Saturday, May 29, 2010

Busy day

Today was an eventful and busy day. On the way to school this morning I stopped by the Service Desk to request a repair to our hot water heater. Cold shower this morning, BRRRR! Why was I going to school? It was our annual International Day, most for the elementary school students to put together some rocking country-themed classrooms and performances. First thing, though, was playing sumo wrestler for the middle school, which mostly just plays sport and games. Those sumo costumes are heavy and hot! I was exhausted after a short two-minute match. After a rest in the office I met Jodi and Charlotte for a tour of the elementary school, checking out the different countries and snacking on their finger-foods.

Back to the office, I worked on the school internal wiki for a while, editing and designing a new stylesheet with the Stylish extension for Firefox. I had lunch from the coffee shop in the rec center, and then arrived at home to find Maryann napping.

Once she woke up, we changed her clothes and all headed out the door. Jodi met Sandy on the subway, and I took the girls to Zhangyang Rd to pick up a present for the wedding tomorrow. After a quick but worthwhile purchase, we went ahead with my plan to walk all the way to the Huangpu River and boat across. If you walk straight west on Zhangyang Rd you basically can't miss the ferry station, which is where the road reaches a T-intersection at the bank of the river.

Once across in Puxi, we explored the area below and around Fuxing Rd until we found one of my new favorite roads and restaurants, Sipailou Rd and the 蒸功夫 Hunanese restaurant. The friendly waiter recognized us from last time and watched oru stroller while we ate inside. Both girls did a great job eating all of their food, staying neat, and spilling a minimal amount of food and dishes (0) on the floor. For dessert we had a piece of cantaloupe on a stick. Then we further explored the small alleyways of this still-preserved neighborhood south-east of the Yu Gardens, which we eventually spilled out onto.

We spent about 45 minutes at the Yu Garden neighborhood, window shopping, crossing the windy bridge, and buying magnets. Then we grabbed a bus back to Nanjing East Road and took Line 2 directly home, watching a downloaded episode of Ni Hao Kai Lan on my cellphone.

One note: Today I had about half a dozen random people help me getting the stroller up and down stairs, completely spontaneous and of their own volition. This is a high number for Shanghai.

Random photos:

A punny noodle store along the backside of Yu Gardens: "Don't ask (smell) our name, instead see our noodles (face)."

From the Yu Gardens, a view of the World Financial Center. (I know I know, these "contrast" photos are the purview of FOBby foreigners, but I thought this one had minimalist artistic merit too.)

A KFC imitator, ostensibly "Country Chicken".

Ka ora te tangata

Last Saturday I was a Shanghai subway volunteer.


For a few years now I've been a 超级潜水员, a super-lurker, as somebody recently described me, on Metrofans, a Shanghai-based web forum for subway system enthusiasts (compare: 117 posts on Metrofans since 2006, and 287 posts on Zhangjiang BBS in less than 2 years). A couple years ago I attended an outing organized by the BBS to celebrate the opening of Line 6, had a good time and met some cool people. Lately I've been thinking about practicing my Chinese and getting out of the house a bit more, so I'd been looking for a chance to join another activity. It just happened that on a night I was thinking about this sign-ups for last week's biweekly volunteer activity were opened. After a quick post and private message to the organizer, I was added to the list and noted the time and place on my calendar: People's Square main hall Expo countdown at 2:45.

People's Square main hall Expo countdown at 2:45

Sure enough, by 2:30 a group of young people had formed and I introduced myself to the organizer, who goes by 周瑜的地铁 on the forums. A couple people recognized me from the last time, but most faces were new to me. The volunteers tended to be male (there were 2 girls out of 20-something total), college students or fresh graduates, and very nerdy. There was also a sociology student from ECNU who is carrying out research on this kind of community who I chatted with for a bit.

周瑜的地铁 and ECNU sociology student

Volunteer vests were handed out and we were directed toward the light blue line.

The vests are red and say 上海志愿者 on the back.

We dropped our stuff off in the Line 8 control room back room which, by the way, is full of Buddhist paraphernalia: calendars, altars, statues…

And then the real work began.

By design, first-timers are assigned to stations with more experienced volunteers, so I was at a larger set of turnstiles with two other forum moderators who had volunteered before. Other volunteers helped passengers buying tickets at the ticketing machines, and some were assigned to wander the station and answer questions. Interesting things about manning the 'stiles:

  • The volume of people exiting the station can be high, so the key is to anticipate who will need help inserting their ticket or dealing with ticket trouble. A couple criteria: young, urban people are generally OK; people with public transportation charge cards are generally OK.
  • Common card trouble includes: not knowing where to stick the ticket, trying to swipe a single journey ticket, having a ticket rejected for not inserting it properly, having a ticket rejected for not having the right fare or being demagnetized.
  • Most common question from people asking for directions: "Where is/which way to People's Square?"
  • There are police patrolling the People's Square station on Segways. They come in pairs.
  • Being a white person volunteering, it was amusing that locals and urban people tended to go to my partners for directions or questions, while WDR and rural people did not discriminate, expecting me to be able to speak Chinese as naturally as if I was a local. Also, being white and smiling at people as they exit has a tendency to make them forget to take swipe their card and run into a still-engaged turnstile.
  • A reporter from the 青年报 stopped to interview us.
  • Things you may have wondered about: it doesn't matter if you insert your ticket upside-down or rightside-up; and the turnstiles are smart enough to count N swipes and tickets, and then let N people go through. Still, don't tailgate the person in front of you because they could miss and then would exit on your swipe!
  • The sketch I made of the People's Square subway station and the location of its exits came in very handy. Most people figure out which line they need to take, but a lot of people need directions about which exit will take them to their final destination.

My map was hand-drawn into my Line 2 pocket notebook.

Obviously I didn't want to take any pictures on the job, but here's an example of another volunteer who was still going as we walked back to the meeting point at the end of our two hour shift.

I worked by the turnstiles too.

Here's a group photo taken before we said goodbye for the day:

Aren't we smooth?

Something cool is by the next day there was an active post on the forum where people reflected on their volunteer experiences and shared funny or moving stories that had happened to them that day. It was a fun way to vicariously live out other people's volunteer experiences.

If you're interested in doing something similar, I suggest that you sign up for Metrofans and spend a while learning about the community. Also, you must be 18 years old and it really helps if you can speak good Chinese.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Management plan during the Expo

The following post has been pinned at the top of each Metrofans subforum for over a month now. The translation is mine:



  1. 关闭游客访问本站功能。
  2. 即日起,本站发现不和谐内容的帖子将直接删除,删除时若写名删除理由的,以删除理由为准。若没有写明理由的,则为上级要求批量删除。
  3. 因内容不和谐而被被删除的帖子,不接受任何投诉,反复纠缠者,直接禁发言。
  4. 即日起,关于安检的内容,只得发布合理的建议和意见或者是工作不足的监督。不得在本站发布任何关于安检的负面消息,例如质疑、批判、抵制、内部揭发。任何版主有权利删除安检负面信息,且不接受投诉。
  5. 即日起,加强对会员的监督管理。凡是对论坛非重要问题反复纠缠的;挑拨会员情绪、破坏论坛气氛的;对管理成员故意挑刺、挑衅的等,都将被直接禁止访问。被禁止后不接受任何投诉,注册马甲再纠缠的,直接封马甲。
  6. 新发帖子,世博会不得使用有歧义的字母,如需要使用拼音,请使用“shibo会”
  7. 各版均会加强审核与管理,若发生不便,请给予理解。本规定不接受任何评论,若无法接受,可自便。



Management plan during the Expo

In order to cooperate with the relevant departments, in light of this website's actual status, and to better manage the forum, effective immediately and for the duration of the Expo (April 19 to November 15) the Shanghai Metrofans site will implement the following policies:

  1. Close the site to unregistered users.
  2. Beginning today, unharmonious posts will be summarily deleted. A written justification may be given. If no written justification is forthcoming, it is because the post was recommended for bulk deletion by the authorities.
  3. No appeals will be entertained regarding posts deleted for being unharmonious; repeat offenders will be banned.
  4. Beginning today, all posts on the topic of baggage inspections/X-rays must contain only reasonable recommendations and opinions, or reports of insufficient care in inspection work. Posters must not publish on this site any negative information on the topic of security, such as questions, criticism, boycotts, or exposés. Moderators have the right to remove any negative information on security, and will not entertain any complaints.
  5. Beginning today, the forums will strengthen the supervision and management of members. Posters who repeatedly brings up irrelevant problems; provoke other posters and pollute the atmosphere of the forum; and deliberately create run-ins with moderators will be banned without warning.
  6. When posting about the Expo, do not use characters with double-entendres. If pinyin is required, please write "shibo会".
  7. All subforums will be stricter about approval and moderation. Please forgive any inconveniences. These policies are not up for discussion; if you find them unacceptable you are welcome to leave.

We appreciate the cooperation and support of all members.

Shanghai Metrofans

November 15 is two weeks after the Expo finishes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Third Culture Parent

Went to a very relevant and well-done PD session today on Third Culture Kids. I have complete notes on my laptop. Four comments I want to record here:

First, I keep a list of courses that I would teach in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. One of these is an American culture course for graduating seniors. This is similar to what the speaker mentioned today about having a transition program for arriving/departing TCKs, except her idea was broader and more ambitious. I really liked that idea. But I have no time.

Second, one untapped resource at our school (and this made it a shame that the PD session was one-way) is the large population of grown TCK teachers at SMIC, including myself. It really shouldn't be hard to get a dialog going about the needs and potentials of TCKs, and the different options available to TCKs as they go through life.

IMG_3878 (by Micah Sittig)

Third, it's fun being a TCK father of TCKs. A lot of literature about these kids treat them like an other, to be observed, studied and treated. For our family, being third culture will be part of a natural continuum. One thing I observe already is that strangers who comment on Charlotte and Maryann focus only on the benefits of being a TCK ("oh, they are so lucky to grow up speaking two languages", "they can span both eastern and western cultures"), while blissfully and sadly unaware of and non-conversant in the downsides ("so, what's it like having to change friends every few years", "how do you cope with being an outsider in both of 'your' cultures"). So it's going to be especially important that we have a running dialog about the latter in our household.

Fourth, during the PD presentation the speaker interpreted an episode on the Expo field trip where English-speaking Asian SMIC students refused to answer questions in Chinese from curious bystanders, as evidence of the Screamer mentality. Screamer is one of the three identity coping strategies, where a TCK tends to take on the identity of the other culture in order to differentiate and define themself. I see the episode a different way — so many people are curious about TCKs and yet can't understand them, that it gets tiring trying to explain yourself all the time. Add a bit of Taiwanese-mainlander attitude, a pinch of adolescent reticence, and you have a recipe for the situation described above.

An Expo gift from the city

First, I heard news that said the city of Shanghai would be giving a free Expo ticket and public transportation card to each household in the city. Then I heard that foreign households that had lived in Shanghai for 6 months or more were included. But another source showed photos of city-block-long lines said to be people waiting to claim their free ticket. So I effectively gave up on the idea.

When a notice went up in our apartment lobby, my curiosity was re-piqued. A co-worker mentioned that a friend had taken their passport and employee ID to the front office of our apartment complex and then received tickets through the mail. So a couple evenings ago I grabbed our passports and headed out with Charlotte and Maryann in tow.

Ten minutes later, I walked out of the office with an Expo-themed envelope in hand. It turns out that there were two policemen waiting at a table specifically for this purpose. They recorded our address, the number of people in our household, and our length of stay in Shanghai, asked me to fill out a satisfaction survey about the ticket distribution process, and then handed us the goodies:

IMG_3867 (by Micah Sittig)
A thank-you letter to Shanghai residents

IMG_3868 (by Micah Sittig)
What's inside?

IMG_3874 (by Micah Sittig)
A map of Shanghai.

IMG_3875 (by Micah Sittig)
A small folder titled "2010 Shanghai World Expo". Inside is…

IMG_3876 (by Micah Sittig)
A thank-you note from the city government and CCP Shanghai Committee, and…

IMG_3870 (by Micah Sittig)
A commemorative public transport card in one pocket.

IMG_3873 (by Micah Sittig)
And an Expo ticket in the other.

I hear that these tickets are being distributed on a rotating schedule by district and that Pudong was scheduled early, so keep your eyes and ears open for your chance to claim one. Comparing it with our other tickets, it's no different from the other regular entrance tickets: good for one adult for the entire duration of the Expo except the May and October holidays month of June only. I suspect that tickets for other districts will be for July, August, and so on.

The funny thing is that Jodi and I are collecting Expo tickets like crazy without meaning to. Originally I bought four discounted pre-sale tickets through my school, then the school gave us one ticket as a gift, then the school's social committee used their budget to buy each teacher another ticket, then Jodi got two tickets free from her school, and then the city government handed us the ticket shown above. That's a total of 9 tickets. And if my recent visit to the Expo was any indication, we'll use every single one of them.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

We all scream

Here's a flier that was dropped in our mailbox recently. It's from an ice-cream wholesaler who probably typically sells to small stores, but is trying to tap the B2C market as well. Full-size is available on click-through:

icecream-wholesale (by Micah Sittig)

A lot of familiar names on there because we like ice cream! It's tempting to order a box of 21 Magnum bars for RMB 100, I think we're going to pass. I'm sure we'd eat them all eventually, but… actually that's the very reason!