Friday, August 23, 2013

Fortune favors the BOLD!

As Americans in Shanghai, there are times when you crave Sweet & Sour chicken, a carton of Shrimp friend rice or even Crab Rangoons.
I know you're thinking  "Why American-Chinese food in China? "Well frankly, because I'm American and I LIKE it dammit, so there.
We all know these dishes are not traditional Chinese and damn sure not even traditional Shanghainese. But honestly I get enough of authentic China on a daily basis. I want delicious! Sometimes I'm not in the mood to play the Let me guess what animal part this is? game,Which is something I do frequently when eating out in China.
After living in Shanghai for over a year and having had more culinary disasters  than triumphs as most foodies encounter here, Toya and I would find ourselves on lazy weekends craving American-Chinese food.
 We'd flip through the Sherpas catalogue, hoping to find something to tantalize the taste buds,and make my gums spring a leak, but to no avail.
My wife and I recently returned from being stateside for a month and checked out the local expat websites for articles and tips on new spots that had opened while were we away.
As I clicked on a new eats link, my eyes widened and I urgently called Toya into the living "Baaaaaby there is American-Chinese restaurant that opened like 15 mins from us! We are so going!" Since they're closed on Sundays, the next afternoon we screen captured the address in Chinese from Google, got dressed, and hailed a taxi.
We arrived  at the building, and unlike most new restaurants in Shanghai,we didn't need a treasure map and a sherpa to help us find it. The directions were accurate and their sign is big and clear in the lobby.
We hopped in the elevator and headed for the fourth floor.

Neon lights, American style take-out boxes lined over the bar  and eclectic tunes buzzed overhead as we walked through the doors. Fung Lam has made the ultime playlist. I found myself Shamazing every few minutes between stuffing my mouth with those delicious crispy noodles.
One of the owners David Rossi greeted and seated us.  Clean modern furnishings, funky display of ingredients used in menu dishes on colorful shelves, an open kitchen, and friendly staff.
They have a limited menu, but in this case people... less is more. Their menu is not overwhelming like the ones back home. They've picked a number of American-Chinese favorites and make them to order with quality ingredients. So far we've tried their small plate dumplings and spring rolls,  the Orange Chicken,  Shrimp Fried Rice, Shrimp Chow Fun,  and Wonton Soup. Oh and did I mention their in-house made Duck Sauce and refillable basket of light crispy noodles when you are seated? Nom Nom Nom!
We've been back to Fortune Cookie three times so far. Each time the service is impeccable. From water glasses being refilled before you even realize you're thirsty again,  the freshness of our meals to the friendliness of the staff and owners. We've had time to sit and chat with Fung and David.
They are genuine guys who truly seem to love what they do. They're in the kitchen, hosting, checking on meal quality, and taking time to talk to guests. I'm glad to say it's not  your generic"ten minute, be right back " spot that you're used to.  At Fortune Cookie, the food is fresh, made to order and "punch your mom in the face good. And of course you can get take-out in very kitch take-out boxes complete with Fortune cookies. If you're an expat living in Shanghai or just visiting, take a trip down to Fortune Cookie get some great eats and tell David and Fung  that Tiffany & Toya Rose say hi!
Until next time....

Fortune Cookie

11.30am-10pm Mon-Thu, 11.30am-11pm Fri-Sat.
Telephone 6093 3623
Metro Changshu Lu
English address Fourth Floor, 83 Changshu Lu, near Julu Lu, Jingan district

Chinese address 签语饼 静安区常熟路83号4楼, 近巨鹿路

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

House Hunters International: Shanghai Edition

Welcome to The Rose's House Hunters International : Shanghai

Most of you might not know this but the Mrs and I are House Hunters International freaks!
Its a show that meshes our love of HGTV with our never ending wanderlust. It's pretty great! While the Mrs. and I were stateside, we were glued to the TV watching endless episodes of Design Star, House Hunters International, Design on a Dime, Iron Chef and The Barefoot Contessa. Needless to say we have a number of ideas for our new place. From recipes to for our house warming to revamping old furniture projects.   Clearly this is going to require a Pinterest board.
Lets not forget my wife's favorite past time of renovating restaurants/cafe into apartments in her mind as we dine. Starting with her never fail statement as she takes in design inventory while sipping her first cocktail, looking at her surroundings" you know what babe?" What?" I respond, already knowing what she's going to say. "This would make a great apartment right?" I nod and smile.

That brings me to our latest quest. Our first newlywed flat in Shanghai. Our first year in Shanghai was one filled with a number of growing pains. We got here mid August last year it was sweltering and we were cooped up in a small hotel on the world's hardest bed.
We were suffering from jet lag, sweaty, beyond exhausted and tired of living out of suitcases. We were in a mad dash to find an apartment.
We were supposed to have help from our old employer finding an apartment.
"Help" consisted of a  Shanghai  neophyte dragging us around to Chinese hovels around the city. Pay rent at these places? We would be better off invoking squatters rights! That's not to say they're aren't fabulous apartments in Shanghai, because there are. At the time we just didn't know where to find them and clearly neither did our guide. After a week of looking at terrible apartments a western coworker put us in touch with a fast talking, foul mouthed, damn near native Chinese real estate agent who listened to what we needed and our budget and showed us the apartment we live in now. It wasn't everything we wanted, but it was a place to call home and it was located in the middle of Shanghai proper. Which is like the equivalent of living in the Upper East Side.  We had a great view, it was clean, in a western style building , nice furniture, two bedroom and quite frankly the nicest thing we'd seen so far. Sweaty and exhausted we signed the lease that night without hesitation.
That is NOT what we are doing this time around. We plan on living in our new apartment for at least the next two years so we want it to be something we love.
So now that we have had some time on our hands before our new jobs start, we've been calling every agent we know, and looking at everything. We've increased out budget by a few hundred dollars to really get what we want in an apt. Central air/heating is a MUST this year, I would like a tub but its not a deal breaker,  a more modern apt building , an open kitchen so we can both get down, not to far from People's Square, more storage space, a big bathroom, and western amenities.
We are really looking to make our next apartment HOME. Especially as newlyweds, we want our place to be our love nest ((yes we are that gay))
Marriage is a compromise and so must be our search. My wife is queen of modern and sleek and I'm a lover of all things shabby chic. She's all stainless steel, symmetry , bright but uniform color, and clean lines, while I'm mix n' match second hand furniture, crazy patterns, splashes of color, and eclectic pieces. So you can imagine the side eyes given by each of us, when  one of us says "  Ooooh I like it". Oh the struggle.
Being a Cancer my home is my sanctuary. As an expat home is truly just that. In a loud, smelly and sometimes abrasive China, you know as soon as you turn your key in the door of your apartment, you step through the threshold and magically you are transported to your very own piece of your home country on foreign soil. For Toya and I, our apartment is our own little piece of America. English on the TV, our favorite American food being prepared in the kitchen even down to the Glade candles burning of the coffee table. You inhale HOME.
So I say all that to say when house hunting as an expat, don't rush into finding a space. Yes you will have to compromise on some things,  because you're not in your home country but take your time really find some place you love. On those days when your foster country is overwhelming and too much to bear...  trust me it will be like that some days. You'll have a little space to call your own to escape.
So begins our hunt for the perfect space to call our own.
Until next time...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Let them eat cake! ((from a rice cooker))

So, the other day I was surfing the net for useless things.

I was updating Facebook, when I saw a link in my newsfeed that a friend had posted. Usually  I disregard " Did you know..." posts. However this one caught my eye. It was 27 things you can make in your rice cooker. Hmmm... interesting. I live in Shanghai , and am lacking an oven. I'm always looking for new and interesting alternatives to stovetop cooking. So I checked it out.  Steamed veggies, tofu, stirfry and cake! WTF?!?! Cake you say? ::eye brow raised::  They had my attention. I told my wife about it. She gave me the yeah right look and said cake? in a  tone of disbelief.
So me being the nerd that I am, I googled it. I researched videos, and numerous recipes.
There seemed to be the whole culture of rice cooker baking that I had just tapped into. So last night when my insomnia set in I turned to Toya and said "wanna try making that cake?" she smiled, shrugged and said "Okay" with excitement in her voice.

Reason #237 why I married her : She's always game for late night shenanigans. I can just see us doing this with our kids then frosting and decorating the cake as a family.

I snapped out of my  this is why  I love my wife moment and went back online and found the instructions for rice cooker " baking".  I then ran to the store for eggs. We brought boxed cake mix and frosting back from the states, so it took the guess work out of following the recipe.
We whipped up the batter, oiled our rice cooker pan, poured the batter into the rice cooker and hit cook. Minutes later the apartment smelled like a bakery. We checked the rice cooker and to our surprise ... EUREKA!!! Houston, we have cake!
It was exciting. We gave our rice cooker "baked" cake a few more minutes in the heater and voila!
We let it sit to cool for a few minutes,  then took the rice pot/pan out of the rice cooker and flipped the cake onto a cutting board. The cake slid out easily. It was fluffy, moist, and smelled amazing. I frosted and decorated the cake, and in minutes it was ready for late night cake snacking. Step aside Easybake Oven hello Rice cooker!

Until next time...

Rice cooker cake mini video


Begin at the beginning...
So here we are newlyweds packing our bags, boarding a plane headed back to Shanghai for another year.
But let's take a step back and tell you how we got here.

We took the month of July off after slaving away and saving for the past year in China to enjoy the states, see friends and family, get some great eats and of course get MARRIED!
Planning a wedding is hard enough, now try planning a wedding from the other side of the world. It's damn near impossible!
Being expats, you miss out on those exciting  wedding rites of passage like, cake tasting, trying on a number of hideous dresses with your mom and best friends as they ooh and ahhh, sitting down with your officiant, menu tasting, bridal showers with friends and scouring the city for venue locations.
All of our planning was left strictly to emails and scheduled skype dates, sprinkled with a few google voice phone calls to vendors.
It all seemed impossible. About a month out, we were scared that we'd made the wrong decision to go through with the ceremony instead of eloping. However, our families had never met, and it was important for us for our families to witness our love and commitment to one another, and most importantly for it to be a LEGAL marriage.  In spite of all of our reservations about our impending wedding, the one thing we were sure about was each other. We knew at the end of the day, rain or shine, perfect ceremony or not, we would have each other. We would legally be family. So on days when things seemed to fall apart via email, we would look to each other and say " at the end of the day we'll be married" We pulled out our Pinterest boards, scoured the web for Lesbian Wedding blogs and tried our best to mold the wedding day of our dreams from China. Ordering tote bags, signage, getting our dresses made, and even buying rings.
Meanwhile our Chinese co-workers had a million and one questions about us being lesbians and marrying each other. At first I was hesitant to share my personal life with my co workers, but  I thought hey" I'm 30 and I'm marrying this woman" no need to be shy about it. So I shared the news of my impending nuptials with my co workers and so did Graham. Surprisingly they wanted to know EVERYTHING, and even offered to help with wedding favors and such. I'm sure this situation would have turned out differently, if we were two Chinese women, but thankfully this is one time in China where being a "laowai" is an advantage. They asked about how we met, how out parents felt about it, if we planned to have kids and how, and then wanted to know every detail about the wedding. As taken aback as I was by their warm acceptance, it felt good to have a quasi community to share my wedding excitement with.
The time wound down from months to days and suddenly our wedding was a week away, and we were boarding a plane for the states. The week before our wedding was crazy and a bit chaotic. Running around New York City,  and taking care of last minute details. In addition to battling jet lag and reverse culture shock.
The wedding day arrived and we were cool as cucumbers. My soon to be wife put on her ultimate playlist, while bridesmaids ironed, got their make up/hair  done and poured mimosas. It was such a chill vibe. Friends and loved ones surrounded us that morning. It was nothing laughter and love all around.
We arrived at Bethesda Fountain Terrace, I heard the wedding singer belting John Legend's "So High". I got goosebumps and butterflies simultaneously. I could see family and friends awaiting our arrival. Everything we had planned for this past year was happening. Passers by crowded around the outside of the terrace as my mother took me by the arm and guided me through the columns. I looked across the gallery, and I could see my soon to be wife making her way through columns across the terrace with her nephew. I almost lost my breath and tears began to form in my eyes. Hold it together I told  myself. You cant lose the bet and your makeup has to look flawless for pictures. So I fought the urge to cry and tightened my grip on my mother's arm. We made it down the aisle. It was then saw my soon to be wife making her way down the aise and I gasped. She was so beautiful. As the singing stopped, and the officiant began, I took Toya's hands and looked into her eyes, the world around us faded away. In the background I barely made out declarations from the officiant. In that moment she and I are were all that existed. All that mattered. I Do's were said,vows were tearfully made, and promises sealed with the exchange of rings. Our hands were fasted to signify the binding of our love and souls. She to me and I to her. We kissed and became The Roses.
There were cheers, clapping, and even videos and pictures taken by on lookers. It was to date, the happiest moment of my life. It's hard to recall all the specifics because the day went by in such a blur. Toya and I still sit down trying to piece this amazing day together.
We are just thankful to have had such wonderful friends and family support us in our life together. We've had an amazing journey thus far and are excited about for our next steps as The Roses
Until next time...

Feel free to check out some more pictures from our wedding through the blog of our talented wedding photographer Erica Camille :

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Headed in a new direction

Hello there bloggerverse!

It's been more than a while. To say I've been negligent would be a gross understatement.
Fighting with VPNs, resigning myself to the fact the China's internet and lack of available wifi hotspots pails in comparison to Korea, all while adjusting to Chinese life has proved more arduous than expected. I will most apologetically have to post my numerous videos and "Oh China" mini posts saved on my IPad of the last year.

This year has been a transformative one to say the least. I turned 30, moved to China with my AMAZING girlfriend who 2 months later I proposed to, and 8 crazy whirlwind months after that we  hoped on a plane flew back across the world and were married in Central Park in New York City.
So I guess you're wondering, blah blah, blah! So you're married what the hell does that have to do with travel and living in Asia?
Let me explain. I am a black,married,lesbian living in China. Wait for it...( eyebrows raised)  Yeah, that's the response of most people. I know, that's a whole lot of "other" in such a homogeneous society.
So as a Black,Married Lesbian living in China, I figured it's time to document these experiences. I know there are other LGBT women of color living , loving, traveling and working overseas. I've met some of them. But the problem is no one is blogging about it. So here's my chance. Here's our forum.
Yes, I've talked about the ridiculousness of living in Asia, as well as the trials and triumphs that I've experienced.
However, after attempting to research more about the illusive mythical creature known as LGBT Expat,
 I've noticed that there is an absolute lack of the Black,Queer Expat experiences being documented.
Where are the women of color talking about their lives, loves and insatiable wanderlust?

It's time for a new direction for the blog. I will still share my/our experiences living in China and the ridiculousness that it entails but I will also address issues that are relevant in our lives such as "As Queer Married women of color , is living in China conducive for  our careers? for starting a family? for our rights?  And if not, where will we move next?  what are the challenges that face us?"
Over the next 24 months in Shanghai, my wife and I will be sharing our lives with you.

So with that, I breathe new life into Serendipitous Adventurer and am I excited to bring you along as we embark on a new journey as The Roses in Shanghai

Until next time...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where to begin?

Where to begin? I've been in Shanghai about a month and a half. It's been a crazy ride adjusting to life here. Let me state for the record China is NOTHING like South Korea. I live in Shanghai so I can't even speak for the REAL China. Since I got settled in my apartment, got into the groove at work, obtained reliable wifi , and explored my neighborhood Shanghai isn't half bad.
Now mind you my first two weeks here I was plotting ways to get back to Korea. Now that the dust has settled, I'm starting to enjoy Shanghai more. I enjoy the low cost living of China thats for sure. You can eat  a decent meal for under $4  and get a maid to clean your house for a few hrs a week for the same price. Can't beat that!  I haven't seen a Coke for less than $0.75 since the early 90's. I must admit  even though I was trying not to compare the two but  Korea left me with expectations of China that were sadly deflated my first week. Shanghai is truly where East meets West. Lets paint a picture shall we? I live in a very metropolitan area.  We'll say the equivalent of Manhattan. Porsche and Mazzarati dealerships 2 blocks from my building, and the side streets are littered with makeshift food carts,crates of turtles, bunnies, goldfish and ducks being sold for dinner, and an old man in a Speedo bathing out of a public sink on the street. I know it sounds unbelievable but this is China!
Shanghai being such an international hub for business, banking, engineering, it has become a stomping ground for a myriad of foreigners. Few of which are American. I can count the number of Americans I've met on one hand.  An every few are in the field of Education, because in Korea you were either a teacher or military. There are a number of professional growth opportunities for educated , well traveled expats here,which is a plus. I look forward to exploring the possibilities next summer.

Ok let's get SERIOUS for a moment: Those who know me, know I am a lover of ICE COLD BEVERAGES! There is NO cold drinking water to be had anywhere! It is believed to be bad for your digestion so you have a choice of warm or hot water from purified water dispensers. YUCK!  " Yes I would like more than 4 ice cubes in  my soft drink please!" At work theres a small fridge where I stock my cold water bottles. ICY COLD BEVERAGES are a MUST! And let me not even get started on the suspect ass lunch at work! Everyday is a GAMBLE!

The extreme pushing in public, utter rudeness, and lack of order and logic, I'm used to, having lived in Korea. China's lack of universal wifi is devastating.  China is KING when it comes to bootlegging. They can reverse engineer anything from an IPhone to an Egg. No seriously there are fake eggs here. Gucci, Prada, Berkin, Nike, Kraft, Nestle,YouTube ( also known as Youku here) Apple, Tyson. Nothing is SACRED! Let's not even talk about DVDs. I just bought the complete seasons of the Office, Modern Family, Fringe and Drop Dead Diva for under $20. You can get AMAZING bootlegs of current movies the day they premier sometimes the day before. You can get a DVD, drinks and dinner for 2 for under $10.
The over abundance of oil in the food is ridiculous. I can cook my meal, grease my scalp and moisturize my whole body from the amount of oil in one dish. EPIC FAIL! I absolutely LOVED Korean food. The same sentiments can not  be shared for Chinese cuisine. I can't get down with braised turtle legs, sea cucumbers, unidentifiable objects in some of their soups, chicken feet or duck tongue jerkied snack bags. China is not for the weak stomached!
However the food is not all bad! Some of the street noodles, random tomato flavored snacks,dumplings,   small Chinese Muslim restaurants and little iced tea stands have won my heart. I promise its not all bad. I just wanted to share some of the sheer ridiculousness of my first month. Just a bit more of an adjustment than Korea. Honestly there are some twilight zone-esque that go down here but Shanghai has its charms . I love wandering down some side street and stumbling upon a cute snack shop, a fabulous hidden shopping center, a chance to haggle on the street on everything from flowers to electronics, or just an opportunity to catch something ridiculous on film.
Over the next few weeks I will be taking you on a visual tour through Shanghai! Hold on to your lunch and beware of foul smells. I cant wait to share Shanghai with you. Until next time...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shanghai Snapshots

Here are a few moments captured from my first weekend in Shanghai. Honestly I slept most of it. This jet lag is no joke. But here are a few digital memories. Jet lag is the ultimate Chinese diet.
however when I can actually stay awake to eat dinner, my electric kettle and various Chinese Ramen have been my best friend. And let's not forget about the cool yet refreshing Lime flavored Lays! I've fallen in love with bubble tea! I can't believe that Shanghai isn't wired for wifi like Korea! WTH! I was soo devastated :( I'm headed back to the hotel with brick hard beds, and no WiFi. #epicsadness Until next time...