Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tuttle Update

Today is Halloween, though the parties and Zombie Walks etc, were all last night. I decided to stay in and have a quiet dinner at Nori Nori, a hof in my building. I was about to leave when a pair of young people invited to have a drink with them.

Usually, I dread these situations, because I am not fond of spending a half-hour being tortured with personal questions in almost incoherent English; however, I had heard the girl spreaking pretty good English earlier, so I took a chance, and sat down with them. We got deep into some soju and conversation, and found ourselves at a noraebang until after midnight.

Her name is Janie (she runs a new hair salon that opened in the building) and the guy was one of her employees. I looked for a certain Aerosmith song but they didn't have it--the English song selection is usually not too extensive (although I've noticed that "My Way" is 7004 everywhere you go).

Earlier on Saturday, the students in my Saturday class presented their first big speeches. I was quite pleased--with a couple of exceptions, they all got the most important things I was looking for: a hook, or interest-arousing opening; clear structure with signposts and transitions; knowledge and enthusiasm for their topic; and useful visual aids. A good start!

In weather, the week started out cold but clear, and had warmed up nicely by the weekend. In the coming week, temps are supposed to range from lows in the 40s to highs in the low 60s; still a bit chilly, but at least no smow in the forecast--yet!

My lessons this week are heavy on video--of course, in the 1st grade's movie unit, this is to be expected: it is now that they will begin applying the terminology we have been developing. Half the class leaves the room while the others will watch a Mr Bean video. They have to identify the genre, setting, characters, actors, plot, etc., so they can tell the others all about it when they come back in. Repeat with video #2. To end class, we just enjoy a third Mr Bean video for the fun of it.

Personally, I am not crazy about Mr Bean (Blackadder is a different story, Mr Atkinson's earlier creation), I think it's rather juvenile. The kids, though, love him. Of course, they are juveniles ...

The 2nd grade will do the Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat lesson I described here. I have been looking for some Harry Potter wizard costume pieces so I can dress up the winning team and take a picture for the photo board, but no luck yet.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Socks Can Save Your Sole

(Or is that Seoul?) I can almost hear the conversation:
Christian Proselytizer #1: Okay, Brother. I finsih-ee writing many copies one John Bible verses onto heart paper you cutting out, okay?
Christian Proselytizer #2: Good job, Brother. Now we are attach-ee two piece-uh candy and can giving out to win many soul for Jesus.
CP #1: We stand outside subway in Itaewon and try save foreigner from Satan.
CP #2: So you think three piece-uh candy?
CP #1: I thinking in much time to spend-uh writing. Too many time, candy used for special gift. Even bad woman club and such-ee place-uh can give it.
CP #2: Okay? So what?
CP #1: We should make special gift for people then saying "WOW! Jesus really love me to give this gift!"
CP #2: What kind-uh give you thinking? We have money, little bit only.
CP #1: Sister-in-law father has company, buy too many sock. He can give us very inexpensive price.
CP #2: Sock?
CP #1: Everybody has feet, Brother. They can all use sock. With the sock, we can save the soul!
CP #2 (warming to the idea): Sock, you think so?
CP #1: Did not Our Heavenly Father say, "I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you gave me sock?"
CP #2: Well, close enough, I guess.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pink Pandas on Parade

When I went to Beijing in February of 2009, I happened to visit a silk factory (while on a tour of the Great Wall of China); the showroom had thousands of hand-made silk ties for about USD 5 apiece. For whatever reason, I bought only one tie while I was there. One.

I've kicked myself ever since. When I went to Shanghai over the Chuseok holiday, I was determined not to repeat such a dumb move, especially when fellow expat Oliver informed me of the tailoring bargains to be had at the South Bund Fabric Market. So, I bought a half-dozen ties for 95 Yuan, about 2,700 W each. (Thanks, Oli!) Including this lovely pink Panda tie. The Pandas aren't pink, the tie is:


Fast forward to today. I attended the annual SMOE NSET Workshop, at a university campus all the way on the east side of Seoul. Afterwards, I am going to dinner (samgyupsal, natch!) with the regular suspects when I see a pink Panda walking toward me on the sidewalk. I fumble for my camera, but only manage to capture the receding image (you can see a blue one at right, with his head off):


I was disappointed, but thought no more about it. Well, we finish eating and head back to the subway for our trips home (tomorrow is a work day, etc, etc) when there s/he is, selling or huckstering god-knows-what. I get Nick to take my picture with him/her:


So, I think this is the end of the story, until I get home and dl the pictures. I remember that just yesterday I took some video of another Panda huckster, this one a mechanical dancing model outside a new-ish SK phone store. It's not pink, but still ...

video

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Co-teachers

Allow me to preface these comments by saying that I am pleased with my school situation--Young-il has been very supportive of me as their NSET, from the top level of administration to the dude who asks permission before he empties the trash in my classroom (or maybe he just thinks foreigners collect wastepaper, I don't know).

Still, some co-teachers ... are better than others.

I mentioned just recently my struggles with a "non-academic" second grade class and my hit-or-miss (let's face it, mostly miss) attempts to engage them. I am at the point where I don't even try to facilitate the curriculum--hell, neither do their other teachers, so I'm told.

Well, today, I had them eating out of the palm of my hand. My hand did have Mini-Twix bars in it, but that's, well, not exactly beside the point, but ... um, hmmm ...
Okay, first, go to this wonderful website and have a look at the part of today's lesson I'm going to talk about, the Halloween Bingo: http://bogglesworldesl. com/halloweenbingo.htm

I carefully explained to them, with PPT diagrams and everything, that to earn a BINGO you have to get FOUR-IN-A-ROW--horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Once you get FOUR-IN-A-ROW, you shout ... you guessed it, "BINGO!" They assured me they were quite familiar with how to play BINGO.

1) Nonetheless, Co interpreted this to the students as they must get ALL THREE four-in-a-rows: horizontal, vertical AND diagonal. Chrissakes! Well, after the game had gone on too long, I overheard a student say, "Oh! I've got one Bingo!" and I rushed over to him.

After checking his items, I said, "Congratulations! You got a Bingo!" Then, a few others said, "I got a Bingo, too!" "Me, also!" Etc... They were waiting to say "BINGO" until they had all three kinds. Chrissake, right?!

A heated discussion ensued but I was adamant that the very powerpoint slide on the screen at the moment made the objective clear. And whoever says BINGO first, and has a verified Bingo, is the winner. So he got his Mini-Twix. But what unnecessary drama!

2) Before we started the game, we reviewed the vocabulary of the Halloween Bingo game. The students' Bingo cards had images on them--like a robot, a skeleton, a vampire, an owl, etc. I put these same images in my PPT and went over each one, twice. They're high school juniors, who have had several Halloweens to learn these terms before now, anyway (alien, superhero, cobweb ...)

Part of the purpose of the game (hell, the only valid educational purpose) was to review then test the vocabulary. The deal was that I would pull an item from my plastic Jack-o'-lantern and call it out in English. Students had to remember the name of the objects on their Bingo card in order to make a match. So, what does Co do? Translate every term--graveyard, black cat, haunted house, et al--into Korean. God forbid they should be required to know a little English in the English classroom.

3) I gave Co my camera, and asked her to take some photos of the class. I did say to please get a good shot of me pulling a Bingo chit from the Jack-o'-lantern. At the back of my classroom is a seven-foot-wide bulletin board, nearly ONE-HALF of which is covered in photographs of various activities being done in my English class. Virtually EVERY photo is focused on a student or group of students doing some kind of activity. Just so you know.

I was pretty busy during Bingo: pulling chits, reading them out, and checking that the kids were on-task; but I glanced at Co to see her seemingly pointing the camera around. I was looking forward to making a collage of this class--weak in English but strong on personality--intently placing the Halloween stickers I bought last night at E-Mart (9000W total) over their Bingo squares. A good addition to the Photo board.

In twenty minutes of Bingo, she took five--count 'em, five--photos. Every damn one is of me, looking at or reading out one of the Bingo words.


Some are better than others.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kim Young-ha On Being An Artist

TED is a small non-profit devoted to "ideas worth spreading". Suiting the action to the word, I'm spreading this TEDx video that I picked up over at the Korean Lit in Translation blog:


In it, Korean author Kim Young-ha (김영하) talks about the urge to do art that is in all of us, its suppression and how to liberate it. He has some interesting things to say: Parents, the first time you catch your child in a lie, rejoice! He has taken the first step to being a storyteller!

He tells a story of getting into a New York taxicab, and being pleased to learn that the cabbie was also an actor (no surprise, really). "What kind of roles do you usually play?" Kim asks. The man answers, "King Lear." King Lear, Kim ruminates to the audience. "Who can tell me who I am?" A famous quote from Lear--that is the world I dream of.

"The ideal future for me is where all of us have a sort of multi-fold identity, and even just a single fold of it can be an artist."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Terrible Textbooks

Two stories in the education field today, both concerning textbooks.

1) EBS texts get failing grade for accuracy, blasts a JoongAng Daily headline, for a story about how utterly wracked with wrong answers, many or no right answers, grammar and spelling errors, are this year's Korean SAT prep text from EBS (Educational Broadcasting System).
“We are trying our best to reduce errors, but we are aware there are still many problems,” said EBS President Kwak Duk-hoon in a statement. “Effective methods will be used to reduce the errors.”
Kwak was forced to apologize after a deluge of complaints from students who said they encountered wrong answers to questions in EBS textbooks. The official count of errors provided by EBS and from a report released during an audit by the National Assembly this month was 556, more than seven times last year’s error count. The number reported on EBS’ Web site by users has totaled 2,300 this year.

I don't know what "effective methods" will be used, but in the English segments, they could benefit from actual English speakers--and then listen to what they say!

2) From Korea's worst English-language reporter, Kang Shin-who of the Korea Times, comes a story about eliminating gender-bias in Korean social studies and other textbooks. Ironically, Kang is usually about creating and affirming bias, so this story is a change for him (I'll let you Google the man's name and read for yourself).

The coverage starts off pretty tamely, covering a workshop session of the national Human Rights Commission:
During the session, the agency pointed out that males in textbooks are still portrayed as the main characters, while females play passive roles. “Men do public and important work in the books, while women usually take care of domestic affairs and spend money. This could cause children to have a prejudice regarding gender roles,” said a commission official.
Also, the agency said males are depicted as “troublesome” and “impulsive,” while their counterparts are described as “virtuous” and “honest.” “Although these cases don’t directly discriminate against males and females, they could further create stereotypes on ‘male jobs’ and ‘female jobs’, restricting employment opportunities for men or women,” it said.
But in the next graf, we find this:
The agency also presented some expressions that were against human rights. Homosexual lovers, who are usually addicted to drugs and criminals, are described as deviant people in high school textbooks. “This could generate social prejudices against those people,” the agency said. [Emphasis mine.]
It is possible I'm misreading it, but it looks as if the boldface phrase is content provided by the reporter and not by the HR agency. Right?

At it once again, Mr. Kang? Homosexuals are usually drug-addicted criminals? And Korea Times reporters are usually xenophobic, pathological liars with sexual identity issues.

TV Dramas Fictional, Complains ROK Lawmaker

Images of South Korea seen on such US TV dramas as Lost, CSI and 24 are "distorted" and erroneous, according to professional whiner, Rep. Hong Jung-wook of the GNP. This during an audit of the Foreign Ministry:
“The Foreign Ministry ... needs to make substantial efforts to leave a good national image in the minds of the world’s people.”
Among the distortions:
  • the Han River depicted as a stream running through a small village (Lost)
  • a Korean villager wearing a hat of the traditional Vietnamese style (Lost)
  • "a scene where a person suffers harsh torture in Seoul" (24)
  • a scene suggesting a Korean community in the US is allied with North Korea (CSI)
  • also, someone drinks soju out of the wrong kind of glass (Lost)

Somehow, Hong thinks the Foreign Ministry is not doing enough to prevent these horrid false stereotypes from being shown abroad to "hundreds of millions of people, including Koreans." Presumably, a quick note to Hollywood producers would be just the ticket, something like:
Dear Sir or Madame (as the case may be):
We would wish for you to take a rest from your unflattering portrayals of fine Korean country. It is okay for you to show American city as den of drugs and raping and homicide, because we can see clearly from TV drama that this is so. However, Korea is not a backward country with small bridge over Han River, but it makes nuclear reactors for Arab countries, good handupon and is host of G-20 (next time, we can hosting G-40, since it is bigger!)
Also, did you know Korea has four distinct seasons? Perhaps you can put that in next episode Lost, okay?
Fighting!
Thank you,
Korean Foreign Ministry

Fortunately, the superior journalism of the Korean media never presents or suggests erroneous or distorted ideas about Westerners in Korea like, say, these:
  • foreigners are in Korea to have sex with or rape Korean women
  • many Westerners, 80% of whom are HIV-positive, are here to spread AIDS
  • the average foreigner lied about his qualifications to get a job
  • more than one-third of foreign teachers break their contracts and leave Korea early
  • US beef is infected with deadly "crazy cow" disease

To Rep. Hong, I can only say, Take heart! To the vast majority of Americans, Korea's image is represented by mostly three things: Samsung, Hyundai and the TV series M*A*S*H--which is set in the time when the Hangang was a stream running through a small village.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Yeouinaru

Most Saturdays from September till January, I am making a trek to Yeouinaru to teach a public speaking class to a rather select group of high school students. To get there, I pass out of Yeouinaru station on Line 5.

Once you disembark the train, you just seem to go up ...


... and up ...


... and up ...


... and up ...


... and up ...


... to finally get to street level:


I was very nearly late on my first trip through here because of the unexpected ascent. Then I saw that the Metro powers-that-be were thoughtful enough to provide a nice explanation of the situation:


Ah, no wonder. The subway tunnel is 29 meters (94 feet) below the fluvium channel of the Han River, and 47 meters (150 feet) below the surface.

Yeouinaru means 'Yeoui ferry crossing':


Like every inch of both banks of the Hangang as it passes through Seoul, there is a broad grassy citizens' park here, and on this fine Saturday afternoon, I took advantage of the weather and my proximity to have a little picnic after teaching my class. I wasn't the only one, either, as families were out in force:


But, seriously, it wasn't overly crowded, though there was a regular stream of strolling or cycling couples and families along the promenade. Here are a few snaps of the lovely scenery this day:







Friday, October 22, 2010

What's Up?

Life's been cruising along lately here in the Seoul Patch, with nothing special to report on. Hard to believe it, but we're already about at the midpoint of the semester, with nine weeks gone and nine and one-half to go.

The weather has been pleasant for the last week or two with morning temps somewhere in the fifties and highs around 70, hardly a cloud in the sky. I am told the mercury will dip next week, and we're in for an early, and particularly cold, winter here on the peninsula.

Work has kept me rather busy of late, mainly the Saturday class I'm doing, since it involves creating a fifty minute lecture and a fifty minute debate class each week, with no text or materials provided by SMOE.

I've also taken to doing a completely separate lesson plan for class 2-1, the "non-academic" group of second graders who are focused on "music careers", since the regular lesson is too often so far out of their league it can't be simplified enough.

I am also working to improve the Toy Convention lesson for next month. It went pretty well last year, but the problem with it was that most interviewees only got to go through twice or maybe three times. Reason #1 for this was that the information exchange was too long and complicated. So, I'm decreasing the questions for both interviewers and interviewees (booth operators and sales reps). Reason #2 was I only had eight toys, and thus eight booths. I have found three new toys that will be good for us, I think, and am developing their respective logos and flyers. This is something I enjoy, but it's still a lot like work.

Bonus Photograph: While in Yeongdeungpo last weekend with assorted miscreants, we came upon this establishment, the Hiddink Noraebang:


For the uninitiated, Guus Hiddink is a top-notch Dutch football manager who achieved status as a white god in Korea for steering the national team here to a fourth-place finish in the 2002 World Cup.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Politics is Inevitable V

1) I like living in Seoul pretty well, but I really want to move to New York City, just so I can vote this guy in as mayor:


2) The next piece of video is isn't quite so amusing. In yesterday's Delaware Senate debate, Republican (Tea Party) candidate Christine O'Donnell rejects the idea that "government shall make no establishment of religion" to use opponent Chris Coons' slightly mangled but essentially correct statement of the First Amendment's so-called Establishment clause.


Conservative pundits have leapt to her defense, with Rush Limbaugh for one, saying:
There was a story that was written in such a way to make the reader believe that Christine O'Donnell did not know that the First Amendment prohibited the government from establishing a religion. … That's not what she was expressing incredulity over. She was incredulous that somebody was saying that the Constitution said there must be separation between church and state. Those words are not in the Constitution.

Bull. Watch the video. She twice expresses exactly that incredulity. It is true of course that the term "separation of church and state" appears first in a letter from T Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, and is not in the First Amendment. But that's not where O'Donnell reacts. She reacts to the idea that "the federal government shall not establish any religion".

And what bothers me isn't so much her ignorance--we are all ignorant to some extent, The World being a Very Big Place (TM)--but her smug certainty that she is right. Look at the mocking faces she's making during the bump (I can use this sophisticated broadcasting jargon due to my own experience as a radio personality). It's this same attitude that infuses her ignorance of evolution and her "mice with fully-functioning human brains" stuff.

3) Mark Sherman at the HuffPost reports on SCOTUS justice Clarence Thomas's wife "extending an olive branch" (via voicemail) to Prof. Anita Hill, whose testimony in Thomas's confirmation hearing made him out as a disreputable, sexist pig.
In a transcript of the message provided by ABC News, which said it listened to the recording, Thomas identified herself and then said, "I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day," Thomas said.

Sounds good to me. So I'm extending an olive branch to all my enemies: Let's be friends. Starting with your apology ...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Education News

1) No new policy initiatives have been reported on in the leading papers lately, but here's a headline that's quite a shocker:
English language still a challenge for Korean college students. The KT story concerns foreign college enrollees, who are lagging behind their classmates (and have a higher dropout rate) because they do not participate as well in classes.
“Korean students are well-prepared students. But they are more withdrawn from their American counterpart and seldom raise questions during the class,” an American professor, who taught in Korea, told the local Chosun Ilbo newspaper Saturday. “Perhaps it has to do with their fear of having to speak in English.”

Knock me over with a feather.

2) Dong-A Ilbo has a story about a kindergarten "Enrollment War" going on as children born in 2007 begin to enter academe next year. 2007 was the auspicious "year of the golden pig" under the Chinese zodiac, and birthrates that year were elevated--by around 10% compared to 2006.

So pre-schools and kindergartens are dealing with a rush of applicants, waiting lists and irate parents; many are adopting a lottery system to deal with the enrollment issue.

3) The Herald has a report of a married teacher having sex with a 15-year-old student, right here in Gangseo-gu--they apparently met up at noon in Yeongdeungpo. Police were notified when the student's parents found incriminating cellphone messages.
A source close to the police said, “Current law indicates even if there is no money involved, if a child is younger than 13, the suspect will face legal punishment. However, in this case, the student is 15 years old. Also, the teacher and student agreed they have emotional feelings for one another. Therefore, the suspect will not face any punishment.”

The teacher is female, and the student is male. I left that part out earlier, didn't I? My bad.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shanghai Art


I experienced a good bit of art while I was in Shanghai on my vacation, beginning when I stumbled upon an art museum in People's Square/People's Park called MoCA, Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. It is a striking glass structure surrounded by the arboreal realm of an inner-city green space.

They were having an exhibition titled Reflection of Minds, and there were two pieces I really loved. One was this three-dimensional piece which begins with a large package or box, marked "Fragile" that has been opened carelessly. It is splayed open on the floor. Whatever it was that was inside has been smashed into pieces (a traditional landscape), and the pieces are literally strewn about the exhibit space--on the floor, the walls, support beams, the balustrade leading up to the next floor ...

Docents were watching like hawks, so I didn't get a pic (actually it would take three or four to really appreciate this piece). I did manage to snap my second favorite, titled "Try Hard to Forget" by Yu Tianzhu.


It is a collage of dozens and dozens of posed team pictures, small groups, graduating classes, sales meetings, what have you ... but each and every face has been carefully scratched out by the artist, who is trying hard, I guess, to forget. I thought it was brill.

The better-known art museum of Shanghai is the unimaginatively titled "Shanghai Art Museum". During the Colonial era, this striking building was the clubhouse of the European-only horse racing course that became People's Square during Mao's revolution. The top floors are Kathleen's 5 Restaurant, where I ate on my visit, blogged here (the food was very good, but the views are the real draw).

The SAM only had one exhibit open the day I went (Huh? This is during EXPO, do I need to mention?) and I managed to snap a couple of shots of the artist's best work:




People's Park is quite an artwork in itself with its statues, floral displays and water plants. "People's Park" is also the name and location of a subway stop of Shanghai's excellent public transportation system, where lines 1, 2 and 8 meet. Northeast of the park is a major shopping/tourist area, including Grand Cinema, Madame Tussaud's, and No. 1 Department Store (where you can find Nina's Sichuan Restaurant).






On Saturdays, an interesting thing happens in People's Park--a flea market. Well, okay, a MARRIAGE flea market. Sources tell me that most of the flyers pinned up on ths recent Saturday were glowing, hand-written decription of someone looking for love. So I guess my pictures were mainly parents seeking mates for their children.



I also went to the highly regarded Zendai Museum of Art, located in Pudong not too far from the Science and Technology Museum. I wasn't hugely impressed.




But here is a painting from the collection next to the building in question:




The coolest art museum in the city, though, has to be the Propaganda Poster Art Museum, which is a collection of Cultural Revolution-era posters tucked away in the basement of an ordinary apartment building. The posters were collected and displayed by Yang Pei Ming who was in the house on the rainy Sunday morning I visited.






Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For Better Your Life

After two weeks of vacation time, during Chuseok and my Shanghai trip, I came back to school and had one day of exams (where I do nothing for three hours then go home), followed by one day of class (last Tuesday), which was then followed by three days with all my students gone on a class trip--three hours of desk warming each day there, too.

So, teaching two full days of class yesterday and today has been more tiring than usual, simply from being out of practce. Also, this is the first lesson of a new unit, introducing a lot of vocabulary, so I'm talking more than I am used to.

Add to that that I went with Nick &co. to the Bears-Lions game last night and got home a bit past midnight ... PLUS the fact that we could not find seats and had to stand up for about five hours, it's just as well I didn't get tickets to tonight's soccer friendly at Sangam between Japan and Korea. I'm tired.

But not too tired to share a delightful "mul tissue"--wet nap--I got somewhere or other recently, for better your life:

Made In Korea



Made in Korea, but I bet the Panda is from China, and is here on the wrong type of visa. Wonder what Koreans think about animating Koreans in an animation sweatshop.

For the record, Rough Draft has two identities, one in Glendale, CA, and the other in Seoul, ROK. The one in Seoul claims to animate a 20th Century Fox program titled "The Simpsongs". Make of that what you will:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shanghai Architecture


Pudong: Shanghai's Pudong district has perhaps the most amazing skyline in Asia. Pudong is the southeastern part of the central city, across the river from the Bund and Old Town, where the financial district has taken root and built some stylish skyscrapers. (Note the blue skies of my first two days here!)




Practically the first thing I did on arrival, after stowing my bags at the hotel and getting measured up for tailor-made shirts at South Bund Fabric Market, was to take the Huangpu River sightseeing cruise, which displays the best skylines of Shanghai on both sides of the river. Still, Pudong is best experienced firsthand from the Lujiazui circular pedestrian overpass with some great views of the CBD.



The tall building with the square hole in it you see in the top photo is the Shanghai World Finance Center, where you can visit the observation "deck" (actually completely glass-enclosed) for 150 yuan.



This was my view while dining al-fresco at Blue Frog (excellent "mixed grill" for 105 yuan, and they threw in a free Tiger draft!):


The Bund: Britain defeated China in a pair of military contre-temps called the Opium Wars in the mid-1800s. After that time, China was ripe for European domination and exploitation: a period still tangible in the architecture of the French Concession and the Bund--the building styles of colonial and federalist solidity, massive in scale and purposely grand.





The Shanghai Art Museum (in People's Square and site of Kathleen's 5 restaurant) was once the clubhouse of the foreigner-only racing club, back when People's Park was a horseracing course. That's it on the left, of course:


Long-tang, French Concession: City Hotel, where I stayed, is in the French Concession (the French bite of the Chinese pie during the apportioning of Shanghai after the Opium Wars), where long-tang and shinkumen houses are still prevalent. Long-tang are really just the alleys between rows of shikumen. (I wrote a whole post about shikumen here.) Initially, in the late 1800s, these houses, which combine European architecture with traditional Chinese values, were held by rich Chinese families or French. After 1937, the brutal Japanese invasion, many were torn down, or bombed out, and divided up into boarding houses. I don't know what happened to them during the Cultural Revolution, but today some of them have been reborn as small-scale museums (espeically if a famous figure lived there), haute couture boutiques or ... boarding houses.





In sum, Pudong has the Mother of All Asian Skylines, but Puxi, the northwest side of Shanghai, encompassing the Old City, the Bund and the French Concession, has the historic city. Both are worth visiting, both have fine restaurants, both have good shopping--and the view of each may be best from the other side!