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Wishing I could be in New York right now.


The leftover ma la tang in my fridge was so old I had forgotten what was in it.

More updates soon, if only to distract MHC students from studying for their finals.  And I have midterms so it’s a solidarity thing, yeah?

I had my first encounter with a pickpocket today. I was out with a few friends exploring Qipu Lu (I have to check the spelling on that) which is also known as “cheap street”. Like a lot of these types of markets in Chinese cities, there are many stalls on different levels of a building, starting below ground at the subway station.  You can find clothing, accessories, etc. both good and bad quality.  Some stalls have tailors and fabric selection for custom-made clothing.  The area I went to with my friends also has a section devoted to nail art, another for small pets.  After 5 or 7 in the evening the indoor markets, which take up at least four large buildings, shut down and vendors move outside.  These vendors set up racks of clothing and lay out shoes, jewelery, bags and other goods next to food vendors selling various meats on sticks as well as a wet market where you can pick out a live quail to be butchered, soft-shelled turtles and produce (among other things).  Generally, it’s very chaotic and deserves a more in-depth explanation of the environment which includes some aggressive sales tactics and bargaining for sport.

And it’s very crowded.  So crowded that I wasn’t paying attention to the people bumping into me as I browsed skirts and sunglasses.  I was looking at some earrings on a tray and listening to the vendors talk about foreigners not understanding Chinese (hmmm) when I felt something in my pocket.  A tall man, he couldn’t have been more than 25, was in the process of examining my cellphone and putting it back into my pocket, all in one swift motion.  It happened very quickly and I barely had time to react much more than looking at my friend long enough to say “Really?  Did that just happen?”

The phone I use in China is one I bought at a market very similar to the one I was shopping in today.  It’s a good looking phone, one I picked in part because it looks sort of like a Blackberry.  While it looks somewhat decent it’s a terrible phone, from the quality of the screen to the basic functions.

So did he single me out as a foreigner that would have a nice phone?  How often do pickpockets take things only to return them when they realize they didn’t get what they want?  What did he intend to do with my phone if it had been what he wanted and he had taken it?  Would he use up all the minutes on my SIM card or buy a new one to call a sweetheart or a cousin?

All of my semi-valuables will be kept in the the inside pocket of my jacket from now on.  Not that anyone wants them or anything.

I just figured out how to reply to comments on this blog.  Heyyyyyyyy.

Oh, and I’m going to Beijing this weekend and Hong Kong next week!  Why yes I am very excited.

In Tongli

Leaving in a minute. Will have even less internet access than usual.

There is a text message currently circulating in Shanghai warning recipients to stay out of the rain due to concentrations of radiation from the nuclear reactors in Japan.  This isn’t accurate information since the wind currents the radiation would need to travel on to get as far as Shanghai are at higher elevations and blowing East towards the Pacific.  Regardless, stores are running out of iodine pills and more people than usual are buying face masks.

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has a national network of radiation monitoring stations throughout China and a website with updates.  The local news mentioned talks about earthquake preparedness kits and emergency drills in response to the earthquakes in both Japan and Yunnan Provence.

I don’t know easy ways to talk about disaster.  I think this type of difficulty with words underscores greater discomforts, with tragedy and sorrow.  I am praying for friends, their families and loved ones.

Get a sore throat and diagnose it as “not a big deal” because it’s probably due to a higher rate of pollution and all the second-hand smoke.  When the sore throat develops into a cough lasting through the rest of the week continue to ignore it because you are young and therefore invincible.

Cough in class.  Turn down the candy 李老师 offers you because you’re not sure what it is.  Realize that it’s Ricola and take one.  Other people are coughing too and you collectively add the apartment heating-units to the list of suspected causes.

Go out on Friday night and realize almost immediately that you made a mistake because there is a lot more smoke and you’re coughing way too much.

Wake up on Saturday morning feeling less than invincible.  Brush your teeth then go back to bed intending to wake up in the afternoon.  You are definitely sick.

Leave the apartment around four and spend too much money at one of the local convenience stores buying bread, butter, jam and orange juice.

Eat a very late and very American breakfast.  Poach two eggs you bought at a nearby market.  Feel mildly accomplished because you are able to poach eggs.

Think about the benefits of tea but don’t buy any because you’re not sure where to get good tea.  Think about how this is sort of ironic, considering.

Sit on the couch in your apartment feeling groggy but grateful that you haven’t gotten food poisoning from all the new foods you’ve been trying in restaurants and off of street carts.  Listen to music that is classified as country-pop or pop-country.

Remember to throw out your used tissues before your roommates get back from their nights out on the town.  Write a blog in between coughs and sneezes.


The highlighted squiggle is where the Fudan Student Activity Fair will be set up.

This beautiful map was part of an e-mail about upcoming student club enrollment and the fair that will be held this week.  There was also a video of a past fair.

I will be stopping by!  If there is an MS Paint appreciation group I would like to be a part of that, but I don’t see them on the list.


Signed up to get food with the vegetarian club, dance with some other people, get drinks on St. Patties Day with the ‘Cocktails and Coffee’ association, and gave my e-mail to the Magic Club.  That’s magic as in Gob Bluth and rabbits out of your hat, not the card game that was popular in the early 2000s and extended pubescence of current 20 somethings.

Kidding aside, magic is pretty cool.  Right?

Outside the gates to Fudan and SUFE there are a number of vendors that sell different things on mobile bike carts. There are snacks, some bootleg DVDs along with school supplies and books.  Getting school supplies has been frustrating since I can’t find index cards. The pens are really nice though.

More fascinating than any pen set is the selection of books being sold. There are Chinese and English language books but I mainly noticed and looked at the English selection. It’s a mix of best sellers and classics all printed to be the same size and shrink wrapped. While some of the books seemed too small, the Signet Classics were very convincing and I thought for a second they might be legitimate copies.

This is a list of the books I remember seeing on one of the carts last week*:

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (I was surprised to see this one)
The Tipping Point and Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
Sex in the City, Candace Bushnell
Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere, Larry King
Who Moved the Cheese, Spencer Johnson
The Bible, King James Version
Animal Farm, George Orwell
The full sets of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Twilight
Various GRE prep books

And I bought a copy of 1984 by George Orwell. All of the books are priced at 10 RMB but I bargained down to 5.  I might have gotten a lower price because this copy wasn’t shrink wrapped but at least I knew the correct book was printed inside the cover.

The first week here one of my roommates bought a two disc “special edition” of Drake’s album featuring a “PERFECT EXPERIENCE ON SUPER HIGH MATERIAL AUDIO CD” which should have been the first sign something was off.  The second sign was the track listing on CD 2 includes “Gangsta Luv” and “Pimpin Ain’t EZ”.  These are not exclusive track releases but Snoop Dog’s Malice in Wonderland.

I’m not sure who’s buying these books.  The majority of the students here speak English but there’s a large presence of English-speaking international students as well.  Regardless of who’s buying what, it’s interesting to see what’s being produced with intent to sell.

* I’m going to edit this post later this week to add a picture.  I’ll also add the names of more of the books being sold.

I’m taking classes at Fudan University along with a Chinese Language course at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE).  There are a lot of differences between these campuses and Mt. Holyoke other than the obvious being an urban setting, a larger co-ed student body, and a location in China.  The student housing is mainly groups of apartment buildings with laundry hanging to dry outside the windows.  There are bikes and scooters everywhere lining most of the roads and taking up space at the entrances of academic buildings.  And then there are the cats.


The cats here are like the squirrels in America.  They pop up all over campus and try not to get run over by traffic.  They’re different colors but tend to be on the smaller and scrawnier end of the spectrum.  As far as I can tell they don’t like people and people don’t usually like them.

Then there’s Mimi!  Mimi is a cat that hangs around the international student apartments.  She’s easy to spot because she’ll stay by the entrance to the building I’m in and usually purrs before walking up to people and rubbing against their feet.  She also has a large scar on her back with missing fur.  One of the girls in my program keeps a wrapped sausage in her purse for when Mimi is around and apparently one of the Italian girls that lives in our building puts out canned food for her.

She’s gotten into the building a few times now and has spooked some people on the elevator.  I’m worried the housing staff will try to get rid of her if someone complains, though I’m confidant Mimi can charm her way out of a bad situation.

The girl who keeps the sausage in her purse gave Mimi her name.  I added Mian Bao because it means bread, and cute cats tend to look like loafs of bread.  A friend of mine ran a facebook group in high school to pay tribute to this phenomenon.

“Meow, Mimi Mian Bao” has a nice ring to it, yeah?