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Archive for October, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

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This city. It’s so weird. So, okay, last night we went to this restaurant around the corner from where we live, called The Binjiang One. (‘Binjiang’ being the word for, like, ‘riverside’, or riviera, that sort of thing.) We’d never been there before but I’d seen an ad for it ages ago that said they have a “vodka snow bar”. Basically it’s a room that’s kept freezing cold, and they have something like 200 different kinds of vodka, and you go there and they give you a big parka to put on and then you can go into this freezing room and drink shots of vodka. It’s super-cheesy and super-brilliant.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “What do you mean you have lived there for nearly six months and until now you had never gone to the Snow Bar to drink shots of vodka?” Well honestly you might be surprised how very few opportunities parents of toddlers get to go out and knock back vodka shots. Even though quite possibly as a group we may in fact be the ones who most need to.

Anyway last night we left Miss M with our awesome ayi Xiao Gun and we went out to eat with a bunch of folks G works with (and can I just say, all-you-can-eat teppanyaki is one of the most fantastic concepts ever in the history of humanity), and afterwards we managed to convince our friends S and M to come with us to check out the Snow Bar.

Bizarrely, although it was Friday and about 10:30 pm, there was nobody else there. I mean there was the staff, and it was like they were all just standing there waiting for us to turn up. So they gave us our parkas and tah dah, there we were, with the snow bar and bartender all to ourselves. I probably should have been paying more attention to what brands we were trying, but I didn’t think of it at the time. (Mostly I was just thinking stuff like “oo! I want that one!”) I know we all started with one that was flavoured with elderflower, then we all started trying different stuff. I had one that was mandarin blossom, and one that was pomegranate, and one that was ‘mint mojito’. Marnie had a rose one which was a very pretty pale pink but I didn’t like it as it reminded me too much of the bathroom spray my grandmother used to use in her condo in Florida when I was a kid. G and S tried a wheat vodka they said was very smooth.

Well I don’t really have much more to say about this, other than that is was fun and now I regret not going there in, like, August, when it was so freakin’ hot here I thought I might spontaneously combust. So without further ado, please enjoy these photos of four people in big coats getting a bit tipsy.P1060525

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Eggman

OK first of all I apologies again for being so very very crap at keeping up this blog. I have started my Mandarin classes and even though they are only a couple hours a day, I feel like I really want to apply myself to that and try to maximise each lesson so I spend most free time I get studying. More on that later.

For now though I thought I’d just share with you a couple of wacky things that have caught my eye over the past couple days. First of all, have a look at these and tell me, do these not look like the most delicious thing you have ever seen?
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(Answer: no, they do not.)

I have been thinking about getting remarried lately. Unfortunately though that would mean I would have to get divorced first, and I don’t really want that. The thing is though, if I don’t get to have another wedding, that means I will never have the opportunity to wear this dress:dress
and what girl has not dreamed of walking down the aisle in a beautiful gown like that?

And finally, today I walked past the hoardings for a construction site for a development that appears to be nearly finished. Looks like it is meant to be a new shopping/dining zone (not enough of those in this town yet, apparently), made partially from new buildings and some refurbed historic ones, a bit like a Xintiandi for Pudong (some of you will know what I mean by that, for those who are going “a whaaa???”, sorry). Anyway this site is near where we live, I have been past it in a taxi a hundred times, but never walked it before today. So on the hoardings there’s an illustration, a rendering of the finished concept if you will:chickenman1

Never really scrutinised it before, going past it in a cab and all, but today I had a good look at it.

Notice anything?

Anything that makes you go, “WTF?”

Like this, perhaps?

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Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about either.

China’s Next Top Model

cntmJust after we arrived in China, in early May at a kid’s party thrown by a local expat organisation, I was approached by the party photographer who asked if I’d be interested in bringing M in for a test shoot. He does some work for local advertisers and Little Miss Blondie Blue-Eyes is always a big hit with the folks here. Some of you may have seen the stuff I written on Facebook about this subject a while ago, but for anyone who hasn’t heard me say it yet, walking around with M in Shanghai is, on some days, like being on tour with the world’s most famous pop star or something. Gangs of teenagers shriek and pull out mobile phones to pose with her and take photos. Old people stop in the street and point, and call other old people over to come stand in the street and point. People push their children towards her to stand with her for pictures. If we stop walking, crowds gather around her. It can be pretty freaky sometimes. The bottom line is, they love to look at her.

Anyway, at the time of the party we’d just moved here and I didn’t even have a phone yet so the photographer gave me his card. I got in touch with him over the summer but we couldn’t find a mutually agreeable time until now to get together.  So yesterday  was just, like, a ‘trial’ photo shoot, just to see how she handled it and all that kind of stuff, so there are no backgrounds, her hair’s a mess and she mainly just wore her own clothes – which included her “Belle” costume, as the way I convinced her to have a go was that we were going to “go take pretty princess pictures” to send to her friends and family. (The white dress in some of the pics was the studio’s.) Low pressure, we just tried to let her have a bit of fun. After we were done they downloaded all the photos onto a disc for me, there are 208 altogether but I’ve just pulled out a few to send to you as I can’t imagine anyone else besides me and Gus wanting to look at 208 photos of our daughter, as fabulous as she is.

What happens now is the phtotographer picks a handful he thinks are ‘best’ and puts them in his book of kids he is able to contact, then when a job comes in the clients will say something like, “oh we want a western looking girl, about 1 metre, maybe blond” etc etc and then he can show them the book. So, who knows, it may never lead to anything, or I might get a phone call now and again, whatever. If it comes to nothing, it was a fun day and we’ve got some nice photos of Her Highness for posterity!

Buddhalicious

buddha OK first of all, let me start by apologising for not writing more often. I know when I started this thing I said I was going to try to do a bit every day BUT what I did not take into account was this holiday period we’ve just had here. So every day we’ve been kind of busy as a family. We’ve gone out quite a lot to places around town and also we’ve been busy sorting out some stuff around our flat. This was really the first stretch of time G has had to really ‘be’ in Shanghai – he was working in Tianjin until mid-August, and since then working the daily grind here. So this past week was really the first opportunity in some time we have had to really relax and be together and just chill out without having any pressure to be anywhere or do anything in particular. It’s been rather nice!

As I mentioned we have gone out and about town a bit, done a bit of sightseeing in parts of town we hadn’t been to before, that sort of thing. On Wednesday we went to the Jade Buddha Temple. I’m not a Buddhist and so I don’t know a whole lot about this sort of thing so I’ll just nick the description of the place off of travelchinaguide.com:

In the western part of Shanghai, a very modern and flourishing city, there is a venerable and famous Buddhist temple, Jade Buddha Temple. In 1882, an old temple was built to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Fortunately the jade Buddha statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928. It was named the Jade Buddha Temple.

The two precious jade Buddhist statues are not only rare cultural relics but also porcelain artworks. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddhas the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid. The Sitting Buddha is 190 centimeters high and encrusted by the agate and the emerald, portraying the Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment. The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on the right side with the right hand supporting the head and the left hand placing on the left leg, this shape is called the ‘lucky repose’. The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world. In the temple there is also another Recumbent Buddha which is four meters long and was brought from Singapore by the tenth abbot of the temple in 1989. Furthermore there are many other ancient paintings and Buddhist scriptures distributed in the different halls of the temple.

Although the history of the Jade Buddha Temple is not very long, the old-time and classical architectural style makes the temple unique and inimitable in this modern city. Devajara Hall, Mahavira Hall and the Jade Buddha Tower make up the main structure of the temple and at sides are the Kwan-yin Dian Hall, the Amitabha Dian Hall, the Zen Tang Hall, the Dining-Room and the Recumbent Buddha Hall. The Sitting Buddha is in the Jade Buddha Tower and the Recumbent Buddhas are in the Recumbent Buddha Hall. More than 7,000 Dazang sutras are kept in the Jade Buddha Tower; these are all the inestimable culture relics.

The Jade Buddha Temple is a good place to go whether you are a Buddhist or not, the peaceful and transcendent atmosphere adds a kind of richness to our busy modern society.

So yeah, I can’t describe it any better than that, so there you go. It was a lovely place to visit, very peaceful. One of our  guidebooks describe it “visited in equal measures by locals offering prayers and tourists wielding cameras” and that seems about right. Of course even though we live here, we fall into the latter category, so here are some of our photos, including a few we took afterwards whilst walking around (the giant graffiti panda is not actually part of the temple, as you might think…) You’ll notice there are no photos of the Jade Buddhas – you’re not allowed to photograph them. Well you know how to use Google, I’m sure you can find pictures of them if you really want to. You can click on the images to see larger versions:

Up Up and Away

Lo Across the street from our place there’s an entrance to a little park along the riverside. I think the idea is eventually, by the time Expo rolls around next year, the whole of the riverside will be joined-up as one continuous walkway/park but at the moment it’s only finished in some sections. The sections that are done though are really really nice, so it’s quite a lovely thing to have on our doorstep. There’s a restaurant a short walk down that is actually not great foodwise, not horrible but not great, but what is great about it is they have this huge patio where G and I can sit and have drinks whilst M runs around playing with the local kids. (Because that’s the kind of parents we are.)

Anyway, we were there last night, and as we were walking down the way there was a guy selling ‘wish lanterns’. (There is always a guy selling something.) We’d not heard of these before so we didn’t reckon we needed one. A little later as we were sipping our wine, we noticed some lights in the sky, too small and quiet to be planes, and not night kites because they are ‘banned’ for the week. At first we thought maybe they were some kind of drones – China has been a bit over-amped security wise with all the 60th anniversary festivities, hence the ‘kite ban’ etc. But then we saw some people by the waters edge holding up what looked like a small hot-air balloon (because, erm, it is) and worked out “ah, so that’s a wish lantern!”

Soon there were several groups of people setting them alight at points along the water, and it was really fun to watch! Then the police came and told everyone to stop. Well to be fair, they were not so heavy-handed as all that; I think they did allow it to go on for a bit longer than they could have if they had really been concerned about getting people to stop, and they let everybody who was just starting their lanterns to finish them, and were joking with the little kids there, so I think they didn’t particularly care too much but had their orders. But, it was fun while it lasted, and I got a few photos, sorry they’re not great but I’m not really sure what the best settings are on my camera for lower-light photos:
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I looked it up when we got home, from what I can gather wish lanterns have been used in the Spring and Autumn Festivals in China for at least 1800 years or so. There are two schools of thought about their purpose – one is that you tell the lantern your wishes and hopes, and they are carried up to the gods by the lantern. The other idea is that you tell the lantern your troubles and/or misdeeds and then release them to unburden yourself. The people we saw though mostly just seemed to be doing it because it was fun :-)