Friday, September 30, 2005

7 degrees of Scent-oration

I have noticed a familiar pattern of aromas walking the 7 minutes from my appartment to work. A blindfolded experiment would go something like this:

Scent #1: The cold musty smell of my building hallway, spiked with lingering odors of last nights dinner stagnating outside the apartments. I am reminded of T. S. Eliot’s Preludes, “The winter evening settles down, with smell of steaks in passageways”.

Scent #2: The sickly sweet decay of rotting fruit walking past the fruit stand in the entrance to the building complex driveway.

Scent #3: Turning the corner the sweet decay is quickly replaced by the smell of raw sewerage, I have not yet deduced the source, but it is in this location regularly enough to assume that there is a broken septic tank somewhere nearby.

Scent #4: Sweeping past the motorcycle repair shop, the smell of petrol, oil, and rubber pervades the senses with relief.

Scent #5: This is too quickly replaced by the odor of the barbeque meat stand. This of course smells like a barbeque, but the scent is less like cooking a steak and more like barbequing a slab of a smelly man’s putrid armpit on a hot summer’s day.

Scent #6: The public toilet beside the footpath. Acrid urine. No further description necessary.

Scent #7: Cigarette smoke in the lobby of my college building. Being a no-smoking environment (a rare thing in china), people only go as far as the lift or stairwell of each floor for their smoke break. This of course has the effect of allowing the cigarette smell to conveniently permeate to every floor of the building.

7 scents in 7 minutes. It’s no wonder I breath through my mouth.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A couple of weekends ago, Phil and I escaped the hustle and bustle of Shanghai and headed for the sleepy little lakeside holiday city of Hong Zhou, population: 3 MILLION PEOPLE! Well, it was still quieter than Shanghai.
It was a nice break, only two hours from Shanghai.
Here is the mandatory photo of me standing in front of the gates to an old Tomb.

On the downside, on arriving back in Shanghai and walking into the driveway for our building we witnessed a man literally throw his wife on to the bonnet of a car and start strangling her. She of course was screaming hysterically (when she was not being choked to the point of suffocation), and a crowd formed to watch the scene. Coming from a society where if anyone tried this in public, every man, and half of the women, in the vicinity would have jumped on him, it was very disturbing to see no-one do anything about this attack. And as outsiders and foreigners, the entire crowd would have turned on us if we had stepped in. Seeing one guy in the crowd on the phone to the police, I decided we needed to walk straight past before I lost my cool completely. Shaking and disgusted, I could only calm down after a long shower. It is terrible to feel so utterly helpless, and ended up being a sad end to a nice weekend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lou Quote of the Day #2

"The number of staff standing around doing nothing at any one time in Shanghai would out-number the entire population of Sydney"

Monday, September 12, 2005

Worth the Weight?

I must admit that I have never owned a set of scales. I usually know roughly what I weigh, and am relatively happy with that figure, but I don't like to be faced with it every time I walk into the bathroom.

That being said, when I moved into this apartment I couldn't resist jumping on to the old scales the landlord left in the bathroom.

A love affair with the scales quickly ensued. It wasn't that my new lover, Mr. Scales, was particularly handsome. Quite the opposite in fact, as he is 1970s orange, festooned with a green cartoon dog and the text "To your HEALTH". It was just that he always said what I wanted to hear.

A brief but intense relationship followed, with secret a rendezvous snatched every few days.
As in many relationships, I was blinded by the compliments, and, again like in many relationships, it took my nearest and dearest to snap me out of my blind adoration.

Me: "I think I have lost weight!"
Phil: "Oh no... You are not using the scales in the bathroom are you?"
Me (defensively): "Yeah, what about it?"
Phil: "Oh baby, they don't work, they never have... I just use them to hold the bath mat in place..."

Love affair over, it is back to the guy who unconditionally gives me compliments regardless of what I weigh.

Weather or Not

Before leaving Sydney I had a conversation with mum about how when you are living in another country, the people back home will often hear the latest news of your own new country’s political or natural disasters long before you do. Without understanding the local news, some things slip by you.

I was thinking about this last night, as I was listening to the wind literally howling outside the apartment, and I wondered if there was something in this weird weather that we didn’t know about. Then I suddenly came across this article in the Sydney Morning Herald online:

Typhoon hits China, heads for Shanghai

September 11, 2005 - 7:28PM

A typhoon slammed into eastern China today, where nearly a million people had been evacuated, and was headed in the direction of Shanghai, state media said.

Typhoon Khanun, which spared the island of Taiwan on Saturday after forecasts predicted a near direct hit, made landfall in China's mountainous Zhejiang province, where storms regularly trigger fatal floods and landslides.

The city of Taizhou took the full brunt of the storm.

"The province has so far evacuated 814,267 people to safer places," Xinhua news agency said, quoting sources with the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters. It did not say to where.

About 35,400 ships and other vessels had returned to port, it added.

The port of Ningbo was directly in the path of the storm which was unleashing maximum sustained winds of up to 177 kph, according to Tropical Storm Risk Web
typhoon tracker.

The storm was now a category two, after the eye crossed the coast, down from a category four, with five being the strongest.

Authorities in Shanghai, China's financial centre north of Zhejiang, had issued the yellow warning signal, demanding that more than 100,000 people working outdoors or living in sheds and other temporary housing evacuate to safety.

Well, that explains the weather…


PS. Before you ask, we are fine. The winds were wicked but we battened down the hatches, so to speak, and were completely untouched.

Monday, September 05, 2005


It was about time I did this. I have been amusing myself at the Chinese English, more commonly known as 'Chinglish' for the last few weeks.

The eggs I have are labeled in big letters as Green Eggs… enough to make Dr Seuss proud (but I’ll skip the ham: aside from being a vegetarian, I would rather not eat unrecognizably processed meat in a country that serves dog).

My toilet paper is wrapped in a plastic pack declaring “Mind Act Upon Mind, Toilet Tissue”… now I have heard of a dirty mind, but nothing that bad!

A packet of nut biscuits/cookies I bought the other day published this lengthy tome:

We like the new taste. We need the quality and we need the best food. Here you will find what you want. Cool face need cool taste. You are the NEW MAN. How delicious can not forget, special taste, return the true flavour.”

I am the new man? That’s a lot of pressure from a 100g pack of sweet crackers!

The sign draped over the back of a passenger seat in a cab (talk about a captive hostage!) had an advertisement for a cosmetic surgery company here in Shanghai. The ad was for breast enlargements, with a (highly re-touched) picture of a large breasted woman, and the slogan: “Ache and Be Happy”. I guess it is a new elaboration of the “no pain no gain” idea, but I for one think they shouldn’t be promoting the ‘ache’ part in their marketing campaign.

But the best I have seen so far was in a café today, named “100% Expectation Café”. The menu had many fun translations, and for the sake of time and space I have selected but a few. The food was listed in the food menu under the title:

Daintiness Nosh

  • Hodgepodge Fungus Cook Chicken
  • Make and Appointment Sandwich
  • Green stuff Salad
  • Yippee Dried Fruit
  • Fry Chook Plumage
  • Pig Nuts
  • Duck Chin

(and my own personal favourite…)

  • Gold A Threadlike Thing Sleeve-Fish

Normally I can guess what they meant to say, but most of these are beyond me.

I’m sure there will be more to come.