Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Time has reached Shanghai!

“Christmas time is here…happiness and cheer…

It’s that time of year yet again…Christmas time! I will be celebrating Christmas abroad for the third time (This will also be my third different country).  Just like Halloween (you can read about that here), Shanghai has surprised me yet again with the amount of holiday cheer typically reserved for this time of year (hey, I had to rhyme).  With only ten days to go, many stores both local and multinational have some type of Christmas decorations on their windows or door fronts, and I’m hearing all types of Christmas music throughout the shopping mall that I work in and in various stores around Shanghai.  I was pleased to learn about two different Euro-style Christmas markets that have recently opened in Shanghai ( I will be visiting one next week during my off day) which sell a variety of gifts and food goods from their stalls.  Not to mention, all the trees, lights and ornaments that I see all around the city.  The other day on the metro, I noticed not one, but two different Chinese people lugging plastic Christmas trees and decorations (one of them even had several rolls of wrapping paper).  Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera, but I'm hoping there's more to see in the upcoming days.

When I saw this my heart skipped a beat!

One of the Christmas Markets

 I started to notice Christmas themed things in mid-November when my local Ikea had some Christmas food items prominently displayed in their food section (They were selling a festive punch, gingerbread cookies and mulled wine).  Several days later, I saw a Christmas shop open its doors not too far from my apartment. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to write home about since the only Christmas type things I saw for sale were ornaments and stockings. The rest were just tacky Knickknacks in gaudy metallic colors. I also noticed that the store had many Eiffel Towers for sale (beats me what they have to do with Christmas).

Seen outside an expat grocery store. This house is real Gingerbread!

Earlier in December, I attended a Caribbean-Expat Christmas party that was located way outside central Shanghai. Despite the trek, the party was definitely a good time! There was a delicious buffet filled with Caribbean foods with a Chinese twist (jerk tofu or fried plantain tarts anyone?), followed by rum punch and loads of dancing. The DJ played all the old-school dance hall jams I grew up and I sang and danced the night away (I abstained from the dutty whine contest).  

"Caribbean Claus"
People from not just the Caribbean, but around the world!

After the first week of December, my school was fully decked out in holiday decorations including two different Christmas trees. Advertisements were placed in each and every classroom for a Christmas party that promises many games, gifts and a visit from Santa.  Outside the shopping mall that I work in, I saw some men hard at work putting up the sign below, as well as, making sure the reindeer were in the correct spots and well lit for all to see.  

One of two trees in my teaching center

Outside my workplace, trust me it's huge!
Prizes to be won at the X-Mas Party!

So, how will I be spending the holiday? As of right now, I will be celebrating with friends British style (as well as American and French) by cooking a meal and partaking in a “Secret Santa.” Perhaps we will venture out since many of the bars will remain open (after all, it’s a non-Chinese holiday).  Regardless of what my plans are, I will eat, drink and be merry (with a Skype call or two in-between).

Thanks again for reading and I hope you have a safe and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Giving Thanks...Thanksgiving Time in Shanghai

Thanksgiving Feast

Hello All! Thanks again for stopping by, and just what the title says,  I will be discussing  how I spent my Thanksgiving in Shanghai. I know that Thanksgiving was two and a half weeks ago (time flies), but I've been a bit busy with work and some side projects (I know excuses, excuses), but I will try to update this blog at least once a week starting now!

So, keep reading to find out how I spent my Thanksgiving in Shanghai...

Early November...

A few weeks before the holiday, I was approached by one of my American coworkers about getting together at his place for Thanksgiving. He also mentioned that he was going to invite several of our Chinese colleagues in order to expose them to some American customs and traditions. I was pretty much on board with the idea and I even offered to do some of the cooking (I'm a pretty good cook).  I was really excited since I didn't have to run around and plan anything, not to mention, I would be able to enjoy the holiday with other people instead of being alone. A week after making the plans, I was notified that I would have to attend  a city-wide training event for my job.  Due to this unexpected event, I would be arriving a bit later than expected to the dinner ('tis the nature of the business).  Luckily, my coworker was not upset or bothered, and I still offered to cook something the day of which he eagerly accepted.

Before Thanksgiving, we encountered the problem of where would one find a turkey in Shanghai.  I had seen a live turkey at a market near my house, but my coworker had no interest in that. We also spotted several turkeys in some of the international food shops but the prices were exorbitant (like $80 for a 12 pound bird). I don't know how it happened, but my coworker managed to find a turkey at the 11th hour at a store near my workplace at a very reasonable prices (which is ironic considering that there are very few foreigners in that area of the city).  So, Thanksgiving was saved and everything was set,  all I had to do was wait for Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving Morning...

On Thanksgiving day, I woke up and got dressed up to the max since I had a city wide training event followed by Thanksgiving preparation and mealtime afterwards. I arrived at the designated place on time and I reconnected with some other people who were in my training class. After everyone had arrived, we were treated to lunch at a restaurant close by which was busy and packed full of people both local and international (always a good sign).  Lunch was very delicious and I dug into a variety of meat and veggie dishes topped off with a thick, refreshing plum juice drink.  After lunch, it was time for the training to begin which was pretty painless and a bit of fun.  We ended up being dismissed early and I headed straight to my coworkers' place for Thanksgiving festivities.

I arrived just fine to my coworkers' place (despite a downpour and fried chicken stop in between) and shortly after I arrived, I got down to business and I started preparing the side dishes.  We decided to make home made mashed potatoes and green beans with bacon and a bit of cheese. My coworker had already managed to make yams, apple cider, stuffed cabbage, two pies (apple and pumpkin) and a large turkey all before my arrival (I should also note that ovens are not common in China, so all of the baking was done in a large toaster oven).  As we prepared and cooked the food, we chatted a bit about our lives, travel and our employment futures. Finally, the guest started to arrive and once the last guests had arrived, we made our way to the table for our Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey Time...

Once all the places were set and the food was ready, I decided that we should all say what we were thankful for over the year.  I personally was thankful for living my dream of traveling and seeing the world, being able to learn another language and celebrating a holiday with new found friends.  Everyone else followed with their comments and once I said grace, than we dug into the food.

Side Choices: Green Beans, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Yams

American, Aussie and Chinese people together

The turkey looked a bit undercooked to me, so I avoided that for the most part and stuck to the side dishes and dessert.  My potatoes lacked salt and they could of been mashed a bit more, but otherwise they were edible.  I dug into several helpings of the apple pie which was delicious and a chocolate tart for my dessert.  I washed it down with horrible tasting Chinese wine which me and my Australian coworker laughed about, but finished anyway.

The end of dinner...

Dessert and a Dog...the perfect end to a Thanksgiving meal...
Dinner was followed by more conversation and my coworkers dog who provided a bit of entertainment.  Everyone left around 9:30 pm. and we all trekked in the rain to the nearest metro.  I was invited to another party closer to my apartment and I got there an hour later. There was a great display of food and goodies and several types of beer. All in all it was a great conclusion to a great night and I made it home sometime after midnight and I crashed right into bed.

Thanks again for reading and keep following me!