Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Hope

The past two weeks have found me in the suburbs and surrounding areas of Philadelphia.  In an effort to do something different I met a friend in New Hope and Lambertville.  I think this is one of those "revamped" small towns that now cater to the antiquing set.  It is basically a town that consists of a main street, and several smaller streets that spoke off the main one.  There are lots of furniture shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and general kitsch shops.  Very very cute, and very very expensive.  I know I'm cheap.  Yes, I admit it.  I'm cheap, but I will sometimes pay for something if it's quality (not always, I like to shop on sale), but this is a recent development.  DH has been working hard to get me to spend more than $50 on a pair of shoes, or pay more for the expensive phone that will last longer than a year.  And I have slowly started to listen.  But this stuff is expensive!  Which is unfortunate, because some of the furniture they had was really cool, funky, and a little odd.  Perfect for us!
But that's ok, I figure we can save up (that's my answer for everything)!  In the meantime, as we were meandering the shops I noticed some hand knit items, so I casually wandered over to see how much they were, just curious.... and I was BLOWN AWAY!  Yes I used all caps on purpose.  I saw socks for $15 a pair!  Scarves for $80 and those little knit flowers that I love to do for Zora and can churn out in an hour $12!!!!!!!!!!!  People have said that I should sell my stuff, but I always thought that what I would have to price them at, no one would pay, but I guess I was wrong.  SO CRAZY!  I'm totally going to open a knitting boutique next year!  TOTALLY!

The US

As you can probably tell, I'm in the US now.  Firmly ensconced in the in-laws house in Philly, well, the suburbs of Philly.  I've been visiting friends.  I've got internet - unfettered internet, I've got a cell phone, and a new ipod touch.  We have a car, an ATM card, and credit cards, and stores glorious stores!  Oh and grandparents!  Life is good.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

San Fransisco

I lived in Southern California for 9 years...  The last two years of high school, summers and winters in college, and three years of law school, but I have Never been to San Fransisco.  I know, I know, it's shocking, but SF was nine hours away by car and expensive by plane, and I never found the time, or the travel partners to get up there. 
So it was with great excitement that we planned to make a 2 1/2 day stoppover in SF on our way back to the East Coast for vacation.  Unfortunately, during the same time we planned our trip things in Cairo heated up.  Now how, you might ask, do the protests in Cairo effect a trip to SF?  Well, I'm glad you asked, see DH is a consular officer, these are the people in an embassy or consulate who issue visas, passports, and perform general American Citizen services.  When things in Cairo went to pieces most civilized countries sent extra diplomats to the area to help their citizens in Cairo safely evacuate to another location.  The US is no exception.  DH volunteered to help process American Citizens in trouble, those who might need, visas for family members, or update passports, or birth certificates, or the like.  He was gone for less than a week but missed SF altogether.  In the grand scheme of things, not a tragedy, and generally speaking, I am capable of traveling on my own and having a perfectly grand time without him, but!  And it's a big but!  It IS a big deal when you are traveling to a new city, jet lagged, AND with a jet lagged 3 year old. 
Even with all that, I LOVED SF.  It feels like a newer cleaner East Coast city with the beautiful California skies and coast line.  It's hard to say how much of my impressions of CA are colored by Chengdu.  After months of gray colorless skies and damp cold weather, the pale blue skies of CA, the beautiful sparkling water, and the general greenery of the city were like music to my tired eyes.  The people were also blessedly polite.  I almost wanted to shop and by things because I found every thank you, every have a nice day, every smile to be a salve on the wounded veneer of my heart.  I KNOW Californians are not that polite so I know at least this was due to the wretched grumpiness of my dealings with people in China. 
But I loved it so. 


I finally published this post that I started way back at the end of January....

I'm finally back from my whirlwind tour of China with my sister.  When I worked in the consular section in Beijing I always thought it was crazy that Chinese business men would go to America for a week and see 10 American cities.  But, this is the second whirlwind tour of China that I've done, so I guess it's not that crazy.  After spending several days in Chengdu, Sis and I flew to Shanghai.  While in Shanghai we stayed in the French Concession.  Granted we were only there for a day, but Shanghai is a very pretty place, even with snow melting into mud puddles on the street.  As we breezed through (no time to stop and look, we only had a day to see everything we could) the streets I couldn't help but notice the little bakeries, the small clothing shops, and even tinier coffee shops.
Unfortunately we had to whisk ourselves right out of the French Concession and into the very heart of Shanghai.
It is easy to see how Shanghai can be considered to be one of the cities of the future.  It is growing at an amazing rate, clean and modern.  In comparison to Chengdu, traffic flows nicely, people follow traffic laws, and pedestrians stay on the side walks and in cross walks (for the most part).  The Shanghainese are fashion conscious and stylish. 
When I see Shanghai, I am reminded again how Americans are losing sight of what's important.  Yes, American cities are at a disadvantage, after all how many US cities can boast a population of several million people, but still, the city center in Shanghai is bustling.  Lights, shops, eateries, all centered around a fairly busy pedestrian street.  The subways are clean and efficient, and there are buses that connect the distant parts of the city (so I'm told, Chinese busses still scare me, the maps are in Chinese, and the streets often fly by too fast to read a map). 
Seeing all this, I wonder what the world expo was like.  I'm sorry I missed it, I've been told it was a sight to behold.