Historical Xingzhuang image courtesy of Jin Aowen’s blog

I’ve moved. I am now living in the south western outskirts of Shanghai in the neighborhood of Xinsong, in the bigger neighborhood of Xingzhuang see a map, in the district of Minhang. Recently I transferred to a private kindergarten near here, and because the commute was way too long and the lease on the old place was up, it was time to move.

Searching for an apartment was quite the ordeal. One of the first places I found, the day after signing a lease, informed me (via my Chinese coworker/helper) that they can’t allow foreigners to live there. Some technicality about the building being owned by a factory. The day after I found another place I liked even better, but this time the renter was trying to sublet.

Finally, after much searching and many apartments (some of which would never pass an inspection in the U.S.), I settled on the place I’m in now. The flat is clean, recently remodeled, very quiet at night, and very close to a variety of shops and restaurants.

As best I can tell there are no westerners living within 2-3 miles of me, so it feels like I’m really in China here as compared to downtown Shanghai. I’m stared and pointed at all the time by local kids. It’s only about 25 minutes to the new school by foot, 10 minutes by bike. Best of all, it’s only slightly more expensive than what I was paying for a room in a shared apartment. It’s great to be in my own place, and away from that noisy intersection.

For an interesting read about the history (with photos) of Xingzhuang, click here.

Meanwhile, an opposite extreme of Shanghai weather and temperatures is exerting its influence now. Where summer was extremely hot and rainy, winter is incredibly cold and windy. What hasn’t changed is the humidity, which seems to be high nearly year-round except for a brief time in the spring and autumn. I’m grateful for the south-facing patio and large windows of my apartment.

I took these while riding my bike from my former neighborhood to my new. I was trying to catch that skyline behind me…didn’t realize a truck was passing by.

It took me three hours to go about 16 miles due to traffic and getting off route a few times. I had to traverse several huge spaghetti-like highway overpasses, and saw construction in many places—more new buildings.

Everywhere you look are endless rows of tall apartment/condo buildings, some fancy some ugly, right next to old small run-down dwellings. It’s a very different experience than taking the subway.

Oh, I passed a street-butcher’s shop during my bike ride too, which I found to be quite fascinating, but I decided to spare you the images of that.

My sense is that there are more people living here than the publicized 23 million, as governments of highly populated countries tend to understate the amounts.

One of my Chinese friends said there are about 13 million native Shanghainese, 13 million from other provinces, and about 20,000 foreigners living here — a total of about 26 milion. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn there are more like 28 or 30 million.

On the left side of the above photo is my clothes washer. It is so tiny—notice my shoe next to it. After several loads, it does the job.

On the right side of the above photo is my propane water heater for the whole apartment. I believe all homes in China have and use this same machine. As you can see, it’s also tiny. Its design leaves little distinction between hot and cold at the faucet, it took me a week to find the right setting so I wasn’t scalding or freezing in the shower.

Ongoing Food Discoveries

Here is a partially edible bamboo called gan zhe. You peel the outside and chew the inside, but you have to spit out the pulp. It’s *very* sweet.

The photo above is a fruit called dragon fruit in English. The inside resembles a kiwi in texture but not in flavor—this fruit tastes as bland as its gray color.

And above is Chinese sinus and throat medicine called niu huang shang qing wan. It is basically a lump of bitter black herbs and comes in a small white plastic ball. it tastes awful and I’m not sure it really does anything, or maybe my sinuses were so bad I didn’t notice.

Thanks for reading. China has now blocked wordpress.com—the platform I use for this blog (my sis is posting this for me), in addition to Facebook and YouTube—so I might not be able to respond to any blog comments for a while, but please do leave them as I get notified about them by email.

And of course you’re always welcome to send me an email too!