Final Countdown

I finally got a new VPN and can I just say that VPNs are a miracle of life when you're living in an internet prison.

Anyway, I am a working woman now, slaving my days away at my corporate cubicle facing the bathroom (at least I'm close to it!). The 36th floor of Plaza 66 stares out into the vast and hazy Shanghai skyline but unfortunately, I don't face the window to actually be able to see the sights. This first month at the new job has posed to be a challenge.  While I believed I was culturally aware of life in Shanghai, work life proves much more difficult. Everyone speaks Shanghainese and my Mandarin Chinese isn't even up to par.  My co-workers look at me as an outsider, even though I am ethnically Chinese. If not for the brand ambassador who was hired the same day I was, I would have no friends at work. Depressing! Even more sad, the brand ambassador is always traveling, so pretty much half the time I am alone! Such an opposite experience as New York where all my friends were at work. This has made me appreciate my friends who stayed from USA Pavilion.  Although, most of them are back home for the holidays now.

My contract is for 3 years at this company and I don't know if I can stay here for much longer.  I love the experience I'm gaining and my prospective career goals could be easily achieved with this experience, but China seems to want me to leave. I can't go into much detail about it now, but I sure hope I can stay (and my boss warms up to me.)

But that's enough about work, snore.
I recently moved into my new apartment off of Nanjing West road, which for those who don't know is like the 5th Avenue of New York City. I say this because all the lux brands line this street and if I can't clearly describe it... Prada is on the same floor as the 2nd floor of my office. The rest of Plaza 66 is filled with the designer brands and lux goods.

We just celebrated Christmas as well, which was my first Christmas away from family. I was so grateful that my roommate's Italian friend arrived just in time for the holidays. She taught me how to make Italian food and we cooked for 12 people on Christmas Eve. I met Chinese-Italians, an English couple, some more Italians, and another Californian.  It was definitely a nice first Christmas in Shanghai, but I hope to spend next Christmas with my family.

New Year's Eve should be crazier than last year as well.  The same friends from Christmas rented 2 party buses and the plan is to hop from club to club and ring in the new year.

I do have to say, 2010 has been the best year of my life. I got to live the dream in New York city staring at the Empire State building every night. Then, moved to Shanghai where I met 79 other Americans just as enthusiastic about Shanghai as I am. I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand with friends, one of my life-long dream travel destinations. Now settled in Shanghai, I'm working a corporate job in Plaza 66, living on Nanjing West road staring out to the JW Marriott and the Pearl Tower. I couldn't have asked for a more fun-filled, adventurous, constant-high year. I know I can't expect too much out of 2011 since 2010 rocked, but I am ready to continue the excitement.

Chiang Mai - land of Elephants

I've been in Chiang Mai for about 2 days now and absolutely love it here. Sad thing is the number of foreign tourists is outrageous! (us included). I think I've seen more foreigners in Thailand than I've seen locals! Tourism is really a thriving industry in Thailand, and now I've got photos to prove it. (well, not at this very moment, but when I get back to China)

To update you on what Rachel and I have been up to... Bangkok was insane. We got around by tuk-tuk - a motorized wagon pretty much. There are similar ones in China, but are considered illegal there while in Thailand its one of the main types of transport. We visited the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha, Reclining Buddha, and Khaosan Road... First off, Thailand, even Bangkok, is CHEAP. It was one USD for each of us to get from our hostel to Grand Palace (30 minutes away). Food has been even more glorious, ranging from a few pennies to a couple dollars.  Don't get me started on housing. We were spoiled in Bangkok with $10/person/day in a really swanky hostel but here in Chiang Mai, our guesthouse is $2/person/day for the daily conveniences.

Yesterday, we started our adventure trek bright and early, beginning with a 1.5 hour ride in the back of a pick up truck to the elephant ranch. We rode atop these docile elephants for an hour through the jungle, up hills, etc... Then we went on a 2 our trek to a waterfall. Definitely not feeling swimsuit ready (even more so now that I've "eaten my weight in Pad Thai" as Rachel says...truth) so we just sat on the side and enjoyed the scenery.  White water rafting and bamboo rafting followed...OMG. I will just have to show you the words can describe the 'joy' we had during this adventure.

Last night we ate...(I probably had 4 dinners) at the Saturday Market which is a big open air market with food, random articles of clothing, souvenirs, you name it. I just ate...drank Thai Tea (Cha-yan) and ate more. We definitely slept well last night. 

This morning we woke up bright and early to go to Thai cooking class! They brought us to the local market to pick out our veggies, spices, and other goodies.  I bought a bag of Thai Tea so I can make it on my own now! We chose dishes in different categories - curry, stir-fry, appetizer, soup, and dessert. It was amazing! They would teach us one category at a time, we would cook and eat what we just made, rest, then make the next course. Now we're both just trying to relax and take it easy as we have a CRAZY day tomorrow.

Tomorrow, yet again, we will have to wake up early but this time to go Ziplining for 7 hours, on Thailand's longest ziplining course! The only time I have ziplined was off the Great Wall (pretty sweet too). But now, we're going to jungles by Chiang Rai and spending a day flying through the air with "Jungle Flight".

Tomorrow night, we'll be off to Phuket!

Sa-wat dee ka.

Pad Thai!

Sorry I have kept you all out of the loop this past month.  This is the first time since the last post I have been able to log onto Blogger! My VPN expired and then I had no possible way of updating.

I do have a lot to update you on, but as of now, I am in Bangkok, Thailand! After a lot of contemplating, I decided to move to Shanghai indefinitely. This being said, once I made my decision to move I began freaking out about the job search and how I would be homeless and jobless after Expo... Because of this frank decision to completely alter my life and skip out on grad school, my plans for traveling have changed as well.  I am no longer backpacking through south east Asia for 5 weeks.  Instead I'm taking a mini vacation of 10 days in Thailand! I figure it's better than nothing and I can use all of my savings to LIVE. The remainder of my savings can help me survive in China for about a year without a job, not that I'm planning on being jobless, but just in case! Travelling would probably have wiped out my bank account.

I'm traveling with a close friend of mine from USAP, and we're going to meet some of our other expo buddies in Chiang Mai and Phuket. I'm excited for this warm weather as Shanghai's weather went from scalding hot to freezing cold in a matter of DAYS. No joke, on September 22, first day of fall, the weather dropped 20C. We all got sick. I've lost a lot of color the beaches of Thailand should fare well for me! Tan (healthy, non-sickly) Cassie back in action!

I'm glad to finally have some uncensored internet access, but I know that in 10 days, I'm going straight back to the PRC and must re-suffer the prison-esque internet. I'll try and keep you updated as much as I can on my trip!

Off to some delicious Thai food! :)

Sa-wat dee! (Goodbye in Thai)


Sorry for not keeping my blog updated for the entire month of September.  There are 2 days left in this hellish month, but what the heck, I might as well just update you now! I have been so overwhelmed this month in Operations, but it has been FANTASTIC!

Even though I’ve been losing my voice every week (will be explained later) and the temperature has dropped 20 DEGREES, I am enjoying every moment here in Shanghai. 

I’m not much for explaining what has been going on in my life other than showing you in photos!

This month began with a great concert from Black Violin at Mao Livehouse. Classical music mashed with hip hop. Following the concert, we made a little club hop adventure for ourselves, hitting up 3 clubs of which we will never return to again.

Next came a photo opportunity with former president Jimmy Carter…

Yeah…that’s me next to him! What a cute old man.

After Jimmy came THE GOVERNATOR. Yeah...ARNIE! I got to stand next to him in our group photo (that which cannot be found) and shook his hand after he called me a "Califohnia gahl".

Throughout the month a few of my friends participated in a pageant held at the expo: Miss Expo. My friend Mary Anne, who is an Irish American working at the USA Pavilion represented Ireland and won her heat! In the pageant finale, she won 3rd!

Outside of operations, a few of us at the USAP had been volunteering with Junior Achievement. It was an opportunity for me to see other parts of Shanghai and interact with the local Chinese. Junior Achievement is a competition where students from different elementary schools compete to produce an innovative product that would be sustainable in reality. Sadly, my little troupers didn’t win, but I thought they were great!

My cute kids!

To keep ourselves entertained in Operations, we give ourselves code names, dance in front of 50,000 visitors a day, and DRESS UP!

This was for Texas week!

Also, something that is entertaining is watching the Johnson & Johnson game in Act 3 of our pavilion.  Let me explain. J&J has a “game” where our visitors text “关爱” or “care” to the phone number listed, we give them a small gift. It’s a cell phone chain with a little bunny at the end, called a “Stevie”.
J&J was smart enough to have an “incentive”, which was giving the shift with the highest number of text messages in a week $500USD or if we win the month $1,000USD. 

Because of this outrageous amount of money (the prize goes far in China), each shift tries extremely hard to win! There are also rules. We can only announce the game in Act 2 and no megaphones allowed. This is why I have been voiceless for 3 weeks.  However, Week 1, we won! We were 4,000 texts above the 2nd place shift.  We used our money for go karting! Also, in Chinese fashion, the go karting place encouraged drinking and driving… it was a bar with go karting…

The day before our go karting adventure, we had operations shift dinner which I organized to be at Gintei – all you can eat and drink teppenyaki! The food was amazing and the restaurant has surprisingly fast service. Festivies are always followed by more festivities. Off to G Plus!

Speaking of amazing food, I have discovered the most amazing hot pot restaurant in the world. Hai Di Lao. They have fastest service in all of China (probably faster than what I have experienced in the states), they get you what you want before you even know you want it. Seriously.  Not only is the service impeccable, while you wait for your table/food you can get a FREE MANICURE. I am not joking. FREE LEGIT MANICURE.  I went twice in 3 days…

The way to end my week…3 days in a row at the Fake market.  I bought 6 pairs of pants, all electric and vibrant colors and 3 pairs of shoes. I’m sure they will show up on my facebook photos… Just like the pants below. Man, do I love the fake market.

Last note of happiness – the USA Pavilion staff party has been approved! Oct 12 is a PARTY IN THE USA! More details to come soon.

Hell yeah! Private room on the 4th floor of MUSE. This is how we roll.

Rotate and Shift it.

-Aug 25-
I think it’s about time I update you on my hectic life in Shanghai.  Since last time, I did move departments from Sponsorship into CEO Operations – Special Projects, mainly doing office management and other good stuff. I did get sick, and about time huh? However, after two days I have begun to recover, but still have a nasty “Shanghai lung” cough.

CEO Operations covers all events occurring under the precedence of the CEO plus the office operations, including weekly Wal-Mart runs, getting people into the expo, expo transportation for the commissioner general and CEO, etc...  Sadly, these are my last few days in the office (unless a miracle occurs and Operations and the CEO let me stay, ha). My next rotation is in Pavilion Operations meaning that I will be welcoming 50,000 visitors every day, dealing with children peeing on the carpet, guests passing out from the heat… you get the picture. 

Outside of work, I’ve relaxed a bit more, gone to the fabric market to get a blazer made, visited Saudi Arabia pavilion (!) and South Korea pavilion, celebrated a friend’s birthday, and went to the FIRST EVER WWE event in China. Guess what, I was 10 feet away from John Cena. Yes! My high school dream came true and OMG it was fantabulous. Photos are definitely necessary in this case.

Rachel's bday at Cantina Agave.

Rachel's bday bash at Muse.

Char and America's Best Dance Crew season 3: Rhythm City.

Char and I at the Israel Pavilion party: Fill up my cup, Mazal Tov!

On top of the Saudi Arabia pavilion. VIP access, baby!

Having fun in the S. Korea Pavilion.

Brazil Party!

John Cena WWE @ Expo culture center.

-Aug 30- 
Today was my first day in Operations (downstairs).  I am no longer in the office, instead I am welcoming thousands of Chinese people a day.  During my 7 hour shift approximately 25,000 expo attendees come through the USA pavilion doors.  I was fortunate to have my first rotation include "overture", "turnstiles" and "act II: urban garden".  I was overwhelmed to begin with, but made the most of my day and practically had a 7 hour party. 

I wish there were photos of me in Overture and Turnstiles since we invited some kids to dance with us at turnstiles to Lady Gaga - of course. 

Also, in overture, I shook hands with Israel's ex-prime minister, Ehud Olmert. He complimented my overture speech with Kate. LIFE AT THE EXPO!!!

This past weekend we went all out by dancing, eating, and more dancing. It was a wild one- a fun way to end office life.
Expo party at Club Mao.

Work hard & play as hard as you can.

Now I truly don’t know where to begin.  I have come upon my second week of work in Sponsorship, and have already developed a love hate relationship with my job/lifestyle. Of course I have exhausted myself physically and mentally through constant nights out.  I don’t know what it is but I definitely have the dance bug where I can’t stay in at night.  Over the past 2 weeks of being here, I have stayed in for only 4 nights, which means every other night I have been living up the Shanghai nightlife. 

I guess I’ll break this post down in to WORK & PLAY.


The sponsorship department takes care of all the sponsors – around 70 dedicated companies/cities that have supported the USA Pavilion.  Since the USAP is privately funded, it is crucial that we take care of sponsors and see it through that they take full advantage of their benefits.  We host events daily, including VIP tours through the USAP as well as other pavilions.  Last Monday, I brought through a delegation from Houston, one member of which worked on the recently launched satellite.  I was also able to visit France, Spain, and Canada pavilion through the VIP access – just one of the perks on this job.

Occasional visits from GE, one of our global sponsors, fill up our schedule throughout the week and they bring rare gifts, such as jade pendants from the Beijing Olympics – another perk of this job.

One HUGE aspect of life at the Expo is the “trading of pins”.  Workers at different pavilions receive their own country pin (USA gave us 4 each) and we trade them between pavilions/workers.  Of course the USA pavilion pins are a highly sought so those can be traded for more than one pin.  Sometimes people in the Expo will just give you pins…this is rare but it’s happened – how do you think I got the Communist Party pin? J I’m awesome.

My work schedule has been somewhat random.  I never get two consecutive workdays off, which is understandable because sponsors can come in any day of the week.  This definitely messes with my playtime, but it hasn’t stopped me yet. When I do have work, I have to get to work before 9, since many delegations choose to come in earlier, but it hasn’t been a problem even when I sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning.

As of right now, I am waiting for some VIPs of Pepsi to come through… kind of bored right now.

As of tomorrow, I am being transferred to the “Special Projects” department as my experience is much needed in the event management section.  I will remain an ambassador, but I will be more hands-on on all of the events, including non-sponsored events.  Not only will I be working on events, but office management – my favorite! I’m excited to be a part of a new team, which only consists of 3 people including myself. I will let you know how it goes.


Shanghai nightlife is something I had dearly missed when I was in the States.  Even New York City does not compare.  I always had a saying that “Americans are too lazy to dance which is why there are so many bars and lounges…Shanghai knows how to party”.  Shanghai Round 2 is homework-less making it MUCH easier for me to experience the nightlife…full on.  The ironic part of it is that I only stay in the nights before my days off… and go out every other night.  For those who are reading this…yes, I am responsible and I have not been drunk, “I just wanna dance!”- my motto for my stay in Shanghai, as many of my friends know. 

The session 2 ambassadors have been so much fun, and its great to get to know them better through dance! I have made friends with the Dance America team (hired dancers from LA for our entertainment crew) as well, but just watching them dance at clubs make me feel bad about my movin and shakin!

There’s not much to write about my nightlife experience, except that it has been a blast.  I have already tested my physical limits by sleeping a mere 4 hours a night. It’s ok, the hours have been increasing recently so don’t worry! Just think about all that dancing and how many calories I’m burning.  I’m not sure, but I think I’ve lost about 10 pounds already.  Impressive, huh?

I have also been shopping like NONE other since our weekly stipends are far more than enough for us...well those of us that like to eat frugally but spend fruitfully. My most impressive purchase thus far is 3 pairs of PRESCRIPTION glasses for 120RMB (~$18USD) each, and they're cute!!

Photos are worth a million words.

The Dance America team captain - my fave!!
Expo Midterm Party

Dinner at Boxing Cat Brewery, some good "southern" food.

My first night at MUSE with session 1 ambassadors.

We won  trivia night :) 1000RMB in drinks.
Bulldog Pub

My suite mate, but soon to be roommate!

I Love Shanghai Ladies Night with my favorite Session 1 ambassadors.

First time at Windows Too. Bon Jovi all the way!

Training is Draining

I don’t even know where to begin. My internet connection is pretty unstable which has caused me to write minimally about my intense experience thus far at the World Expo.  Training has been draining, but I have managed to find time to go out every single night.  Today is my first night staying in this week – due to the thunderbolts and lightning (very, very frightening to me!) even though the Philippines and Angola are holding parties in their pavilions.  Today marks the HALFWAY point of the expo.

July 22 - On the first day, I was so happy to be reunited with Charlotte – my friend from Fudan study abroad. I had dinner at a Xin Jiang restaurant with a few people I had just met, including one of my suitemates. I was eager to go out, but many people were jetlagged, understandably.

July 23 - The next morning, I grabbed some breakfast with a new friend before we met up with others to visit the Expo grounds. At the expo, we visited Kazakhstan – which included a really cool 4D movie with moving chairs like at theme parks, an ice room – to imitate winters in their country, and some random games… it was all pretty entertaining in my opinion.  We then visited the USA Pavilion to check out the offices, nothing as in depth as the training I will describe later. We then visited Egypt, which was a bit underwhelming… other than a few Egyptian statues and art, there wasn’t much to see or interact with.


Inside Egypt.

Thereafter, Charlotte and I rushed to People’s Square to have my reunion with AMBER and LUCY, after ONE YEAR!  We met at Raffles City for a sad one-hour before we had to head back for the Student Ambassador Pizza Party! It was funny to see how many people recognized me from Facebook. “Hey CASSIE CHAOS!” Oh Facebook.  A few guys at my table were really eager to go out and explore Shanghai, so this we did! M2 first, followed by GPlus, 2 clubs where I got my dance on! I enjoy Shanghai nightlife, as it consists more of dancing around opposed to New York’s lounging and drinking.


Night out!

July 24 – The USA Pavilion had shorts, skirts, and pants tailored for us at the Fabric Market. Sadly, I have never gotten anything made in Shanghai’s fabric market, and the only thing I would probably get made is suits, like I did in Beijing. Anyway, it was all free of charge and I have to go pick them up this Sunday.  Char and I walked around People’s Park in awe of how Shanghai has evolved over this past year, especially the number of blue sky days! For those in Shanghai, find the time to visit People’s Park. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

People's Park

We met up with Amber for our last night together and had some yummy Pho – as you know it’s my favorite. We walked past what was remaining of “小吃街”or “little food street” but all of it was boarded up or demolished, sigh- thanks a lot expo. After dinner, we went to Zapatas (one of many times to come) to hang out with some ambassadors. Overall, it was a very fun night before the draining of training.

Zapatas night 1.

July 25- Wake up at 6:30 AM to head to the USA Pavilion at 7AM…2 hours before the pavilion even opens! We took a tour for 3 hours…before we finally walked back to Expo Village, where many of us had some cheap family-style lunch. After lunch, we sat in a classroom for 5 hours for an orientation lecture. Draining much? I can’t even remember what I did this night.

July 26 – 8AM to 8PM: lecture training… important and EXTREMEMLY tiring, but still managed to go out to Zapatas for Alice’s 22nd birthday. Had an AMAZING night and really got to loosen people’s stiff sides. As I said, Zapatas – always fun. Met some USA Pavilion dancers who rocked the bar dancing!

July 27 – DAY OFF! Woke up at 1PM and introduced Alice to 麻辣汤 and she loved it! Can’t remember what else we did, but at night we visited Malta pavilion, but it wasn’t anything special – just a bar with outdoor seating. Nice for a “chill” night.

July 28 – My first day of on-site training! I was partnered with Josiah and a session 1 ambassador, both really outgoing individuals and I had an awesome time in operations. I even said a brief about myself in front of the Act I crowd in Chinese! However, my first on-site training day was pretty intense, as I had to send two people to First Aid, and help one woman find her child. Lost children seem to be a reoccurring theme at the pavilion and the expo grounds…which is kind of funny considering each family usually only has ONE child. In the afternoon, we had a very short training about VIP – nothing we hadn’t heard before.

Afterward we all boarded a bus to the US Consulate (which by the way is directly across from Bulldog…where I celebrated St. Patrick’s day and Cinco de Mayo last year…ruh roh!).  After a discussion panel and an oath, the SAs made an a-line to the grill and quickly devoured the spread like locusts. I was estatic that dessert included green tea ice cream

At night, we went to our first pavilion PARTY at the Austrian pavilion. It was a first night out for many of the ambassadors, but I was entertained with the euro music playing in the background. Apparently I danced so crazily I made it onto the front page of the Expo Nights website – woohoo! One of the session 1 ambassadors took us out to a club called Number 88, which is reputed as a “Chinese” club, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself! They played the best music I have heard in Shanghai thus far.   

July 29 – DAY OFF! I woke up around noon and met up with some friends for 麻辣汤 again. We then proceeded to the fake market where I bought two MORE Longchamp bags and a couple DVDs. It began to rain while we traveled back to the village, keeping me indoors for the night.  I think I’m going to put “Kick- Ass” on until I fall asleep.

Til next time! Love from Shanghai.
PS. Forgive me for my poor grammar structure and horrible's been a long week and Chinese is taking over my brain.

This is not Disney World and I am not Obama.

For the past few days I have been chillin in Shanghai with some Aussies and it's been wonderful! I went out to play rugby with one of them for the first time and I feel like I've had my ass kicked, because literally, I did.  The weather is so hot here that I have only left their apartment three times in the past three days, once for rugby, once for shopping, and once for bubble tea! Apparently, it will only get hotter as July and August are the hottest months of the year... I don't think Taiwan prepared me for anything.

View from Aussie's apt. Jealous the Expo view is not like this.

As for the title of my's the clear expression of my experience at the World Expo. It is NOT Disney World and I am clearly not high roller like Obama. Once I stepped foot into the Expo, the massive pavilions just awestruck me. Of course waiting in line is nobody's favorite thing to do (if it is, you're interesting), so I flashed around my staff pass in the VIP line.  Too bad for my parents, we found out that at most pavilions, only I can get in.  If only I were Obama, I would get in with as many people I wanted...but I'm not.

VIP [staff] pass

At night, however, the lines go pretty fast - there are still hundreds of thousands of people though.  We went to Nepal, Taiwan, France, and a few others that had moving lines.  Taiwan had an amazing pavilion.  While it didn't really cover the topic of urban sustainability, it had some pretty neat effects - a 720 degree movie (it surrounds you), a HUGE LED screen in the shape of a balloon - to submit digital paper lanterns, and a tea ceremony with harp playing.  Because of these intricate stages of the pavilion, you must have a reservation ticket (or pass in my case), and only 4,000 tickets are given out a day.  I don't even know when they give them out! 

720 degree movie.

Largest LED sphere.

While the expo does not strike me as a theme park, it is an opportunity for the native Chinese to explore other cultures and lifestyles.  In the French pavilion, many were taking pictures with an Eiffel Tower image, pretending they were there. In the Taiwan pavilion it was fun for me to watch the guys take pictures with the pretty female Taiwanese staff. All in all, most pavilions do not fit the "Better City, Better Life" theme, but they showcase a day in the life of a [country] person. 

Outside of the Expo, my parents and I visited my old stomping grounds - Fudan, Wu Jiao Chang, Wu Dong Lu... as well as the Bund, Xin Tian Di, French Concession, and Tian Zi Fang.  All of these places have changed so much over the past year, especially the Bund.  But, the magnificent view of the Financial District has not been altered.  Always beautiful and always enchanting!

I love my new camera!

The new student ambassadors arrive in 4 hours! I'm so excited to finally be united with the rest of the crew.  I will be sure to update in a few days once I get settled in my new apartment!