Recent happenings.

IMG_2812 I took the kids to the Urban Planning Exhibition on a recent school-free Wednesday afternoon. This exhibit was created for the World Expo in 2010 and painted a very glossy picture of Shanghai (propaganda?).  One floor displayed a miniature Shanghai which took up a great deal of space.

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I also took them to an art workshop where they were free to select an activity … then be ‘guided’ just a little too much about what to do.  This is something that bugs me with the Chinese approach to teaching which seems to be a ‘do this’ approach rather than encouraging discovery and mistakes.

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daughter + son = hao/good

This week I discovered why so many people have come up to me to point out that having one son and one daughter is ‘good’: If something is good, the Chinese describe it as 好 (hăo). The character for hao consists of 女 (nǚ) daughter and子 (zĭ) son.

This is a good example of language truly influencing thought.

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Eating noodles and dumplings – at the same time!  Check-out the chopstick technique of our 3-year-old.

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My wonton wrapping technique is getting better.

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After visiting Shenshan mountain just outside of Shanghai we ate at a local restaurant in the Spring sunshine. We finally tasted toad – we think!

IMG_2813 IMG_2816Here’s my latest culinary discovery: custom made soup.  After choosing from a huge selection of vegetables, tofu, meat, quail eggs, noodles…and putting them in a basket they are all weighed and then boiled in a huge pot of stock before being ladled into a bowl and garnished with sesame paste, chili sauce….. It tasted better than it looked.  The MSG perhaps?

‘Shanghighs’:  Taking a yoga class again after a very long break.  Yoga is becoming incredibly popular over here.

‘Shanglows’: Rain, rain and more rain.

‘Shangunusuals’: We have met with 2 of Sebastien’s university class mates who are now living here in Shanghai as well as one friend from his home town who was passing through- such a small world!

Yuan Xiao – Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the lunar year which marks the last day of the Chinese New Year season.  This fell on the 14th of February this year.  Traditionally people go into the streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon, watching lions or dragons dancing, and lighting up firecrackers.

The children’s school celebrated the lantern festival and here are a few snap shots from last week:

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A few of the children were a little frightened of the energetic dragon dance.  My son loved it!

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Tangyuan is the special food for the Lantern Festival which is a  sweet or savory dumpling made of sticky rice flour filled (or not) with stuffing of sugar/walnuts/vegetables, tangerine peel, meat…..(About.com).  The round shape symbolizes family unity, completeness and happiness.  The act of making the rice dumplings (these particular ones were filled with red bean paste) was much more fun than eating them!

Shanghighs‘: Ben our driver kindly offered us a batch of shaomai – yummy rice and pork dumplings.  He modestly said that they were much better than those we’d tasted in the streets…. and he was right!

Shanglows‘: Firecrackers at all hours!

Shangunusuals‘:  The book I’m reading is helping demystify the popularity of dishes such as Tangyuan: ‘Shark’s fin and sichuan pepper – A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China‘ (Fuchsia Dunl0p) mentions that ‘it takes several years of quite dedicated Chinese eating, in my experience, to begin to appreciate texture for itself……many of the grandest Chinese delicacies…are essentially about texture.’ and so perhaps one day I just might like some of the gelatinous, sticky, slimy, chewy Chinese delicacies.

Back from the Philippines

We spent a week on perhaps one of the least developed islands of the Philippines – Palawan – in a small fishing village called Langogan.

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After a squashy 2-hour bus ride from the airport we arrived in the fishing village which, apart from our 4-bedroom ‘hotel’, received no tourists at all. There we enjoyed :

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Fishing with the locals followed by…..

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… a picnic of freshly grilled fish on the beach!

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… and some snorkeling.

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And later in the week some hiking in the lush forest…

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..where the Caabay family insisted that we join them for a cup of their home-grown, roasted and ground coffee which was delicious.  The locals were most welcoming.

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Some canoeing among the mangrove trees.

Plus some coconut sipping on the beach, swinging in the hammock, collecting tamarind pods, planting mangrove trees, and seeing monkeys, huge lizards, a snake swallowing a frog, and hearing geckos sing.

This was all thanks to Claude (French-Canadian) and his wife Marichu (Filipino) and their team at Mangrove resort who cooked, guided, and even baby-sat for us during our stay.  The food was based on rice, pork and seafood and included: grilled fish, crab, adobo– pork stewed in vinegar and garlic, sinigang – sour tamarind soup, pinakbet – pumpkin, string beans, egplant, okra seasoned with garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes and shrimp paste and, for dessert, lots of papaya.

We also met some very nice guests from all over the world while at the resort (including a few from Shanghai!).

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Thank you Mangrove Resort.

Now we are back in Shanghai … where it is snowing!