Home Cooking

We tried out xinwei to guide us in the kitchen. Proportioned ingredients for gourmet dishes with user-friendly instructions. Mackerel and Ratatouille and Mushroom Risotto were our favorites. Michael took charge of this at the kitchen. My OCD was put to good use during preparation stage.

Michael being a pro at the kitchen

The dishes did not make it to the pictures – they disappeared too quickly.

(4) Annual Homecoming Faves
Next to my family…..

the reasons I come home can be summarized below

Boiled Saba Banana in Bagoóng (Fermented Krill or Anchovies)
Singkamas with Suka’t Toyo with Sili (Turnip in Spicy vinegar sauce)
Paksiw na Isda (Fish cooked in vinegar and spices) and Kinilaw na Isda (Ceviche Filipino Style)

(5) Hosting our 1st Shanghai Thanksgiving Dinner November 2014
Michael and I hosted our first Shanghai Thanksgiving Dinner. Food was catered from Mr. Harry’s .
Captured moments from Michael’s time-lapsed video coverage here.

Table details courtesy of Michael and Pinay.

(6) 2014 Christmas Dinners Snippets

At PauPatri Boracay

At Argonauta Boracay Boutique Hotel’s dinner spread
At Argonauta Boracay Boutique Hotel’s dinner spread
At Mergrande Resort with Davao Family
At Shanghai Filipino Family Dinner
At Mr. Harry’s Shanghai for Bashers’ Christmas Dinner

Here’s to more posts for 2015. I know it’s already halfway across the year but I will work on catching up.

Alternative to Sherpas

August 5, 2012
Shanghai, China

Recently, I embarked on a mission to learn how to navigate my way into these endless online shopping websites in China. Thanks to Google Translate and Bing Translator, I have managed to successfully accomplish this, ending up spending my entire days glued to the computer.

I would confidently blame the food delivery services in Shanghai, specifically Sherpas, Mealbay, McDonalds and KFC, for making me lazy. Although, I always miss home-cooked meals courtesy of Lola and Mother, I have to survive living without them. I love cooking, however, it consumes too much time and effort to prepare a dish that is good for one or two people. Hence, food delivery, it is.

McDonalds is undeniably the most dependable food service, for non-healthy deep fried chicken wings, chicken nuggets and double cheeseburgers. It is cheap and convenient (they have 24 hour delivery service) but it is not healthy. Then there’s Sherpas. Sherpas is every expat’s food delivery fantasy. It probably has more than 200 restaurants to choose from, mostly marked-up dishes from restaurants that cater to expat communities, specifically those who do not speak Chinese.

Now, I present to you, 壹外卖 or Yī wàimài, a better healthy alternative to McDonald’s and a much affordable choice than Sherpas.  Yī wàimài means one take away (according to Google Translate).

The following pages are translated from google translate, through Google Chrome browser. To start with, you need to register an account.

Second, choose how you want to register. I registered using my mobile phone number. You can also register using your QQ or 163 email accounts.
Third, fill out the registration information as required below. Follow steps 1-4 from the illustration and you should get yourself successfully registered.

Fourth, once you are registered, you can now enter your address or select your location from the map. 
For this example, I have selected an apartment complex along Nandan Road corner North Caoxi Road. It will show you the number of restaurants available around your location that offers food delivery service. 

Translated version

When you select a restaurant, it will redirect you to the restaurant’s page and will show you their menu. From there, you can start choosing what you want to order.

Here are some examples of English-translated menu.

Lemon Grass Thai Restaurant
Yeli Xiali

And Saizereya
Let us say, you wanted to order delivery from this restaurant. The delivery fee is 8RMB, you should order at least 30RMB worth of food, it will take 60 minutes to arrive and it is about 442 meters away from your location.
Select your dishes then click the check button to place your order.
I immediately received a call (from Yiwaimai or from the restaurant, I am not quite sure) after I placed my order. The call was in Chinese. My spoken Chinese is really embarrassing but I managed to understand that they want me to confirm my 地址 Dìzhǐ or address. I confirmed it with my incomprehensible Chinese speaking skills. The guy hung up. Within 45 minutes, my order arrived. Not from Saizeriya but from Yeli Xiali. Xinjiang Food was my test restaurant.
Oh, happiness! You guys should try it.

This Shanghai Life

August 2009 – Present

Cebu Pacific Flight (Manila – Shanghai)
South Laiting Road, Jiuting District, Shanghai
Xujiahui, Shanghai
Shanghai Everbright Hotel, Shanghai
Starbucks, Abreeza Mall, Philippines

Ronald and I arrived in Shanghai, China through the popular red-eye flight from Cebu Pacific last August 9, 2009.

Cebu Pacific’s Manila – Pudong red-eye flight, August 8, 2009

This is the main campus of the Cambridge International Center, attached to Shanghai Normal University, Guilin Road, Shanghai. Initially, both Ronald and I taught in the same campus, in Jiuting District, however starting last school term, I currently teach in the main campus.

We made it, hurrah! Day 1
This is the view of the main school building in Jiuting Campus when viewed from the coffee bar. Each campus has a coffee lounge area for faculty and staff to unwind during breaks.

Shanghai Normal University – Cambridge International Centre, Jiuting Campus*
Obligatory pose, Day 3

Initially, Ronald and I chose to share an apartment that was just a few blocks away from the Jiuting Campus. We had a massive, five bedroom, three-storey high, lane house that was just 2 blocks away from the school. We figured, we came to Shanghai to slave ourselves to work, right? We might as well, conveniently live near our workplace. Wrong. Although, we live in a relatively quiet neighborhood, it was too quiet that Tibungco, Davao City seems busier and livelier in the night. We live miles away from our families and friends, I thought that we should probably live in a much vibrant and livelier community to cope up with homesickness.

On Day 4, Gafor was kind enough to show us around, brought us to the inner ring road of Shanghai. Gafor, also teaches at the Jiuting Campus, however, he does not live near the school. He was wise enough to pick an apartment near the Shanghai City center, in Xujiahui area. He lives only a few blocks away from Metro City Mall.
Point A is Metro City,  Xujiahui Area and Point B is Jiuting Campus 
When we first got hold of the Shanghai Map from the Pudong Airport, we noticed that we cannot find the location of our campus in the tourist map. Apparently, the school is located in the outskirts of the Southwestern part of Shanghai, where the limit of the tourist promotion ceases. 
Our school is about an hour or less of a subway ride from the Shanghai Inner ring road area. This is what the Shanghai Nights look like in the city center.
Zhao Jia Bang Lu, Hong Qiao Lu Intersection, Xujiahui*

It did  not take long for us to move to to an apartment along the inner ring road of Shanghai, where the night lights shine bright. After six months, we were city citizens. 

By the end of our first school term, we were staying in an apartment that was just a few blocks away from Shanghai Everbright Hotel, where my first A2 graduation ceremony was held. 
With Janet, CIE A2 graduation ceremony, Shanghai Everbright Hotel, June 2010

I will share more about my life in Shanghai in my next blog. 

Here’s Ronald and I on our recent vacation back in our homeland.

Starbucks, Abreeza Mall, Davao City, July 11, 2012
* Thanks to my good friends, Gafor and Rusty, for the pictures.

How We Roll in Shanghai

Hop in for a ride on any ordinary day and you might get this cab driver. They make quite good use of their time when the traffic light turns red.

Health Buff Cabbie

Health Buff Cabbie will not be on the driver’s seat.

He’ll be outside, stretching before his work-out.
 Movie Enthusiast Cabbie

Buying Movie Tickets in Shanghai

January 31, 2012, Tuesday
Weining Lu Metro Line 2 Station

The first movie I get to watch in Shanghai was Toy Story 3, in 3D, at Yonghua Cinema, Grand Gateway. I paid 120RMB.

This is China. There must be a much more affordable way to watch a movie on a wide screen theater.

If you live in Shanghai, you have probably seen these ATM-looking booths in the Metro Stations. Well, this is your key in getting them, cheaper movie tickets.

This is the Easy Life booth. Indeed, it will make your life easier.
Follow this simple guide to get your movie tickets at a more affordable price (published rates at the cinema  are almost 3x more expensive). 
1. Select the “Film Strip” icon from the main screen.

I wanted to watch Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, this is what I picked.

2. Select your preferred dates from the options. You can book three days in advance. Then choose your movie from the selection.

3. Click the orange button at the bottom of the screen to view the list of cinemas showing the movie selected.

The closest cinema near my place is Tianshan Cinema however they only have MI4 in Chinese so I chose the movie cinema located in an area where I am familiar with (read: I know how to get there and there will be a slim chance of me getting lost finding it).

So, I picked the cinema that has Huai Hai 淮海 in it.

4. Select the cinema. It will show the address and which Metro Line and bus numbers to take to get there.

5. Pick the movie time schedule. Make sure to choose the time with 英语(English). Unless you want to watch it in Chinese. Good luck with that.

6. Pick your seats and then enter your mobile phone number to get your confirmation code. You need the confirmation code to get into the movie house. 

7. Then select the Unionpay card icon for mode of payment. Enter your card, enter your password and then Easy Life will print you a proof of purchase.

That’s it.

If you are up for more adventure. You can also use Easy Life to pay your utilities and recharge your Metro Card. It is very user-friendly, just follow the pictures.

According to this website, there are 86 movie theaters around Shanghai to choose from. If you want to try Easy Life, I suggest that you write down the name of your movie cinema in Chinese or familiarize the Chinese characters of the local areas that you visit frequently.

But of course, you can also find your regular list of movie theaters somewhere else.

Mission: Buy Bangus

January 31, 2012, Tuesday
Everywhere around Tianshan Road

Dear Mother,

Today, Dave and I were off to go to Pines.

Dave got some information from his Filipino friends that we could get Bagoong, Bangus (Milk Fish) and other food products that we do not normally get in our local grocery store.

He has been hinting for a long time on how much he misses Bagoong. So, off we went.

On our way to get into the Metro Line 2, we stopped by the Online Ticket Machine to book a movie ticket for Wednesday, February 1, 2012. It is my first time to try out this service. This is another convenient way for paying utilities and buying movie tickets online.

Dave and I have been planning to watch Mission Impossible 4 once it will be shown here in Shanghai. And according to some posters everywhere, it has been out this week.
I picked the Film Logo for movie tickets.

Choose the date and the movie you want to watch. Then press the orange box at the bottom left part of the screen to go to another screen. The next screen will show the list of movie houses where you can watch the film, screening schedules to choose from and most importantly, information on which movie theater will show the film in 英语, Ying1Yu3 (English).

It is also good to note that buying movie tickets this way is much cheaper than buying them at the movie houses. We bought our tickets for 38RMB per person but the movie house was priced at 100RMB – pretty good deal.

After getting our movie tickets, we then got into Line 2 Train, to continue to our journey to Pines, and get that Bangus.

The plan was to get off at Beijinxing Road Station then walk towards Jianhe Road to take Bus 91. This bus will take us to Pines.

However, it took a long time for the bus to arrive. While waiting, the 兰州拉面Restaurant across the street was very inviting.

It reminded me of the Chicken Noodles in Tomato Paste that I always order for lunch at work.

The restaurant was packed. And as they say with restaurant patrons, more people means food must be good.

This is Mr. Noodle, preparing the noodles of your choice.

Rolling, rolling and rolling some more.
A little twist here and there.
He throws the noodles into
that window, right into a pot of boiling water.

When my noodles were served, I was too hungry to remember to take picture of the final product. All I remember was it has a thicker sauce and a bit tastier than the ones I always had (pictured above).

After that sumptuous snack, it was time to go accomplish our mission.
We hop into Bus 91, and after four stops, we reached Pines, the Market Place.
And yes mother, we got our bangus, frozen.
I am too lazy to rotate this picture.
These are my Bangus.

Now, we will try to remove the bones out from these bad boys so it would be much easier to eat. 

Dave and I were watching some videos online on how to remove the bones. We need some mosquito forceps to do so and maybe some time this week, we will try to do just that. 
That will be our next assignment.

~ Your  loving daughter

Mala Tang, 麻辣汤

Mala Tang (麻辣汤) Place
Along Guilin Road
January 4, 2012

The best part about the location of my work is that there are a lot of affordable places to go to for lunch that are just within walking distances.

The Mala Tang Place is literally just two shops away from the school’s main gate.

The freezers are always stock up with fresh vegetables and
various processed meat selections in skewers, neatly arranged in separate baskets.

Gafor, picking out his favorite vegetables.
My Mala Tang dish will not be complete without the meat balls.

After stuffing your basket, choose your rice noodles (there is another variety of choices here, I usually choose the bean sprouts over the rice noodles) hand it over to the friendly, Mala Tang Connoisseur of the day.

And voilà,

Yummy, yum, yum.

Bitter Sweetness

Being alone is bitter sweet. No one to comfort you when you feel your world is empty. You look for people that are not around anymore. Why do we keep on looking for something that we can never have?

On the brighter side of things, being alone is another avenue to give more time to oneself. Time to assess the things we possessed, see what we can do about it to be more productive.

Life is bitter sweet. It is bitter in such a way that you have to reanalyze and face the reality of what it has to offer. Reality does not always work to your favor. In fact, most of the time it could only give you the most trying times.

It is sweet that you get to have the liberty to choose and decide on what do feel is best for you and make the most of what you can offer.

VPN Fuss

So, I finally managed to set up the VPN connection for my iPhone. While China’s Internet service speed is pretty slow, it doesn’t help that a lot of websites are blocked here as well thus the fuss over finding some gateways to get through the Great Fire Wall. You have to get yourself a VPN connection to somehow tear down a part of the Wall and let yourself through the unlimited world wide web.

Well see, where this would lead me.