Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Decorations Around Town

The decorations around Shanghai were better than what you would expect and probably much better now than what they were a few years ago.  Here are a few examples of store owners and malls trying to do some marketing to us expats that are spending money this time of year.

These stockings were in a Costco/Sam's Club type of store
called "Metro". We left our stockings in the USA so we had
to buy some new ones (not these...).

Here is a big tree on Nanjing Road - the shopping
street in Puxi.  This tree is within 40 meters of that
large fish tank that broke and made international news.
It was nice hearing employees saying, "Merry Christmas" in the office and as we were leaving for break.  I'm sure many don't understand many of the traditions of both the Santa-part and the Christian-part.

This is Jinqaio's massive Christmas cake with
parachutes.  Not sure how they came up with that,
 Jesus birthday, maybe??!?

It has been around freezing the last few weeks.  And on the 29th of December we had some snow.  It was the first snow in two years for Shanghai.  The kids were very excited since they have only seen snow once before (2010 in Boston).

This was a bizarre ice skating rink, you skated on
plexiglass.  For $8/hr you could 'walk' on this surface, weird.

In a local mall, Kerry Parkside, they had pictures with Santa.
Santa was in this gingerbread house.

Kangaroo.  I think he is the mall mascot.

This was a nice Santa above some games for kids and free
wrapping (2 presents) that the mall was doing.  If you look
outside you can see the 3-story Christmas tree.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chinese Christians

Before coming to China our local Church in Florida had always talked about the ‘underground’ churches in China.  These churches were the only way that the citizens of China could hear about Jesus and worship him.  This made my expectations of Christianity here in China to be non-existent.  Well, I’m happy to say that my expectations were very wrong.  I’m not saying that you see a churches like you do in the USA but there are some. 

Abundant Grace International Fellowship
There are some rules about going to church here, like to go to certain churches you have to be a non-Chinese.  This requires you to show your passport at the door (I’ve never seen someone have to show theirs yet).  I don’t believe that Catholic churches require this but the non-denominational churches are for foreigners only.  This is because they preach about the real ‘saving’ power Jesus.

Inside AGIF Saturday Night Service
The most encouraging and awesome sign of Christianity that we’ve seen is the grassroots believers.  These are the Christ-followers that do meet in eachother’s homes and are more underground than not.  Our A’yi is a strong Christian who is also a teacher at her ‘church’.  Even though Christians are less than 10% of the population of China, they are 3rd on the list for total number of Christians in a country. 

Open-air church service.  The preacher was in front of the 100 or so
We were able to watch a local preacher in a public square near our home.  This area of town is a very poor part where the residents live in single room apartments and share kitchens and bathrooms.  We were definitely the ‘different’ people in the square that day.  There were about 75 – 100 people gathered around him listened to his open-air sermon.  We watched in amazement and were visited by many local children passing us tracts.  We received 20 pamphlets that described who Jesus was and what Christmas was all about.  It was pretty cool!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chinese Family Day

In the adventure here in China my newly formed company, AVIAGE SYSTEMS, has been created and its identity is forming.  It is a joint venture between two massive companies GE and AVIC.  This is a topic for another entry someday.  

Bonds between people are stronger than most anything else here.  They talk about the importance of relationships and how it makes everything easier if you have guanxi with others.  Guanxi is the 'connections' that you have to people here that allow you to bypass the normal methods of getting something done.  We have the same in the USA - a popular is finding a job through your 'network' of business colleagues.  You don't have guanxi until you have trust between the two parties.  This can take a long time but once it's there it is quite strong.

Family is very important in China and there is very little distinction between family and work.  This can be good and bad.  The good part is that the companies have more family events than I've seen in the USA.  Earlier in December they organized an outing at a local theatre to show the Chinese acrobats.  

Crazy flexible and strong!

Juggler with 7-8 balls at a time.

This was a see-saw that launched people up on top of the
others.  This was about 50 feet in the air and the child
did a couple of flips before landing in that chair!
Before the show there was games, food and socializing.  The theme was angry birds and the goal was to do 5 different stations.  At each station was a game or puzzle that had to be completed to earn a different color angry bird.  Well, the kids earned there 5 birds (after about an hour) and after the show they one the largest prize ---- a Large Airplane Lego set!  
Lego City Airplane prize won by 5 birds!  It was a great day.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cookie Exchange at the Ying's House

Some traditions are international and worth having regardless of where you are living.  This year Yangmei held her Christmas cookie exchange at the house.  It had been a few years since we've had one due to how busy our lives has been.  Well, this year she was going to do it.

We had about 15 families show up on a Sunday afternoon.  There was a great mix of my work, kid's school, church and neighborhood friends.  The house was packed with children from 2 months old to seniors in high school.  

The concept of the party is that you bake a set of cookies and exchange them for a larger variety at the party.  This is usually done at the end of the party when it is all winding down.  During the party, Yangmei served beautiful food and drinks while the kids played.  There was even some kid events like finding snowflakes and reindeer droppings in the yard.

Anzhong enjoying a snack.

Three beautiful tai tai.

The cookie table and boxes to take them home in.

The snack table - a little late for this photo since it was
mostly gone by the time I took the photo.

The Cookie exchange kids!  (the older ones were not in the photo)

Finding bells and snowflakes.

It was cold and dark.

A fun mix of people from around the globe.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Concordia Christmas Events

We had very low expectations for having a 'real' Christmas in China this year.  To our surprise it has been much better than we could have imagined.  There are two aspects that I'll write about, first the experiences we've had at our international school and second, how China 'celebrates' this Christian holiday.

So Concordia is a Christian, Lutheran based, school that offers a religion class per day.  Many of the teachers are great, solid Christians and some we even see at our church on the weekends.  Also, the school makes a great effort to stay true to the American curriculum and celebrates all of the American holidays (even Thanksgiving this year).  So, we should have expected the same for Christmas.  

There was a Christmas performance for each of the kids.  
Yu gege was a percussionist in the Christmas concert.

It was a 50ish piece band.

The elementary school classes had a choir, musical instruments and a
play with lots of Christmas music.

Caomei was a sheep in the manager play.

Sheep in the crowd.

Yanyuan is in the middle dressed in red.  He did a very special singing and
dancing show.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Baba's Bike Commute to COMAC

We have sold our SUV and minivan in the USA for our bikes in Shanghai.  At least we have a little freedom to get on our wheels and go locally to the store, restaurant, school or church.  There are other ways to travel, like a taxi or the subway, but biking gives us the most flexibility.
I even takes my bike to work everyday, rain or shine.  This blog entry is about my commute to my work at COMAC.  It is 10 km and takes between 30 and 40 minutes each way.  A nice little exercise and de-stresser.
Home in Jinqaio to COMAC on Jinke Rd

My wheels, a traditional Forever bike.

The bike paths are great and wide.  So good, many cars
will use them to be quicker...

This is an area with huge, huge homes.  Bigger than I can

Manual labor is easily available and used.  This wall went
up extremely fast!

These homes are most likely for 'party' members.  That is
communist party members.  The govt can't pay them much salary
but they have everything else paid for, including their homes.

Jinke (pron. Gin-Ker) Lu

Plenty of room to coast.

On my commute there are many foreign companies that you
would recognize.  Qualcomm, Henkel knives, etc

And they just keep on building...
There are a few places to have breakfast on the way.  Aka -

I leave at 7:05 from the house so traffic is light.  Home is a
different story since it's dark and busy, at least until about 6:30.

No one in this one yet.

Worker cleaning up the leaves.  China's welfare system is to
have their citizens work for the state cleaning.

This is their trash bin.

Pudong was once all swamp.  So there are still many canals.

And still many vacant lands that in 10 years will be a 10-story

And here is COMAC.

It is an impressive campus that can fit thousands of employees.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Preparations the Chinese Way

In America, Christmas is triggered by 'Black Friday' preceded by completion of a Thanksgiving turkey, pumpkin pie and a football game.  In China, Christmas didn't follow anything like a holiday or start off with a stampee at midnight into the Walmarts.  Last weekend it wasn't here and this weekend it was.  

In Yu Garden there are shops that turn into Christmas shops during the
first week of December.  Like everywhere here, you bargain.  We bought beautiful
ornaments for about 50 cents each.

Caomei loved here antlers.

Many shops with Christmas stuff and artificial trees.  Much of it was really
 This will be the first year in my life with a fake Christmas tree.  It is very expensive to buy a real tree here ($100 - 250) and supposedly, they don't last at all.  I can still say the only time I've had a fake tree is in China...  The artificial trees were about $30 - $60 for a 5-6' height.  
This is in our local Carrefour.  They had a aisle with fake trees.

Carrefour Christmas aisle.

Here is our artificial tree.  It is a 8-9' tree that we bought off of a friend.

The boys were decorating it after Baba had to fix some branches.

All new lights and ornaments this year!  We couldn't fit our ornaments,
stockings or star so we had to buy all new this year.  Good thing it is cheap
These are the 50 cent, or cheaper, handmade ornaments.  There are some
keepers in here.

(Merry Christmas)