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Archive for September, 2007

Shanghai Rocks

Ok, I have to admit that I had some serious pre-conceived notions about China: stoic, staid, old fashioned, closed, communist, cut-off. Boy, was I wrong. Plain and simple, Shanghai rocks!

Growing up outside New York City, I always compare new cities to Manhattan: skyline, culture, pace, freedom, energy. For the most part, very few cities have ever lived up to my NY expectations. Berlin is pretty cool, London has super energy, Paris is full of culture, and I will always love Rome. I haven’t been there yet, but I have a feeling Hong Kong and Tokyo are both pretty exciting. But, in all my traveling, I had really only been to four cities that even come close to the feeling I get when I walk around New York.

Now I get to make that five, because truly, Shanghai blew my mind.

First of all, the skyline is just fabulous:

And the city is just pulsing with energy:

The Bund

Every area of the city has it’s own unique culture, from the refined French Concession, to the grand feeling on the Bund, to the cosmopolitan glamor of Pudong, to the traditional Chinese neighborhoods that I imagined before I arrived:

The mix of old and new, Western and Eastern was just amazing for me. I never expected Shanghai to be so modern and traditional at once and I certainly never expected to feel so at home there…

Unfortunately I only had a brief three days to explore and most of that time I was busy, busy, busy at the best educational conference I’ve been to in a looooong time. Thankfully, my Chinese visa allows me a second entry before Febuary 2008, so if I can force myself to brave the cold, I just might have to go back again…

Image 1: http://www.ahyap.com/blog/images/shanghai.jpg
Image 3: http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/christopher.hsee/vita/Pictures/OldTown.jpg

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Photo Hunt: Paper

As a technology teacher, I’m not too fond of paper. Here in the tropics paper molds very quickly, paper gets ripped and dirty, paper gets lost, paper can be hard to share given it’s physical (and not virtual, and therefore infinite) presence, when I use paper I have to actually handwrite (something that I have become increasingly worse at over the years), I could go on and on. I like things that are digital.

Alas, we are not quite at the all-digital world I dream of. So, for now, my only acceptable form of paper is books:

Bookshelf

And we have a lot of books. Already, in just a few weeks here in Bangkok, we have accumulated piles of books (although many of them did come with us from the US this summer). I’m a pretty fast reader and I’ve developed a liking for non-fiction, which is why you’ll see so many business/technology titles in my photo for this week. Unfortunately I tend to buy so many books that I never have time to finish them all. Currently on my list are:

* Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger
* Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
* Linked by Albert-Lazlo Barabasi
* Emergence by Steve Johnson
* Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins
* Small Pieces Loosely Joined by David Weinberger
* Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
* Re-Imagine by Tom Peters
* Millennials Rising by Neil Howe and William Strauss
* Growing up Digital by Don Tapscott
* Not on Our Watch by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast
* The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
* Incendiary Circumstances by Amitav Ghosh
* Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
* Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience
* Teaching for Understanding with Technology
* Building Online Learning Communities
* Wired Shut: Copyright and the Digital Culture
* The Culture Code
* Generation Digital

What kinds of paper do you have at home?

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Alex and I spent this past weekend relaxing in minimalist luxury at my favorite little boutique hotel, Luxx, in downtown Bangkok (pictures here). Last week was so crazy that I just felt like I had to get away for a few days. Plus we had to head down to the immigration office for my re-entry permit to Thailand just a little too early Saturday morning, so it really was the most practical idea for the weekend (she rationalizes).

We stayed at this same hotel back in January when we came to Bangkok to Minimalist Styleinterview for my current job. We loved how small the place is (only 13 rooms) and the sleek, minimalist style of the rooms, so this time we sprung for a suite! The best part is that they serve breakfast in bed every day! Even though I love a good buffet, it’s pretty hard to beat breakfast in bed when you’re looking for some serious relaxing.

Another cool feature of the rooms is the huge wooden bathtub with rain showers. The tubs are so big that you can relax in comfort for hours, and when you’re finally ready to rinse off, it feels like you’re standing out in the rain. Our room had the option of opening up the bathroom walls into the rest of the room so you could even watch a movie from the bath!

One of BKK's many mallsAs can be expected, we did some serious shopping and eating while we were out. There are just too many places to go and too much tasty food to eat, I’m afraid we will never have time to experience it all!

This weekend, my official foodie mission was to find a special bakery called Mrs. Sasa’s that a friend recommended before we left so on Sunday we went out to the Emporium (one of the many super luxurious malls here) to check out the delectible brownies that Mrs. Sasa’s has to offer. I’m pleased to report that they did meet my taste expectations, but am frustrated that the store is so far away from my house that I won’t be able to go there as often as I’d like (on second thought… maybe that’s a good thing).

We also had a fabulous birthday dinner for our friend, Vu, at Crepes & Co. down on Sukhumvit. Tasty Mediterranean food (including Moroccan, Greek and French) along with delicious, delicious crepes. For dessert, I had a pear, ice cream and chocolate sauce flambe concoction. Mmmmm… mouth watering….

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Shanghai, Here I Come!

Life has been so busy over the last few weeks that I’ve barely had time to breathe, let along blog (although the two are just about equal in importance, right?). But, I am excited to report that I will be traveling to Shanghai next weekend for the Learning 2.0 Conference!

Unfortunately that also happens to be our second 3-day weekend this year, so I’m missing my chance to hang out at a beautiful Thai beach in favor of smoggy Shanghai, but it’s all for the sake of learning (ehem, and a free trip to Shanghai).

Thankfully my Chinese visa came in today because this weekend I have to go downtown to the Thai Immigration office and request (read: pay for) a re-entry permit into Thailand. It seems that our work permits won’t be done for another few weeks so the handy single entry visa I waited anxiously all summer for has become somewhat useless.

Either way, I get to go to China next weekend! And, while I’m in China, I get to hang out with my wonderful friend Susan, who teaching in Singapore and is also attending the conference.

Where should we go? What should we do?

Image: http://www.city-photo.org/fotodb/17_Shanghai_by_night.jpg

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Photo Hunt: Dirty

After living in Germany for five years, one thing that has always bothered me about living in southeast Asia is how dirty things can be. Not everything, not all the time, but generally speaking, the average KL or Bangkok street is a heck of a lot dirtier than the average street in Munich.

Unfortunately, these countries do not have the same kind of government infrastructure as many European countries do (we even had little mini street sweepers to do the sidewalks and bike lanes in Munich), nor do they have the extensive financial resources to make recycling and garbage pickup a priority (we had recycling containers for glass that included separate bins for white, green, brown, clear, and blue glass on every street corner). Plus, the education piece is still missing – many people in this region of the world (especially in rural areas) do not understand how open sewage and garbage affects the heath of people and the health of the planet.

However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t try their best to make every street as clean and safe as they can. Here in our local neighborhood, our streets are hand swept every day, and each corner has it’s own little set of cleaning supplies:

Dirty

Look closely… You can see that the both the garbage basket and the broom have been handmade out of local materials. What a great way to keep the streets clean!

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