Thursday, August 28, 2008

coooling off

Shame on me. I realized I haven't really set the scene by describing the basics of our living situation. So, especially for the most of you who have not been to Shanghai, here goes....

We are a couple hours' drive from the beach, at roughly the same latitude (31 N) as famed US metropoli El Paso, San Diego, and Montgomery, Alabama. When we first arrived this month, we had a lot of Montgomery-type days. Swampy. Lately it has been beautiful-- warm, sure, but clear skies and not so humid. A cross between the butt-ass dry heat of El Paso and the "vaguely damp but still pleasant" of San Diego.

Word on the street is that many factories were shut down for the Olympics (we had soccer here in Shanghai Stadium) so maybe we're seeing an artificially nice atmosphere. Oh well. I'll be sure to compare next August's weather and I'll get back to you.

We live in a gated community. (feels weird saying that) We are guarded 24-7, from what I'm not sure. Everyone we have spoken to here (even if only a "ni hao") has seemed very pleasant and not at all interested in jacking my $110 bike. BUT ONE CAN"T BE TOO SURE. So we have uniformed dudes all around who lift the big striped bar-thingy for us to walk under, and who peek into our taxi when we're driving in to confirm we're residents.

So our walk to work involves only 10 seconds of being unguarded as we cross the street that separates home from work, because the school is patrolled also. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

As for the natural enviro: cicadas were buzzing like crazy when we arrived, but maybe they were just crazy from the heat, because it's been days since I've heard them. Or maybe they were just promotional cicadas for the Olympics? The dragonflies have continued unabated, but don't get your hopes up to catch one. They have this amazing ability to stay away from people. I wish the mosquitoes had that. We have to stay indoors around dinnertime, or risk being their dinner. But most times of day, there aren't many out.

Only other wildlife to speak of is this wretchedly scrawny cat who wanders around, foraging. Yesterday he rustled up what (I hope) was his worst meal ever--a used diaper. Ahhhh! Our nanny (feels weird saying that) got in a bus accident, so she's home for a few days. The boys both had some stomach issues yesterday, so I stayed home. Dutiful house-husband that I am, I had been cleaning up and had put a bag of trash on the porch for later transport to the communal trash can. Couple hours later, I walk into the kitchen and the big kid is all agitated, looking through the porch door. "Dad! It's a catandhe'stryingtoeatadiaper!" Trash strewn all over, including one of the little guy's diapers, which (mercifully--see "stomach issues," above) had not come open. Still, gross. So I banged on the glass, but the cat cared not. I pegged him with a peanut, but rather than flee, he seemed grateful. At this point, the 5-year-old is exhorting me to "Kill it!" I talked him down and we put shoes on to go make peace with our emaciated intruder. By then, the poor wretch had lost interest in shelling the peanut and he slinked away. Man Vs. Wild, indeed. That's what passes for high adventure in the Pearlz house these days.

In other news, we found a grocery store that's actually not too overwhelming: Metro. Lots of stares and curiosity about the boys in our shopping cart (who I tamed with some Sesame Street on the iPod--thank you, Steve Jobs) but no touts aggressively demo'ing the latest mop, like at the Carrefour in GuBei. yikes. Metro has stuff in bulk, and when each trip eats up half a day, bulk is niiiice. One of these weekends, we'll actually be tourists, but so far it's been all shopping.

Last Saturday, on our way home from the store, I snapped some photos to give y'all a sense of the changes going on here. Our neighborhood is on the west edge of town, and construction is everywhere. Our friends downtown joke that we're out in the country, and it's kind of true. But not for long. Everywhere there are cranes, piles of demolished walls, trucks and carts full of building materials. And the occasional dude relieving himself on a wall.

I'm excited to hear from more of you. Thanks to all who made me happy by replying to the plea for email. Take care...