Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pictures

I drew this exact thing approximately 800 times in middle school and here it is, come to "life" in a Shanghaiese French expensive knickknack store. We are obviously both great artists:






Last night I got a massage for 50RMB (=$7). Massage is a job for the blind here and there are massage joints on nearly every block. It is considered less of a luxury and more of a necessity in order to keep your body in balance (you know, yin and yang). I went with the hope that it would actually bring me back to balance but so far I am still lopsided by about 3cm.

Doll on a stand for sale at a metro station shop. I think it's Saddam Hussein, don't you?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ministry of Truth

Another weekend. I went to "JZ" on Friday night with Maggie, lunch with flatmates on Saturday to a Turkish/Uighur restaurant (happy, have wanted to try Uighur) and searched (in vain and in the rain without an umbrella) for the Taoist Temple of the Town Gods on Sunday afternoon, the thing I have wanted to do most since I arrived. I did stumble upon a small Buddhist temple on Bangfang lu instead, so went in and burned some incense for the gods and spent some time looking and kneeling. Though similar, I prefer Taoism to Buddhism.



Excellent veggie dumplings Sunday lunch


On Friday, Maggie and I left work early after the whole office (about 80 folks) celebrated the July birthdays with fancy cake and peaches. We walked around West Nanjing lu and went into the fanciest mall I've ever been in.. .they had every single designer I've ever heard of and a bunch I hadn't. I now love Anna Sui. A lot. Possibly more than Anthropologie. Yes, I know I am a hypocrite when it comes to these two stores.

Then there was the Hello Kitty store. Nothing but, including four shelves of this formidable army:


JZ was a jazz club with a Latin band and a lot of fat Italians and Germans smoking cigars and wagging their butts in my face. I had a margarita. JZ is very near The Best Statue Of My Life so Maggie took my picture with it and told me it is a musician-- figures. The photo of me with The Statue was the highlight of my week for sure.

Have you ever had the feeling in conversation that you are constantly talking past each other instead of at? I said to Michelle yesterday, "There's not very many Americans here. I've only seen, like, five, not counting the flat." Meaning: "Americans don't come here or cross my path much, every white person I see is Russian, French, British or Canadian." And she says, "For real? You need to go out more [to the clubs]!"

I had my palm read on Saturday. I will have a long life and die healthy (meaning of an accident or murder). I will marry once and have one child and cheat on my husband once. I will kill one person with intent and that may bring about my own death.

I hate to go on and on about the heat but it is so hot that even the locals are complaining. "If you haven't noticed (perhaps you are a human ice cube?) it's hot out. Really hot. Today's forecast features a 36C high, which is 97F to the Americans in the audience, plus another 10-13 degrees for the heat index. Yesterday the mercury hit 39.6C, making it the hottest Shanghai day in 63 years. The city's Labor and Social Security Bureau is requiring employers to provide a 10-yuan daily bonus to all employees who work outdoors, a 'heat allowance' for these sweltering, heat-stroke-inducing and extra-liquid-requiring days." And thus the working masses of Shanghai rejoice at an extra $1.42.

My Mandarin is getting better without studying at all. At this rate, I'll be able to speak a coherent sentence by the time I'm 83. I heard some people speaking Japanese and knew immediately it was not Chinese. I can pick some words out on the street. Now I know:

nihao=hello
xiexie=thanks
waiguoren=foreign devil
laowei=foreigner
ma=mom
ma=horse
lu=road
xi=west
nigga nigga (they say this all the time. awkward for english speakers)=sure, sure

I'm feeling a bit funny about this blog.. watching the news here, or anywhere, really, you know you're only viewing what they want to be shown and with the wider and wider audience I seem to be getting on this, it's like my own personal propaganda machine.. I am only telling you what I want to relay, which are not always what I consider to be the most important or interesting things that are happening to me, just the safest. Propaganda For All.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What do I look like?

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to go to all these places. The more I think about it, the awesomer it is. Though day-to-day life isn't always too exciting (sitting at a computer in an office, often doing nothing...this is why the blog gets updated so often), the general experiences are. The days go by slowly but the weeks go by quickly.

I had a conversation with Gaelle earlier in the week about how we have no idea what the standard of beauty is here. Obviously, pale is in but other than that, it is very difficult to discern who would be considered pretty/handsome and who would not, or what the Chinese people think of our looks. The people in the advertisements and on TV are ok but I see people I consider more attractive on the metro everyday. China is also at an interesting crossroads in terms of body shape. I think only in the last few years has thin started to be in for young women-- prior to that, they were still at the stage where the heavier you were, the richer and less likely to die. I was worried that when I came here I would feel like a gigantic cow but it's been ok. I am generally bigger than most but not obviously so. Somehow this has had the effect of making me feel thinner than I usually do at home. Pleasantly disorienting...

Yesterday, I attempted to go to a mooncake tasting party at the fanciest hotel in Shanghai for work but, as usual, I couldn't find it. I wandered up and down a road by Lujiazui for an hour then went home. Being in Lujiazui (where the Oriental Pearl Tower and two biggest skyscrapers in Shanghai are) for such a long time made me really appreciate how not touristy my neighborhood is!

Looking for the hotel entrance, wandering up and down this street forever:


Turtles for sale on the sidewalk; Jing'an Temple


Whenever there is an auto accident, fight, someone gets pulled over by the cops or other disagreement, a big and interested crowd gathers to watch. More honest than Americans, who just slow down to cause a traffic jam or another accident. There is a car accident on the other side of this group. This is the only photo I have taken in public that people haven't stared at me for taking.


Chinese tourist driven consumerism at its overtly obvious best: Super Brand Mall


Hooters Shanghai: emphasis on big smiles, not big boobs. Seriously.


Sunset over Lujiazui:


As an aside, I think I've done a good job of putting my foot in my mouth with/embarrassing one specific person.. depressing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Really hot return of violent dreams: just like the Oscars, but with Beer. Dress code: Funky Hat

From Shanghai Daily:

"Temperatures may reach 39 degrees Celsius this weekend as the ongoing heat wave will likely continue until the end of the month, the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau forecast today.

Today's high will be 37 degrees and overnight the mercury may dip to 29 degrees, the bureau said.

A sub-tropical high pressure system is responsible for the heat wave that will keep temperatures around 37 degrees until the end of this month.

The bureau said it will not rain this week."

ooh, down to 29 at night, brr... not.


shanghaiist says:
(i don't believe in wind chill or heat index BUT because i know some of my friends are ardent followers)
"Thirty-six degrees outside but, according to our weather page, it feels like 44 (that's 111 degrees for the Americans out there). And we'd say that sounds about right. Just miserable."


I am excited to be going to India during the second month of their first female president's term. I finally booked my flight successfully yesterday; I will be flying from Beijing to Malaysia to Chennai on September 8th. This route is much longer (and cheaper) than a direct flight but it's just as well because if the plane goes down, it won't be in Afghanistan or Kazakhstan, where everyone loves American women.

I had a dream two nights ago that the director here was kidnapped by a rebel group. They proceeded to slit her throat in front of me and it was gushing blood everywhere.

The last few days at work have been spent editing the approved versions of the magazines, including "translating" the Listings pages from "Chinglish" to English. Pre-edited examples in all their curious-spacing and -capitalization glory:

Men's shopping night and modeling to showcase
Don't forget to buy something that you think she would love. Think about what she wears already.Now, we provide the modeling to showcase the lingerie that you wanna buy for her, whether it will be for herself or "her man". Lingerie & Me 6253 3076

Mythology(ies) of my neighbour-Independent short-films showing
A series of mostly French independent short-films.A series of these different films has been built up in order to reach a wider audience.These films all share a certain freedom of speech. They are testimonies of the filmmakers' special look at the world. English substitles. 6:30pm. 6F, Alliance Fran├žaise de Shanghai. 6357 5388

Popcorn Party
No Explanation Needed Here. It's a Party and There's Popcorn. Zapata's 6474 6628

August Babies
Complimentary bottle of Champagne for BIRTHDAY BABY before midnight.(ID will be needed to prove).Free entry for people in dress code before midnight, Dress code: Funky Hat. RMB150 after midnight including 1 standard drink. Attica, www.attica-shanghai.com 6373 3588

Adidas Master Class launch party-Street Hop class
Fall/Winter 07 Adidas brings you the hottest street hop class with their master instructors. Members who attend it will get gifts&products provided by Adidas. Book your tickets now! iDancing 1:30pm-2:30pm www.idancing.cn 6271 4952

Goes To Hollywood
Hit songs from Hit Movies with Art-6 live on stage. Just like the Oscars, but with Beer. Malone's 6247 2400

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dice queen

Last night, I went out with Michelle, Mike, Gail and a new kid, Jason. I knew I would just freak out again if I stayed home so I decided to go. Mike is a high strung, funny 20 year old from California. Jason only 17, from Long Island so he got pretty drunk even off the weak drinks that grace open bars. I haven't hung out with someone that young in a long time! They're both Chinese Americans and can speak some Mandarin. Makes it much easier to go out. Gail is 26, from France, very nice and sweet. We went for dinner at a dumpling place (18RMB each=$2.75) then to some bar called "Windows." Pretty standard fare: loud, popular music (Lil Jon, Will Smith, things I didn't recognize) and the dice game from Pirates of the Caribbean (apparently) movie. All the Western bars here have the dice game.. it wasn't crowded because it was Tuesday but there was a 30 kuai open bar (=$4.50) all night. So, we played the dice game and the loser had to answer a question truthfully... which quickly degenerated into dropped jaws when my turns came around. Mike goes, "She is, like, the coolest person EVER." Ah.. I don't know about that.

Yeah, right. Signs limiting the age of purchase of alcohol/cigs to minors are starting to crop up but no one ever checks or pays attention. My 13 year old cousin would be able to come to the bars here easily.


We left at 1, took a taxi home with 4 of us squished into the back for about 5 miles (40RMB=$6.50). I sat on the porch awhile when we got home and everyone else went to bed.

I almost hurled on the metro this morning.


Look at this picture I took last week of a girl eating corn:

I think corn is like candy here but not very popular. All the corn cobs at the grocery store look seriously anemic-- nothing like the hearty sweet corn of the great Midwest! There's also some kind of frozen corn on the cob treat that's stuffed in with all the ice cream cases that I haven't been brave or interested enough to try yet.

I lost my wedding ring! Shit!! It's for when I go to India and Ghana, to fend off marriage proposals. I think I will just tell them my fictitious husband and I are Buddhist and don't want to support the diamond slave trade.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Random

There is a roller rink in Shanghai, somewhere. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, all they host are disco nights called "Shanghai Roller Revival". DAMN. I can stomach Blondie, which is on their list, but not Donna Summer.

I may have mentioned this before, but about 0.00001% of Shanghai's huge two/three-wheeled vehicle (bicycles, carts, motorbikes, scooters, motorcycles) population wears a helmet. Those I've seen that do are usually men in their 60s wearing black women's equestrian helmets. Speaking of the older generation, there's a certain class of women who dress and wear their hair like it's 1954 middle America. They are generally very gruff and unsmiling but sure as hell know their way around the AquaNet.

I've officially been censored and it's the very first article I wrote here. Awesome... not really. The August magazine was submitted to the "publishing bureau" for approval over the weekend. My book review and author interview for Madame Chiang Kai-shek did not get through. My guess is because it mentioned Taiwan (a province/territory of mainland China according to China, they REALLY do not like it when other countries acknowledge Taiwan as a separate state) and pre-WWII ruling government Nationalists (defeated in post-WWII civil war by Mao/Communists). World War II politics are certainly alive and well in modern day China.

Gratuitous photo of the day... I don't know if you can see, but this guy is holding a bell in his right hand. All of the junk bikecarts like this ride around very slowly dinging their handbell INCESSANTLY. They get off occasionally to dig through piles of trash.. they collect cardboard and bottles and other little random things. I'm really unclear as to what they're doing because they ring it even when no one is in the vicinity.. such as the deserted street behind our flat. I took it on the way to the metro this morning. This is the point of the walk where I think, "thank god, it's almost time to descend into the air conditioning."


No smoking at work=sad cigarette (except in the hot stairways and in your office with the door shut):


Hey kids.. ride the TELETUBBY FROM HELLLLLL

Monday, July 23, 2007

Partying with money

More eventful than last weekend's sickfest, anyway. On Friday, I attempted to go to that Guangzhou folk performance at "Live Bar" but when I got there, it was a tiny room with a bar. One woman was talking alone on her cell phone in the dark. She looked very surprised to see me and I didn't have the Chinese skills to even say, "Music?" nor did she have any English so we just kind of looked at each other and said, "oh oh sorry sorry." Then I went home. Sucks as I was looking forward to that show for the last 3 weeks! The good thing of the evening was that the bar was in a somewhat far off neighborhood and I could hear the difference in the dialect of the people on the street-- they were speaking Shanghaiese as opposed to straight Mandarin. It's much faster and more mumbly, everything runs together.

Marilyn Manson graffiti on the way there?


On Saturday, I met Maggie at 5 and we went to dinner with one of her Chinese-only speaking friends at a Hong Kong chain near People's Square. After dinner, we walked around window shopping and sat outside the Coffee Bean for awhile then went into a mall for shopping-shopping. Generally, I despise shopping, especially at a mall (walking!) but this was ok because it was new and different. The shopping malls of America all have the same stores so if you've seen one, you've seen them all but the stores here are new to me so it was more interesting. I didn't buy anything but Maggie got a top for "jam" as she says-- meaning gym. Very confusing for me at the beginning! "Jam? What jam? Is that a club?" "Yes, a club." Then we walked some more and sat inside KFC to cool off where it was revealed to me that the other great mystery about me is my hair. Every Chinese person I meet who can speak English thinks I have Asian in me somewhere because of my hair! Ha... cool.

After the mall we went to an event for work, a party at the Royal Meridien hotel near all the flashing, shiny lights of Nanjing Lu. The party was certainly interesting and we were mightily underdressed and overly sweaty by then. Story of my life. It was on the 65th floor, so the view was beautiful. It was an event for the young and fabulous, total jetsetting crowd. When we got there, the promoter, whose English was a little iffy, said, "The theme tonight is James Bond. The party is for men; we offer them free drinks, cigars and women." What? Free women? Because of the "James Bond" theme, there were leggy French chicks playing "Bond Girls" in tight black dresses all over the place. Maggie said, "It's all foreigners!" and it was... the only Chinese were the magazine/promotions people!

We met two guys from the UK, one who trades securities in the Chinese market and a headhunter who looked like a young Michael J. Fox with nice eyes. He was 33 and went to Cambridge U., lived in Hong Kong for 6 years and Shanghai for 5. I was a bit taken aback by his profession and thought he might be lying just to have fun but upon detailed questioning (How do you get recruited for something like that? was one), he didn't hesitate at all with his in-depth answers so I think he really was a murderer. Or at least, a former murderer. He sold his company in January so perhaps not anymore. On the way out, there were some Middle Eastern men coming in and they STARED at me for a good long time, it was very creepy. Even Maggie said, "Why are they looking at you so much?" I took a taxi home and didn't get cheated on the fare-- lucky! 30RMB.

Oh, so fabulous


James Bond + girls


Maggie and me at the party


Shanghai from above


On Sunday, I went to Shiji Park but didn't go inside because it was 10RMB entrance fee! Lame. I came home and sat on the porch for 5 hours, from 6 to 11. Didn't realize it was so long but oh well. Though I think Michelle was wondering what the hell I was doing out there. She was in the room fiendishly reading Harry Potter. It was storming by 8 so my clothes were blowing crazily in the wind.

Shiji Park


Storm rolling in at 6:50pm


Last week, there was heat lightning.

______________________

Now, some other odds and ends that I've been meaning to mention...

There are fewer beggars here than NYC, Detroit or Ann Arbor. While the homeless in the States tend to be people with either mental problems or severe substance abusers (crackheads of Detroit), there are pretty much only 4 types of beggars here: children, the disabled, the elderly and blind musicians. It makes it much harder to ignore them, as there's no mental exercise to make you feel like they put themselves into that position. Last week on the subway, a very dirty/smelly boy of about 12 walked on his knees from person to person then bowed down in front of them at least 5 times before moving on to the next. I also saw a kid with a severely burned head begging. It's far more personal as they go directly from person to person. The elderly beggars tend to stay on the steps of the subway entrances and shake the change cups to attract your attention while the musicians either stay in one spot all day or are led around by a woman to the doors of shops where they might get some money. Enlightening article on child beggars in China.

Speaking of the subway, at the newer stations there are two tiers of doors that must be opened/shut before the cars move. There are the doors on the subway cars themselves, and doors on the platform. The platform doors are supposedly to prevent suicide/homicide, which I am in huge favor of as my newest revived fear is being pushed into the tracks. However, last week the news filtered down that a man got caught between the two doors, the clearance official didn't notice and he was dragged to his death underneath the car as it began to move. Now I'm a bit torn as to the existence of the double doors. At any rate, duly noted: don't smash onto the train! It's not worth it!!

Call me on the phone and talk to tomorrow (12 hours later here). Dial: 00 86 21 5089 4056. Buy a phone card. Please!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Love and Communication

Last night, I went to the French Concession for an art gallery opening. They had mostly oil paintings and it was pretty small but the real reason I am glad I went is because while I walked 20 minutes in the wrong direction, "Love and Communication" by Cat Power came into my head so I decided to listen to it on the ipod. Previously, I had only heard the acoustic version and thought that was the only one there is, but apparently it is on "The Greatest" which is the version I happened upon on the ipod. At first, I wasn't sure if I liked it or not but then I listened another eight times and now I am obsessed with it. In the background, there are murderous violins and it fit exceedingly well into the streets of the French Concession area of Shanghai. I felt like I had stepped back into 1890 and that Jack the Ripper was around the corner. This feeling of death in a humid environment was compounded when I happened upon this statue in a small park on the way back to the subway:



I don't know who this is but I stood and stared at it for at least 10 minutes. I love it. I have never felt so strongly about a statue in my entire life. It is extremely inspiring and creepy. This is the best statue of my life, by far. I am 95% positive I will never come upon another statue that I feel even remotely as strongly about. The French Concession is marked by a neverending canopy of trees I've never seen before and a gigantic mansion. The mansion is the first house I've seen in Shanghai. The French Concession is my new favorite area of town and it seems haunted. Or, at least it does when you are listening to a lonely murderous ballad and can't speak to anyone around you.

indie film and food

Last night, I went to the first meeting of the Shanghai Independent Film Association. It was on the third floor of a warehouse behind a lane and I am shocked I was able to find it, especially given that the directions were extremely vague: “30m into the lane then turn right. Go left after 10m and up to the 3rd floor.” Oh, of course. By 30m, I think they actually meant 300m because it was at least 200! Being the only white person in an area usually makes it a little bit easier to find where you are going. Even though I don’t speak a lick of Chinese, the locals almost always know where I am trying to go and keep pointing me in the right direction, even for something “underground” like this. It was very hot as there was no AC so I left after an hour and 15 minutes… the DVDs were skipping in the computer because of the heat so that made it even less enjoyable. What we were able to see, though, was pretty cool. The best, I thought, came from a young French guy who transposed a drunk Asian woman in sepia tone talking about worrying about other people onto a carefree little girl in a lane and other images of Shanghai. There was one from a student in Beijing that featured a traditional Chinese family all living together and the mother-in-law shaming the wife into suicide despite her son being the one that was unemployed. It was darkly humorous. The venue was obviously also an independent theater of some sort and had all sorts of props everywhere.



When I got home, a bunch of British people were there and they all went out in search of a KFC. When Michelle and Reagan got back, I had a nice chat with Reagan about the differences in American and Canadian health care and schools. He wanted to talk about the insanity over sports in American high schools. He also said he thinks hockey is more popular with girls in Ontario than guys, who prefer American football.

Today, Maggie and some of the other office workers took me out to lunch at a Chinese place down the street. I know there is great interest from those of you who know me well in what I am eating here. WELL, FYI: I had rice mixed with eggs for 8RMB (=$1.15; much better than the 36RMB the sandwich delivery place costs!), which came with a little saucer of tomato soup with onions and garlic, a dish of something I couldn't identify and iced tea in a juicebox. Generally, anything I can identify as not having meat in it is what I get, regardless of other ingredients. This is not a big deal to me so I hope it is not to you, either.

Anyway, it was fun and I quite like our receptionist. She and Maggie were the only ones who could speak English, the smart IT guy and another woman I don't know also came. Only a little awkward being that they all blathered away in Chinese while I had little idea what was going on, but for the most part it seemed they were making fun of the IT guy... easy enough! Haha.

Everyone here also thinks it is crazy that I'm going on this long trip around the world but with more of a twinge of jealousy, I think... very, very few Chinese are able to travel outside the country due to its high expense. Estimated average daily income is around 40RMB, so it is even less of a possibility for the average Chinese than the average American to do something like this. The other main reaction I get here is, “You don't eat meat? Even chicken? What about beef? AND no fish?! Wow.”

I finally have plans, as tonight I'm going to a gallery opening for work (free cocktails!), a Chinese folk show tomorrow night and out with Maggie to a jazz club on Saturday night. Don't know much about jazz (compared to other genres, anyway), but why not.. certainly better than seeing a DJ.

New busker, Jing'an Temple, guitar. Some guys selling bootlegs thought it was very funny I was bothering to take video of this fella:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blind busker, fireworks, a star and sun

I ran into another busker yesterday, this one was a blind old man at the metro station I leave work from, Jing 'an Temple.



Around 8:30 last night, some folks behind us started setting off fireworks. I'm not sure why they were doing it but it felt like a late 4th of July for me! There were quite a few for about 30 minutes. I had a nice view from our kitchen. As soon as they stopped, you could hear all the car alarms going off within a 2-block radius and all the barking dogs that got freaked out.



I saw a star last night! I forgot to miss them till I saw it and remembered they are there.

The difference between the heat here and the heat at home is that the temperature spread over the whole day is usually no more than 5-10 degrees, so even at night it's quite warm. Today is probably the hottest it's been since I got here because it's 95 and sunny; this is the first time it's been sunny for more than 15 minutes. Pant.

Trying to cool off in the creek garden outside the Shanghai Police HQ (near my office)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wal-Mart, eating dog, skin tone, my own room and other personal rantings

Feeling much better today as opposed to yesterday when I felt like I had the beginnings of consumption. I went for a walk last night in a big circle around Wal-Mart thinking, “I'll walk around a big block,” conveniently forgetting Chinese cities are not exactly designed in “blocks” but in ring roads. I was walking near the ... interstate. Highway, I guess.



Then I went into Wal-Mart to take some photos. It's about 3 blocks from the flat. The grocery stores are actually remarkably similar to home but with way more meat and way less packaging. Also, there are fewer conveyor belts at checkout lines. Also, they looked at me as though I had a third eye when I tried to pay with a credit card last week. The cashier had to run over to customer service to run it through because I was 30 kuai short in cash and didn't have the language skills to tell her to just take some things off the bill. But, generally, I only take photos of things that stand out to me, not things that are familiar.

Phone booths everywhere that don't take coins. I think you have to buy a card from a street vendor.


Well then.


Dried eels? Dried fish? I'm not sure, but they had little beady eyes.


Meaty.


The rumors are true: they do eat dog. It's on a lot of menus. The only pet dogs I've seen are very small, annoying and not meaty but that might be a function of being in the city. I don't really find this any more disturbing than eating regular meat, though... they are all animals, what's the difference? It's so much more likely that a dog will kill you than a cow!

I was reading yesterday about the strange crossroads that desirable skin tone is at in Shanghai. Westerners go to tanning salons and Chinese women carry umbrellas to stay white, though some teenagers are starting to tan. The lengths to stay white go beyond the umbrellas, though, as some people even buy skin bleaching products. Then today, I saw a woman with extremely white skin today on the way to work, I think she bleached it. It was kind of freaky—in the same way it is freaky when you see the orange cats who've obviously used self-tanner spray, or the ones who are baked after the tanning bed. Either way, gross!

The “older” woman moved out of the flat and into the Sheraton Hotel nearby. I think she didn’t like the noise of Michelle and Reagan coming in at 5am/felt awkward about living there in the first place. Nothing like paying twice for your residence... weird. So, I’ve moved into her room and now we've all got our own. It was so roomy and not-wakey up last night/this morning. Listening to the utter vapidness of the conversation last night makes me wonder... one snippet: "I wouldn't mind getting herpes. It isn't THAT bad. I mean, it doesn't kill you or anything." Then they watched an hour's worth of Lisa Lampanelli, the vulgar comic, on youtube followed by Perez Hilton's appearance on The View.

I feel like such a blob sitting at a computer all day, trying to think of things to fill the time. I write my articles and then I am done.. it was the same way when I was writing papers. The thing that has been challenging for me in terms of the writing is to not make it too academic, especially when I was writing the review for a book on Chiang Kai-shek’s wife. Also, the length of the pieces...in academic writing, my goal was to write for as long as possible on some minor detail that no one would really care about to fill the space. The magazine is the exact opposite as there is limited space for what you want to write. Speaking of which, I knew my antiquated style of hittng the space bar twice after a period would come back to haunt me, and it has here by using up another precious character subconsciously.

Today it's back up to 93 after some reprieve last week. Today I finally figured out how the coins work. There's a half yuan piece and 1/10 yuan pieces. The subway was super crowded. Found an English channel on the television. I watched the news last night and found out about the Chinese ban on American poultry due to traces of salmonella found on chicken-- ha ha, such an obvious political move in the face of America's ban on Chinese fish imports which I think of itself was politically based anyway. Michelle's father is in the meat business and she told me all raw chicken has salmonella. No idea.

Finally, a photo into a lane. I thought I was being smooth by not looking when I took it but the little boy obviously sees me. Oh, well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Getting sick, better and not getting lost

I spent the majority of this weekend hiding in the flat and reading with occasional forays onto the porch in an effort to not get really sick. I bought some medicine at the store using supreme guesswork which actually seems to be pretty good.

Hiding worked till Saturday night when I found out about 20 Westerners were going to a lounge on the Bund. The Bund is a busy nighttime strip across the river from Pudong with a lot of danceclubs and neon lights and whatnot. I thought I should give it a try and not write them off as doing what I thought they were doing. It was actually more chill than I anticipated, I was encouraged by free drinks for women. I had red, then I had blue. It was a hookah bar (very good for cold) with live salsa music in Chinese followed by the skinniest belly dancer I've ever seen-- you could see her organs when she moved. I left while everyone was playing dice, somehow under the guise of "I don't gamble" despite the fact they weren't gambling. My flatmates were out till 6am as they all went to a dance club afterwards... definitely not my bag.

Dancers to salsa:


In the cab, Attn drunks-going-home:


There was only a slight panic in the evening when I realized I had neither my map ("I can walk") or my phrasebook ("I can ask directions") because I had switched purses.

The Office, as viewed from my half-cube on 3 1/2 /F:

Friday, July 13, 2007

You probably didn't know this about me

Last night, I suffered a massive nosebleed. Though not nearly as epic as the Hotel Bleed of '97, this one started gushing like a fountain as soon as I got out of the shower, sufficiently disgusting my roommate. I blame the pollution as opposed to my somewhat chronic history of head orifice bleeding.

Pollution may also be to blame for my current affliction: a cold. I hesitantly/secretly/embarrassingly pride myself on being able to pinpoint the near exact moment I allowed the offending virus into my body. In this case, it was one of the following four times:

1. Last week, roommate Michelle was sick for two days. Number of surfaces we both touch in the apartment is high being that we share a bathroom.
2. Two days ago, I held onto a pole on the metro in many different positions (for me), then touched my nose.
3. Also two days ago, on a different metro ride, it was very crowded and one man coughed directly into my breathing area. I didn't hold my breath because I figured the germs had already hit my lips.
4. Co-worker Maggie told me yesterday that many foreigners get sick from the pollution in Shanghai.

Speaking of Maggie, we went out to dinner last night to a restaurant near the Jing 'an Temple metro stop (our stop for work). It was nice and I love making local friends as opposed to Western friends! She is taking the TOEFL this weekend and wants to go to grad school in Canada then remain there permanently. She's very friendly to me and that makes me happy and surprised.

Plus, one mystery solved: Sidewalks of Pain are guiding lanes for blind people! I haven't noticed a lot of blind people but maybe that's just because they're not carrying canes. I've also stopped thinking everyone I see is single just because they're not wearing wedding rings.

Today, I'm interviewing an American-Chinese chef for the "Culinary Comforts" section of the magazine. This weekend, I get to review a book that one of Josh Kilmer-Purcell's friends wrote... such a circular group of memoirists!

Funny aside: here, "comrade" is now slang for gay.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Commuting and the arts

Commuting in Shanghai is like being part of a school of fish. If you're watching from afar or see them on the Discovery Channel, you think they're not touching each other and all move as one but in reality, the new foreign ones are thinking, "I can smell five different people's sweat and see the pores on this guy's neck really well and something is touching my ass. I hope it's a bag and not a hand."



Actually, I feel I'm well in the swing of commuting and walking in the traffic now. It's much more dangerous than New York because there are so many more types of transportation on the street! Autos, motorbikes, motorcycles, bikes, buses, electric trolley buses and walkers.



Last night I went to a film showing of a French film with Spanish subtitles shown by a Japanese artist in her studio/living space. Now I feel a bit more at home, as I was the only one who showed up--typical. We didn't bother watching the film but I had a nice chat with the artist and her friend, who was also Japanese/a print designer. We talked about the differences between Japanese and Chinese society, the art and music scene in Shanghai and the Cultural Revolution and its effect on art in China. She runs a teahouse/meeting place there during the day so maybe I will go back sometime.

On the way there, I found an abandoned building. It was only closed with wire gates so it was easy to take a photo.


There was an ad for a record store at the Shanxi Rd metro station. They gave equal prominence to Bumble Bee Slim and Tampa Red as to Zeppelin and the Stones! Smart.


Early into this morning's Baby Convention outside the flat. Most of the adults are grandparents. Families seem to be much closer here as I see almost solely grandparents taking care of kids during the day. The lense was foggy from the sudden change from the AC to outside:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who wants cigarettes?

A pack of cigs here is about 6.50Y... $0.95. No tax.

Every day on my walk to work, I go by a couple of Buddhist monks walking the other direction. They're always in their robes and have their heads shaved in the certain way.

On the subway, there are flat screen TVs which display advertisements and the latest push towards physical fitness-- ballroom dancing. All the children must do it in school and apparently they are also encouraging the adults by showing demonstrations both on the metro and on the platforms.

Frustrated by your inability to determine the sex of a baby? Fear not and come to China, where children under age 1 get specific haircuts based on their gender. Boys receive a circle on the front of their heads while girls' is at the back. Creates a bit of a funny effect!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Images from yesterday:



This is how the drinking water arrives


Fish for sale outside a lane store


The watermelons here are quite small, like big melons, but the cucumbers are GIGANTIC


Today, walking through the lane, I saw a woman emptying a chamber pot into the public bathroom. There are public WCs on many corners and the ones in the lanes are often utilized that way.

Walkin' down the street mid-afternoon, pre-rush hour

Monday, July 9, 2007

I've got quite a lot to say about recent impressions but don't want to risk getting in trouble, so I won't now. I've become a bit paranoid and also slightly hypochondriac. Current ailments include: scoliosis, heat rash, germy hands.



Classified ad in City Weekend:
Need a big strong black guy to attend 7.19 to 7.23 (4 days) Chinajoy videogames expo (one of the biggest video games expo in the world) in shanghai. We want bring audience an exotic feeling on exhibition. So wat u will do is just show ur cool face there to look like a killer. Contact Emily: 1363 661 5407.



NO TRUMPETS





I went to the Shanghai Zendai MOMA then the Shanghai Sex Museum on Saturday. The MOMA was more subversive than I thought they would be allowed to be and the sex museum was hilarious. And intersting. There was an aquarium attached, so I went to that too. The sex museum had signs in English but the aquarium did not.

"...the widows who were not able to remarry always needed it"


"He was not able to keep this part of his body under control":


Caught in 1834, still bummed:


The Epic Battle of the Tiny Ships Versus The Giant Crabs:




More photos




On, a personal note, I think I'm one day closer to death with the travel than I would have been otherwise because of the 12 hours I lost coming here-- I'm continuing westward and so never gain them back.

Our final new person in the flat arrived yesterday. She is older, and from the UK. I'm quite glad she is not another 18-20 year old. Michelle and Reagan found her ancient but I am relieved as her goals for the trip are probably not for this to be a prolonged vacation as it seems to be for the other two. Though she is a bit strange and dragged the land telephone into her room within 2 seconds of arriving.

My speaking voice is a strange mix suddenly. Michelle is from Chicago so we speak nasal midwestern to each other but Reagan is from Kitchener, so I slip into the Canadian accent with him quite easily and not on purpose. My boss is Australian and I know a couple of Brits so my English vocabulary is upped.

I went to the Lotus Supermarket again yesterday and they were playing the Jackson 5 amongst all the various activities in the front.

I am a bit troubled by the Chinese insinuations that everything Western is superior. Consumerism is spreading rapidly here and there is loads of crap to buy in the streets and even more in secret warehouses if you follow the hawkers. Oh, THINGS and STUFF, I am a bit more of a hippie than I originally thought. The average Chinese income in 2004 was $2950; I feel very rich here, so I guess it is easy to preach from where I stand. I think it is quite a bit more difficult to jump classes here.