Thursday, July 27, 2006


Well I'm two days late with this (I always forget birthdays, not because I don't remember the date, just because I never know what the date is on any given day)...

But Happy Birthday Jess!! Carefull you don't start a bush fire with all those candles! :)

Also, Happy Birthday Aussie In The Orient! No, not my birthday, but Tuesday was the official 1st birthday of this blog.

The drinks are on me!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The very definition of cruelty

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - The Fear of long words.

I kid you not. Look it up.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Send in the Phobias

'Organisers of a British rock festival have been forced to change its circus theme after a number of ticketholders told them they had a phobia of clowns.
"We have had so many people with clown phobias contact us I am worried everyone might end up hiding in the woods," Rob da Bank, a BBC Radio One disc jockey who will "curate" the show, was quoted as saying.

Fear of clowns - or coulrophobia - has symptoms including shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, nausea, sweating and a sense of foreboding, The Times pointed out.'
- Sydney Morning Herald

Personally I don't get the clown thing, but so many people seem to feel the same way that there is even an I Hate Clowns website (it's pretty funny actually). Yet I totally understand the phobia of something completely irrational- I myself have had a life-long pathalogical fear of owls.

It is ridiculous, I know in theory that owls cannot hurt me, but if I look at a picture of one I get chills. If I hear one hoot, I convulse in involuntary shivers. If I see one at the zoo I start to get short of breath, and my heart races.

My sister, Liz, has a phobia of bees, but seeing as she is quite badly allergic to them, it makes sense. All our lives we have teased each other by buying little owl or bee presents and leaving them in each other's beds. Cruel yes, but fun? Also yes.

A friend of mine recently told the story of an ex-girlfriend of his who had an irrational fear of spots. Yep, you read that correctly: Spots. Dots, splotches, Polka dots, a pattern. It included clothes, furniture, even animals with spotted patterns. If she saw a spotted pattern she would start ucontrollably clawing at her body, as if to get the pattern away from her skin.

One of my students recently confessed to having a fear of any animal with a beak, and another friend has a fear of having their toes 'naked' in public.

Which makes me think: does everyone have an irrational fear? Perhaps not so strong as to induce a full-blown panic attack, but what gives you the willies?


Friday, July 21, 2006


I have spent 352 days away from Australia (I just calculated that right now, I am not carving daily notches on the wall prison-style). While most days I love --or at least Like Very Strongly-- my life here, there are some things I miss badly.



My Munchkins (niece and nephew). Laura was a few days short of a year old when I left, and really doesnt remember me:

Good, reasonably priced coffee:

My town, Newtown, in Sydney... in all it's weird and wonderful glory:

My Baby:

Australian Beaches and Summer:


Oh there's so much more now that I start to think about it! It's a damn good thing that this guy is so special, and partially makes up for so much of what I miss:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gym, rhymes with Time

One of my favourite Simpsons episodes is when Homer walks past a Gym and says: "Gime? What's a gime".

Up until this point in my life, I had the same issue about Gyms. Never went in them. They were a mystery to me, and to be honest, a scary mystery.

But up until this point in my life I could still fit into my pants.

So on monday night I ....[*chokes on sentence in disgust*]... joined a gym.

Quite frankly I am terrified. How do these "gym people" always know so naturally what to do there? What locker to use? Where to put your shampoo in the shower? Not to mention what little buttons to press on the machines??

To make matters worse I am doing all this with my very limited Chinese. What happens if I misunderstand the instructor? If I can't read the buttons on the machine? If I go left instead of right in the aerobics class and cause a giant Human Dominoes Disaster??


I just know I am going to press the wrong button, and go flying at high-speed off the back of the treadmill.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

When Bunnies Attack

Phil's arm (my fingers with nail polish!) after one of the bunnies decided he didn't want to be cuddled anymore.

A simple "No means No" would suffice.


Ok, I don't want to leave that depressing 'bad day' post up there for too long, but I really have no time, or energy to post today. Bad me [smacks self on own wrist].

Instead I'll leave you with a joke (forwarded from Phil):

Home Security

An old Arab man lived alone in Idaho. He wanted to plough his potato garden, but it was very hard work.

His only son, Abdullah, who used to help him, was being held by the FBI on suspicion of aiding and abetting terrorists.

The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Abdul,
I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my potato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.
Your Dad,

A few days later he received a letter from his son:

Dear Dad,
For heaven's sake, don't dig up that garden, that's where I buried the biological weapons.

Next morning, at 4a.m. the FBI agents and local police showed up and dug up the entire area without finding any weapons. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Why rain when it can pour?

Today has been a less than wonderful day. It began with my attempt to go out and watch the football/soccor at 2am this morning, culminating in Phil and I staying awake, getting dressed up, and walking to the front door before turning around and heading to bed instead.

I slept REALLY badly, woke up with a migraine, and had to face four 11 year olds for two hours of English tuition at 8.30am. To make matters worse, the kids had done better than I and had managed to stay awake for the game. Thus by 8.30am they were all over-tired and cranky, bickering at each other constantly. The soccor-mad David had been staying up and watching all the games this week obsessively, however he fell asleep at 1pm last night, and his family failed to wake him until the game went into extra-time. He was still crying from the disappointment of having missed the game, and I had to deal with that as well.

So after tutoring I came home, and at 12.00 I am making a peanut butter sandwich when I drop the bread. Butter-side down of course.

As I bend over to pick up the bread, the crotch of my jeans rips clean through. My last pair of jeans that actually fit.

I already know I am too big for most of the clothes in the shops here (I'm considered a whale with my 32 inch waist). Yet I try to go and buy a new pair anyway, as now I have only one pair of pants that fit, and that's going to get tricky on laundry day.

I ride my electric scooter to the nearest department store and walk around for an hour and a half, trying on every pair of jeans I can find (which is difficult since they have been cleared off the racks for summer). 100% of them are too small, 95% of them I can't even get passed my thighs. Feeling fat and frumpy I end up buying a pair of 3/4 length pants that fit me (just) but do not flatter me at all, because they are better than going naked.

I walk out of the department store, exhausted and demoralised to see that someone has stolen the battery out of my scooter. They somehow overcame the two locks on it, and carried it away (it weighs 4kg) without anyone noticing. In fact, when I came to my bike, there was a group of builders from the demolished building across the street standing there and openly laughing at me. I have my suspicions that they had something to do with it, and if looks could kill they'd be six feet under by now. The battery will cost at least a couple hundred dollars to replace- money I just do not have right now.

So, yeah, not a good day at all. Sure, no-one died, but none-the-less I feel like giving up and going back to bed.

Update: To overcome such a bad day, Phil and I decided to go out for dinner. We went to a popular street in an "ex-pat" area of Shanghai, that has many different types of cuisine. On the way to one of our usual restaurants, we passed a new Persian restaurant and decided not to be such creatures of habit.

Upon walking in, we asked immediately if they had any vegetarian food for your's truly. I was shown the last page of the menu, which had 6 vegetarian options- almost a record for China. As we settled ourselves on the cushioned day bed a la Arabian Nights, we congratulated ourselves for stepping outside of our comfort zone.

As our food arrived, I realised instead of an Eggplant and Tomato stew with rice, I had a beef stew in front of me. I sent it back and the manager (an Iranian man with perfect English) came to see what the problem was.

"Well, the vegetarian stew is full of beef" I tried to calmly report.
"I'm very sorry Madam, these two stews are very similar, there has been a mistake. I will bring you a new one".

Lo and behold, five minutes later, my vegetarian stew arrived. I was so starving I took a huge mouthfull without looking at it properly. You guessed it: it was the same beef stew with the larger beef chunks picked out. It was still full of smaller chunks of beef, not to mention the strings of slow cooked meat that have flaked off into the soup.

Phil had nearly finished his meal, but by this time we were so fed up with the service that we got up and left. On our way out the New Zealander owner of the restaurant came running up to us to see what was wrong. Phil shouted something about the meal and their attitude being completely disrespectful to me, but I was too worn down by the day to say anything.

As we walked away, the mounting pressure of all the little things that had gone wrong that day broke the dam wall, and I burst out crying in the middle of the street.

What a day.

Thanks to my hero and protector Phil, for always standing up for me, and letting me wipe my snotty face on his t-shirt in public. xxx

Saturday, July 08, 2006



laughing out loud.

This internet/chat shorthand is taking over our lives. It used to indicate when something was truly funny and showed the person at the other end of the cyber conversation that you were indeed laughing. Out loud.

Now people just pepper net conversation with it out of laziness, and boredom, so much so that my sister and her friend Dan have started writing ALOL (Actually Laughing Out Loud). This joins LMAO (Laughing my arse off), ROFL (Rolling On Floor Laughing) and an ever growing array of emoticons to indicate just how amused you may be.

However I hadn't realised just how far the LOL acronym had taken over our lives until the other night. Lying in bed, I said something funny (believe it or not), and Phil responded by chuckling and saying:

"Lol" then a horrified pause, followed by: "Oh my god I just said 'lol' in a real live conversation"

"LOL!!" I replied.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Koala Cooties

I mentioned before that I teach English to four Taiwanese 10 year olds on Saturday mornings. During the Chinese summer holidays I am teaching them for 5 weeks, every morning, Monday - Friday.

In order not to have either them or me climbing up the walls, I have been searching for fact sheets about Australian animals today. They simply cannot get enough of Australian animal facts, and I can't get enough of something that we can make at least a week-long project out of.

While trawling the internet I came along a site called kid cyber, which has great fact sheets about many native Aussie animals, presented in child-appropriate language.

But then I found this paragraph. I know it's a serious problem, but I literally snorted pepsi out of my nose when I read the last sentence:

Koalas in danger!
People have destroyed koalas' habitat by cutting down eucalyptus forests. Koalas also die in bushfires and many koalas are hit by cars on country roads.
Now a disease called chlamydia, say clu-mid-ee-u, which makes koalas blind and makes the females unable to have babies is harming these animals.
-Kid Cyber: Koalas

I can just picture myself teaching that to the children: "Now everyone! Say Clu-mid-ee-u!!"

"Duuude, she totally looked clean..."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Aged P

When I first came to Shanghai, I can remember wandering the streets about 3pm and looking around to see many older people picking children up from school or kindergarten, walking with the kids down the streets, or carrying them in child seats on the backs of their bicycles.

I thought to myself- "Shanghai has a lot of seriously old parents!"

Of course I quickly realised these "old parents" are the children's grandparents, and one of the few positive results of the one child policy: many children have four retired grandparents to look after them while their parents are at work.

However, more commonly the one child policy has many more drawbacks. We have known about the growing imbalance of the sexes, and the abandonment of girl babies, for years. One more emerging drawback is the effect the aging population will have on industry in the near future. The following was in "The Times of India" this weekend (thanks to Phil for passing it on to me)

SHANGHAI: Shanghai is rightfully known as a fast-moving, hypermodern city - full of youth and vigour. But that obscures a less well-known fact: Shanghai has the oldest population in China, and it is getting older in a hurry.

Twenty per cent of this city's people are at least 60... By 2020 about a third of Shanghai's population, currently 13.6 million, will consist of people over the age of 59.

As workers become scarcer and more expensive in the increasingly affluent cities along China's eastern seaboard, the country will face growing economic pressures to move out of assembly work and other labour-intensive manufacturing, which will be taken up by poorer economies in Asia and beyond, and into service and information-based industries.

"With the working-age population decreasing, our labour costs will become less competitive, and industries in places like Vietnam and Bangladesh will start becoming more attractive," said Zuo Xuejin, vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

-NYT News Service

The one-child policy does not stop the rich from having more than one child, they just have to pay extreme amounts of taxes for their second child. In fact, many of the richer people in Shanghai society are indeed having two children, and flaunting it as somewhat of a status symbol. My students simply cannot believe that the Australian government actually pays us to have children, instead of us paying them for the privilege.

The Chinese government has recently declared that when both the man and wife have no siblings (i.e. a couple consisting of two 'only-child' parents) they may have two children, as a strategy to overcome the issues of one person being unable to financially support two parents and four grandparents as the population ages. Part of me wonders if this will factor into the Shanghai peoples' already rather picky criteria for a suitable marriage. "I'm sorry darling, this just isn't going to work out. I think we should see other people. No, no, it's not you... it's your sister..."

There are very interesting times ahead for China.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Proud Girlfriend Post

Phil had an exhibition of his photography last weekend, as a part of the Quebec National Day celebrations. His photos looked fantastic- all 27 of them!

I was so proud I wanted to put some pics of the night here, but you can look at his photos here