Send Flowers to Iran AND Persian Carpets to Japan

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Finding an AYI in Shanghai

If you are living in Shanghai then one of the things which you should definitely consider is to find an AYI.

An AYI is a woman who comes to your house and do household chores for you. That is, clean up, laundry, wash dishes, or even cook for you. It is possible to ask her to take care of your kids but prior arrangements is necessary.

The best thing about AYI's is that they come really cheap. Our Ayi charges 15 RMB (around $2) per hour and she does her job perfectly well. I heard that there are some who can get better bargains at 10 RMB per hour.

If you live in an upper-class subdivision like us then it is quite easy to find an ayi. Here are some tips:

  • First, go to the security guard and ask him if he knows any Ayi who service other tenants on that subdivision. Chances are he is familiar with everyone who enters the premises regularly. It is best to ask people in the morning and late afternoon. Those on night shifts are probably not familiar with ayi who works during daytime.
  • Tell the security guard your address and leave him your phone number so he will contact you if he found anyone available. The Ayi might also contact you personally.
  • Ask the Ayi to come to your room so she can check out the place and for her to assess what she will need. Keep in mind that you need to buy all cleaning utensils and detergents, so if you don't have these things ask the Ayi to buy anything she might need and then give her some cash for them. Afterwards, you may ask for the receipt although they would probably ask less than 30 RMB ($4) for everything.
  • Set an appointment and make sure she understand when she is coming. With this, you must be able to memorize the days of the week and keywords like "today, tomorrow, day after tomorrow, next week" in Mandarin. Here is a list:
  • Monday to Sunday: 星期一 (Xingqi yi),Then add (Xingqi) on all: 二 (er),三 (san),四 (si),五 (wu),六 (liu),天 (tian)
  • Today: 今天 (Jintian),Tomorrow: 明天 (Mingtian),Day after tomorrow: 后天 (Houtian), Next week 下个星期 (Xiage Xingqi)
  • Make sure that you also know how to say what time. Examples: 7:30 七点半 (Qi dian ban), or how long you want her to clean : 2 hours 两个小时 (Liang ge xiaoxi).
Keep this in mind on you will have an easy time dealing with your ayi and take advantage of this great luxury that is hard to find anywhere else.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Must-try Chinese Food in Shanghai

Home-made Crab.
Incredibly cheap at 50 RMB ($7) for 3 pieces including spices and pumpkin.

Wanton Noodles with Real Soft Beef Tenderloins.
Restaurant located in Zhangjiang High Tech Station, 2nd floor of the complex.

Shanghai Black Chicken.
Yes!! It's black! And it's healthy -- that is Korean Ginseng floating out there.
Restaurant near DaMuZhi GuangChang on Century Park Station.

Carrefour - Grocery in Shanghai

One of the best things about living in Shanghai is that dining out is relatively cheap. For less than $50, you can have a sumptous meal with your family of 4 in a decent restaurant. There are plenty of choices and you might want to try authentic Chinese food.

But after some time of doing this, you probably would want to cook your own dishes. Here is the bad news -- go to your nearby local Chinese supermarket and be amazed that there are no edible fresh. meat available. Well, unless you dig chicken's head and feet, or would be contented with frozen dumplings, then you know that this is definitely what you are looking for.

If you are lucky then someone may have told you where to find Carrefour. But if not, then you have to learn two things.

First, you have to know how to say it in Chinese, and make sure that you say it correctly. The characters are 家乐福 which is (Jia Le Fu) in Pinyin. I advise that you use stress the first tones on the "le" and "fu".

Next thing is to find the nearest one in your neighborhood. I know two branches in Pudong, one in 高科中路
(GaokeZhong Lu), which is 25 minutes by cab from Zhangjiang High Tech Station and the other one in 大拇指广场
(Da Muzhi Guangchang), which is a 10 minutes walk from Century Park Station.

I also know one branch in Northern Puxi which is 5 minutes by cab from 赤峰路 (Chifeng Lu Station Line 3).

Another option for shopping is Hisamitsu in the mall near Jing'an Temple. The quality of food here is very good but expect to pay 3 times the amount as in Japan.


For our 3rd monthsary, M and I went back to a Sichuanese restaurant called Spicy Storm near BaBaiYang along Century Avenue (take Metro Line 2). It was called recommended by my language exchange partner V but last time we were there, we didn't order the hotpot fish, which is the staple of that place. This time, we made sure we get what everyone else is having.
First of all, the fish boiled in oil is so darn good, a bit hot but rather good! We asked the waiter to remove most of the red pepper floating on the soup so we can eat it better. The soup also has some bamboo shoots which perfectly complements the soft fish.

We also ordered mushroom wrapped in bacon
and cold chicken on chestnuts but we were just so full that we cannot finish them. For drinks, we got a picther of melon shake. They offer a big plate of fresh watermelon as a service complement after burning your tastebuds with the pepper.

The total price: 180 RMB approximately $25 or ¥2500 which is quite affordable considering that it is good for 3-4 people.

Overall rating: 8/10.

The Dolphin

Because I always bother M to give me a massage (yeah, he now thinks I'm worst than his grandpa), he was left with no choice but agree when I pointed this gadget out in Carrefour.

This is an incredible buy at 200 CNY ~ $30. Infrared heating on the dolphin's head for maximum soothing comfort.

The massager als comes with 4 different nozzles that is best suited in targeting different parts of the body. There is a spine/back massager (square head), leg massager (the two antennae), a shoulder puncturer (the nipple), and the feet tickler (the porcupine).

I found out that the antenna is also suited for massaging the ass part and I think it can help remove cellulites. The nipple is also suited for forearms to relieve the pressure after holding the massager for a long time.

Anyway, this is indeed a great buy and we don't regret spending the money.

A Not-So Desperate HOUSEWIFE

My hubby is my hobby!

Lo and behold -- the wandering couch surfer is now a housewife. Who would have thought that after climbing the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, biting on the big apple of New York, hostel hopping in Orange County, surfing the waves of Hawaii, and drowning on pints of Guinness in Dublin, that I will suddenly be doing laundry, vacuuming the carpet, and ordering water in a remote city in China.

To be honest, being a housewife is not as bad I thought it would be. Of course the two Masters degree in Mathematics and one year of abruptly ended PhD seemed like a total waste, but then my interest in the discipling has continuously waned through the years. It is just that I wasn't into it anymore, and I know that I am also not being fair if I pursue a doctorate all for the wrong reasons. Getting a post-grad degree should be fueled by passion not by the lack of other worthwhile endeavors.

Besides, when I was a student of UP, I lived with the phrase"Huwag ninyong hayaang hadlangan ng pag-aaral ang inyong education!" (Don't let studies hinder real learning.) So, just because I quit my PhD, it doesn't mean that I have stopped the function of my brain cells. For instance, I have 24 hour access to the internet. Everyday, I make it a point to read something interesting, be it world news, sports, human interest story, science and medical breakthroughs, or join post on forums of various discourse.

Every afternoon, I study Chinese (Mandarin) through the helpful podcast ChinesePod and learn not just the fundamentals of the language but also the cultural insights of living in Shanghai. When I wanted to relax, I watch a marathon of JDORAMA (Japanese drama) with the cheap yet high quality DVD from the streets. The best thing about buying them from China is that most of them have no English subtitles and so I am forced to improve and refresh my Japanese ability.

Other than that, I am also quite busy applying for jobs online, because M and I have plans of migrating somewhere else in the future. Of course, no one can get a PR to live in China for a long time, so we have to think of a place where we can settle down and raise a family.

Anyway, I guess my transition from being a world traveler to a housewife is made easy by my loving husband who supports me and comforts me whenever I feel depressed. He never gets angry with me no matter how much I whine or complain that my situation is hopeless. Instead, he encourage me to do whatever I want to do, like studying Chinese in the university for instance, or meeting people online for study.

So, in the end even if sometimes I feel otherwise, I still think that I made the right decision to give up my career and be with M. I love him, after all, and that is what really matters.

What's this contraption?

Last November, we successfully managed to move to a new apartment. Because of the Olympics and the upcoming EXPO 2010, rents in Shanghai have doubled and hence, we have no choice but to give our 2-floor 3LDK to a smaller 2-floor 2LDK which is just big enough for a 2 people.

Anyway, thanks to my so-so Chinese language skills we ended up with a half-furnished apartment. I managed only to request the following items --queen-sized bed for each room, aircon with heater function, TV and DVD, washing machine, and oven. Well, the 3000 RMB per month rent seems reasonable considering that this is located in an upperclass neighborhood.

When we finally got our keys, we were suprised that we don't have any wooden flooring on the first floor, no curtains, no tables, no sofa, and worse -- NO REFRIGERATOR -- something which has completely slipped my mind.

When we were moving in, we saw this contraption lying on the floor. We wonder what it could be.
M bet that it's a vacuum cleaner. I thought it's a heater for the first floor. Somehow we both agreed that it is just an egg decoration.

Anyway, we agreed to spring up another 200RMB per month for the flooring, window curtains, shower curtains, internet connection, and a portable heater for the first floor. But they won't agree to give us a real refrigerator. Because they have already given us one.. Lo and behold!!

It's a mini-fridge. It may be small but don't underestimate it. Today it is half-empy, and see how it can fit in a bottle of milk, a carton of juice, meat, cheese, and other goodies. As for our water, we have somehow adapted to the Chinese culture -- no cold water -- for LIFE! (Well according to research drinking cold water after meals can increase the risk of heart diseases.)