It's Really Not That Bad...

I was walking down the street and this guy passed me. I couldn't help but take a picture because on top of the heavy load he is carrying, it's sticky humid here in Shanghai.

I have only one thing to say: The next time you're complaining about your job or think you're having a bad day, remember this guy. Enough said!

Trenia's Finale:
This finale is pretty random and clearly for our amusement, but just go with it. I want everyone (including Dean Rutherford) who reads this to comment and respond to this question: If you could have any power (as in superhero kind of power), what would it be and why? If you cannot comment on the blog, please send me an email and I will post your comment for you. Now on your mark, get set, GO!!!

Welcome to my world...expo-sure!!!

So You Think You Can Dance?

Picture it: I'm walking down the street, feeling a little blue because my day didn't end on as positive of a note as I would have liked. What do I stumble upon? A group of ladies from the neighborhood participating in a line dance. And I don't mean a half-hearted, random line dance...I mean a full-on, synchronized routine encouraged by a CD player blasting a jam that would be the equivalent of our Electric or Cha-Cha Slide. As I approached the women I was on the phone with Becca describing the scene and I put her on hold so that I could locate my camera. In the meantime, the ladies (who at this point can see the enormous grin on my face) are smiling and waving at me which made the scene even more of a treat. I took my camera out and snapped a few pictures and then stood and watched for a moment. It was then that I realized that the women were older and from their hand motions and level of focus it became clear that they were exercising! How amazing is that?

Fast forward to our weekend trip to Hangzhou. We've had a great day complete with boat rides, a visit to an island, a museum tour, and lunch with some river snails (ask me about it later). Our day ends with a leisurely stroll (leisurely because we were enjoying iced mocha's) and what do see as we are trying to figure out who is in control of a kite that could easily be mistaken for a UFO (I mean this thing had lights that not only changed colors but also faded in and out like a slide on a PowerPoint presentation...yes I said it, and don't act like you don't think that's cool)? Another dance line! Only this time, there were at least 45 women, and they had their own mound that was devoted to their routine. Now ask yourself, what would Trenia do in this situation? If you said join in and try to learn the routine, pat yourself on the back until I can get there! Becca joined me, and we had such a good time trying to learn the steps to what I have named the Chinese Stomp!

Trenia's Finale:
I leave you with excerpts from a song by Lee Ann Womack that captures exactly what I want to say:

"I Hope You Dance"

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted

I hope you still feel small
When you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking

When you get close to selling out

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

No matter what your "dance" may be, I do hope you take the time to dance.

Welcome to my world...expo-sure!!!

Did You Miss Me?

I know it’s been a while since you've heard from me and for that, I apologize. I plan on making it up to you! I thought I would try something new with this post…you know, make it worth the wait! I decided it might be interesting to keep a running list of random things that I see or myths that are dispelled or things that I learn over the summer, and since I’m keeping a blog, I felt it appropriate to publish my lists here at various times. After almost three weeks in Shanghai, I think I can begin my list. Here goes!

SURPRISE, I’m not a giant!!!
I am five feet, eight inches tall with a thirty-four inch inseam…to be clear, I’m pretty tall. I thought I would be a giant in China, but I was wrong! Don’t get me wrong, a few people have made hand gestures concerning my height but I’m not nearly as tall as I thought I would be. In Shanghai, people vary in height, and a number of Shanghai natives are my height or taller. In one conversation about our height a girl explained that it’s all about nutrition. She said the people of Shanghai eat really well (I can testify) and as a result, they grow! Other parts of the country may not be so fortunate which provides some explanation of why a majority of the Asian population is shorter than average.

What Did You Just Say?
I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but I like to talk. As a matter of fact, I have grown to love talking so much that I have failed to appreciate the value of non-verbal communication because I have not had to depend on it very much in my lifetime. That has all changed. Being here in China has certainly sharpened my non-verbal skills. Although I wish I could speak the language so that I could converse with everyone, I am really amazed at what can be communicated without any words at all.

Cultural Differences Do Matter
Have you ever been enjoying a nice lunch or dinner with friends or family and had to talk over someone who is slurping their soup or pasta at the next table? Have you ever walked down the street and come really close to someone spitting on you? Since I have been in China, I have and initially I thought people were being inconsiderate but then I noticed that everywhere I went the same things were happening. Then it hit me: these were cultural differences! In the spring I took a couple of classes at both the Clinton School and the law school that focused on cultural differences. At the law school, a class titled the Law and Cultural Competency was all about the existence and effect of cultural differences on our actions and reactions to others and of course, how this plays out in the legal system. Dynamics of Social Change at the Clinton School was all about ways in which cultural differences play a role in our abilities to incite positive social change. I appreciated these classes because they opened my eyes to the fact that cultural differences play a major role in our everyday interactions…whether we realize it or not.

Guess Who?
Before coming to China I often joked about who I would be mistaken for during my time here. Thus far, I am pleased to report the following “sightings”:

  • While in Hangzhou, I started a non-verbal dialogue with a daughter, mother and grandmother. The grandmother was a sweet little lady who made it clear that she thought I was a basketball player by making hand gestures of a ball being thrown into a hoop.

  • Two older gentlemen seemed to think I was someone famous (I decided an actress or model) as they spent the majority of a boat ride posing in pictures with me and slyly capturing me on video.
  • And of course, just days ago while out at one of the larger markets here in Shanghai, two Australians called me Michelle Obama. After that, Mircha thought it would be amusing to tell various shop owners that I was the first lady or her relative.

Some Like It Hot
Who doesn’t enjoy a cool refreshing beverage with lunch or dinner? Well, one thing I’ve learned to enjoy during my stay in China is a hot comforting beverage with my meals. This usually entails some amazing tea but could also be a cup of hot water. You see, here it is widely understood that cold drinks are not good for the stomach, so you should drink something warm to aid in the digestive process. I’m going to be honest: I’ve tried it, and I like it. I may never go back to cold drinks again (save a vanilla bean or mocha frappuccino and the occasional icee). The next time you sit down for a good meal, do me a favor and trade that ice cold beverage for a cup of hot tea or water. Trust me your body will thank both of us!

All right, I think that just about does it for me this time around but stay tuned, the lessons keep coming and another list is bound to be right around the corner.

Trenia’s Finale:
One of my classmates, David Monteith, gave every person in the class a book (or two) for his birthday (he’s just that kind of guy). Monteith decided to give us books from his personal library that reminded him of us for any reason (our personality, the country we would be in over the summer, etc.). I received two books, one of which is The WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Survival Handbook. Now for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book, just know that it is hilarious; maybe not on the surface, but adding a little dialogue to it makes it a real riot.

The very first chapter of the book is all about great escapes and right out of the gate the authors tell you how to escape from quicksand. In just a couple of pages the madness that is quicksand is explained with pictures. I completely appreciate the fact that anyone could fall prey to quicksand because let’s be honest, anything could happen. My issue with the book’s escape plan is that you have to have a huge stick with you and you will need to use this stick to position your body so that you can float on top of the quicksand. First of all, if I am simple enough to get trapped in quicksand, am I really going to have a big stick with me? For the heck of it, let’s just say that I do have this stick with me. Am I going to be strong enough to pull myself out of the quicksand and into a floating position? Is it realistic for the authors to expect that from me?

Anyway, I’ll leave that alone and make this point: metaphorically speaking, we have all experienced some quicksand in our lives. How do we handle it? My advice on how to escape the quicksand of life is to stay calm and rely on our “big stick” (spiritual beliefs, family, friends, etc.) to help us float our way out instead of becoming overwhelmed and eventually sinking. Marinate on that!

Welcome to my world…expo-sure!!!

Cupping 101

Last Monday started off as a regular day (if that’s possible in Shanghai): I woke up, showered, got dressed and headed to work with plans to meet Becca for a possible massage. Some of the ladies that Becca works with had decided that they wanted to get massages, and of course we said we would join. After debriefing from Saturday’s meeting at work, I headed out to meet Becca. Becca and I walked to a predetermined location and met up with Eva and Chelsea (from Becca’s art gallery). That is when the day turned into a real treat.

This massage that we were headed to was not just any massage. I mean, why would it be, we’re in Shanghai! We were about to partake in a Chinese body massage followed by a cupping massage. For your understanding, I will tell you a little bit about both. A Chinese body massage is like a regular body massage on steroids. This small Chinese woman came in and started rubbing my back, just like a massage therapist normally would, and then she pulled out her arsenal, which included thumbs, elbows, and other portions of her hands. I am not kidding you when I tell you that she hit every single pressure point that I have (and some I think she might have borrowed from someone else just for fun) and just when I was starting to appreciate her hands, she pulled out yet another surprise. She told me to turn over on my back and after positioning my legs to her liking, she grabbed my arms, rocked my entire body twice, and then all I heard was a series of cracks. This wonderful woman went from my sides to my neck and realigned my entire body! I was dumbfounded!

The Chinese body massage went on for an hour and then it was time for the cupping. Cupping is an ancient Chinese practice that is often used for medicinal purposes. It is said to have a host of benefits, including: improved microcirculation of blood and lymph; increased activity of metabolic processes; and overall improvement of patient's health. Who wouldn’t want to receive these benefits? As you can see from the pictures, a flame is used to warm a cup (or what looks like a small jar to me) that is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced (by using change in heat or by suctioning out air), so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. I have never done anything like that before in my life, but I definitely want to do it again. I feel great!!!

After our massages, we had lunch and then visited Chelsea at a studio that she and a team were painting for an upcoming art show. Eva met us there and we darted off for another walk to a Danish art show. Unfortunately, the show had been rescheduled. We made the best of it and walked back to Chelsea’s place and in route, passed a Louis Vuitton store that looked to be about 5-6 stories high and was built to resemble a piece of luggage…who knew that was even possible? We ended the evening over buy one get one burgers and fries…not a bad day AT ALL!!!

Trenia’s Finale:
As I walk home from work, I’ve noticed some very consistent behavior. In the evenings, it seems customary for families, couples and even several generations to get out and walk together. While I can’t say where they may be going, I have seen young couples, mother-daughter-grandchild trios, moms and dads with their little ones and even father and/or mother-in-laws with married couples walking along engaging in conversation or random play every evening on my walk home. It saddens me that this is something that I am not used to seeing. My question is why don’t we do more of this? Are we missing out on the best things in life because we’re too busy to stop what we’re doing and take a walk with our loved ones? I know I have been guilty of this, and I am chastising myself for that. It was just a thought that I wanted to share with you…

Welcome to my world…expo-sure!!!