Posting from the road....
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(edited to say: Not quite, but close.)
We’re back! And so far it doesn’t look like jet lag should be too much of an issue: I’ve been up since 8 AM this morning, which is a little later than usual for me, but only by an hour or so. Karsten is still sleeping, but this is fairly normal for a Saturday morning. He’ll probably be up soon, if my schedule was any indication.
Here’s the details of the sleep schedule, for those who are interested in jet lag avoidance:
We were up late on Thursday night at a bar called Velvet Lounge (kind of a gay bar, apparently, though a very mixed crowd), and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. Then Friday, as is my habit no matter how little sleep I get, I woke up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Our flight out was at 6 PM (mind you: that’s 5 AM Central Standard Time). Around 10 PM China time, I started getting really sleepy, so I gave in and slept for about 4 hours, and then was awake until we got home around 10 PM Central time (which is 11 AM China time).
So I got to bed around 11 PM last night and was up at 8 AM this morning. Seems not bad for having been 13 hours off schedule for the past week.
ANYway, enough of that. I’ve missed the last few days’ worth of updates here, but it was a wonderful trip. I felt like we did just enough sightseeing to get a feel for the place and the culture without wearing ourselves out. That was balanced with getting a taste of living like locals (or at least like ex-pats) by doing things like going grocery shopping, etc. And that was balanced by getting out to lots of great restaurants and eating some of the best food of our lives. And all that was balanced by a comfortable amount of time in our friends’ modestly luxurious home, which gave us a very relaxed feeling of being on a sort of staycation.
Or perhaps more meaningfully, it also felt quite a bit like being on a cruise, where there are comfortable periods of time spent relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship, interrupted by excursions and sightseeing, all highlighted by wonderful food.
I think that’s a pattern that works really well for me, so maybe I’m a cruise-type vacationer after all. Only I think I prefer big city ‘cruises’ over tropical islands. I suppose that makes me weird, but hey. I’m just not that crazy about hot sun and sand, whereas exploring urban areas never gets old.
I guess, like anything, it takes experimentation to learn your ideal vacation style. I think we got pretty darned close to perfect on this trip. (Sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t been sick for the first third of the trip, but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not been staying in such a wonderful home.) And we both loved Shanghai enough to go back, which is saying a lot considering 1, how many other interesting destinations there are in the world, and 2, how long it takes to get there and back. But it’s an endlessly fascinating place and we only spent a little bit of time exploring its neighborhoods. We could easily do another two weeks there and not get bored.
So maybe we’ll try to squeeze in one more trip before our friends come back to Nashville or move on to wherever they’re going next. Or maybe we’ll put it on the list for some future year and just look for an apartment to rent or something. It’d be a totally different experience without a Chinese-speaking friend to guide us (so I should probably improve my own Chinese skills beyond numbers and simple greetings and ‘bu yao’ or ‘don’t want’ which is immensely useful in the shopping areas) and without a driver. But it would almost certainly shed more light on what it’s like to live in Shanghai.
At any rate, I would love to publicly thank Paris and Charles for their warm and wonderful hospitality and for not only putting up with our vegan pickiness but for making sure we were well taken care of. Because Paris spent all week with us, we enjoyed the luxury of having a trusted and knowledgeable guide as well as the wonderful company of a friend. Thank you so much, Paris and Charles!
And now: back to our normal lives, with taxes to file and deadlines to meet. But also kitties to pet and friends to see and favorite places to go. Vacation life is good, but our home life is pretty darned nice too.
This has been an odd vacation: I’ve been struggling with still being sick (I came down with a virus infection less than a week before we left) and with having no energy due to weirdness with the timing of taking my Synthroid.
The Synthroid thing really threw me — hard. Here’s the thing: this is a medication you’re supposed to take at the same time every day. And for me, I’ve found that I need to wait at least an hour and a half after taking it before eating, and then wait at least four hours before taking my calcium supplements, which interfere with the effectiveness of Synthroid. But I have also found that to go back to sleep after taking Synthroid seems to concentrate it in some weird, intense way, so that I wake up jittery like I’m on speed or something. So trying to juggle all those restrictions and requirements while 13 hours off my normal schedule? Not easy. I initially tried just taking it at the same actual time (about 6 AM CST), which meant evening here, but that meant I was trying to fall asleep when I was just starting to feel energized. Yesterday morning that meant that I woke up (well, I never really slept) all shaky and with my heart racing. So I waited through the time difference and switched to taking it first thing this morning, and am just now starting to feel more normal, but I’m still a bit weak and woozy.
So I have truly been in the apartment almost the whole time we’ve been here. The only exceptions were on Saturday morning when we went out for a walk around the block (which wore me out) and for lunch when the driver took us to a Thai place for lunch, and we briefly walked around the Xantiandi area (which also wore me out). Yesterday I just resolved to stay in all day and let myself recover so I don’t ruin my whole week with this half-assed weak crap, but yesterday was also the day I was hardest hit by the Synthroid timing discrepancy, so while I was off my feet almost all day, it wasn’t exactly restful.
Nonetheless, I think the virus infection is almost gone (I still have slight sinus congestion and a trace of a cough, but it’s very minor) and I expect I’ll have my strength fully back within a day or two. Of course, we’re only here three and a half more days. So I’m going to try getting outside today, and see how it goes.
In the meantime, I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck indoors, our friends have an awesome place to be stuck. I’ve taken a few pictures from their panoramic picture windows and have played with ColorSplash on the iPhone with the one shown above. More pics are here, and more will be added in the coming days, I’m sure.
Jae got me thinking (in a way totally unrelated to what she was talking about) about how I found myself thinking fondly of the U.S. a few times while we were in Paris and Amsterdam. Not of the government, mind you, and certainly not of this current administration’s policies or whathaveyou.
But just thinking fondly of some of the little cultural niceties that I take for granted and which were notably absent from many of my dealings with folks over there. Maybe some of it is my having grown accustomed to the U.S. South and the culture of extreme gentility that underlies everything else around here, but I can easily understand why Americans who visit Paris, especially, would walk away thinking the French rude. I don’t think it’s really a matter of being rude, but I think there are a few characteristics that are typical of parts of U.S. culture that are either missing or very transformed in some of Europe’s cultures.
I’m thinking, for example, of the kind of you-first-no-you-first awkward politeness, or the face-saving that goes with conversations with strangers, or the extreme emphasis on customer service and the “customer is king” mentality and expectation within retail and food service. Certainly each of these has their analogous counterpart in other cultures, but I imagine it can be jarring for Americans visiting, say, Paris for the first time to be condescended to by a waiter, to be reprimanded by a stranger, to be bluntly addressed, and so on.
Know what I mean? And yeah, I’m sure this has been studied and documented and all, but when has that ever stopped a blogger from making dull observations about anything? So feel free to add your insightful thoughts in the comments and help me class this joint up, would ya?
I’ve been forgetting to mention that I’m headed for the Bay Area next week. I’m traveling without Karsten this time – he’s staying behind to work on the front porch – so I’m especially interested in catching up with friends in the evenings to keep me company! I’ll be arriving Tuesday afternoon and leaving Friday mid-day, and I’m staying in Redwood City. Getting together with friends in the evening Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday would be excellent.
So friends in the Bay Area, if you’re interested in getting together, I’d love to hear from you!