Shanghai vs. Seattle

I've been living in Shanghai now for about six months and it's starting to feel like home.  I wondered what I would miss most about Seattle and, of course, besides our wonderful kids and family, my heart aches for my dog, Izaak, that we had to leave behind with Hannah.  Though I know he gets lots of love from Mike & Hannah and his new brother, Ollie, the Great Dane, I miss him so much.  Seeing all the dog crazy people this week in Seattle walking their best friends, I was soooo jealous.  We will get to see him this weekend when we visit Boise and I've already warned Thom he should don a plastic poncho because when Izaak sees him, he is going to jump into his arms for a full body hug and then Thom can expect a warm river of piss to run down his torso as Izaak has a tendency to leak a little when he gets excited.   Nothing says love like sharing some warm urine, right?   We may not miss that little habit so much but we do miss you buddy.

My buddy, Izaak.
My buddy, Izaak.

So, Thom and I are back in Seattle this week, for me to work and for Thom to get a break from China.  We notice the culture contrasts constantly.  For example, this guy in a bathrobe and slippers came trudging onto our elevator at the hotel, all sweaty from the steam room I presume as there is no pool here (am I painting a pretty picture here?).. a Chinese gentleman, of course.  You see, in China, many men in their bathrobes, pj's and slippers walk in the streets of China every day but here in the U.S., it's not a regular sight, thank God, especially in a nicer hotel.  Thom and I just looked at each other and burst out laughing as he wandered to his room.

Staring out my hotel window overlooking downtown Seattle, I just sighed deeply because the bright lights shining in the darkness of the Seattle night are so crisp and clear compared to the eternal grey fog of China that hangs like a veil over everything.  Even on a less than 100 AQI night, the lights don't "pop" out of the dark like they do here.  I miss clean air so much.  WINNER:  SEATTLE

Thom is very committed to take one photo a day as a personal challenge.  Last night before our son James came to visit (and celebrate his upcoming 21st birthday), we walked to Pike Place Market to take some pictures of the bright neon lights.  While at no time have I ever felt uncomfortable or in fear of being attacked in China, I definitely felt that way walking the downtown streets of Seattle.  Having lived here, I have personally witnessed drug deals, people acting out their mental illnesses and actual physical violence.  I have not seen that at all yet in Shanghai.  WINNER:  SHANGHAI

I just spent an hour in Bartell Drugs, the Walgreens of the Pacific NW, and loaded up a cart of first aid supplies (so we can self medicate when Thom hurts himself, which he always does), cheese, sausage, vitamins, Sudafed (for my newly ruptured ear canal that happened when the plane landed) and other miscellaneous items that I just had to have and could not get in China.  I just hope Mr. Customs Officer isn't hungry when he searches my luggage and finds my horde of treats.  WINNER:  SEATTLE

Our first night in town, we immediately went to the supermarket and loaded up on deli--cole slaw, potato salad, broccoli salad, cheese, ham, etc. and had a picnic in our beautiful hotel in downtown Seattle.  I miss my deli, not being much of a cook.  For James early birthday celebration, we got some Cheesecake Factory takeout and watched the Olympics.  Staring at the ENORMOUS portions of cheesecake at the front counter of this very popular restaurant, it occurred to me that everything is bigger here.  The portions we serve in the USA are huge.  Big is not always better (men, and some women, of course might disagree with me on this point) but I do appreciate the confidence I have in eating the food here and drinking the tap water.  WINNER:  SEATTLE

Stepping outside to go get those huge portions at Cheesecake Factory, the sidewalks seemed quiet and, quite frankly, boring.  In Shanghai, every time we step outside we are confronted with a barrage of sites to see.  The people watching on the busy sidewalks is always interesting.  Dancing on the street corners, morning and night, and the masses living their lives on the sidewalks, eating and socializing, is so completely different than life lived here in our comfy heated homes with kitchens and hot running water--luxuries in China.  Just as in NYC, we are never bored in Shanghai.  It's just impossible to see it all but we are giving it a go.  WINNER:  SHANGHAI

Seattle Traffic-5355
Thom's beautiful photo of traffic in downtown Seattle.

We laugh at how polite the drivers are in Seattle, giving pedestrians the right of way.  Here we feel comfortable stepping into the crosswalks when we have the green light to get to the other side of the street.  In Shanghai, that would get you killed.  Any time you walk in the street, you better be nimble because you are a magnet for that bus that is bearing down on you, ready to strike you down.  That being said, I was stuck in traffic for over an hour in the rain getting home from work in Seattle and was missing my subway to whisk me home.  WINNER:  TIE-DRIVERS ARE MORE POLITE IN SEATTLE BUT THEY NEED A SUBWAY!

WATER. AIR. SPORTS. DOGS. MOUNTAINS. HIPSTERS. FOOD.  Seattle has it all but no one said it would be easy in China.  If it was the same, we would be bored and why would we want to be there?  So, despite the chaos and pollution, we both feel we made the right choice to experience a new culture and move to a new country.  Of course, I just read in The Shanghai Daily online edition that the H7N9 bird flu toll continues to climb.  Oh well, I hear fox and donkey meat taste pretty good if chicken is off the menu but perhaps I'll just stick to veggies and carbs.  I'll let Thom eat the donkey!

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