The Twinkie Times

The life and times of a Chinese American. Born a Jersey boy, lived the expat life, attended boarding school (Lawrenceville), converted to a frat boy (Sigma Pi), got an MBA (Columbia), returned to China, and back to the East Coast now trying to carve out an identity and life as an Asian American dad (gulp) in the midst of a "tertial life crisis" ©

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Shanghai Firsts

We passed the 5 month mark in China and as my sister had wisely told us, "give it at least 6 months and things will be fine".  I am happy to report that we have entered the final phase of culture shock: Acceptance.  That is not to say that we do not miss home.  For every $1 bootleg DVD we watch that has a scene of Central Park or the Big Apple skyline, there is a corresponding "awwww!" coming from the couch next to me.  However even Jenn would agree that we have turned the corner and are now enjoying our time here.

Following the trend from the last post, we were continuing to try to embrace our new surroundings and try as many new things as possible.  Timing was on our side as early October saw us entering 'Golden Week' (National Holiday).  This was both strange and exciting at the same time as I had never had one full week of paid Firm holiday before.  By Wednesday, I succumbed and finally replied to some emails on my Crackberry - I just couldn't fight it anymore.  An old middle school friend of mine had organized an emotional wellness retreat in nearby Moganshan mountains and they had an extra room so we joined them for the short trip.  The Naked Villas was an amazing eco-luxury resort with some breathtaking views.  It was relaxing to get outside the city and see some green.  We met some nice people and it was also the 1st time we had ever gone tea-picking before.  It was pretty hard work and I look at every bag of Lipton a little differently now.  It was also the 1st time I had ever tried a yoga class.  I really could not ask for a better atmosphere for my first attempt at yoga: fresh air at 7 am in the heart of the mountains surrounded by bamboo forests.  What I really do need is some flexibility in these old bones.  I was awkward at best and an embarrassment at worst.  Jenn is quite seasoned and can do all of the moves but later told me she could not concentrate because she was too busy laughing at my weird poses, my groans as I strained to hold a pose, and my bones cracking as my friend (the instructor) tried to correct me.  At 5 foot 11 inches it is amazing that my friend, a certified yoga instructor, can bend her body at some of those angles but all I know is I would never want to play Twister with her.  Some photos from the retreat can be found here.

On the bus ride back to Shanghai, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic and incessant beeping of car horns - welcome home.  Luckily we had another 4 days to relax but the first order of business was to retrieve Calvin.  Some of you may have wondered what happened to this pampered pooch while we were away for 3 days and this is another "1st in Shanghai".  While exploring the French Concession neighborhood we had stumbled upon a very cute puppy grooming/boarding store nearby called Baby No. 1.  Since Calvin was Jenn's baby number one, she immediately loved the store and it also helped that the owner had 3 little Maltese's (one of them had on a little Jeter jersey so that sealed it for me).  After much drama and trepidation Jenn relented and agreed to board Calvin for the first time ever while we escaped to Moganshan.  She did okay and only called the shop once while we were away and in the end Calvin survived without any visible scars.

The rest of the National Holiday was relatively low-key.  One big milestone was the 1st  MRI for Jenn after moving to Shanghai.  Before we even made the decision to relocate, we had already found a brand new clinic and even been in contact with the doctors to make sure the facility was up to par.  Unlike at Sloan Kettering where they would tell us the results the same-day, we had to wait until the next day for the radiologist to complete his report.  Thankfully, everything was clean and Jenn celebrated by baking a big batch of chocolate chip (a steal at $9 USD a bag here) cookies.
The next 1st  was actually one for the city of Shanghai.  Many of you will be familiar with the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge 5K run which is held in many different cities across the world.  This year was the first time it was introduced in Shanghai so I signed up to run (it was actually 5.6K here).  It was a fun event and quite impressive that out of nearly 4000 runners, Morgan Stanley won 1st  place in the mixed team race.  I was a measly 8 minutes 11 seconds behind our fastest runner, maybe next year.

Following that successful race (and two days later after I could feel my legs again) one of my teammates who had also joined us had caught the running bug and heard about a 10K run that Nike was organizing in Shanghai.  He asked if any of us, our friends, or family would be interested in joining him so I jokingly asked Jenn.  To my great surprise, she said yes and so my macho sense of pride beckoned me to agree.  We had exactly one month to train and I ran exactly once during that time.  Jenn had more opportunity but still only went jogging about half a dozen times.  When it came time for the race, both of us were very nervous having never run more than 5K (5.6K in my case) before and decided we would be happy to just cross the finish line - on hands and knees if necessary.

On 11/20/11, we joined 35,000 other neon-orange-clad runners (dri-fit shirts provided by Nike) for the Lunar run which oddly started at 7:30 am.  It ended up being really enjoyable as the course wound through the site of the World Expo and my strategy of sprinkling in walks with bursts of jogging helped me cross the finish line in 64 minutes.  Jenn was not far behind at 73 minutes and to her credit she never stopped to walk except once to drink some water.  However, by the time we had walked back to our apartment from the subway, the runner's high started to fade and after we had showered and sat down on the couch, we could barely move.  My legs no longer obeyed my commands and yet my stomach was screaming "feed me!".  It was at this point we had another 1st in Shanghai.  Jenn and I always saw the signs for McDonald's 24-hour delivery and the golden arches on the side of scooters as deliverymen raced off to deliver Happy Meals but had never thought we would use this service.  But this was an emergency, we needed hot food and carbs stat.  We looked up the phone number, called in, ordered in English and in 20 minutes 2 Big Mac's, large fries, and chicken McNuggets were delivered piping hot to our front door (only $1.50 delivery fee and there's no tipping in China).  It is amazing how a Big Mac and french fries taste exactly the same anywhere in the world you go.

I think that run ended up being a turning point for us.  After we woke up from a long McDonald's + CNN-induced slumber, we were energized and felt like we could do anything.  We got cocky and started talking about half-marathons and triathlons.  Maybe it was the exercise or the fact that the weather was more pleasant but things were looking up and with a Chengdu Thanksgiving fast approaching, our sights turned to playing with pandas . . .  (for more Shanghai pictures check here)

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Friday, December 02, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Back when my parents used to live in Asia (Beijing & Singapore) I distinctly remember them going to company outings or holiday parties and returning having won some raffle or lucky draw.  I am pleased to announce that I am continuing this Su family tradition in Asia.  We went to the Shanghai Expat 11th Anniversary Hollywood party with some friends and I won one of the lucky draws!  Ironically, it was a 1-night free stay at the Kerry Hotel which happens to be where my office is so now I get to spend the night on a weekend at the office - woohoo!  Seriously though, the hotel is so nice that we don't even put up visiting senior management in the hotel because it is too expensive and they have to stay across the street so I am excited to check it out. 

The official pictures of the event are here and go to Image #38 to see me collecting my prize :-)