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Archive for May, 2010

Laowais in the mist

Aaaahhh. Rest and relaxation.

Have escaped the city for the weekend. Along with 5 other families, we have booked a lovely old villa on top of Moganshan, a mountain about 3 hours drive from Shanghai. Here’s a video of where we are staying ( I didn’t shoot this, it’s a promo video from another internet site). The video is a bit twee and the voiceover chick is a bit annoying but it’s a nice look at the place nonetheless.

Will have lots more to say about it and some nice pics (I think) soon but right now just enjoying peace, quiet, and fresh air. Aaaaaaaahhh.


Hey ho, finally got around to taking myself to the Expo yesterday! I couldn’t spend too long there, as I had to get home by 4 to collect M from kindergarten. But mainly my goal was to get over there, have a look around, get the lay of the land, etc so that I could plan a good day out with the family sometime in the near future. So although I didn’t go into many of the pavilions, it was a good opportunity to reconnoiter. Overall I’d say it’s not awful, it’s not fabulous, although there are things about it that are fabulous, and things about it that are awful.

I thought it would be nice to take the ferry there, since the Dongchang Lu Ferry Entrance Point is, like, a block from where I live. And it was sort of nice, in that the ride itself was nice. The not nice bit about it though is that where it dumps you off is in, like, the most boring bit of the whole Expo site, which is a bit of a drag. Unless you get really turned on by the idea of visiting the China Aviation Pavilion, which, fair enough, some people might. Not me though. So I had to go off in search of something more interesting. Fortunately there are a number of buses that cruise around the site, so I hopped on one of those to see where it would take me.

As it happened, it dropped me off somewhere near the “Footprint Pavilion”, which was all about the development of cities. I had actually wanted to see that, so I decided to join the queue (everything has a queue). Now… here’s the thing. First of all let me say, I do try to always bear in mind that I am a guest here, and that I have freely(ish) chosen to live in this country in which beliefs, customs and behavior may at times jar uncomfortably with my own. And of course stereotyping and generalistions are just that. So I’m somewhat reluctant to make sweeping statements containing ideas to the effect of “Chinese people are like this” or “Chinese people are like that”. But. The fact is, queuing in a crowd of Chinese people is not a pleasant experience. OK fair enough: queuing almost never is. But Chinese people have a very different concept of “personal space” than those of us from, well, not-China. So as we snake through the barriers, everyone is just completely pushed up right against everyone else and shimmying to get ahead an extra centimeter. On top of that, all of the other joyous public personal grooming sights one can witness here are on full display as well – the nosepicking, the spitting, the ear-cleaning. And also of course, the smoking and the spitting. It’s pretty full on.

At one point, there was a group of women behind/next to/around me and they were all talking about me, it was pretty entertaining. My Chinese language skills are far from brilliant, but I know enough that I could catch most of what they were saying. Mostly they were talking about my boobs (well, they are big, what can I tell ya), and about my ankle tattoo, and trying to figure out where I might be from, that sort of thing. But it was just really funny, listening to them speculate and hypothesize about everything abut me, thinking I couldn’t understand them. After a while, just for laughs, I just casually pulled my mobile phone out of my bag and called my ayi (housekeeper) and had a short but completely fluid conversation in Chinese with her, asking her if she was feeling OK (she’d been sick earlier in the week) and telling not to worry about picking up my husband’s clothes from the cleaner as I’d already done it the previous day, and letting her know what time I expected to be home. Man, those women had suddenly gone awfully quiet.

The Footprint Pavilion itself was OK but not what I expected, I thought it would be more about future urban planning but actually it turned out it was all about how cities evolved in different parts fo the world. Which isn’t awful or anything, but I kinda feel like, I already knew about that. There were exhibits on ancient Greece (a walk through model of part of the city if Troy), Rome, Egypt, some Assyrian statues etc etc.  I mean this is all good stuff and if you are your average Chinese person for whom this is your first and maybe only time to ever see this sort of thing it’s probably more impressive, but I was like “Yeah but, I’ve been to the British Museum like a hundred times.” As well as of course studied the history of Western Civilization in college. So between the queuing and the fact that a lot of it was stuff I in which already had a pretty good grounding, this pavilion maybe wasn’t the best use of my time. That said, everything in there was very well presented and well done, and I did enjoy it (the queuing part, not so much), especially this cool scroll thingie from the Qing Dynasty depicting scenes in the cit of Suzhou:

I could only get those two pics and then some guy came and yelled at me for taking photos of it. Oops.

After this I made my way across the river and had lunch in the Luxembourg Pavilion. Now given all the options, Luxembourg might seem an odd choice. How many times have you found yourself sitting there thinking “You know, I could really go for some good Luxembourgian food right about now”? But the thing was, I was hungry, and I wanted to eat someplace that I thought would be uncrowded and fairly quiet. So I thought – and I mean no disrespect to the good people of Luxembourg here – I thought, well, Luxembourg is a small place where not much happens and probably there won’t be many people there like there would be in, say, the restaurants in the Italy or Thailand Pavilions, so I’m going to Luxembourg. And I had a nice beer and some sausages and mash and it was lovely.

After that I just had a bit of a wander around the European Zone, jut getting a feel for where stuff is really. I’m drop dead tired right now so instead of going on and on about it, I’ll just get some photos up for now, sorry I don’t have the energy to explain what everything is just now, but I’ll be going again sometime and hopefully will be able to explain it all much better then!

It’s curtains for you! But not me.

Oh this day. Grrr.

It’s not like anything so bad has happened, it’s just that it’s, like, one of those days where a bunch of small things all kick in one after the other, and ya just feel like, can I have a do-over? Just go back to bed and then get up and try it again from the top, because this just isn’t working out?

The first issue: the weather. OK fair enough, weather happens. Sometimes it rains. I understand. If that had been the only thing that didn’t go the way I wanted today, you know, it would have been no biggie. But it set the tone for the day, I guess.

Because it was raining pretty heavily in the morning, I didn’t get out to start trying to do the things I actually wanted to get done until close to noon. The main thing I wanted to accomplish today was to get some new drapes made for the bedroom. The ones in there now are white, and very thin – which means we wake up with the sun every morning, like it or not. I HATE THIS. I do not want to get up one minute earlier than I absolutely have to.

G needed to go into the office for a few hours, so that meant I had to take Miss M with me on this excursion. Now, I love my daughter dearly, of course I do. But I’m sure every single one of you out there who has ever had a small child knows, and I’m sure those of you who haven’t can well imagine, that even the simplest of errands becomes infinitely and exponentially more complicated when aforementioned small child is involved, in any way. In retrospect, I should never have attempted this today with her in tow and instead spent the day on the sofa watching The Princess and The Frog eight times in a row, but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway. The biggest cock-up of the day is the fact that I didn’t really know where I was going. Through the help of a local expat website, I got some information about an area where there are (apparently…) a number of shops that do made-to-order curtains and drapes at reasonable prices. I didn’t have a specific address, just the name of a particular street (Yishan Lu) and a cross street (Yude lu). Here is what should have been my warning: I checked the map, and it showed that Yishan and Yude do not, in fact, intersect. They do come fairly close though, so I figured, OK, I know the zone I need to head for, and there is a metro station nearby which is on one of the lines that is also very near where I live, so it’s fairly easy to get there so I’ll just go and have a wander and I’m sure we’ll find one of these many shops that are (supposedly…) right there.

HA bloody HA.

You can guess how well that worked out, hey?

First of all, just getting to the metro station – a block and a half away – took an age, as M needed to splash in every puddle en route, stop for a snack, stop for a drink, stop to look at a child mannequin in a store window, stop to look at a shiny thing by the side of the road, stop to amuse herself by spinning her umbrella, and really generally just stop walking at random intervals. Eventually what felt like about an hour later, we get to the station and board the train. This part of the trip is mercifully uneventful. About 9 stops later, we emerge. I start walking to where I think I’m meant to be looking. No curtain shops. I see every other kind of home-related shop: tiles, timber flooring, windows, wood screens, kitchens, bathrooms, carpets, wallpaper – on and on and on, but not a single shop that does textiles. I try another nearby street. And another. Circle back and try another.

Mei you.

Bear in mind it is humid and sticky as a swamp; and I am carrying a big shopping bag containing a) a large throw pillow which has all the colours in it we have in our decorating scheme so I wanted to have it with me to help me choose a suitable pattern of fabric and b) a panel of the existing drapes so I can show what I want and what size since my Chinese isn’t great; and most pertinently, I’ve got miserable bitching 4-year-old attached to the end of my arm reciting a continual monologue of whinge.

So, I’m like, fuck. this. noise. (Sorry for the swearing, but that is actually exactly what I thought, so it’s not gratuitious.) I’d told M that if she was really good whilst Mummy went to the curtain shop, we’d go to the Barbie Store afterward. Well she really wasn’t especially good, actually she was rather a pain in the ass but I didn’t fucking feel like dealing with the moaning I’d have to endure if we didn’t go, so we grabbed a cab and headed for Barbieland. (That sentence did contain gratuitous swearing, it’s true.)

We went to the Barbie Cafe first for a late lunch/early supper. I love the Barbie Cafe. It’s really good. In general our time at the Barbie Store was good, really the best part of the day (not that there was a lot of competition of that department, but anyway…) I won’t go on about it now as I’ve written about it before – here’s a link to my previous post about that, in case anyone is interested.

I got to see the new Debbie Harry Barbie, about which I have seriously conflicting feelings. She’s the first of the new series of dolls called “Ladies of the 80’s.” On the one hand I’m like, well, hell yeah, of course she should be, too f’ing right. (See, reining in the swearing now.) But on the other hand I’m like, ‘…really? I mean, really?’

So, yeah, having a nice time at the Barbie Store, the afternoon might not turn out to be a total disaster, eh? OOH NOO. On the way out, M catches her fingers in the opening doors of the elevator, screams until the walls shake. (Fair enough – it hurt, I’m sure.) She’s fine, no lasting damage, but it meant we had to shoot back upstairs in the lift to the cafe, and get some ice. OK, it’s not a major tragedy, no trip to the emergency room or anything, but it totally takes the wind out of her sails and she curls up under my arm and starts sobbing that she ‘just wants to go home’.

Which we do. Except the first cab I get doesn’t want to go to where I want him to go, so then I have to try to get another one. On a rainy day on a main shopping street in Shanghai, it can be nearly impossible to get on taxi, let alone 2. So I stand there on the street with my crying kid for half a century, whilst other people unencumbered by a crying child of their own jump nimbly in front of me anytime a free cab appears so they can snag it first. Eventually I got annoyed enough by this that I whacked the next guy who tried this move in the shins with my umbrella and tripped him. Of course, from all appearances, it was a completely innocent accident…

*sigh* Minor trials and tribulations in the grand scheme of things, I know. It’s not exactly true human suffering. BUT GODDAMN IT, it was a really frustrating, stupid, useless day. Can I please have a do-over?

I have some good news, and I have some bad news

First, the good news:

I have a pretty pretty new bicycle!

Well, a new lightly-used bicycle anyway. I have been thinking of getting one for a while, in a sort of offhand way, and then out of the blue a friend asked me if I would like hers. For free. So I was like, um, yeah, totally fer sher!

I made arrangements to go collect it from her place today. She lives about a 20 minute cab ride away, give or take – much farther than you’d want to walk, but not a bad distance for a bike ride. I mentioned to G last night that I’d be going over to get and he asks, “How do you plan to get it home?”

me: Uh… I was gonna…

him: You’re planning to ride it back here?!?!

me: well… yeah. It’s a bicycle. That’s what you do with them.

him: You’re planning to ride it back here?!?!

me: …yeah?

him: Are you serious?!?!? When was the last time you rode a bicycle in a city?!?!?

me: Well… (thinking)… OK it’s been a long time, but I’m pretty sure that it’s, you know, like riding a bicycle. I mean there’s a saying about it, you know?

him: You’re going to wear my helmet, aren’t you?

me: (silence)

him: You were going to ride it without a helmet?!?!?!

me: OK yeah, it’s probably a good idea, since I haven’t ridden for a while, ok, I’ll wear it.


me: Relax, come on, you see all these numptys riding around this place every day, it’s China, people ride bicycles, you know.

him: AND THEY’RE ALL IDIOTS. Probably from knocking their heads falling off bicycles without helmets.

Well anyway. The ride home was super easy-peasy. It was only 3 roads, two of which had very pleasant, wide, separate bike lanes the whole way along (Yangao Lu and Yuanshen Lu), and the third of which had one for about half the length I needed to travel on it (Shangcheng Lu). The last block and half was really the hardest, as that was the only bit where I had to maneuver around parked cars and such, but even that was really not a big deal. I was a little leery of turning left across with traffic though, I just did the straight-across-and-then-across-again thing, but no big deal. It’s not like I was in a race; I just tooled along at a pleasant pace and had a nice ride, and took in  some of the sights of Shanghai from my new point of view, neither pedestrian nor passenger.  For example, I got to see these girls just leaving from the high school around the corner:

At first I was wondering, what the heck is up with that guy sitting there that he is looking off the other way? And then that white van moved:

In the interest of this being a family-friendly blog and all that sort of thing, I am going to simply say that I am sure there is a perfectly reasonable and completely innocent explanation for this… whatever this is. Possibly.

And now the bad news:

The reason I was given this bicycle is that my good friend Zena left Shanghai today, because her husband is taking up a new post in Singapore. It’s the right move for them as a family, but I will miss her so very much. She moved to SH only shortly before I did, so we’ve been through a fair amount of the ‘getting to grips with this place’ process together, and it just won’t be the same without her. Her older son is the same age as M (both had their birthdays this past week) and they too will miss each others company. Being 4, however, they will probably rebound more quickly!

This is easily the hardest part of expat life: people come and go from your life so easily. You make friends quickly, and meet such a range of diverse people, but as most people are here tied to a job either as an employee or a spouse of one, life changes at the whim of the company or the termination of a contract. Of course, in this day and age of email and Facebook and, erm, blogging, and all that, staying in touch is easier than it has ever been. At the end of the day, though, it’s just not the same as hanging out chatting and working your way through a nice bottle of wine (or, you know, two) together, and I’m really, really going to miss my wonderful friend. Singapore is lucky to be getting her.

(Fortunately we have several other friends who are also excellent at drinking wine.)

Me, Jade, Zena & Michele at Mother's Day Brunch. Much wine consumed.

What’s in a name?

When we got the news, nearly a year and a half ago now, that we’d be moving to Shanghai, naturally I started doing some research about the place. (After I spent a few weeks praying to whomever it is that an atheistic-leaning Unitarian prays to that it was all some big error, and that G would suddenly be offered some huge amount of money to stay in London, that is.) I got on the web, I went to the library, I talked to people, all that sort of thing. Eventually I came up with two things that I was really looking forward to doing in Shanghai:

1 – Eating xiao long bao, or ‘soup dumplings’ – a local specialty.

2 – Seeing people wandering the streets in their pajamas.

Thus it was from these two desires that the name for this blog was born.

On the first point, let me just say, the dumplings are awesome. Which is probably in part why my ass is not getting any smaller whilst living here.

Alas, the second part of my ambition – although fulfilled within hours of landing at Pudong International – is currently under threat, as discussed in this op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. Long story short: whilst the arrival of Expo has brought many great things to this town, it has also brought some changes that are not as desirable, at least not to everyone. One of these is the recent appearance of The Pajama Police.

A little background, for those of you who don’t already know – one of the endearing quirks of this city is the propensity amongst locals to go about their daily business wearing their pajamas. The reasons for this are twofold; first of all, until pretty recently most people lived in cramped semi-communal housing where they shared washroom facilities, so people were generally used to seeing each other in less than suited-and-booted states of dress. Secondly, also until pretty recently, people didn’t even have pajamas, in the sense that there were no clothes that were specifically designated as “sleeping clothes” – people just wore whatever was oldest and most comfy.  With the introduction to the market of purpose-made pajamas, owning a pair became a bit of a status symbol. “Check me out, I have a set of clothes just for sleeping!” But of course if you only wear them for sleeping, then no one will see you in them, so of course, you should probably wear them out to the market to buy your vegetables as well.  Plus, you know, they’re comfortable. (So that’s threefold, then.)

But… the Powers That Be have decided that the sight of people sauntering about in jimjams reflects poorly on the image of Shanghai that visitors to Expo might take away from their experience here. Their thinking is, it’s a bit ‘peasanty’, uncultured, backwards, less civilized. You have to understand, the Shanghainese really really do pride themselves on being the most hip, most cultured, most forward-thinking city in China. So having people roaming about in their pj’s is a bit of an embarrassment. Or so we’re meant to think. Frankly I have yet to meet anyone, local or foreign, who finds the habit anything other than charmingly eccentric, and laments that if this custom is truly stamped out, it is a sad loss of a unique characteristic in this city’s culture.

Because really, let me tell you, the pajama thing is totally NOT the highest item on the list of things a person might see here that might cause them to think that there is something of lack of civilized behavior in this particular part of the world. Here is a list of things that can be routinely witnessed that would rank a little higher up on the offense-o-meter of your average tourist:

– blatant nosepicking by restaurant waitstaff, along with occasional bogey-flicking

– removal of earwax with a small spoon and subsequent inspection of findings

– the incessant, ceaseless, everpresent spitting, always, all the time, everywhere, accompanied by that horrible sound ( which I suppose we have to be grateful for because at least it serves as a half-second warning)

– complete inability to allow passengers to disembark from the train/bus/lift  before pushing in

– riding motorized vehicles on walkways (apparently it is completely acceptable to drive a scooter straight into a group of pedestrians, so long as one is leaning on the horn whilst doing so)

This should in no way be regarded as a thorough and comprehensive list. I am sure I have blocked several other examples from memory. Basically all I’m saying though is, I really think that there’s an awful lot of other stuff that might be better to focus on than the pajama thing. For real.

BTW I didn’t take the photos above, I just stole them off the net. The first is not even from Shanghai but if memory serves a review of a restaurant in San Francisco, but I just really liked it so there ya go. The second is from the flickr gallery of a fellow expat – please do go have a look at his other work, but don’t blame me if you don’t get anything else done in the day, because he’s got about a million really amazing pictures, including lots of great ones from the Shanghai 2010 Expo which just opened earlier this month. (And which I will be writing about eventually, if I ever get to go, which I have been meaning to,  except something stupid always gets in the way like crappy weather, or my child deciding to catch a vomiting bug on the day I planned to go, and suchlike.) I remain in search of the opportunity to snap just the perfect photo – that of someone actually eating dumplings, in their pajamas. I carry my camera with me you know, just hoping, one day, that perfect shot will present itself, without me having to stage it. This new turn of events does not help – but I remain hopeful!

Mad as a box of frogs

Forgot to give you guys the latest tadpole news! Well, finally, they are now frogs. Here’s a photo from about a two weeks ago:

Well their tails resorbed in the few days after this was taken and on Tuesday M and I went back to Century Park with the four surviving little hoppers. (Yes, there had been five. There was some unpleasantness involving one of them. Let us speak of it no more.) We went to the lake and looked for a good spot at the edge of the water. It was not too hard to find; we looked down and there were about a hundred little froggies just like ours happily hopping about, so we opened their container and off they went. Everyone sing: Born free, as free as the wind blows…

So, speaking of madness and boxes of frogs – today was M’s class trip.  I found myself at 9am trapped on the highway in a bus full of overexcited, sugared-up four year olds heading for I don’t know where (the itinerary was in Chinese, all I knew was ‘somewhere in Minhang’). Oh and I hadn’t had any coffee. It was like being mauled to death by fluffy kittens. Completely adorable and absolutely killing me. Anyway, turns out we went to a park with a big crazy playground, the kids ran around like they’d been shot from cannons, and then we had a picnic.

After that, we got back on the bus and went to another playground, this time a big indoor playground, inside of a cake factory.  First we got to walk past the bakery floor and watch the workers going about their business of making cakes whilst being stared at by a thousand kindergarteners. then we went upstairs to the superhumungous play area. I was kind of wondering why we’d driven all the way across to the other bloomin’ side of Shanghai just to go to a play area, even one where you get to stare at bakery workers, but my skepticism proved unwarranted, as soon we were brought to this room

where the kids got to decorate their very own cakes!

Our finished product:


Here’s an incident (or series of incidents, depending on your point of view) that happened today that are a pretty good example of an “oh yeah, I’m in China” kind of day:

I went to B&Q (this is like Home Depot, for my US readers) today because I was going to another store nearby, in an area of town I don’t often happen to be in, and G wanted a small tub of spackle or joint compound to fill in a bit of a hole he made drilling a hole to hang one of our big framed prints. Now first of all I went in knowing that I would have to hope that I could find some labeled in English. Usually this is not too difficult; many products do have both English and Chinese.

So I go and I’m looking for the area where they have drywalling stuff, because this is where G says I would find the joint compound. (Because what do I know about this kinda thing.) Can’t find anything of the sort. I walk around the entire store. Seriously, how do you hide drywall? But I can’t find it. OK

So I call G and ask him, “Are you sitting near any Chinese people in the office right now, who I can maybe stick on the phone with one of the shop workers to ask if they can tell me where this stuff is? Cuz I cannot find it.”

He says, “OK, Jane is here, let me ask her.”

As it turns out, Jane has no idea what on earth G means by this strange phrase ‘joint compound’ and appears even more bewildered by the word ‘spackle’. She in turn consults someone else, whilst G pantomimes the act of applying joint compound. The rest of the office decides to join in this game of charades and pretty soon everyone is working on solving the mystery.

This carries on for what feels like about a year(I was still on the phone) whilst the group attempts to reach some consensus as to what exactly it is that G wants to buy, and how one might go about saying it in Chinese. Honestly G and I were willing to give up and say ‘you know, it’s just not that important’ but by now so many people had invested so much time and energy in the project, it seemed unkind to tell them to just forget it.

Eventually there is some indication that an agreement has been reached and G hands over his phone to Jane, and I pass mine to a fellow working on the shop floor. He and Jane speak for what seems like quite a long time. He hands the phone back to me, signals for me to wait, and then calls over three other guys. They converse for a short time. He asks to speak to Jane again. They confer. He hands the phone back. He and the three other guys discuss it a bit further. I wait.

Then we all walk together to the furthest back corner of the shop. Turns out they have none. Well that’s not quite true, they have giant 25 kilo bags of powdered joint compound that needs to be mixed with water in some special mixing machine. Which I do not have, nor do I want to have. So, mei you.

So there’s like an hour of my life that I’ll never get back again.

A pinch of this, a dash of that

In case you were thinking of dropping by.

Busy week! Lots going on – Mother’s Day, sick kid, other kids’ birthday parties,  my own kid’s birthday party, playdates, trying to work on writing stuff that might actually someday help me earn some damn money, trying to do work for my job back in England which I still have some responsibility for, and so on and so forth and life and stuff. So I can’t get my head around writing about a coherent subject here just this moment so I thought I’d just throw in a handful of photos I’ve got from recent weeks that haven’t fit in anywhere else for your perusal.

I have no idea who these people and their littel dog are. But they're, like, kinda fabulous, right?

Genuine Barborey sheets! Classy.

Refreshing honesty.

Lovely flowering fruit trees outside the entrance to my apartment building that made me smile every day for several weeks.

Sunset over Puxi

Cool funerary mask thing at the Shanghai Museum

Ceramic figurines at the Dongtai Lu Curiosities Market

Pearl Tower, as seen from Yu Garden

Lane of shops at Taikang Lu

Statues for sale at Dongtai Lu

The Jinmao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center

Girls on film

Ack. Ack! what a day.

OK so I wrote here a while back about how M has done some test shots for modeling. Since then we have been approached by other agents as well, when we are out and about – they just love the way she looks. Well of course who can blame them, right? (Not that I am biased in any way.) Well anyway, we went for an audition for a TV commercial on Wednesday, and she did really well. Was a little shy about talking on film but apparently for this commercial she won’t need to, so the agent showed her clip to the client and she has been asked to do the spot. Yay, right? Except the commercial is probably going to be shot in Shenzhen in two weeks. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography, Shenzhen is about a 3 hour plane ride south of Shanghai, near Hong Kong. Now this isn’t really such a big deal – they will fly us down, put us up overnight, and we return the next day. It’s actually a good practice run for the (much longer) flight to the US we have coming up in June, so OK.

Now here’s the issue: I got a call yesterday from a different agent to do a catalog shoot today. Well as it happened we didn’t have anything else on so I asked M if she fancied going to take some more pictures and she was happy and excited to go. So, we went.

And she was a complete brat. Threw a massive strop almost as soon as we got to the location, refused to put her shoes on, wouldn’t let anyone brush her hair, cried and moaned about the clothes they needed her to wear for the shoot, had a hissy fit at the photographer for ‘looking at her’ (!?), I mean she was a total nightmare. I guarantee this agent is never going to callus for another job!

The thing is, of course, although I was really disappointed in her behavior, I have said that the only way we’re going to do any of this modeling stuff is if she is happy to do it and she wants to carry on, so whilst she was having her little diva strops, I felt like I had to walk this really fine line between making it clear that the way she was acting was unacceptable, and yet not being manipulative and coercing her into doing something she really didn’t want to do. It was really difficult. There were a few moments where I came very close to just saying “Right, get your own clothes back on, we’re out of here,” because I don’t want to force her – but by the same token, she had said she wanted to, and all the way there in the taxi she had been happy and practicing her ‘posing’ and talking about wearing different clothes and whatnot, so I didn’t want the lesson she takes away from this to be “just have a big fit and you can get out of what you said you were going to do.” But, she’s, you know, 4.

Anyway, to bring this back around, now I am rethinking the Shenzhen thing because it is going to be really freakin’ embarassing if after they fly us down there and put us up, if she goes into the studio and has another major meltdown.

But, maybe it will be fine. The craziest hing was, once she FINALLY decided to get dressed and strut her stuff, we had just finished her photos (which were, ultimately, great) when two more kids came in, and it turns out they are friends of hers, neighbors actually. It was actually the younger one, S, who is close to M’s age who was shooting and so M waited whilst S got dressed and did her first shots and then the photographer was able to take some photos with the two of them together, chasing each other around and jumping up and down and being generally silly. I’m told that for the commercial thing they will basically be filming a small group of kids playing, kicking a ball around and building with blocks and such, so hopefully in that setting she will be fine. I hope.

If it’s not, and she has another supafreakout, then that’s it, that’s the end of this modeling lark; I will just have to conclude it’s not for her.

Well out of the experience though there was one really cool thing, which is that the building where the photographer’s studio is located is this really excellent-looking work-in-progress artists center, with lots of galleries and workshops. It’s not finished yet, but it looks mostly complete and many of the units are already occupied and it’s just a really neat space.

This is the big gallery on the ground floor; as you can see it is just this huge big open space spanning basically the width of the building, really really great showcase for large works. Lots of light coming in from above, as they have glass panels in each concrete ‘box’ section.

This is the second floor, you can see the glass tiles here that let the light through to the gallery below, as well as some of the unfinished bit on the upper floors of the building. The wall with the wood paneling is mirrored on the opposite wall (mirrored as in, they both have the funky woody thing going on, not that it has, erm, mirrors.)

The girls thought the fact that you can stand up on the glass and look down at the people below was just FANTASTIC. And really, they’re not wrong, are they.

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