Monday, August 29, 2005

And some more...

Another pic from the Bund the other day, this one shows exactly how many people were swamping the place

Also a photo from the same day (I do have more clothes than this one green top!) at dinner with my friends Clem and Jenny, who happen to be visiting Shanghai.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lou Quote(s) of the Day

1. "I wonder if there is viagra for my flaccid celery?"
2. "Does everyone in China have a middle ear infection that prevents them from walking in a straight line?"

The Only Good Pedestrian is a Suicidal One

Do you remember the old road safety song? (Sing it with me, children of the 80s):

"Stop at the curb [chirpy echo: stop at the curb],
Look to the left [look to the left]
Look to the right [look to the right]
Look to the left again!
When the road is CLEAR of traffic,
Walk straight across the road,
Walk straight across the road"

What a load of bulls***. Clearly the songwriter had never been to Asia. If I were to wait at the curb until there was NO traffic, I'd be there all bloody day!

Instead I have decided that crossing the road here is like playing a game of virtual reality Frogger. If you are a child of the 80's you'll remember this game with no need for reminders. If however you need a refresher, it was the computer game where you had to move a little frog (Frogger) across several lanes of a freeway without ending up with frog pancake (and believe me, you'd never see a frog bleed so much... we used to suicide just to see the badly pixelated gore).

For those of you playing along at home have a game and think of me. In the meantime I'll amuse myself by writing a new community service announcement for the children in my vicinity:

"Stop at the curb [stop at the curb]
Wait for a gap, [wait for a gap]
Dash into the gap, [dash into the gap]
pause in front of oncoming traffic
Take four steps and stop,
Ignore the angry taxi,
now dodge past the bicycles on to the footpath beyond."

I know it doesn't quite fit the original, but nothing here in China ever really does.

Decisions, decisions...

I'm not working today and so I was looking forward to a little sleep-in (i.e. I was not planning to witness any part of the morning, and, with any luck, be comatose for half the afternoon too).

Oh, how I did try.

At 7am I was woken by the air conditioner dripping a river of water onto the floor-boards below. I re-positioned a towel under it, which was soaked in no time, and did nothing to muffle the incessant drumming of the deluge. Note to self: call the landlord to fix the bloody thing.

By 7.30am I had managed to snooze just long enough to allow several mosquitos to binge on my exposed knees at the edge of the bed sheet.

By 7.45am I had become insanely focused on the constant drilling, sawing and welding emitted from the construction site next door... a sound that continues all night and day, and that I only manage semi-successfully to ignore at the best of times.

At 8am the Dear Boy gets up for a shower, running late for work.

Suffering an audio onslaught and itchy as hell from the mosquito banquet I realise I have two options:
1. Rupture my own eardrums with a handy chopstick and gnaw off my own legs above the knee,
2. Get up and start the day.

Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Idiom Idiocy

Actual dialogue from my English class yesterday, while trying to elicit the word ‘pregnant’:

Me: “What is the English word for when a woman is going to have a baby?”

[students all deep in thought, followed by a light-bulb moment for one student]

Student: “She’s got a bun in the oven!”

Me: "er... um... yeah..."

A Rose By Any Other Name

I have been amusing myself in class by looking at the English names Chinese students have chosen for themselves. There are a lot of fairly normal names (Mary, Grace, Sam), but a lot of others which are more, um, shall we say creative. Here is the top five list:
5. Evangel
4. Snow
3. Cat
2. Queen
... and my personal fave so far...
1. Shiny

Obligatory Sight-seeing Photo

I'd been here for a couple of weeks already when I realised that in all the rush to get a job and get settled in, I'd really not seen much of the city at all. So last Sunday we trotted off to the Bund, where this photo was taken.

The brown river appears nice enough, so long as you don't actually look into it... though I did amuse myself for a good five minutes analysing the flotsam and jetsam floating past.

Phil took this photo on an angle both for artistic merit and more importantly to try to isolate me among the throngs of Chinese tourists visiting from other provinces. You can see by the look on my face that I was already sick of the crowds, and we'd only just arrived there.

Not long after, as we walked away from the river edge I managed to tread in a fresh, warm puddle of urine which splashed right up my leg. With nothing to do about it, I stoically pretended it was just a spilled drink of lemonade. Yeah, right.

From there we walked to the monument in honor of the people who died defending the country in World War II... though Phil quite rightly pointed out that a monument for the millions of lives lost during the Cultural Revolution is noticeably absent.

As George Orwell said: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

Friday, August 19, 2005

It was the breast of times, it was the worst of times

I tried to buy a new bra this morning, but was told my breasts were too big for any of the bras in the shop.

No really.

Stop laughing.

Those of you in cyberspace who are unaware of my bra size should be tipped off by the raucous uncontrollable laughing you can hear echoing around the world at this very moment. Obviously this is a very new phenomenon for me.

As it happens I am too 'fat' to fit into most of the pants off the rack here. I have a 30 inch waist: yeah I'm a regular whale.

I guess the only consolation to being a human whale, is that in comparison to the girls around me I have Pammy Anderson's breasts.

Shut-up, I said in comparison!

Hot town, summer in the city...

It turns out I have come to Shanghai during the hottest month of the year. 38 degrees Celcius and 90% humidity means that most of the time I feel like I have been hit by a truck. It is so difficult to look calm and composed when you are literally slimey all over with sweat. And I mean all over.
But, I think to myself, there are 20 million people in this city, who's going to notice that I look like a creature from the deep?
Wrong! One white girl walking down the street tends to attract more than a few stares. One slimey white girl walking down the street is her own one woman show.
As if my moist state of being wasn't enough to demonstrate the heat, last night I witnessed the final straw. I went out and splurged on a block of cheese to serve grated with the pasta I was making for dinner (yes, I can get cheese, you just don't wanna know how much it cost). I grated the golden goodness on to a plate, and served it from there on to the pasta. After dinner I went back into the kitchen and noticed that the remains of the grated cheese had MELTED onto the plate, simply from the heat in the room.
Like I said, it's freaking hot.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Break out the champagne

So I got that job I interviewed for last Friday. The college seems to be a pretty cool school. I taught a few classes this week as part of my trial/interview process. The curriculum is good, the salary and hours are acceptable, and, most importantly, students are all very motivated. To use one of the idioms from a class I taught yesterday:
I have landed on my feet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Requiem to Innocence

Can you remember when:

  • You thought you would be ripped to shreds if you didn’t step off the escalator in time?
  • A solo trip to the letterbox was a feat of great responsibility?
  • Watching the washing spinning in the machine offered hours of unending entertainment?
  • You didn’t have a clue where the toilet flushed to?
  • You realized with awe that you could open your eyes under water?
  • You thought Big Bird was actually trapped INSIDE your television set?
  • You dreamed of the day you were grown up just so you could eat ice cream for dinner?
  • Girls and Boys could only be differentiated by their clothes?
  • You believed babies were placed in the womb by magic?
  • You were convinced that clouds would feel like cotton wool if you could only reach them?
  • Your worst fear was losing your mum in the supermarket?
  • 10 cents would buy a whole bag of mixed lollies at the corner store?
  • No-one noticed if you weren’t wearing any clothes?
  • You still believed you could be sucked down the plug hole if you didn’t get out of the bath before emptying it?
  • You didn’t know the meat you ate was a dead animal?
  • When the only job you had was to clean your room?
  • When your mum knew the exact location of any itemed you owned and could tell you where it was without even pausing to think about it?
  • You had never heard of a ‘computer’?
  • Losing your favourite doll/teddy was a travesty worth crying over for a week?
  • You thought The Beatles were a band of insects playing “Letter B” on Sesame Street?
  • You actually thought Wile E. Coyote had a chance of catching the Road Runner?
  • Bread crusts had the power to curl hair and stepping on the crack in the pavement would really break your mother’s back?
  • You could ride on your dog like a horse?
Ahhh the good old days.... just thinking about how things seem simpler in youth, yet looking back they were really just as complicated in different ways. We can only ever understand our worlds with the mental and emotional tools we have available to us at that precise moment in time.

Just a thought....

Monday, August 15, 2005


I had a job interview for an English Teaching position last Friday morning. I find job interviews uncomfortable at the best of times (don’t we all?), but when the interview is in another country it seems harder. Not knowing the ‘interview standards’ in this culture adds an extra element of nervousness.

My first thoughts upon waking up that morning was exactly what any girl in my position would think: “Oh my god, what will I wear?”

Allowing myself a morning cup (East Timorese ground coffee from Oxfam… yum), I finally settled on a fairly dressy outfit, knowing that English Colleges in Shanghai tend to view their foreign teachers as poster girls or guys for publicity purposes. Knowing that my skin colour is a consideration in the interview process is a very disconcerting thought, but today is not the day to protest: I need a job.

As it happens the college is just around the corner from our flat, and I can see it from the balcony while I dry my hair in the sun. Walking there I am conscious of the pit of nervousness settled in my stomach. “Take a deep breath Lou” I tell myself.

Oh, ew! I am overpowered by the stench of urine I have just inhaled deeply. Then I realize am walking past the public toilet. “Ok, take a deep breath through your MOUTH!”

In the five minutes it takes me to walk to the building I am drenched in sweat. What a great way to make a good first impression! After searching for a further five minutes for the lift I finally make it to the 6th floor.

True to form, the first thing my interviewer comments on is not my resume but my pretty pink top.


Addendum: The college caters for mostly young adults wanting to improve their English for business, study or travel opportunities, or just because it is the ‘in thing’ to do. I taught a trial class this morning and will have to teach two trial classes this Wednesday before officially being offered the job, but it looks promising. Finger’s crossed!

Friday, August 12, 2005


Hehehe... thanks to Phil for finding this one:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Culture Clash

I came to Shanghai to experience the Chinese culture. Yet here I am, on only my sixth day in the city, wandering around a Swedish Wonderland.

Yes, I am in Ikea.

The fact that an Ikea exists in Shanghai at all is scary. Yet even scarier is the fact that it looks EXACTLY like any other Ikea, in any location in the world. Identical, from the blue and yellow paintwork, and the cute Swedish names for all the items (‘brannas’, ‘expedit’, ‘funka’ and ‘samtid’) to the meandering path designed to force shoppers past every possible piece of merchandise there is. As I stand here it is blindingly obvious that somewhere there exists a publication of “Ikea Set-up For Dummies”, and it has been followed to the letter.

I must be crazy. I am already suffering from culture shock and having difficulty at times coping with the pushing masses of people in any location in the city. So I go to Ikea?? If you have ever been to Ikea on a Saturday morning you will understand exactly what I am talking about. I vow, as it is packed enough of a Wednesday NEVER to venture in these claustrophobic, primary-coloured halls of a weekend.

Two hours later I eventually emerge back out into the oppressive heat of the Shanghai street. I feel like banging my fists to my chest and hollering: “With Sven as my witness, I have conquered Ikea!” Instead I toddle back to the subway, arms laden with just enough miscellaneous home wares to make my trip back home that touch more arduous. It is Ikea’s parting kick in the backside to all departing shoppers, that their products are designed and packaged in the least manageable way possible.

“Thank you, come again!” The sadistic truth is that we do.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Home or Away?

So I finally made it to Shanghai last week at 12.30AM Friday morning. Only 6.5 hours late.

Now I am trying to get re-adjusted to being in Asia again. Although some things are taking a while, it is actually easier than I thought it would be. On experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of Shanghai on Friday morning it strangely felt like home. Or home away from home, as of course I will always call Australia home. But I have come to realise in just a few days that at times this chaos feels more natural to me than the order of Sydney ever did in the last two years.

I have slipped surprisingly quickly into accepting the reality of 80% humidity, constant stares at my white skin, not being able to read any of the labels in the supermarket, a typhoon circling about the area bringing rain and gale force winds, and of course, the neighbours ringing the doorbell at 7AM.

Compared to my life in Nepal some things here are a breeze: flush toilets, double-glazing and air-conditioning. Just around the corner are three HUGE shopping complexes, KFC, Pizza Hut, MacDonalds and Starbucks. Of course, right now I can't afford to go there, and to be honest I don't really want to. Phil has set up this apartment already with TV, DVD and internet access, and we even have a washing machine (though I can't read any of the dials or settings on it).

On the other hand, the constant hustle and bustle of the city is a new shock. Never-ending horns blasting, construction work 24/7, and people EVERYWHERE. Goodbye personal space. I certainly never had anything like that in my little village in Nepal, where come night time I would sit on my roof to cool down, the only sounds were the cicadas in the corn fields and only the lightning streaking somewhere over India would illuminate the sky. As a girl from the regional Blue Mountains (the City within a National Park!), even though I have lived in Sydney on and off for years, nothing has ever prepared me for life on the 13th floor.

Yet once again, I am struck by how it is not the big things that really put you off, but that culture shock strikes in the smallest of details. I am slowly getting used to checking over my LEFT shoulder for on-coming traffic when crossing the road, though I tend to cling on to Phil when he is there like a three year old clinging on to their mother for dear life. However, the fact that they drive on the right side of the road here means that the escalators are reversed. I keep walking on auto-pilot towards the escalator on the left side of the pair, which of course has the stairs coming TOWARDS me and thus trip me over instead of carrying me away.

This week will be filled with searching for a job (teaching English) and acclimatising, to both the weather and the culture.

And of course this blog entry only barely scratches the surface, there will be more plenty more to come.

The Best Laid Plans

I get up BEFORE the crack of dawn, drive with the family for over an hour to get to Sydney airport by 7am for my 10 am flight. After a slight hiccup at the check in desk where I repack my bags frantically to reduce my excess luggage, I go through customs to my gate. Gate 115.

There is NO gate 115. Eventually I see the right flight listed for gate 24 so I proceed there. As I sit down the woman next to me asks what time I was told the flight would be.
“It is supposed to leave at 10am, but I was told it was delayed until 11.50am” I reply knowingly.
She smiles sadly and says another passenger was told it wouldn’t arrive until 1.30PM. We shudder and hope against hope that he is wrong, as we make mindless small-talk.

Soon enough we hear an announcement:
“Passengers on Qantas flight 129 to Shanghai…. We regret to tell you…..”
“…that your flight has been delayed until 4PM as it has been re-routed through Adelaide.”
So I got up at 4AM for nothing then?
“Don’t you realise that I am NOT A BLOODY MORNING PERSON!!!” I scream inwardly. Only my eyes reveal my true inner anguish as they search hysterically for a magic button somewhere with a neon sign and arrow flashing “Push here to make that announcement merely a cruel joke and be on your way at your scheduled time”

Of course, this being Sydney airport and not Chitty-chitty Bang-bang, no such button exits. So here I am, still sitting in the airport five hours after I arrived here, waiting for the AWOL plane.
I was scheduled to arrive in Shanghai at the nice civilized time of 6.30PM, with enough time for a nice dinner with Phil. Instead, I’ll be lucky to get there before midnight.

A new acronym for Qantas: Quietly Absent, Never Timetabling Arrivals Successfully.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wedding Bells (NOT MINE!!)

I know I am a bit late on this one, but better late than never. On the 17th July my little baby sister married James Yarker in a beautiful garden ceremony at Mum and Dad's place in the Blue Mountains. The weather was perfect, the ceremony was beautiful, and I owe them many, many thanks for moving the wedding forward from December simply so that I could be there.
Congratulations and best wishes to the both of you!

(Tommy hiding under the bridal party table at the reception)