Lost in Stone and Flowers

So, since Mid-Autumn Break, my life has been exceedingly humdrum.

One of my favorite pictures: Red
lanterns full of sunlight.

I’ve settled back into the work-meeting-Mandarin lesson-home life cycle, with the weekends functioning as rather uninteresting interruptions in the cyclical nature of a teacher’s march toward Christmas break.

Sitting Room

Today, I needed some sort of adventure. Admittedly, I struggle with the “let’s-do-it!” mentality where you just take a map and strike out on your own, exploring the city. I am trying to become more like that, especially since I took a position overseas to become more like that. I used to be proud of myself back home when I’d hop in the car and go to a new store or just out of town to someplace different – after carefully planning my route so I didn’t get lost. Gasp. Lost. So scary. I never just got in my car and drove somewhere aimlessly, not really to somewhere, I guess, but just to drive without purpose or intent. Discover.

Needless to say, you’d only have gotten me on a boat if you had a reliable map, all sorts of instruments, and a bloody good GPS system back in the 1800’s. Since that really didn’t exist, I suppose I may have gone in a carriage only if the coachman knew where he was going.


But, I’m trying. Really. One day I’ll get into a taxi here, get to the Metro, and just go find something in my guidebook without the aid of someone who’s already “been there, done that.” It’s my safety zone. I do love going with others, because it’s awesome to walk around and discover interesting things with them, but I must strike out occasionally. I’m on a soul-searching mission. There is something for me to find here, a reason, I feel, that I am here, and I am driven to discover it.

Exposed Beams

It’s my goal to do that – bust out of my comfort zone and travel. If I want to go to the city, I’ll go. If I want to go to another country, I’ll go. Lately, I’ve added Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and South Africa to my bucket list of places to see while I’m living in China. I may try to hop to Africa this summer before returning; Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, anyone? Or, I may puddle jump to the UK, just so I can wander back to Oxford and take in all the things I missed seven years ago…

The possibilities for exploration and travel are absolutely ENDLESS here. I’m overwhelmed by the opportunities I have to just see some amazing places I never thought I’d see. Things I never thought I’d get to do. I’ve already hiked the Great Wall and gotten lost in the hutongs of Beijing (though I discovered amazingly delicious steamed buns with brown sugar glaze, onion-boy choy bread, and salt and pepper flatbreads). I’ve abseiled off the Great Wall and seen breathtaking mountain views of Mongolia.

Quiet Afternoon
Silent Witnesses

I do have to give myself some credit; dude, I moved to CHINA. That’s quite a great feat. I gave up the comfort of my wee, cozy apartment, the convenience of Woodman’s (I found a family from Wisconsin here who, when we played “What Store Do You Want the Most in Shanghai,” was shocked that I said “Woodman’s”.), my awesome Immanuel staff, and, hardest of all, my family, to move to China because I was uncomfortable with being comfortable. A strange thought, but I knew I had to change something about where I was going. There were other things yet for me to do.

Going out on my own will come in time. At least my language skills are improving. I can understand more and more of what’s being said around me, and I dance around like a silly little girl when I comprehend something. When the pearlseller said “hen piaoliang,” I knew it was “very beautiful.” When she gave the price, my mind could work out the numbers. It’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I’m slowly working on my goal to become multilingual. Once Mandarin takes off, I want to return to Spanish (though my Spanish slowly creeps out at times, ironically), and eventually, learn French. I’m young, so I’ve got time, but I feel that learning multiple languages is important to me. Just like getting a Master’s degree (which I may pursue in another year, an MA in adolescent literacy from CU-Portland), I want to learn and never stop learning. Being a student again myself has helped me be a better teacher.

These are mine. All mine. So pretty…

What was today’s adventure, then? The newbie teachers were offered the chance to go “antiquing” and art-shopping with another teacher who has great experience and expertise in the matter. We started early from school – and let me say, the weather is absolutely gorgeous right now with blue skies and upper 60’s to low 70’s daily – and hopped on a van which took us to the first warehouse, Sal’s Warehouse. I found a double pair of bookshelves that I’d love to have, but I had to evaluate space in my apartment. One of them would suffice really, mostly to hold plants, books, and Chinese teapots.

Also captured my interest,
but it was much newer than mine.

Just something to make my flat a home. After all, I am in the middle of deciding on paint for my enormous living room/dining room/hallway area. Right now, I’m going for more of a coffee brown or an orange brown. Personally, waking up to coffee on the walls isn’t such a bad idea. I can caffeinate by osmosis.

I’ve been here for three months (officially this coming Thursday), and I want to make it look more like I live here and will live here for awhile instead of like a sterile hotel room – white on white on white and a little mahogany for the furniture. At least my place has good furniture – you sink into the sofa instead of bouncing off it like some furniture in other apartment complexes. Oh wait, that was my bed until I purchased an excellent mattress pad at IKEA. Very similar to sleeping on concrete slabs until said mattress pad was bought.

Silent Stone Garden

Well, I didn’t splurge on the bookshelves, and we went on to the second place call Hu and Hu. Definitely on the higher end range of prices, but they had an English booknook in the back. For 10 RMB (about $1.50) each, you can pick out some paperbacks. So, I did. Four books to read. It’s pleasant to have a book in my hands again.

Our third stop was an antique shop where the owner knows the teachers pretty well. I ended up, admittedly, purchasing a gorgeous pair of green “partially-antique” drawers/chests/tables. I’m not sure what really to call them, but they’re awesome. Of course, I love green, and these completely drew me in. Now, I have some beautiful Chinese furniture. The place is turning into a home.

You so know which movie I’m
thinking of – right?!?
Moroccan Lantern

When you walk into the antique emporiums, you find the most amazing things.  There are gardens of stone – stone horses, dragons, dogs, and Buddhas. Hand-painted furniture, and furniture that makes you wonder how the heck it was actually used at one point. My personal favorite was the wagon wheel table, only because I had just watched the movie which prominently features a wagon wheel table. Guess the title!

Our last stop was to the Hongqiao Flower and Insect Market. Yes, Flower and Insect Market. I wasn’t quite up to braving the insect part, so I stuck mainly to flowers, investing in a “brain coral”-like flower in a deep magenta pink color and a bushel of jasmine. I can’t wait for those to open and fill my apartment with their scent! My other favorite was the dark green and purple-tipped hydrangeas. Simply gorgeous.

The “brain coral” flowers I bought.
Glorious riots of color

In addition to the flowers, I also found a pearl shop, where I was able to score dove grey pearls in a necklace and earring setting. Then, I saw a little dishware shop where I finally found the deep coffee mugs I’d been looking for. From there, I wandered aimlessly for awhile through the stalls, looking at everything from handblown glass, Halloween costumes, and expensive home decor. I enjoyed the scent of all the flowers. It was sweet and heady. It followed you everywhere in the market.

Rows of fragranced flowers

After a very successful day of shopping, we went to the Surge Shanghai art fair by People’s Square. It was an exhibition of new, interesting art from local artists. Though some of the paintings were good (good meaning I would buy them if had the money to buy them), I was more fascinated by the old building it was housed in than anything else. It was a lofty, old industrial space with beautiful windows and arches, exposed beam ceilings, and creaky wood floors. Great for architectural shots on Instagram.

Wee Coffee Board

Tired, I wandered out to the canal and over to Wee Coffee and had a sinfully fatty but delicious iced vanilla latte. Sinful because they used full cream instead of skim or 2% milk. Delicious because I could taste the heavy, sweet cream and the vanilla flavor. Probably the best gourmet coffee drink I’ve had in China yet – it even beat the pants off Starbucks!

A huge custom-design
bridal shop. It had some
amazing dresses on display
in the lower windows.

Once we were back in Jinqiao, I wrestled in my furniture and sundry items, and then began the fun part – trying to figure out exactly where to put my new things. I’m sure the people below me loved that!

Tomorrow we’re to travel to a wet market, a textile market, and a fabric/shoe market where you can get custom-made cashmere sweaters and hand-made shoes. And, since I wear a 9 W shoe, I’m pretty sure this is my best bet for doing any sort of shoe shopping in Shanghai.

Looking up to the skylight of the
warehouse building.

So much for my big feet.

Industrial space
Open window
Industrial Strength
Surge Shanghai Art

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