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Archive for March, 2010

Tadpole watch: Day 3

Okay so, as reported earlier, we caught a bunch of tadpoles in the pond at Century Park, and brought them home for a bit of a science lesson. If you read my post from yesterday you know we also have a new fish, and we will be moving soon, so basically everyone is in temporary housing: next week we will move to our new apartment, Penelope Fish will move to a new goldfish bowl, and the tadpoles will move into Penelope’s pet box thingie. In the meantime though, our future frogs are living in a tupperware dish on the window ledge in the bathroom. (The idea being that if it ever stops raining again, they can get some sunlight; but looks like they will be waiting a few days for that.) We also tucked a few rocks in there and gave them some fresh water, mixed with a little bit of the scummy water from the pond, because scum is important; you gotta have some microbacteria junk and stuff, they don’t like it too clean. Wasn’t totally sure what to feed them but thanks to the magic of the internet I learned that we needed to take some sort of dark green leafy vegetable, chop it up very fine, and then throw that in there and leave it to decompose, because it will start to ‘stick’ onto the rocks and the sides and stuff and the tads like to eat that slimy gunge. Also we took a pinch of the flake food we have for Penelope and smushed that into a powder and chucked that in as well.

So now apparently what we do next is, pretty much ignore them and let the water go all funky over the next week or so (without sun it will take longer) and just fish out any of them that might, well, die. We’ve already lost 4, but they were smaller ones; I guess they were not as able to survive the trip, the bigger guys all seem quite robust and active. M helped me flush the deadies down the toilet yesterday and ever since, every time she uses the toilet she yells “I’m peeing on the dead tadpoles!” and laughs like crazy. I’m not sure if I find that cute, or a bit disturbing.

Go fish

OK so, I mentioned in my last post that M had acquired a goldfish last week, when we visited the Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom. It’s a fun place to visit, but I would say ‘Kingdom’ might be overstating its grandeur, a bit. Really it’s a bit ridiculous that we have not been until now, as it’s barely a 20 minute walk from our place, but I’ve been sort of keeping in my back pocket to use on a rainy day, when I really needed to get out of the house with M before she drove me nuts.

In addition to perhaps not meriting the title of ‘kingdom’, the name is also a bit ‘off’ in the fact that it has an awful lot more than insects. I mean definitely no question, there are lots of bugs – M (who has seen the Pixar film “A Bug’s Life” approximately 328 times) spent much of the time pointing to various insects and announcing “This one is in Bug’s Life! This one is not in Bug’s Life. This one is in Bug’s Life! And this one is in Bug’s Life! But not this one.” There are also many varieties of spiders, tortoises, turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes, caimans, and some marmoset monkeys. So, you know, pretty fun, if you like that kind of thing, which indeed we do.

Downstairs near the gift shop, there’s a shallow pond with ‘stepping stones’ in it, full of goldfish. You pay 10RMB and you get a small pail and a ridiculously small net, and you have a half hour to try to catch fish. You can keep as many as you catch. I figured what the heck, we’ll never catch anything – the fish would all race away the second we got within a meter of them, and because there was hardly anyone else there, they had plenty of ‘safe’ spots to swim off to. So I gave M the advance “OK, we’ll try our best, but the fish are very fast and slippery, so we might not be able to get one” warning (in anticipation of the  subsequent “but I want a f-i-i-i-i-i-ish!!!” wailing that I felt would be nearly inevitable) and off we went with our little bucket.

And then a few minutes later, suddenly, somehow, there was a fish in our bucket.

Which meant, we now have a fish.

I know it's hard to see because M's vest is orange but trust me there is a fish in there, ok?

M is quite certain our fish is a girl, and we have named her Penelope. She’s still living in that plastic box, which I know isn’t ideal, but we are moving next week (more on that another time) and we’ll get her a new big lovely bowl with pretty rocks and a nice aquatic plant or two. So, it will be new homes for everybody :)

Park life

O glorious spring! Lovely day today, and quite refreshing after yesterday’s gritty gray dust storm sky. So like about million other people, we decided to pack a picnic lunch and head over to Century Park, which is the biggest park in Shanghai, and not terribly far away from us. G had never been, and M and I not for a while, and so off we went.

In one part of the park I’d never been to before, there is a bonsai garden. After having lunch we decided to go check that out, as G has a bit of a ‘thing’ for bonsais, and I reckon they are pretty cool, so we took a stroll over there. At first when I went in I was a bit disappointed, because I hadn’t thought about the fact that all of the trees that are not varieties of evergreens would not have any leaves, so when we first went in it just looked like a bunch of naked twigs everywhere.

But then G pointed out that actually this is a really good time to see them, because with the leaves you can get a better sense of their sculptural qualities, and that the ‘skeletal’ aspect enables you to really look at the way they have been trained and crafted without any leaves cluttering up the view. And, because it is now spring, we can go back in, say, a 6 week’s time and there will have been masses of leaf regrowth and it will be like seeing a whole new, different thing. And of course he is very smart about this sort of thing, and as I looked around I realised he was right, they were each completely unique and totally fascinating just as they were. Couldn’t really capture in snapshots how fantastic most of them were, but here are a few decent shots I managed to get:

This next one I liked because to me it looks like a lady in a long dress dancing. Can you see her?

I called M over to show her this next one, because I thought it looked like a seal or a sea lion, but when she came running over she said “It’s like Bambi when he got growed up” (which probably has something to do with the fact that she has watched Bambi 3 times in the past 2 days, but yeah OK, I can see antlers, fair enough.)

After the bonsais we went over to this other  Hong Kong Garden area nearby

Harmful elements in the air, symbols crashing everywhere...

where there was a little pond, and we could see there were kids dipping bottles into the scummy water so we went to see what they were doing. Turns out the water was swarming with tiny tadpoles!

So of course M was all like “I want to catch tadpoles!” and I thought well, why not, we can take a few home and watch them turn into little froggies and that will be all super duper educational-like, what the heck. I bought a bottle of green jasmine tea (mmmMMMmmm) and shared it with G while M pranced around us going “Are you done yet? Did you drink it all yet? Are you done? Can I have the bottle now? Is it empty yet? Are you still drinking it? Is it empty now? Are you done yet? Can I have it?”

So we caught a bunch, I would guess we have about ten, some are wee tiny specks and two or three are good solid chunky little things, so hopefully some of them will make it to froghood. We’ve also recently acquired a goldfish, from last week’s trip to the Insect Zoo (yes I know, a fish is not an insect; don’t tell me, tell the people at the insect zoo) so we’ll do our best to keep them all alive and well fed and happy and all of that.

After that we rented this funny bike-cab thing and rode around the park trying not to run people over, which was hard at times, because it was very crowded, and also, because my husband could not quite get that we were not in fact competing in the Tour de France, it was not a race, and therefore did not need to start pedaling at top speed the second a clear path of more than 2 meters opened up ahead of us. It was good fun, M got to sit in the kiddie seat at the front and of course as The Most Adorable Blond Foreign Kid In All Of Shanghai, she got masses of attention as we rolled down the road like she was the bloomin’ Pope in the Popemobile. (Although I guess he’s rather not enjoying the sort of attention he is getting presently, but anywho…)

As we were pedaling around the park, we saw a lot of this:

Couples everywhere getting photos done for their wedding album. Now, the Chinese wedding album is a quite a thing. It’s a really big deal. I mean OK, for most people, their wedding album is a big deal, I get that. But here it’s a REALLY big deal. Usually it does not have pictures of the actual ceremony or reception in it; it’s really just an album of the bride and the groom, taken in various locations, in various outfits, in various poses etc etc. Sometimes they take ages to get done, because you might want a ‘seasons’ kind of thing where you have photos in the spring, the summer, the autumn… ok you get the idea. Often they are done well after the wedding (but generally within the first year or two.) But you can pretty much expect that on any given ‘good weather’ day, if you go to any park in Shanghai, you will see couples, or sometimes just brides, posing in picturesque spots. Sometimes there will be a queue of brides all waiting for that gazebo, that bench by the lake, that flowering tree, etc. Since they wear several different outfits for the photos, they don’t buy all the different dresses – the photographer supplies them, so they have to fit a range of sizes, and if you see the girls from behind often the dress is pinned in the back when it is too big, or left hanging open when it is too small. If it’s a bit chilly, you will see them wearing their coats until the last second, when the photographer’s assistant rushes over and snatches it away just before the photographer starts shooting. It’s not my thing – heck I haven’t even managed in ten years to get our ordinary wedding photos into an off-the-rack album – but hey, mazel tov – may all the lovely couples we saw today live a long and happy life together.

Daily dose of WTF

There’s a big huge sandstorm to the north and the air here today is dusty beyond belief! Much worse in Beijing, where people are being told to stay indoors and not go out without a mask, but still, it’s totally YECH. Anyway, yesterday it was gorgeous, and I had some errands to run, one of which took me by one of the markets. Didn’t have much time for shopping but just in having a look around, I spotted this:

Now I should point out that thre’s nothing in those boxes; it’s a set of ‘pretend’ containers. What is that about? It’s not like the fake food stuff I get for M for playing – I don’t think so anyway; I don’t imagine most parents buy their kids pretend cartons of smokes and bottles of cognac. So, you know, wtf? I have no idea. Maybe it’s meant for this guy:

At another stall I spotted this bucket of little terracotta boys with their wangs hanging out. No idea what one would do with these things, or why, but there they are nonetheless.

Hold that tiger

Spent fireworks casings outside the recycling shed at my compund. That's one evenings worth.

Hey ho, I have some photos taken a while back, over the Chinese New Year, that I never got around to putting up. So I’ll do it now! Most were taken at Yu Garden, which is very touristy but none the worse for that really, lovely garden and little shops all around selling tourist tat, but fun tourist tat that makes great little gifts for friends back home. (Although I wouldn’t buy anything there in the main bazaar, as there are market buildings all around there where you can get exactly the same stuff for a fraction of the price.) It’s always crowded, but on the holidays OH MAN it is just unbelievable. There’s a Chinese expression that goes ren shan ren hai, which translates literally as ‘people mountain people sea’ and means, basically, people everywhere as far as the eye can see, a big huge crowd. Yu Yuan at New Year was definitely  ren shan ren hai! For NY of course everything was decorated to the max, so enjoy the photos :-)

In case you are wondering, the little blob of rockabilly toothpaste in a Santa suit is Haibao, the mascot for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Lanterns. There are lots of lanterns, as NY ends after 2weeks with something called the Lantern Festival.

No prizes for guessing the corporate sponsor.

random cute chinese baby

Everybody Loves Chinglish

It’s true. Everyone does. Well, maybe some people don’t. In advance of Expo, opening here in less than a month and a half, officials here in Shanghai recruited students to go around town looking for egregious examples of Chinglish, to be corrected before the hordes of foreign visitors that will be flocking to Expo descend on this town. (We could talk about why on earth the poor dears are labouring under the delusion that hordes of foreigners will be flocking to Expo, but that’s a subject for another time. Maybe.) Anyway, the announcement that squads of Chinglish police would be scouring the town was met with laughter, disbelief and dismay, depending on whom you ask. Put me in the ‘dismay’ camp – nothing brightens a “Bad China Day” (which we all have here from time to time) like a casually butchered turn of phrase, or an artlessly endearing mistranslation. Fortunately, the examples are so numerous and so varied in their ever-presence, there is no way to rid this city of them without rendering it entirely mute. So, here is a small smattering, most of which I have collected myself, but some which have been passed on by friends.

I like this one because, you know, I always thought the whole POINT of the bumper cars was to drive like a sick, drunken psychopath.

No milk for me thanks, I'll take mine black...

New and improved electric - now with added ling!

There's one born every minute, you know. And hey, some of them are probably thirsty.

Because if you don't care for your lipsticks, who will?

It's THAT good. (Probably. I haven't actually eaten there. Yet.)

I don't even know where to start with this one.

Personally I don't think he looks all that charming, but whatever.

Sometimes you need a nice, refreshing prink.

Ok sure, why not?

Cameraing all night with rabbitgrils makes me so highing!

And finally, this one is not a “Chinglish” technically, but I just think it’s funny. No idea what it says, but I think we all get the general idea: