Tag Archives: Shanghai

A Sister in Shanghai

Carla Murray is one of our long-time group members, but I just recently found out that she happens to live in Shanghai – and has been there since 2018.  Although Robert and I have  been there twice and enjoyed visiting the tourist attractions, I was curious to find out what it’s like to actually live there. So, I asked her to provide some photographs and answer a few questions about her experience. Here’s what she told me.

“China surprised me big time. I never in my wildest imagination thought that this country had so much to offer.”

What do you like most about living there?

The quality of life. It’s so easy and convenient here. The ease of getting around, affordable, not having to pay an arm and a leg for simple things like internet and basic utilities. Another thing is that it is so SAFE, especially for black folks. There NO guns allowed except for the military—not even the police have guns. There’s very little crime, although there are money scams aplenty—but common sense will protect you from that. The ability to have an Ayi (aunt in China) that comes to my apartment once a week to clean and do my laundry, go to the spa 1-2 times a week and still save over $2k per month is amazing.

What do you like least about living there?

Being an expat and having to renew my visa and knowing I can’t stay here forever unless I marry a local. If I could retire here I would in a heartbeat.

What advice would you give to African Americans who plan to visit there?

Keep an open mind and don’t believe everything you read in the media. Unlike America, China is not an overly racist country. It is very welcoming, and you’ll be surprised by the technology here. It makes life simple and easy. Plan out an itinerary and visit more than just Beijing and Shanghai. The south of China is AMAZING! Cities like Shenzhen, Xiamen and Sanya are comparable to visiting Miami and Hawaii. The climate is HOT, and the landscape is mountainous and breathtaking. I’m hoping to move south after a few more years in Shanghai. I need a warmer climate and a beach to wake up to every morning. This concrete jungle will soon get old to me.

What advice would you give to African Americans who plan to relocate there?

It’s very challenging to relocate to China. You must have a specific job to be able to come here long term. And also living here is not permanent. To my knowledge China doesn’t offer “green cards”. To stay permanently you must marry (but I could be wrong…I’ll investigate more). That being said, if you’re young have an undergrad degree and looking for a change and a chance to earn and save money—China is it. Unfortunately, with COVID the borders are closed and it’s not easy as of now to come here for work, and visiting is out of the question for now. Check back with me in 6 months.

I like the affordability, the ease of getting around and seeing different regions, learning every day about the culture and history (history runs deep). The shopping is AMAZING.  And living in Shanghai is like living in NYC times 100…you can fit 3 New York cities inside Shanghai. Shanghai is the most populous and geographically biggest city in the world, and I feel it every day I walk outside my apartment. I used to dream of living in a high-rise apartment in Manhattan with a door man — walking out my door and having everything accessible to me, not needing a car to get around. Having dinner at nice places and not paying half my salary. I literally have that here.  I had come here thinking I would stay for a couple of years and now I never want to leave.

Do you read and write the language fluently?

I am slowly learning Chinese. (我在慢慢学习汉语)I am using several methods…mostly apps on my phone…like Duolingo and HelloChinese. I have a language exchange partner that I meet with weekly and hanging around my local friends, listening to them talk. Believe it or not, I can read and write (type) better than I can speak and hear. But it’s a slow process. I hope to be fluent by this time next year. 

What is that Eiffel Tower-like structure and where is it?

It’s just outside Hangzhou. Hangzhou is the headquarters for Alibaba and about two hours and 30 minutes by car and less than an hour by fast train from Shanghai. The replica of the Eiffel Tower is in a section of Hangzhou that was built to mimic Paris. It’s literally a ghost town now. I understand that there are a few of these “ghost towns” around China — cities built to look like other famous cities around the world. I’ve only been to the one in Hangzhou. Hangzhou is also known for West Lake. It’s a beautiful city. I have traveled there a few times before Covid as a nice relaxing day trip. The fast train runs almost every hour until midnight, so it makes it easy to visit on a whim. ️

It looks like you were at Shanghai Disney. What’s that experience like?

I used to work at Disney English here in China until it was closed down due to Covid last year As a Disney cast member I could visit up to 12 times per year and we received passes every quarter to use at any park in the world (except Japan). I’ve never been to Disneyland in California, but I suspect that Disneyland Shanghai is comparable to the one in California. I would assume the main differences are the food options (here in Shanghai the food is catered to the Chinese customers) and that everything is in Chinese language first and English second. Disneyland Shanghai is much smaller than Disneyworld.

Where is this amazing view?

That was Easter weekend in WuYi Mountain in Central China. It took us almost an hour to climb up there. The view was our reward.

In one photo you were reading to a group of children. I assume that they were your students. Please expound on the experience of teaching Chinese children.

Yes, those were my kindergarten students. It was such a nice day and it had been raining for a few days in a row, so I decided to read our story outside on the balcony just outside our classroom.

Teaching is my second career (I started teaching when I came to China). The children love hearing stories in Chinese and English. I have a co-teacher partner that teaching Chinese in the second half of the day and I teach English in the morning. The children are so bright. So smart.

What is this statue and what does it stand for?

I don’t know. I think a snail. LOL That’s in my neighborhood. We had just finished lunch and were randomly taking pictures. It was just outside the restaurant.

Carla, thank you so much for providing such a detailed account of what life is like for you in Shanghai!

My Favorite Place






My husband and I have been globetrotting for more than 30 years. In that time we have seen some breathtaking sights and had some amazing travel experiences. When people find out how much traveling we have done, they often ask, “What is your favorite travel destination?” We’ve had so many enjoyable experiences that it is difficult to pick just one. But after lots of thought and consideration, I’ve decided to answer that question. My favorite destination in the entire world is…..Istanbul, Turkey.

This bustling metropolis is one of the world’s most exciting cities. It is a kaleidoscope of culture, history, ancient architecture, modern urban energy, and fresh, delectable cuisine.

Experiences like watching the sun rise over the Bosphorus, shopping at the Grand Bazaar and hearing the call to prayer as we entered the Blue Mosque are indelibly etched into our travel memories. Yes, Istanbul is my favorite destination.

But wait….after our recent trip, I can’t possibly leave out Thailand.

The azure waters, balmy breezes and lush scenery of that tropical paradise are almost too beautiful to be believed. After a hair-raising speedboat ride we spent a perfect afternoon sailing around the islands and sunning ourselves on powdery white sand beaches.

Yes, that idyllic paradise has to be my very favorite travel destination.

But wait….when I think about azure waters and white sand beaches, I can’t possibly leave out another tropical destination….the island of Jamaica.

After viewing this beautiful beach in Montego Bay, it was easy to see why Stella got her groove back here. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the island. We’ve partied on the beach, climbed up Dunns River Falls and zip lined through the tree tops at high speed what a rush!

We’ve also eaten the most delicious jerk chicken, Jamaican patties and washed it all down with ice cold Red Stripe Beer…and of course, rum punch.So without a doubt, Jamaica is my favorite travel destination.

But wait…how can I forget about China? In 2015 we visited Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

We were captivated by the architecture and history of this ancient country. In addition to the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Lingering Garden we shopped and dined in the modern metropolis of Shanghai. We even toured jade, silk and pearl factories. The highlight of the visit had to be climbing the Great Wall of China. I expected it to be amazing, but the experience was beyond anything that I’d imagined. I’d hear other people describe going up on a gondola, so I was prepared to see breathtaking vistas. What I wasn’t prepared for was the actual climb. Our tour guide took us to Juyongguan Pass, a section of the wall where there was no gondola. So it was all about the climb….and those 2000 year old stone steps were no joke.

But it was well worth it – the views from the top were spectacular! The experience was even more special since we shared it as a family.

But wait? I can’t possibly forget about Spain. There is so much to see and do in this country that I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been there. With cities like Barcelona, Valencia, Mallorca, Malaga, Vigo, La Coruna, Cartagena, Valencia, Marbella, Sitges and Puerto Banus it is impossible to see it all in one, or even two visits.

Barcelona is a city that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Its edgy, urban energy reminded us of San Francisco with the restaurants, street performers, street art and designer shops. The Gothic Quarter is a winding maze of narrow alleys that open onto charming plazas where you can hear street musicians, watch flamenco dancers or just sit and people watch, while sipping sangria. There are also great destinations to visit outside of the city. Two of our favorites are the Penedes Wine region, home to the Freixenet Cava caves and several other world-class wineries. We also enjoyed visiting the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, nestled high on a mountain peak; it’s only an hour train ride from Barcelona and home of the famous Black Madonna.

Malaga is another one of our favorite destinations in Spain. It’s a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, near the continent of Africa, Morocco is only a 70-minute ferry ride away. We were particularly intrigued by evidence of Moorish history. We toured the Alcazaba, a hilltop citadel and the nearby Alhambra Palace, another fortress built in the 13th century.

We’ve always been fascinated by Moorish history and discovered that the Spanish occupation by the Moors began in 711 AD when an African army, under their leader Tariq ibn-Ziyad, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from northern Africa and invaded the Iberian peninsula ‘Andalus’ (Spain under the Visigoths). So visiting this palace complex was like walking in the footsteps of those great warriors.

So that’s it…..Spain is my absolute favorite travel destination. Unless I overlook Italy….and I couldn’t possibly do that. From Rome, to Venice, to Florence to Capri, to the Cinque Terre, we’ve lived “la dolce vita” all over that country.

Although many of the famous sites (Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Trevi Fountain) are often overrun by tourists, they are still amazing to visit. Regardless of religious beliefs, the museums and St. Peter’s Basilica of Vatican City are simply awesome. During our most recent visit we got an inside tour of the Colosseum and actually got to see it from a gladiator’s perspective. Wow!

Whenever we visit Florence, we take a day trip to the Cinque Terre, 5 charming coastal villages accessible by boat or train.

Whether you choose to hike between the villages or take the train, the views are simply stunning!

Foodies, can we talk? Italy is hands down one of the world’s top culinary destinations. We’ve enjoyed delicious meals at small trattorias, fine dining restaurants and neighborhood cafeterias. There’s much more to Italian cuisine than gelato, pizza and pasta. But I’ll admit that I could actually eat my weight in pasta….and have done so on occasion.

No matter where you are in Italy, eating gelato daily is a must….


So that settles it, Italy is my favorite travel destination.

Who am I kidding? I can’t pick one single destination as my absolute favorite. Each place offers something special that is unique to that destination. So I’ll just plan to keep traveling around the world…..discovering new “favorites”.