Friday, June 30, 2006

soft restraints

Sometimes when I'm feeling sleepy in the morning I keep bugging Phil for just one more hug before he goes to work.

Though it drives him mad when he's already late and running out the door, he usually humours me for a while.

But then he retaliates by doing this to me:

"Oh! The indignity!!"

Almost famous

Jess, my old flatmate from Sydney called me the other night, ecstatic after just having touched a sweaty Chris Martin at a Coldplay concert. I was was merely mildly amused until I realised that that makes me a whole 4 degrees of separation from Brad-the-most-gorgeous-man-alive-Pitt!

Me > Jess > Chris Martin > (his wife) Gwyneth Paltrow > (Gwyn's ex boyfriend) Brad Pitt.

Like I said, almost famous. Anyone want my autograph? Anyone...???


I think my mum spent most of my childhood trying to get me to shut up.

It didn't work.

Now, however, people are paying me to talk! I have done two recordings here for English language text books, 9 hours of tapes so far, and there is more recording to be done for a different company next Tuesday.

I know it is probably most of my family's worst nightmare to hear my voice on 9+ hours of tape, but I'm getting a real kick out of it!

Dan's the Man!!

All credit to Dan for the new text in the banner! Dan's the Man!!!!!

Where did the romance go?

Phil has been working in another city this week, working hard 10+ hour days, photographing products in a hot sweaty factory.

He came home last night, an exhausted shaddow of his former self. Just before he fell asleep I offered this little treat:

Me: "Tomorrow night I'm gonna treat you to a nice, loooong, full-body massage."

Phil: "Oooooohhhhh!"

Me: "Oh honey, I'm not going to do it myself! I'm gonna pay a Chinese girl to do it while I have a massage too, but it will be my treat..."

Nothing says romance quite like paying another woman to walk on your boyfriend's back while you relax.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

And the gag gets tighter

I have blogged about censorship in China before ("Sailing the Censor-Ship"), and really nothing I read about Chinese Censorship surprises me anymore, but it still worries me.

The latest news is that the government is attempting to pass laws to gag the media even more effectively than before.

This should be a concern to all people of the world, not just the residents of Cina, as the implications are bigger than just being a Chinese problem (for example the suppression of the news of the 2003 SARS epidemic had global implications).

CHINA'S censors have moved to strengthen their already considerable powers by proposing that media outlets be fined up to 100,000 yuan ($17,000) every time they report on "sudden events" without clearance from government officials.

Under the draft law, officials will be given discretion to handle emergencies or "sudden events", including the right to ban reporting on developing events.

The bill does not define "sudden events", but previously the phrase has included natural disasters, major accidents, social unrest and public health issues.

Newspapers, magazines, television stations and websites could be fined if they ignore such directions.

The Draft Emergency Event Management Law, outlined in several state-run newspapers, is being reviewed by a standing committee of the National People's Congress. It has been in the pipeline since the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was initially covered up in China.

Tough penalties, including sacking, are proposed for officials who mishandle or try to cover-up accidents, but the bill also says "information that is not advantageous to the handling of the emergency is exempt from being reported".

It is feared that local authorities will interpret the power broadly to suppress embarrassing news. An editorial from New Express, a newspaper based in Guangzhou, in China's south, has already expressed concerns.

It said if the draft was passed, it could be abused by local governments who might monopolise information and prevent reporting of natural disasters and make it harder to expose corruption.

Another Guangdong newspaper, the Southern Metropolis, has also criticised the bill. It was the first to expose the SARS cover-up.

The Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, and President Hu Jintao were applauded for ending the cover-up of health issues such as SARS and HIV/AIDS, but commentators have been increasingly dismayed by the tightening of control of the media under their leadership.

Last year the Government said it would begin to allow the reporting of the death tolls from natural disasters, previously classified as a state secret, in a move welcomed as providing the public with more accurate information. The draft law seems to run counter to this.

-Sydney Morning Herald, June 28 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Things I have learnt

When I lived in rural Nepal in 2002-2003 I compiled this list of things I had learnt as a result of being there. Since so many of these are valid for China, I thought I would include it here, while I work on a list especially for the things I've learnt in Shanghai.

  1. It is possible to sleep on a bus… standing up.
  2. Starving children begging for money do not go away when you don’t give them anything. They will follow you for an hour.
  3. Fireflies (moon-bugs) do exist.
  4. Children don’t care if you can’t understand them.
  5. A cow won’t move out of the way of an on-coming bicycle… oops!
  6. In this weather, “I’m only happy when it rains”.
  7. Pollution chokes, but it also gives off the best sunsets.
  8. If you say Namaste enough times to a stranger, eventually they will return the greeting, but usually on the one day when you are in a bad mood and don’t want to talk.
  9. It is uncharitable to hope that the rice stays beautifully green and never dries out, when thousands of people are relying on it for survival.
  10. The Himalayas ARE breathtakingly spectacular.
  1. There’s no place like home, but some places are just as good in other ways.
  2. Chiso paani (chilled water) really satisfies.
  3. “five minutes” never, EVER means only five minutes.
  4. I can’t live without cheese.
  5. It is possible for a woman to breast-feed a baby whilst riding sidesaddle in a sari on the back of a motorbike.
  6. Funny (i.e. strange) accents are NOT funny (i.e. side-splittingly, back-slappingly hilarious)
  7. 90% humidity means 100% sweaty.
  8. "Gourmet" is in the taste buds of the beholder.
  9. You never need to use the bathroom at night except when the toilet is outside and you are well and truly locked inside.
  10. Fatalism is the healthiest attitude when traveling Nepali buses: you only waste time when you worry… if it’s gonna crash, it’s gonna crash.
  11. All of my new furniture CAN fit on the back seat of a cycle rickshaw.
  12. The entire neighbourhood will discuss your underwear on washing day.
  13. Red tikka dye does not come off my white forehead easily.
  14. You value your family and friends a hundred times more when you leave them in another country.
  15. When you leave your friends in another country you have the best opportunity to make even more new ones (don’t replace friends: just add them!).
  16. Kids understand the universal language of a smile, but adults may regard it suspiciously.
  17. Beside every rocky dirt road there is a 3-inch strip of smooth sand, just perfect for riding a bicycle on.
  18. Everyone will want to ride on said 3 inches of smooth sand, and you can never win a game of chicken with an on-coming bike (trust me).
  19. It is possible to hold an umbrella in one hand and a torch in the other AND ride a bicycle.
  20. Did I mention I can’t live without cheese?
  21. The amount you paid for any item will always be considered too much by any Nepali you tell (and they will always ask you).
  22. There is life after the squat toilet... and lack of any sort of toilet paper.
  23. It has never been so exciting to find a shop that sells pasta… or soy sauce… or plastic cheese… or Pringles…
  24. I don’t like mice.
  25. I really don’t like mice.
  26. I scream like a girl and jump on furniture when I see mice.
  27. My Nepali family are very good at killing mice while I stand on furniture screaming like a girl with my hands over my eyes.
  28. What I don’t see won’t hurt me.
  29. The communicative power of sign language should never be underestimated.
  30. A Discman or Walkman can get you through anything …but just try to remember the spare batteries.
  31. Buses and trucks should not play chicken at high speed, but they do.
  32. Serious Nepali movies are very, very funny.
  33. Baygon bug spray is my friend.
  34. There is a reason why I’m here. But I can’t always remember it.
  35. There is no such thing as a sleep-in.
  36. Friends from home will remember to email you with news on what they had for dinner last night, but not think to fill you in on world news or national disasters.
  37. Apparently, you can never use too much chilli (but I beg to differ).
  38. Goats can vomit while travelling on public transport.
  39. Water buffalo smell.
  40. Watch where you are walking. Especially if a cow has been walking there before you.
  41. The one time when the phone call actually gets through to you will be when the phone line cuts out.
  42. There is no such thing as a small amount of Daal Bhaat (so don’t even try asking for it).
  43. Camera = Crowd
  44. Vegemite improves in taste when taken out of Australia. As does Kylie Minogue! But sadly not John Howard.
  45. Trashy magazines never looked so good.
  46. The power supply here is reliable… you can rely on it cutting out.
  47. Where there is a will, there is a way. But where there is a way, there are usually several more obstacles.
  48. The man who invented ear plugs deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize: they’ve stopped war breaking out here several times when I have been woken up at 5am.
  49. Barrels placed in the middle of the highway do not slow down speeding buses: they simply veer around them at suicidal speeds.
  50. I will never complain about the quality of a cup of coffee again (I suspect I will take this one back after a few weeks back in the Sydney café culture, but for now, even instant coffee equals instant bliss).
  51. Many Nepali products are of an inferior quality to the foreign equivalent. However, Nepali Super Glue IS super glue… next time I will remember to move my fingers out of the way before the glue dries, and thus avoid the embarrassment of having to direct my family through my belongings to find my secret stash of nail polish remover while they laugh uncontrollably at me.
  52. If someone offers to pierce your nose for you, they intend to do it with the stud from their very own nostril.
  53. It is exciting to find a shop that sells rice/sugar/flour with "not very many" bugs and stones in it.
  54. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because I was heading towards it on my scooter.
  55. Cockroaches can grow larger than my big toe… and an accumulation of dead cockroaches can completely block the plumbing of my toilet, causing the contents to spontaneously explode into my bathroom.
  56. Never look at the kitchen/cooking surface/the cook’s hands.
  57. The availability of the internet is wider than that of clean drinking water.
  58. You’ve just have to be able to laugh at it all. Full stop.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Only in China

"Waiter! There's no longer a worm in my soup!"

A dozen diners at a luxury restaurant in Fuzhou were shocked recently when they found a worm in a dish costing more that RMB3,000 (US$375). But what really shook them up was when a female manager swallowed the worm to escape responsibility. When they asked for an explanation from the manager in charge of the dining hall, she made a grab for the worm, popped it into her mouth and claimed there was nothing there.

- SH 8days magazine, Shanghai, Vol 78

"Great location, pity about the neighbours":
Several thousand pigs in Jinjiang, Fujian Province, are living a life of luxury in a five story building equipped with elevators. The lucky porkers belong to a pig farm in the city's industrial zone. Each floor in the building has a special purpose, such as accomodation, mating or the delivery of piglets. According to the general manager of the company, the biggest advantage of the high-rise is that it uses much less land than normal pig farms.
- SH 8days magazine, Shanghai, Vol 78

More strange-but-true from China (these pics have been doing the email rounds here)

Friday, June 23, 2006

More Half-time entertainment...

The last FIFA soccor game everynight shows at 3am Shanghai time. Mostly we have been too old and boring to stay up this late, you know how it is, it interfers with our arthritis, bingo, rhumatism and all that.

However, last Saturday night/Sunday morning Phil and I found ourselves still awake at 2 am and decided to live like the young things do and watch the 3am game.

By half-time (i.e. 3.45 am) we were a little delerious, or "over-tired" as my mum would say, in an anoyingly all-knowing tone (you know, sometimes I just wanted to lie on the floor in the middle of the supermarket and scream, it didn't have to mean I was "over-tired"!).

So we decided to make our own half-time entertainment, in a very mature and adult way.

We drew moustaches on each other and took photos.

It's Klassy-with-a-K in our house!

Rubber-face Phil

Me with a mo and side-burns


It's hard to tell if this is me or Phil! OUCH!

I know... SCARY.

By the time the game finished, the sun had come up so we fell into bed moustaches and all. Believe me, by the time we woke up it was even scarier than in the pictures!

football faux pas

I was watching the Italy vs Czech game tonight with Phil, and saw a close up of one of the Italian players with a ponytail:-

Me: "He's a bit of a girl then, isn't he? Look at that hair!"

Phil: "Eeh!!"

Me: "Oh sorry darling, I forgot you have long hair."

[Phil shakes his hair indignantly- Wella Woman-style- and I go back to criticising the players]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This party is brought to you by the letter P

Phil's birthday was last weekend, and the man deserved a party. If only for putting up with me for the rest of the year.

When I suggested having a party to him he shrugged and said "If you wanna organise it...."

So organise it I did. I have never been one for throwing parties for myself (in fact I haven't had a decent birthday party since I was 7, and even then it was a joint party with my little sister), but I thought I could throw a party for Phil.

The first thing he needed was a theme. Knowing my love of alliteration ("Always Avoid Alliteration"), I decided on "Phil's Pimping Party"... all Patrons to arrive as Pimps or Prostitutes... basically to wear flashy clothes and jewelry, It's the best we could do in down-town Shanghai. The alternative was "Phil's Pooping Party", and knowing I would be cleaning up the next day.. well, no...

The following is the result:

I'm not sure where the feather boas came into it all, but it sure did make a mess. The next morning the house looked like we had been ritually sacrificing (pink) chickens... just what you want to clean up the morning after a party.

By the end of the night us girls (the ones still left!) were so tired of hitching our skirts down, and in agony from ridiculous heels, that this was the best we could manage:

I think we're getting old!

We did invite our Chinese friends too, but I think they took one look at the invitation and ran screaming into Russia, as did many others of our friends. We are indeed a bunch of debased foreigners.

Thanks to Daniela and Kim Tien for the photos... our photos are still on Phil's camera, and if the Montreal photos are anything to go by, they'll still be there next Christmas.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Food for Thought

Calculate the hours (or days and months) you spend sitting in front of your computer every year.

Shocking isn't it?

Have you ever felt you should be doing more for the less fortunate people of the world? I know I sure have.

The Hunger Site is one way we can help without leaving our desks. After all it costs nothing but a few measly seconds a day to donate free food. What have you got to lose?

Please check out their homepage, and the FAQs page for more information.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Oh Canada!

Ok, six months have passed and the snow has melted by now, but I have finally got the photos of our trip to Phil's home, Montreal. The shoe-maker's children run barefoot and the photographer's girlfriend has to nag him for months for a copy of their photos.

The following photos were taken by myself (aside from the photos of me, taken by Phil) in Quebec, January/February 2006.

me (duh!):

Pretty sun in the woods:

Phil's family's cabin (an old converted school house) in the middle of nowhere:

The Man:

Phil packing our stash of 10 bags of coffee into zip-lock bags the night before we left for China again... 2.5 kilos of coffee grains must have x-rayed rather suspiciously in customs!

The One-Pin Wonder: me, showing unusual style and grace... moments before I more typically slipped over and landed on my back across two lanes, narrowly missing a bowling ball to the head from the kid in the next lane. We were escaping the cold with some good old competitive sport, and my body regretted it for days... I might be too old for these shennannigans!

A Snow Angel of a different kind, in an old country town cemetry:

And finally documentation of my endless facination with my own foorprints in the snow:

Missing photos
(but you can imagine it just as well):

  • me eating snow;
  • me freaking out when snow flakes landed on my naked eyeballs (Lou: "ARGH! What do I do??!!", Phil: "Just blink you idiot!");
  • me slipping several times on snow, ice or slush and landing on my butt;
  • Phil laughing too hard to take a photo of me slipping and landing on my butt time and time again;
  • me eating snow again when I think Phil's not looking;
  • me as a passenger standing patiently at the left side of the car wondering why Phil is laughing at me instead of letting me in the car, then remembering that they drive on the WRONG side of the road in Canada and I was at the driver's door;
  • me with an icecream brain-freeze after eating snow yet again;
  • me blinking rapidly, mouth agape like a stunned mullet everytime anyone spoke to me in Quebecois;
  • Me going nuts and flipping out completely after hearing the radio announcer declare that it was "fine and -5C... a nice day" ("-5C" and "nice day" do not by any definition belong together);
  • Me generally and continually making a fool of myself.
I hope you enjoyed the visual and mental images!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Re-reading the fine print

So it appears that the same clause in the Boyfriend/Husband contract that excuses Phil from getting up in the middle of the night to check the house for my dream aliens, also excuses me from being charged with spousal abuse when I attack him in my sleep.

Phil is currently walking around nursing cat-like gashes on his stomach, after I woke up in the middle of the night to see a man standing over our bed, coming closer to us with his hands out in attack-mode. I hurled my right arm out to Phil, who was sleeping soundly on his back, and slammed my open palm down on his stomach before clenching my hands, dragging my nails across his skin. I was shaking him with a handfull of his flesh in my iron grip screaming at him to wake up, all the while still staring at the man coming closer and closer to us.

At the moment Phil wakes up, understandably screaming like a girl, I mean responding in a deep, calm, manly voice, the image of the man standing over us vanishes into thin air.

"WHAT THE HELL...?!!" cries Phil, in obvious pain.

"Oh, I had a bad dream.... sorry..." I respond sheepishly, finally releasing my grip on Phil's intestines.

Looking back, the man standing over us was in black and white, and wearing and Indianna Jones- Temple of Doom style head dress, which should have been a tip-off. But it seemed completely real to me at the time.

So I guess the moral of the story is that you can get away with maiming your partner in the middle of the night, so long as you have a good nightmare to back it up.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

[Avoiding title for fear of google searches...]

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that the Official FIFA World Cup ball looks like it is covered in sanitary napkins?

It's nice to see 22 men all focusing obsessively on the placement of panty liners.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I want a Lawyer!

Sub-clause C, paragraph 4.2 of the boyfriend/husband contract stipulates that if the girlfriend/wife hears a bump in the night, said boyfriend/husband must awake from deep slumber and get up to investigate.

This, though I am far from paranoid, has happened in our household a few times. I hear a noise, and shake Phil, who knows that it is far quicker to get out of bed than to try and reassure me it was nothing. So up he gets, armed only with a terry-cloth bath robe and the knowledge that I am probably ("BUT NOT DEFINITELY!", I scream hysterically) imagining things.

Imagine, if you will, my dismay upon discovering that the afore-mentioned clause in the boyfriend/husband contract only applies to real noises in the night. Aparently I am not covered at all when I dream that the alien from "Signs" is in the living room, and I want Phil to go out and check that it's not.

Goddammit, I should have read the fine print.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Modern Day Fairytale #2

Once upon a time, in a Kingdom Far Far Away, there lived an average couple. The couple were like any other couple in the Kingdom, however this couple had Issues. Fertility Issues.

One evening the man was faced once again with his wife screaming at him "I'm OVULATING! It's now or never!" He simply could not stand the, er, performance pressure and he escaped out the back door while his wife took her temperature for the fifteenth time that day.

Crossing over the back fence, he found himself in the neigbour's yard. His neighbour was a wicked feminist, known to many in the neighbourhood as "The Witch".
The Witch happened to be out checking her echinaecea seedlings that night as the man jumped into her garden.

"Oh Please Witc... er, I mean Ms! Ms, please let me hide out here for a little while"
The Witch quizzed him on what was wrong, and agree that he could hide out in her garden for as long as he wanted, afterall, she didn't want a little brat growing up next door kicking their balls over the fence into her Calendula. For added insurance, she made a deal:

"You can hide out here as long as you like, on the proviso that should your wife ever actually have a child you must send the baby away."

The husband, thinking that after 10 years of trying they had a snow-balls chance in hell of ever conceiving, agreed readily.

But Miracle or Miracles, four years, and 10 IVF cycles later, the wife gave birth to a little girl.

The couple were overwhelmed with joy... a joy that soon dissipated when the Witch's shadow crossed their doorstep, waving the contract the husband had signed four long years ago.


The following years were filled with custody battles and law suits. The Daughter, a brat called Repunzel, or Ray-pyn-zhail as she liked to be known, stayed with her parents while the legal issues were being sorted out. But then, alas, on her thirteenth birthday, the Witch and her team of Feminist Lawyers won the final appeal. Raypynzhail was to be sent away.

Poor R was locked in a tower in the middle of a thorny thicket, in the deepest part of the forest. She passed her day leaning out the window of the tower, singing lilting Christina Aguellera tunes, watching MTV and sending text messages to her friends in Far Far Away Highschool ("still trapd, i h8 wikd wtch, pls tape Lost 4 me")

Many years went by, and R's hair had grown to a ridiculous length. To dry it she had to hang it out the window, and it very nearly touched the ground. She was glad that no-one ever came to visit her (not even the Witch, who fed-exed R's food parcels to her), because after 4 years in the tower her dark roots were completely unmanageable, and she was in desperate need of a dye-job... a half head of foils at her favourite salon would have done it.

Fed up with her skanky, Shakira style roots, R decided the only thing left to do was chop off her hair. She grabbed her manicure scissors and started hacking away. After she finished she braided the long rope of hair, thinking she could fetch a good price for as Victoria Beckham's hair extensions, if she ever got out of the tower. Hanging the hair-rope on a nail near the window, she sat down to watch Britney's latest video clip.

Slowly, seeping through the image of Brit's gyrating hips, R had an idea. If she tossed the hair-rope out the window, she could climb down on it, and gain her freedom!

She she hurridly packed her things, and after two hours of deciding what outfit to wear, she climbed down the hair-rope. Once on the ground she dialed directory assistance for a cab ("I'm SO not walking in THESE heels!", and drove away back to Far Far Away, in time to stop at Vera Wang and her hair Salon, before strutting fashionably late into her own senior prom.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A fairytale for the Modern Woman

A fairy tale for the modern woman.......

Once upon a time in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self assured princess happened upon a frog as she sat, contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess's lap and said: "Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am and then, my sweet, we can marry and setup housekeeping in your castle with my mother, where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so.

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously on a repast of lightly sauteed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled to herself and thought................

"I don't f***ing think so."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Blogging Chicks

Check out Blogging Chicks for more fabulous blogs.

I'm almost a geek

Check out the new banner!

It only took me all of 3 and a half hours to figure out how to change the code of the Blogger template... that's a goddamn record for a internet-luddite like myself!

got a pulse

Should I have a resting pulse of 122 beats per minute? Just wondering.....

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Kello Kitty, Yoyos and Self-Censorship

On Saturday mornings I teach English to 4 ten-year-olds here in Shanghai. Their English is pretty good, they are at the age where they are still excited by learning, and I find their enthusiasm utterly infectious.

The children come from four different Taiwanese families who all transfered to Shanghai for business. These families are quite well-off, and as a result the children are fairly worldly for their age.

Today I was teaching them about the countries of the world, and asked them to tell me as many countries as they could off the top of their heads. At one point they had suggested China and Taiwan as separate countries. Seeing as they are Taiwanese I included it on the board, although in any other classroom here in Shanghai Taiwan is adamantly refered to as part of China (along with Tibet, but that's another story*).

When I included Taiwan with all the other countries of the world Sophia piped up with, "Taiwan is not a country, it's part of China."

In response Ruby shouted angrily, "It is NOT! Taiwan is a country! It's OUR country!"

Looking terrified, Sophia quickly turned to Ruby in hushed tones, "Shhh, you can't say that. Just say it is China."

Along with Hello Kitty** and Yoyo's these children have already learnt the importance of self-censorship.

* My contract for the other school I teach at part-time has a stipulation that any teacher who talks about the "Three Ts" will be immediately dismissed (i.e. Tibet, Taiwan and Tiannamen).
** Hello Kitty is not just popular with the kids here, but also with the 'adults'. I actually saw a black Porche Boxter with the interior entirely decorated with Hello Kitty: Hello Kitty seat covers, steering wheel covers, sun visors, rear-vision mirror covers, etc.