Random Thoughts From China

So as many of you know, I recently went to China for 3 weeks.  Apologies, first off for the lack of blog posts while I was away.  I busted my butt to write 6 extra posts, and set the date and time for them to publish over the period I was away (WordPress is a blocked site in China…yes, things like that still happen.  Facebook, youtube and twitter are also blocked.).  But as you probably already know, that didn’t happen. I still don’t know why.  I have been using those stockpiled posts since my return, which truthfully has been nice, as I was super busy getting caught back up with life at home upon my return, which included a 4 day trip south with my son to look at colleges.  Whew!  But I am back and my a stockpile of posts has been exhausted so this week I am back to writing, after much too much time away.  I really think it is easier to write if you do it on a regular basis.  So bear with me if things seem a bit rusty.

As I have said in the past, my blog post is not meant to be about me and what I do on a daily basis, but today I am taking exception to that and sharing a bit about my travels to China.  Along the way I will make some comments about nutrition and exercise, but that will not be the primary topic today.  I promise it will only be for today.

My trip was to visit my boyfriend, who is currently working in Shanghai.  Lucky for him (and for me) he studied Chinese in college, and while that was a long time ago, he has been taking lessons again and his Chinese is getting quite good.  Not that you can’t get by without it in Shanghai, a city of 23 million people.  Yep, it’s huge.  But I have to say when you’re there you can’t totally grasp how big it is.  To me, New York is big (8 million people) and London is big (also 8 million or so people) and Shanghai is just a city with more skyscrapers.  Obviously there are way, way more people, but according to Wikipedia, the population density is actually less than NYC or London…so there’s a lot more people, but it’s just a lot more area…so while you are there it doesn’t seem that much more crowded than some other large city.  Except there are a ton of bikes, scooters and motorcycles mixed in with a ton of cars…which makes it seem a lot nuttier than say London.  🙂

I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and lifted weights on Friday morning.  I was wide awake at 3:30 AM, so I figured by 6 when my boyfriend was heading to the gym I might as well go with him.  I was obviously still dealing from the effects of very little sleep and a 12 hour time difference, so while I felt “awake” I wouldn’t say my body really loved picking up heavy things.  This continued throughout the first week I was there.  I lifted, but I didn’t feel I lifted all that well.  Maybe some of it had to do with lifting in the early morning, which I never do at home.  Because I am a personal trainer, I am training clients at 6 and 7 AM, standing there with my cup of coffee putting people through a workout.  I actually lift in the afternoons during the week, and later in the morning on Sunday.  Everyone is different, but I feel my body needs some time to “wake up” before I exercise.  And if I’m being totally truthful, as I get older I feel my body needs some time to move for awhile before I am really ready to exercise.  Hats off to those of you who work our early, I found it tough!

I did a lot of walking while in China, which I think had something to do with losing weight while I was there, despite not doing as much gym time.  I read a piece awhile ago looking at why the Chinese are not overweight.  Instead of focusing on a particular food (e.g. soy, which they eat less of than people think, and it isn’t like our highly processed GMO soy products), or how the Chinese can get away with eating so much rice and noodles (um, portion size maybe?), the article talked about the Chinese way of life as a whole.  
This included much more daily physical activity (which does not mean going to the gym) and more fruits and especially vegetables than the typical Western diet.  I walked to the supermarket, the produce stand, the butcher, the wine store, etc.  Sure, you can take a cab (and quite cheaply actually) but it’s also just as easy to walk.  People do walk, but they also ride bikes.  Owning a car is much more of a luxury (although there are a lot of those in Shanghai too).

My boyfriend and I also had a chance to travel outside Shanghai into a more rural part of China, which was fascinating.  One thing China has is a ton of people (over a billion of them), so labor is very cheap (which is why so much stuff is made there).  You still see people manually working in fields and I saw groups of men working on building a highway to Shangri-la (yes, there is such a city, and the highway is going to ruin everything…but that’s progress I guess) using pick-axes.  While there is certainly a growing upper class in China, some of whom are very, very wealthy (I have never seen so many designer stores (Shanghai, not the rural areas) in my life), the majority of people in China are still quite poor and their lives still involve a lot of daily physical activity.

Food is also worth noting.  In Shanghai everywhere you go there are shops and stalls on the street with people selling everything you can think of (including all that cheap crap you think of when you think of “made in China”).  There is a lot of food being made on the street ~ I would call it the Chinese version of fast food, although generally it is healthier.  My favorite was what I refer to as a Chinese egg sandwich.  We watched a woman making these on a street corner.  She had a large round steel disk that was hot, onto which she poured a batter.  She spread it around really thin, then cracked an egg or two (your choice) on top and scrambled it.  To that she added some chopped scallion and cilantro, then some hot sauce if desired.  She loosened the edges of the thin pancake which had been cooking, folded it over, added a piece of fried something and voila, fresh egg sandwich.  Have to say it was very tasty, and only about 40 cents!

There are tons and tons of produce stalls in Shanghai, which is very nice.  I had no idea what some of the things were, but it was certainly fun to look.  If you wander into a more “Chinese” section of the city you will find markets that sell not only produce but also fish swimming around in little bathtubs of water, crabs, turtles, etc.  When we were traveling outside Shanghai we found a local market where we were the only Westerners wandering around.  We watched a woman grab a fish from the little tub of water, throw it into a plastic bag and set it on a scale attached to a stick she held in her hand.  She moved a weight at the other end to determine the size of the fish (and the price).  We saw another woman with a big basket on her back (she was also dressed in the traditional clothing of the area, which was pretty cool…of course neither of us had a camera at the time, but the picture included here is a woman dressed similarly).  Inside her basket were live chickens, presumably for dinner.  In general, a lot of very, very fresh food.  Although as a flip-side to that, good luck finding organic.  And certainly pesticide use is of a concern to me.  Nevertheless, I think the traditional Chinese diet is still made up of much more fresh, unprocessed food than the Western diet, contributing to their lack of an obesity problem.

Well, this post is starting to get long and a bit rambling.  Just wanted to share a few observations (and some of my photos).  This just touches on a very small piece of my trip.  China is an amazing place, and I only saw a tiny part of it.  I loved Shanghai, and loved traveling to Yunnan to see something beyond a big city.  Even had a celebrity citing on my last night there ~ Yao Ming sat about 6′ away from me at a restaurant.  He is HUGE.  That’s all I can say.  I didn’t take a photo (it was a very nice restaurant and I didn’t want to bother him, although my son was mad I didn’t have some “proof” of seeing him) ~ I will include a photo a friend took who lives there ~ he lives near her.

Definitely an amazing trip, China is like nothing I have seen before.  If you have an opportunity to visit I highly recommend it!

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About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college football...my teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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