Real Blue Sky Days

The  past week – Shanghai has looked different. The haze that swallows the city has turned to blue sky. You can actually make out the clouds.

Last night, the sunset bounced off nearby buildings.

I walked around a park close to my home. I saw the regulars: people practicing Tai Chi, folks walking around their pajamas at 6:00pm, others staring at me because I look different than them, and plenty of kids running around.

It was one of those evenings where I say – it’s pretty cool to live here. It’s nice to see people enjoying the weather, enjoying the “outdoors” and enjoying life. It is refreshing.

The U.S. Consulate in Shanghai measures the air quality here – and for the past week it’s been good:

Thank you, mother nature for the blue sky – I truly appreciate it.


My Grocery Store Looks Like…

a pet shop.


This is a glimpse of the seafood section of the Western grocery store that I go to. At this part of the store you can choose your bait, aka dinner. Yes, this is what fresh resembles in China. You can buy the live fish and take it home, or you can have someone clean it for you. My Chinese has not been perfected in this department, so I shy away. I know I would be carrying smelly, half-dead fish in a plastic bag. I’d likely get sick, so dinner would not happen. There is a section where you can buy just the meat, which I prefer. You can also purchase the fish head. Mmmmm… delicious. This is not for the weak stomachs (like mine).

Fortunately, this store has a lot of imported goods from the United States. You can find your Doritos, Kashi, salsa, granola bars, peanut butter, diet Pepsi (the China version tastes different) and frozen pizza. You know, all the things you should not have in your pantry. The only issue – some of these items are not always there. It goes in waves, so you may get excited that Cliff bars are available, but tomorrow and the next day – it probably won’t exist. Hungry Americans.

The nice part – they deliver. Although, I am not sure all of the Chinese understand temperature control. I’ve had melted ice cream and warm meat arrive. Those go into the trash and usually warrants an angry phone call.

The trials and tribulations of going to the supermarket in China.

July 11th: A Milestone

July 11th. It’s a day I will always know, love and remember. Today, would be my father’s (Guy Vitale, Jr.) 67th birthday.

Skiing Aspen Snowmass – Spring 2008 (He loved that 80’s-style ski jacket.)

Nearly two years ago he passed away. To me, he beat cancer; he stared it down, fought it longer than doctors expected and became more of an inspiration during it. Two years ago, I wrote the blog below called “A Milestone.” I thought it would be fitting to repost on my Dad’s birthday.

Dad doing what he loved – swimming on his 65th birthday at Aspen Glen Country Club in Carbondale, Colorado – 2010.

We tend to think of milestones as our child’s first birthday or your 5th wedding anniversary. What about the milestone of living another year, month or even a day? 

I’m sure you never thought about celebrating that. I guess I never did either until last year. That’s when my father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I never treasured life so much until my Dad told me the news. It was one of those moments in life that I’ll never forget. My heart sunk as far as it could in my chest and shattered into a million pieces. 

This month is my Dad’s milestone. He continues to fight his battle, one year later. For one year, he’s undergone the unthinkable: chemotherapy, radiation, you name it. The pain is evident with the constant aches, the ones we only thought we’d feel in our 80s and 90s. He continues to power through, living for each day and each moment that he can spend with his family and friends.

Just last month, my Dad had a different milestone: his 65th birthday.

It was more of an emotional celebration for us all. He sent out cards to his closest friends to leave them with his birthday wish: “Live every second of every day. Life is beautiful.”

Dad on his tractor at Wildwoods Farm in Maquon, Illinois – September 2009.

It’s pretty unbelievable how cancer can truly make you appreciate life. You don’t realize life is that short, until someone actually tells you. Here’s to milestones, whatever yours may be. 

Dad and I in Colorado – Spring 2010.

China’s SPF – The Real Sunblock

When it’s sunny outside – I have a tough time staying indoors. I love feeling the sun on my skin and getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

In Shanghai, sunny days (I mean the real ones – the days where the haze of pollution isn’t masking the sun) are limited. When they do happen – I try to take advantage of them.

But for the locals, they have their own method of sunblock. They shield it with their umbrellas.


Of course, it’s a little cooler; however, the real reason why Chinese people do this is because they don’t want a tan. Yes, Snooki – you wouldn’t like it here. A lighter skin tone is a sign of wealth. It’s about status. The Chinese mindset: if you’re tan, you’re usually a migrant worker who is outside all day – the fairer the better.

Skin tone is such a big deal in China. Beauty products like Lancome’s Blanc Expert have a “whitening” effect. Call it what you will – a way to get rid of dark circles or spots, or a way to change your pigmentation. Michael Jackson wouldn’t be afraid (yes, I said what you are thinking).


And even though the skin whitening creams are found at several stores here – umbrellas are everywhere.

The minute it rains – someone is selling them. The minute the sun peaks out – it looks like huge cocktails are walking around.


I’d say the person who manufactures umbrellas (umbrella – yu san – in Mandarin) will never go out of business in China. After all, this is China’s SPF.

questions/comments/story Ideas:

Discover Your Own Paradise

It’s not always where you go, but what you make of it.

The past few months have been incredible. I have been able to travel the world. I have been able to write about my experiences. And, I have started grasping a foreign language. I do not have one complaint about my life. I would not change it. I would not trade it.

I will say – even though there are plenty of places that I call paradise (New Zealand, Bali, Australia to name a few), I feel our true “paradise” is the one we make. It does not have to be exotic, far away, or a venture to the unknown. It could be sitting on your back deck enjoying the sun. Maybe it’s a round of golf, or a swim in the pool. It could be talking with your best friend while walking your dog. Whatever it is – grab ahold of it. Discover your paradise – and no matter what – it will be yours.