Our family's stay in Shanghai, China

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We Are Home!

For those of you we have not seen or emailed, the girls and I are home!  We arrived back in Noblesville on July 18th after about 24 hours of travel, hotel room to our front porch.  We have been tired, adjusting, jet lagged and reacquainting ourselves with home.  Here are a few photos of our last days in Shanghai.  The girls and I toured and shopped in between packing boxes and suitcases.

We will have a few blogs coming in the next few weeks on our overall experience and things we will and will not miss about China.    Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, packages and emails while we were in China.  It was a neat experience, challenging, frustrating, interesting and amazing.

Laura and Jenna enjoy popcorn before the acrobatic show.

Traffic waiting to turn left does not always yield to oncoming traffic going straight. At this intersection, it was particularly bad pretty often. Our van and a bus on the right were trying to go straight. I snapped this photo as we passed the crosswalk on the opposite side of the intersection. The turning cars kept turning sharper and sharper, crossing the oncoming lanes of traffic before they even reached the intersection.

A homemade dumpster built on the sidewalk outside a building under renovation.

Remnants of firecrackers on the sidewalk near our apartment.  This was not an unusual sight.  They are used often to celebrate things like weddings or business openings.

The sidewalk barbershop near our apartment. He was apparently giving his client a shave. A small bowl of water was sitting on top of the bucket.

One of Jenna’s favorite places to play was on the floor in front of her large window. She often sat in the window sill to color or read. It was a great place to spread out her horses and fencing.

A restored church building just off the Bund. Built in the late 1800s, it burned in the early 2000s and was recently restored. Many of the church buildings from the late 1800s are no longer used as churches.

A beautiful wood revolving door on the Astor Hotel, a hotel from the mid-1800s and still used as a hotel with much of the interior restored. Ulysses S Grant once stayed in this hotel.

One of our favorite finds in China were palm paintings done solely with various parts of your hand.

Sorry for the slight blur. I was snapping this photo from the van as this three-wheel car passed by, loaded with cardboard.

Delivery cart loaded with boxes.

Sidewalk repair shop for bicycles and mopeds. His tools and supplies are in the cabinet on the right.

Mr. Yuan with the girls. He was one of our favorite drivers and was one of the two we most often had. Very friendly and gentlemanly. Did not want the girls or I to open our door. Apologized to us if we did, as if he had not gotten there fast enough. Mr. Yuan was one of our favorite parts about China. Except for the time he pulled in front of an ambulance, he drove safely, although a little jerky with the gas pedal.

This moped carried a small child (seated in front of the driver) with what appear to be grandparents. It was pretty common to see two adults with a child on a moped, bicycle or motorcycle.

Land space is limited, so businesses build up, not out. Drive-thrus are almost unheard of partly because of the space needed for them. This McDonald’s, apparently, cooks on the upper floor and sends prepared food down to fill the orders via this vertical conveyor.


Photos from Around China

It seems we keep seeing new, interesting, unusual, strange, surprising and just different things around China to take photos of.  Things we are not used to seeing where we live and perhaps you don’t see them either.  Some might be “China Moments” and others could just be life in a big city.  The photos and captions tell the story.

In Beijing, we watched this elderly Chinese lady pushing a wooden cart that appeared to be filled with dirty laundry down the street (not the sidewalk) as a bus zipped past her.

In the French Concession in Shanghai, we saw this Goodyear Tire Center on the 1st floor of an apartment building. Not your typical location.

As we walked around the French Concession we saw lots of laundry out drying, or, I guess I should say, hanging outside since it was a rainy day. The owner of these clothes, appropriated their umbrella to at least keep it from getting any wetter.

A Chinese version of the mini van. If you look carefully, you can see a small infant cradled in the lady’s arms. This is not uncommon. Neither are toddlers on the back or small children standing in front of the driver.

We often see bikes or mopeds with baskets of fruit like these zipping through the city or parked at corners or along the street. Their owners carry scales to weigh the fruit they sell.

A fence we saw in the French Concession. I’m not sure what the natural material is, but it looks quite sharp on the top.

Although we don’t see them often, these manually pulled carts are still used around China. This photo was taken in Suzhou and we’ve seen them near our apartment in Shanghai.

We see this guy with plants fairly often around our apartment. He will stop for an hour or two by our apartment and then move to another location. His are all live plants in pots. We also see cut flower carts near one of the grocery stores we visit. Plants and flowers are pretty cheap here, and we bought Christmas poinsettias from him.

Bicycle Parking along the sidewalks in Shanghai. It’s unusual to see a spot this empty. Some places are free. Others have an attendant who charges for bicycle, motorcycle and moped parking.

In Beijing, near the Drum and Bell Towers – We watched gallons and gallons of some type of cooking oil being delivered. The Chinese do not bake, but they use a lot of oil.

Outside a temple in Suzhou, local Chinese sold all kinds of fresh fruit. This lady had a cart she or her husband manually pulled.

Near the entrance to the Great Wall, Chinese ladies were lined up selling all sorts of items from food to souvenirs. This lady was cracking nuts along the roadway with a brick or rock. I can’t imagine how she got the dirt and rocks from the road separated from the nuts.

While walking along the dam in the park by the Great Wall in Beijing, we heard something behind us and when we turned, here came this donkey loaded down with some type of cut grass. A Chinese couple was following behind him.

Mandarin Translations and Signs

We understand the signs most of the time, but the phrasing is so odd from how we would speak or write, it just sounds funny.

The sign was just hilarious. First of all, it’s China, it’s always crowded with people pushing and shoving and it’s always noisy. We are clueless as to what “speeling” is.

Signs asking you to “keep off the grass” or out of flower beds get very creative. As you might have guessed by its shape, this one was at the Giant Panda Preserve in Chengdu.

Translations from Mandarin to English are not always quite accurate.  Sometimes they phrase things oddly because grammar in Mandarin is so different from English.  For instance, Mandarin does not use past, present, or future tense verbs.  The verb tense come from the context.  They also don’t re-order sentences to make questions; they add a short word at the end to make something a question.

It might be an odd or funny word choice.  Sometimes it’s a misspelling and they simply don’t realize it.  Sometimes it’s just hilarious phrasing.  Some signs are just the cute ways to say protect grass, plants and trees.  There are some signs we simply do not know what they were trying to say.  In the 8 months we’ve been here, we have tried to take photos of the funny signs we have seen here.  I hope you enjoy and get a little laugh or at least a smile.

“Virescense” means the state of becoming somewhat, though usually not totally, green through the abnormal presence of chlorophyll. That’s quite a statement for a “keep off the grass” type of sign.

As you can guess, it was at a restaurant and is a little different from how we would phrase it. Translations are sometimes by computer programs and sometimes by people with minimal English skills.

It’s hard to read, but it was funny enough to include. “Please protect the grass and trees for then they will always be able to share their life with you.” I like plants and trees and flowers, but I don’t typically think about them “sharing life” with me.

Taken in a pagoda we were climbing. Probably should read: Look out! Don’t knock head.”

You don’t really know where the next funny sign might be. This was in a toilet stall. Enough said.

We didn’t have to “make” a detour, just follow the one they had all ready made.

A sign in Sun Yat Sen’s home in Shanghai. We weren’t “inspecting”, just on a tour.

These next few signs were all in gardens in Suzhou, China. The humor comes from the flowery, wordy phrasing. I started to say “verbose phrasing” but Jenna would have called that a $5 word.

This is actually very good advice, especially for Jenna who often looks behind her while walking forward.

As I mentioned, a lot of these are the flowery (no pun intended) phrases to just keep you off the grass.

“riotous” color?

They wanted you to be careful climbing the slick, steep steps. Again, it conveys the message, but it’s odd phrasing.

On a short wall in a display at a museum in Shanghai. Sometimes I think the translator looks for one word when we would be more likely to use a phrase. “Climb over” instead of “surmount.”

I believe this sign was “explaining” the times and locations for guided tours.

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this sign. First, it’s at an Escalator, not an elevator and every bullet point has something to smile or giggle about. “Pedal” suggests we could alter the speed of the escalator. We are happy to “keep a distance”, but would get run over by the Chinese who crowd. I’m not sure what “patients” are visiting a children’s museum.

The sign is posted on a glass geodesic dome over escalators along the Bund. I think this is another translation that they looked for A word rather than a phrase. And in this case, for someone from Germany, France or another country who has minimal English skills, the translation is probably more confusing than “Do Not Climb” would have been.

Do you really have to “go backwards”?

So, flames with clothes on are okay?

This is one the sign and the background have to go together. Where are the “perilous hills”?

“vesture of verdure” is, according to Jenna, a $50 phrase!

On a bag from the fabric market – even the shopping bags have funny sayings

Schweikert Family Update

Our favorite driver, Mr. Huang and the girls. He did not speak English, but we learned to communicate the basics. He drove as if he had Driver’s Training in the U.S. He waited for cars, did not speed and was just aggressive enough to get us where we needed to go. To get this photo, I held up the camera and pointed to him and the girls and said “Photo?” He gave me a questioning look and I repeated myself. He smiled and stood next to them. The funny thing? Although he does not speak English, he listens to almost all American music!

Laura and a statue of Nie Er, the composer of China’s National Anthem and a violinist. Sadly, he drowned in 1935 at just 23 years old.

Well, we are starting the last week of our stay in Shanghai, China.  We fly to Hong Kong on July 16th and then to the U.S. on July 18th.  It has been an interesting, challenging, fun, frustrating, educational experience (and there are probably a few other adjectives we could use).  Some days we  have enjoyed the experience; other days were just too challenging to enjoy.  But it has been an eye-opening experience.  Just visiting China for a week or two or even a month, you would never see and experience all the things we have living here for 8 months.  Has it been all good?  No, but we are definitely changed for having had the experience.  We will come back to the U.S. with a whole new appreciation for our country.  She is not perfect, but the liberties and freedoms we have are so precious.

Jenna in a tea shop in the Yuyuan Bazaar. I asked about the tea they were drying and asked if I could take photos. The gentleman in the photo did not speak English, but understood the camera and motioned Jenna over, handed her the basket and posed. Some of our trips into stores and small shops are fun, enjoyable and learning experiences.

We hope you have enjoyed traveling this journey with us.  There will be a few more blogs, some funny, some interesting.  We ask that you keep us in your prayers as we travel and for our family’s transition back to life in the U.S. The girls and I will travel without David.  He has to stay in China for another week or two to meet with an important client.

We are squeezing in a few more sight-seeing trips including the Oriental Pearl at night.  Enjoy these photos and we will see you soon!

Hope you enjoyed Independence Day on July 4th.  We did not get to grill burgers as we often do, and despite having seen a ton of fireworks since we came to China, we did not get to enjoy any on the 4th.

Jenna liked this building because it was a theater where a well-known ballerina learned to dance.

Late on a clear, Friday afternoon the girls and I met David at the Oriental Pearl to see the city at night. We are up on level with the glass floor looking straight down the tower to the lowest “pearl” shortly before the sun set.

Looking out across the Huangpu River toward the Bund on the Puxi side of Shanghai as the sun was setting.

The city lights at night, looking down Century Avenue toward the tall skyscrapers in Shanghai’s business center.

The sun has set and just the lights show in the skyline. The tall tower with the flower-like top is one of Jenna’s favorite buildings in Shanghai. It’s commonly known as the “lotus flower building” because of the lotus flower design on the top.

City lights of Shanghai at night toward the traffic and pedestrian circles near the Oriental Pearl.

Lights on the steps to the Oriental Pearl flash colors and patterns at night. Jenna posed for the camera.

The Oriental Pearl lit up at night. In case I have not said, it’s called the Oriental Pearl for the three “pearls” in the tower. After all the buildings we have seen in China, it remains Laura’s favorite.

Our Extra Day in Beijing

Laura and Jenna in the Drum Tower

Drum Tower – When the book stated the stairs were an exhausting climb, they were not exaggerating.

Bell Tower – They look even steeper from the top down.

The girls & I spent an extra day in Beijing to visit the Drum & Bell Towers, and what was described as the “best restored historic home” in Beijing.  We visited those towers in Xi’an and I thought they were really interesting.  These two buildings were found in nearly every city in China at one time because they were important in telling time.  The people woke up, worked, went to sleep, attended special functions, etc. all to the sounds of the bells and drums.  Plus, these are typically tall buildings with great views of the city.

It was a real treat to see and hear the beating of the drums.

We enjoyed these two in Beijing.  We heard a musical concert with bells in Xi’an.  In Beijing, we were able to hear the drums.  Unfortunately, in Beijing you don’t have the great views of the city because you are not able to get out onto the balconies.

Drum Tower

Pair of doors at Prince Gong’s Palace

Called the Hau Zhao Lou, this building was the back for all three sections of the palace and is 150 meters long. It seemed to stretch on and on.

A covered corridor at Prince Gong’s palace

Our second stop was at a site called Prince Gong’s Palace.  Built in the 1700s, Prince Gong moved in after its first occupant was executed.  The compound is surrounded by a wall with courtyards and covered walkways connecting the various buildings.  It is described as one of Beijing’s most lavish residences.  The various buildings are beautiful, but unfortunately very few were open for us to see inside.

As is typical, this compound also has beautiful gardens with lakes and ponds, pavilions and courtyards.  The girls and I took advantage of a comfortable shaded spot atop a rockery to have a snack.

Laura and Jenna pose on one of the rockeries in Prince Gong’s garden. Rockeries are man-made rock formations, originally held together by glutinous rice.

The entire time we have lived in China, we have seen various kinds of rickshaws, tuk tuks, baby taxis, or whatever name you would like to use.  The pedal-powered ones have long been synonymous with China, but are quickly disappearing.  In Beijing, the pedal-powered rickshaws are relegated to one area, around a park near the Prince Gong residence and Drum and Bell Towers.  As we left Prince Gong’s palace, we were approached by one of the drivers and I negotiated a price for the 3 of us for a 30-40 minute ride.  The driver we initially were talking with, was a little slow to accept our offer and another driver tried to “steal us away.”  Not willing to lose the sale, the initial driver shooed a Chinese couple out of his rickshaw and Laura, Jenna and I climbed in.  It was a very enjoyable ride.  We went through the hutongs (historic Beijing neighborhoods) and around the park.  Surprisingly, the driver did not ask for payment until we were two-thirds done.  He was quite friendly, we felt very safe and are glad we had the experience.

Our first rickshaw ride. It lasted about 35 minutes and cost about $50 USD, but he had to work pretty hard since he was pedaling the whole way.

Our view riding through the hutongs in Beijing, their historic neighborhoods with winding alleyways like this one.

Our afternoon was to be spent at a market in Beijing that I had researched.  There are two major markets in Beijing and this one was supposed to be less aggressive and less chaotic/busy.  It was neither.  As we walked along, I mentioned to Laura that I was shocked at how aggressive the sales people were and how busy and chaotic it was.  She agreed and we could not imagine what the other market would be like.  After a few hours of shopping and haggling, we found several gifts and a few take-homes for us.  The market was supposed to be a short walk from our hotel, so rather than take a taxi, we set out walking.  Yet, nothing on the map seemed to match what we were seeing on street signs.

After 30-40 minutes of walking, we realized, our taxi driver had not dropped us at the market we wanted to go to, but the busy/aggressive market.  Our hotel was not a short walk away.  But undeterred, we decided to try to walk anyway.  An hour later, we were hot, exhausted and frustrated by street signs that still did not match our map.  As we stood on the corner, we were approached by a powered rickshaw.  I almost waved him away, but not knowing exactly how much longer we would have to walk, decided to take another rickshaw ride.  So, through afternoon traffic, across busy streets and through cars, buses, bicycles and motorcycles, the girls and I bounced along in our second rickshaw ride.  In Laura’s words that afternoon, “This is fun in a nervous sort of way.”  She was right.  It was fun, but you do feel a little nervous in all the traffic.

Our view during our 2nd rickshaw ride. The ride took about 10 minutes and cost less than $10USD. This rickshaw was battery-powered, we think. The driver pedaled some, but not all the time.

All Around Beijing

Outside the Summer Palace, in 100 degree heat, sat this little boy, younger than Jenna. He appeared to be all alone with a pack of water he was trying to sell. Such a sad sight and just one of many we have encountered in our time here.

Here are some more photos from our trip to Beijing.  Overall, we enjoyed the city which felt much more tourist-like than Shanghai.  Shanghai is known as a “business city” not a tourist city.  There was so much to see and do in Beijing, that we simply ran out of time.  Hope you enjoy these pictures!

The only city gate and small section of the city wall left in Beijing. In the museum in the tower, the sign talking about this gate read in part “it will always stand there to witness the advancement of the great Chinese nation.” I think it’s interesting to see how other countries express their patriotism.

A flower bed at Tiananmen Square. These elaborate beds are common in Chinese cities and change often, sometimes after only 2 or 3 months. They are very good at keeping the flowers watered. The gardens are formed with potted flowers, not planted in the ground, so it’s very easy to change.

At the Bell Tower, we saw this Chinese lady’s husband taking a photo of his wife in front of the bell. I assumed Jenna was in the way and asked her to move over so she would be out of their photo. When I did, the husband got very animated, shaking his head no and waving Jenna back over. They very much wanted Jenna in it, but for whatever reason, had not asked her to pose.  Our first “grandma” with Jenna photo. We’ve had young children, tweens, young ladies, young gentlemen and now a grandma.  We even had an early teens (12-13) guy, whose parents were much more enthused about the photo with Laura and Jenna than he was.

At one end of Tiananman Square, we saw this incredibly long line stretching across the front of this building, around the corner and almost to the building’s opposite corner. And as long as the line was and as warm as the day was, people kept getting in line. There were no signs, but we eventually realized the building housed Chairman Mao’s body which is kept refrigerated. Many, many Chinese are willing to wait hours for a chance to see him.

Tiananmen Square was, as you can imagine, very heavily guarded at every entrance, at a Memorial in the center and around the building where Chairman Mao’s body is located.

Jenna and I got to try our hand with silk ribbons in the gardens at the Temple of Heaven. It was lots of fun to participate and the ladies were so nice to invite us. Gardens are bee hives of activity, especially on warm sunny days. Dancing, tai chi, Chinese hacky-sack, board games, and lots of people strolling and socializing. It’s a great place to “people watch”.

A small, residential area of Beijing- these neighborhoods are called hutongs. They have used whatever they could find for this small room added onto their house. As enjoyable as the gardens are, it’s often sad and depressing walking by neighborhoods

At Jinshan Park north of the Forbidden City, a young Chinese guy wanted his picture taken with Jenna. It’s a little funny because they often know very little English, but can say “photo” and sometimes “with daughter”, but other times it feels like we’re doing charades. As many requests as we get, I also wonder how many photos are taken that we are completely unaware of.

We saw these in Suzhou and in Beijing. They are bike rentals along the street. Apparently, you can rent by paying a fee in an unmanned box and it will give you a key to unlock the bike. It’s pretty convenient, especially if the subway doesn’t take you very close to your destination.

Climbing down from the pavilion in Jinshan Park which gave us amazing views of the Forbidden City.

Jenna gets a juggling lesson in the gardens at the Temple of Heaven.

A small residential area adjacent to a pedestrian overpass. The roofs are a mix of materials held down with rocks, bricks or whatever heavy object they had available.   and there was even a satellite dish on the roof of one. Roads and the elevated pedestrian walkways often go within feet of buildings in the cities. We have laughed and said you could almost get a pizza delivered without the driver leaving his car. But some of the places they live are anything but funny.

Beijing’s Olympic Park

The Bird’s Nest where the opening and closing ceremonies were held.

On our way back from the Great Wall, we had a little extra time and our guide agreed to make an unplanned stop at the Olympic Park in Beijing.  The Olympics, if you recall, were held in Beijing in 2008.  The park is a huge place and the Chinese use the facilities for other purposes now.  We were able to see the Bird’s Nest, Water Cube, Administration building and the Olympic Flame tower.  It is the only Olympic Park any of us have ever seen.  These are some photos you might enjoy.

In the shape of the Olympic Flame, this was an administration building for the Olympic games.

One interesting note, when we asked if we could add this stop, our guide discussed our request with our driver, who only spoke Mandarin.  Sonia said the driver was willing to stop for an hour, but that parking was very expensive.  So, we would have to pay the parking fee.  David said that was fine and asked about what we should expect.

Commonly called the Water Cube, it’s official name is the National Aquatics Center and is where Michael Phelps earned 8 gold medals. An informational sign outside the building described it as the “city name card of Beijing and an important symbol of contemporary civilization.” Perhaps a little overstated, but it is a neat building.

Close-up of the water bubble design on the Water Cube.

Well, she replied, because it’s in the Beijing City Center, parking is much more expensive than where we were to see the wall.  That only cost 5RMB for the entire day (less than $1 USD).  Parking in the City Center costs about 15RMB for an hour (less than $3 USD).   Since we were only there about 30 minutes, it cost just 7RMB or just a little more than $1 USD.  We bought ice cream for the girls earlier in the day.  To our guide, it was expensive, about 14RMB for both or $2-3 USD.

As we’ve mentioned before, to us, some things are more expensive here and some things are much less.

Tag Cloud