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April 8th 2016
Published: April 8th 2016
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I woke up Thursday morning at 5am, which apparently was my new normal wake-up time, and did my usual routine of work, gym, and getting ready before breakfast. Once again I stuffed my face at the buffet - my low-cal start to the day included a Japanese beef soup, sesame ball, kim chi, Singapore friend noodles, air-dried beef, shrimp shumai, sushi, and a few other things washed down with coffee and watermelon juice. I had to refrain from a full plate of seconds.

The morning in the office was again fairly leisurely, with only a couple hours of training before it was already time for lunch. My coworker Xiuran invited me out with him for a sort of street food from a hole in the wall own the street. "Not healthy, but I like it", as he described it ;-) The stall was a legit hole in the wall with three people working inside it making fresh pancakes and frying chicken. Doing a bit of research I think what I had was a variation of jianbing, a popular street food throughout China, but particularly in Beijing. Egg is spread over the crepe-esque pancake batter and then topped with green onion and some unknown spices before being topped with a number of options, in this case chopped up fried chicken. A fried wonton is also added to give each bite and extra crunch. The giant pancake is then folded over several times to make a hand-held burrito-sized lunch on the go. It was a little on the messy side but delicious and super filling. I was sure I'd be feeling nauseated within a couple hours, but I ended up feeling just fine...for the time being at least. Onward with more food!

With a brick of fried food in my stomach I finished off the rest of the afternoon of training and was out of the office by 6:30. My plans to go out for street food were foiled by a coworker's cold, but three of my other colleagues were kind enough to meet me at Shanghai Super Brand Mall, a casual 13-story behemoth of a mall right in the thick of Pudong's famous skyscrapers. I stopped back at the hotel to drop off my bag and decided to enjoy the 25-or-so-minute walk instead of braving the metro and having to transfer during what was still rush hour in the city. The trip back to the hotel may have been connected to the aforementioned fried chicken as well...Once there the first stop was dinner in the food court. I had read about a place called Food Opera, basically an all-Asian food court with representatives from a number of countries - Hong Kong Dim Sum, Taipei Street Food, Malaysian Curry, and many more. You put an amount on a card when you enter and hand over your card at each separate restaurant, then turn in you card at the end and either pay more or get money back. I clearly hadn't had enough dumplings by this point, so my first stop was at the Shanghainese place for crab-stuffed soup dumplings, the usual squirty mess but absolutely delicious. Shanghai is famous for its local hairy crabs; it isn't quite crab season so crab dumplings would have to suffice. My other dish was from the dim sum place - chicken feet! It was a tough call between that and beef tripe, but I figured I needed chicken feet at least once while in China. While I've had chicken feet in the U.S. and though they were ok, nothing special other than the fact that eating chicken feet is weird, I actually really enjoyed these, especially the sauce they were in.

After the meal I wanted to check out the grocery store in the mall just to see what kind of fun things I might want to pick up before heading back to the states. With the duck feet snacks and cucumber and roasted squid Lay's I was already more than satisfied with stuff to pick up- we'll see what all I can fit! The other parts of the mall were mostly international stores you could find in Europe and the U.S., so instead of moseying around there we headed outside for some photo opps with the Pearl of the Orient Tower. To finish the night we walked over a couple blocks to the Jin Mao tower, the top 30 or so floors of which belong to the Shanghai Grand Hyatt. On floor 87, the very top, is Cloud 9, a high end bar with sweeping views of the Bund and surrounding skyline. As luck would have it it was ladies' night, so Kate and Neon got in free while Joe and I each paid 150RMB, around 23 bucks, to get in. The good part is that the drinks you buy are deducted from that. This was of course a "team-building" activity so it was being expensed either way. Despite the fact that it was a supposed 5-star bar at an international chain, the service was atrocious. We ended up getting a free thing of fries for it, but in what felt like 5 hours I only managed to go through one martini, as ordering a 2nd drink would have added 5 more hours to the evening, and it was already almost 11. It was on the cloudier side, but the views were still spectacular. By 11:30 we called it a night and I started the trek back to my hotel.

The next morning I forced myself to get up at 5:30 so I could finish my putting together presentations for the day, have breakfast and check out. No gym, but whatever. I would be flying to Wuhan, 2 hours to the west by plane, in the afternoon and staying there overnight, so I had to check out. I'd be back for one more night on Saturday and one more breakfast on Sunday, thank Buddha. That morning's breakfast was perhaps the least interesting, but new things included a kim chi soup with seafood rice sticks, sweet purple potatoes, and a meat bun. By 10 I was in the office and back to training, and before I knew it it was 12:30 and it was time to leave the Shanghai office for the last time. From there I was switching gears and accompanying my colleague Jackie, on the student recruitment team, with two recruitment events, one in Shanghai and one in Wuhan. Before we left we grabbed a quick bite at ....Subway...since it's in our office building and is quick. I was hoping for strange Chinese sandwich options, but the only thing that I didn't recognize was a "seafood sensation" sandwich, presumably with imitation crab salad. I opted for chicken teriyaki to at least pretend I was eating legitimate Asian food. Still pathetic.

From the office we took a cab west across the river to the Jing'an district, another of Shanghai's central districts. The district is named after the famous Jing'An temple, an ancient traditional Chinese Buddhist temple originally constructed in 247AD. It's been moved, relocated, and made over a few times since then, including being turned into a plastic factory during the cultural revolution, but it's still a site to be seen even if only a small portion, if any, of the original structure is still intact.

The recruitment event I was helping out with was for one of our main agents, GEA. Instead of renting out an event space it's much cheaper to use local cafes and restaurants, so in this case we took over a restaurant/cafe called Magnet. The 40 or so agents received all kinds of swag from our partner universities and Jackie presented for a couple hours on the selling points of our 8 partner universities. At the very end I had a 30 minute stint discussing admissions procedure. Obviously she did everything in Chinese and I presented in English. I hope everyone spoke enough English to understand! What they were clear on was the fact that I was dripping sweat, and one of the listeners came up to me to offer a me a napkin. Horrifying.

At the end of the presentation we learned our flight would be delayed, so that plus the fact that we ended early meant that we could go check out the Jing'an Temple and also have a nice dinner in the city. The temple was just up the street and cost 50RMB to get in - per usual I was paid for, and I'm really hoping my colleagues are expensing all of this. Not that it's much money but I feel bad! Anyway the temple was really cool - we burnt incense as an offering to Buddha and strolled around the grounds and up into the main temple where the giant golden Buddha statue was.

From there we headed to dinner. Jackie heard I was down for whatever food wise so she thought it would be good to try Chinese style crayfish and crab. I obviously was 100% down. First came a gorgeous plate of crayfish in a spicy broth. In twisting the first tail of one off I immediately sprayed brown juices all over my shirt, pants, and in my eye. Shortly after came the almost full-body clear plastic bib. Too late!

Next came a crab, which apparently I was eating wrong, so when the next two Shanghai-style crabs came Jackie went through the proper steps of removing the shell, cracking it in half to get the roe, clearing out the gills, then going to town on whatever meat you could find. Also accompanying the crustaceans were two dishes of unknown greens, one with red peppers and a smokey sliced pork, the other with sliced rice cake noodles and pork. Everything was amazing. We washed it all down with cups of hot water since apparently that's a thing, probably because water needs to be boiled before consuming it.

From there it was into a taxi and off to the airport for our flight to Wuhan!

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8th April 2016

Chicken feet!
Besides your great-grandmother, you are the only person I know that could enjoy eating chicken feet! I absolutely loved your descriptions of all the food you ate!

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