Chasing Windmills at Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve

This time last spring, I went looking for cranes. Hooded cranes to be exact. The idea was to write a post contrasting Shanghai’s overwintering hooded cranes with the other kind of cranes found in Shanghai—tower cranes. I read up on Chinese cranes in folklore. . . blah blah. It was a nice idea, but the…

Test and Arrest: Pot in Shanghai

Imagine: You’re an expat living in Shanghai. Your semi-retired, California dreamin’ parents have been taking the edge off their aches and pains with a little pot, and now they’ve arrived in Shanghai for a visit. You take them out to a hip local bar for a drink (isn’t Shanghai trendy). Suddenly, the police arrive and shut…

Death To the iPhone

In China, if you really want to know what’s happening, ask your driver. Xiao Lin assured me, a mere 15 minutes into the drive from the airport, that the iPhone is dying in China; Huawei phones are booming. He had some pointed questions for me, too. Did Americans use Huawei phones? Was Huawei popular in the…

Wet Markets and Postmodern Angst

Let us go, you and I. . . Let’s skitter past the complexities of my recent absence (as well as my current presence)—the AQI was a lovely, round 90 as I stepped off the plane during the tail end of the holiday break this Year of the Pig—factories were closed and traffic had vaporized into…

The Contract

Taking stock today of contracts—social, personal, and professional. Since this is a blog about China, I’ll stick with Chinese contracts or at least the ones that have to do with China. Forbes offers good advice to foreigners about verifying a Chinese contract—check the official ‘chops’ and look up business licenses—that sort of thing. If you’re a foreigner signing a contract in…

Miànzi: Face

Perhaps no other aspect of Chinese culture gets as much attention or is as difficult for foreigners to understand, as face. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like such a complicated subject. After all, the concept of ‘saving face’ seems like a general human principle, hardly unique to Chinese culture. We all think we know what…

Dumpling World

It’s an understatement to say that the Chinese love to eat. Food, and sharing it family style across a table, is central to the way people live in Shanghai and all over China. Since I share this trait—I also love to eat—Chinese food (the real deal) has become one of my favorite parts of life…

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

To die, to sleep— No more—and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to—‘tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! All Shanghai expats have a favorite (and a less-than-favorite) cultural practice they can endlessly discuss – public pajama wearing, street food stalls, and bustling…

Three-Point Turn, Chinese Style

This is a photo celebration of the Chinese three-point turn. There’s no other driving strategy as predictable on Shanghai’s streets as this particular maneuver. A turn missed? (Why not just turn at the next block?) Evading congestion at the upcoming intersection? (There was congestion at the preceding intersection, too.) Left your oven on? (The ayi…

Life Elevated

Landing in Salt Lake City after a long flight from Shanghai is always breathtaking. The valley is wide open, the white salt flats make a striking contrast to the lake, with its hues of brown, blue, green, and red. The mountain ranges lining the valley are snow covered more often than not. Driving away from…