International schooling experience in Shanghai

My daughter has started going to school, for 3 weeks or so now. The experience has been good so far, though the change for her has been extreme: 2.5 hours a day, 3 days a week in US, to 8 hours a day (with 2 snacks, 1 lunch, and a nap included), 5 days a week in Shanghai – could challenge anyone, not to talk of a 4-yr old! However, she has coped reasonably well. Her enthusiasm of new school was visible in first few days of her start; she was bubbly and excited. However, 5 days into it, and she refused to go to school!

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Experiencing subway (Metro) and bus ride

It turned out to be a fun weekend this time. I needed to go to my daughter’s school to pay the fees, and since the school happens to be adjacent to our new house, I decided to use public transport so that I would know how to commute from office to home and back (since my office is near my current temp housing). This is the greatest place I found to get bus route info in english and he also has a great presentation on understanding bus system in Shanghai, thank you Micah!

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Started my Mandarin lessons

Finally I started my mandarin lessons, 3 days a week, 100 minutes each. First 2 classes were about sounds (called Finals in the book), and how to make simple words using the initials (consonants). I was amazed to know there are 39 finals (English has only 5 vowels and 2 semi-vowels in comparison, hindi has about 12 ‘swara’)! This is one more reason learning this will be tough. My teacher is good but her English is not good enough to understand what I am trying to communicate many times, but we are learning!

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Buying medicines

Buying medicines was tougher than I thought. We asked in various govt hospitals but couldn’t figure out what they were saying! Later we were told that they give medicine only on the prescriptions from their own doctors. When I went to couple of pharmacy, they wouldn’t understand English prescriptions. I tried looking up Chinese names for those medicines, but no luck. Finally some searches on expat forums got us to Parkway community pharmacy in Pudong (no relation to ParkwayHealth group of hospitals) who could talk in English on phone, could understand the english names, could deliver at home, and to … Continue reading Buying medicines

Being in Shanghai over week-long holiday (National Day)

Shanghai has 2 week-long holidays, one during Chinese New Year (end of Jan) and one during National Day (Oct 1). It is always fun, and somewhat unusual, to get a full week of holiday. It was amazing to see so many people on the road and in the shops in the initial couple days of the vacation in our xujiahui area, but then it reduced to a more normal state. For us, since this was the first week after I joined office, we had to start our search for a good maternity hospital. After lots of research, and many recommendations and brickbats from and ShanghaiMamas mailing list, we went to ParkwayHealth.

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I have a bank account now!

Getting a bank account was painless, as some sites mentioned (see one of the shanghaiexpat threads). I spent more time researching the right bank. Basically my parameters were:

  1. English website for e-banking and information
  2. Easy transfer of fund to US/India
  3. Enough branches around the city
  4. English-understanding staff

Choice came quickly down to Bank of China (BoC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and finally I picked ICBC since I saw their branches almost everywhere I went for my house and school searches and they had one very near to where I live right now (XuJiaHui area).

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Welcome to Shanghai!

On Sep 6, 2008, after an uneventful 6 hour flight from Delhi, we landed in the Pudong airport of Shanghai, which must be one of the biggest and prettiest airport in the world. It was spanking new, immigration was smooth (with some helping official getting us into the priority lane), and customs was efficient. We were apprehensive since we were carrying lots of spices and food items for our initial survival and were not sure how customs will take it, but there were no issues at all.

After an hour of car ride from the airport, we reached our destination, which was bang in the middle of downtown, so many skyscrapers surrounding our service apartment (later I was told this was not really the downtown, which is much more impressive than this one). My boss was right in saying that this was better than New York!

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First Steps towards Shanghai!

So finally we are embarking on our journey to Shanghai. However, it looks like the path to a Z visa stamping will continue to be problematic. I got notification that the visa papers I have from Chinese govt have expired now (since their validity has been reduced from 3 months to a month because of Olympics). This means we need to apply for the invitation letter once again, which in turn means more delays (Olympics again!). Anyway, since we are proceeding to India for a month-long vacation, it doesn’t impact us immediately.

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