Thursday, December 28, 2006


In most recent news- and this is all hearsay as you will soon find out, so correct me if I'm wrong- a large earthquake hit Taiwan yesterday, severing the two sole cables that connect mainland China with internet from the rest of the world. As a result internet access yesterday has been slow, if indeed at all, and (here's the hearsay part) I am unable to see any international news sites to confirm the story.

Why would a country as big as China have only two cables in the same location, you ask? Control. Up to this point it worked quite nicely to control the news and information that came into China. However, the huge push these days to attract international business to China, and with the Chinese sights set on the WTO, severing the net access to the rest of the world is BAD for business (no matter how good it is for the propaganda machines), and it will be interesting to see if the govt will continue with just two in the future.

If anyone would like to email me with actual news about the earthquake and the implication in China, I'd appreciate it- send it on along to with the article pasted into the email (not linked or I won't be able to read it!!). Thanks!

In other news, the mothership made contact with Shanghai on Sunday- yes, Phil's mother arrived from Montreal, bearing gifts and jet-lag. A random comment made months ago about the fact that clothes here are all too small for me, and that Phil needed new sweaters, resulted in the Sweater Fairy generously waving her magic wand over both our stockings- we now have more sweaters than we can imagine, and with the current weather it is greatly appreciated. We are preparing to head off for a week of sunshine in Thailand next Tuesday, and Manny will be joining us so more photos will be coming.

I am now officially on the countdown to my exhibition opening in February. Actually I am totally freaking out, with only three weeks to finish 6 paintings, and am predicting some all-nighters reminiscent of the old university days. Better get back to it.....

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Ubiquitous Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

This is the first time I have ever written a real Christmas letter, but after living in China for the last 17 months I'm feeling a little out of the loop. Or perhaps it's my guilty conscience nagging at me for all your emails that I have yet to reply to. Anyway, I'll try to keep this short for your sake.

The tone of 2006 was pretty much summed up in the extreme highs and lows of January alone. It was during January that I made the decision to quit teaching full-time, and to concentrate more on the artistic side of my personality with the aim of eventually earning a living from my art. High hopes, I know, but a girl's gotta try. I am still teaching a few hours of English a week, and teaching more and more at classes to both kids and adults, but the majority of my time has been scheduled for painting. Thus I sent up my art website this year (, and have been painting a lot, experimenting with new styles and, to Phil's simultaneous excitement and dismay, with larger and larger canvases. It has been great to really stretch myself into styles that I have only dabbled in in the past, and I have been loving painting many more abstract pieces that ever before.

It was also during January that my good friend Miriam died tragically here in Shanghai. You may remember that she was electrocuted in her home, due to faulty wiring, and such a tragic death shook myself, and all who knew her, to the core. No death makes sense, especially in youth, but a death due to such a ridiculous thing as poor electrical workmanship seems completely senseless. It has taken many months to absorb this event, and was not helped by the fact that this year also saw the death of several other people I know. I say I have 'absorbed' Miriam's passing, in that I know it is true, and these days I rarely "forget" about it (I used to catch myself thinking "Oh, I should call Miriam for coffee.... right, no."). However I don't know how long it will take, if ever, for me not to feel desperately sad about it. My friend Rachel gave me some great advice at the time: "Grief is like a hole- it never gets any smaller, but in time you grow bigger around it".

In February Phil and I travelled to his home in Montreal- I was utterly amazed to see a city operating under a thick blanket of snow. In other travels, Mum and Dad came to visit us in Shanghai in October/November, and for 12 days we toured a little of the vastness that is China- seeing Beijing, Xi'an, Emei Shan and Leshan, before returning to Shanghai. It was a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of China that I have yet to experience, but it was good to see a little more of the country that I have made my home for at least a few years.

Speaking of home, I am finding the longer I stay here, the more normal it becomes- and the more normal China becomes, the more I am frustrated by things that never used to bother me. One example is the little fact that when we arrived home yesterday there was a notice stuck to our door by the local police bureau. It was simply a notice telling us that as foreigners we have to register with the local police- which we had done months ago- and that we cannot engage in illegal activities or hide other foreigners in our apartment. As if we would. But the thing that bothered me most is that it is quite common for neighbours to earn a little money by telling the police that there are foreigners living in their building- we were not home when they arrived yestarday, but normally the police go around and bang on the door, demanding to see our registration papers (like we are dogs), and finding any little excuse to fine us ("your TV was too loud on the 7th of August" or "you walked past the chief of police last Wednesday without saying hello", etc). These things never used to bother me at all, and I accepted them as part of choosing to live in what is still undeniably a police state, filled with informants. However lately it is beginning to get on my nerves. I feel like waving my hand in the air and screaming "I pay taxes here too you know! I pay your salary!" however the most important thing to do as a foreigner living in China is not to bring attention to yourself- people have been deported for lesser offences than this.

I believe the only solution to my frustration is a holiday away from China, and thankfully we are going to Thailand for a week in the beginning of January. Phil's mum is arriving in Shanghai from Montreal this Sunday, and for Christmas she is taking us to Thailand. So it appears that you can buy my love after all! It will be a welcome break, and at least the heat will make me feel like it is the Christmas season after all, as the cold here is just not Christmassy to my little Aussie soul.

In the new year I will be busier than ever with my art. After trying to promote myself for the last 12 months, I got what appears to be my lucky break last week when I was offered a solo exhibition of my work- twenty pieces in total to be exhibited for two months in gallery/bar on the 50th floor revolving restaurant of the Novotel Hotel in Shanghai. This is quite a big deal, as often artists have to share the space, however I have been offered the entire place for myself. It is amazing, exciting and terrifying all at the same time- not least because I still have 8 paintings to finish before then! While it would be nice to sell a few pieces during the exhibition, my main aim is just to use this experience as an opportunity to promote myself and get my name out there more.

Well that's the tip of the iceberg, but enough for now. As usual you can continue to read here for all my adventures, and my new years resolution is to reply to emails before six months passes. I apologise to all the people who have written to me, and are STILL waiting for replies. All I can say in my defence is that 2006 was quite a year.

Merry Christmas and hope you have a wonderful 2007,


Thursday, December 21, 2006

New address

Thanks to Dan the Man, I now have a new home for this blog at

Other than that nothing has changed- it's just a fancier name, and much easier to type!


At dinner last night for the farewell of a friend leaving for home in Italy, the conversation turned (somewhat bizzarrely) to the things that Bangkok 'dancing girls' can do with inanimate objects.

A*: "Bananas?"
B: "Peeled bananas."
A: "What? They peel bananas? With their .... [glancing downwards]?!"
B: "No dear, the last time I checked our vaginas did not come with opposable thumbs."
A: "Oh right, yes."

[*names have been changed to protect the embarrassed]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shanghaied in Shanghai

As a part-time teacher at my English language school I am not compelled to attend staff meetings. However I am starting to think that it would be a bloody good idea to attend anyway.

Two weeks ago in my absence at the weekly meeting I was "volunteered" to be the emcee at the annual school Christmas concert. This is two hours of not just introducing acts, but also running games and raffle draws.

As if this wasn't bad enough, during this week's meeting it was decided that I would not have to dance in the staff act- dancing to Mariah Carey's version of 'All I Want For Christmas is You'. No, I don't have to dance, but instead, lucky me, I get to sing. Solo.

And they fully expect me to hit the high notes.

It's a damn good thing that Shanghai has no formal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because pretty soon dogs all over town will be rubbing their ears in the dirt in an attempt to get my shrill screams out of their poor deranged minds.

PS. In order to learn the song, I have had to download it- you have no idea how much my fingers curled in embarrassed agony before typing the words "Mariah Carey"... even now I can feel the bile rising....

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ch 3, 2 dc in rg. Ch 2, *3dc in rg...

Is it just me, or should a "half double crochet" stitch be the same as a "single crochet" stitch?

I know this post makes me sound like an old lady, but I am trying to teach myself to crochet. Thanks to my mum I have actually been able to crochet since I was 7, but I can only do straight crocheting in rows, turning at the end of the row and coming back again to eventually build a scarf. At a push I can even fake it enough to crochet in a round beret style. However I never learned to read a single crochet pattern, and as I am finding out it is like learning a new language.

This afternoon I found a beautiful new wool: mohair-like and fine as gossamer. I decided the old brick style crocheting would just not do it justice. Last winter I taught myself to knit from some instructions on the internet, so when I found this wool I figured I could teach myself a prettier style.

Armed only with google, and a rapidly waning patience I looked up a relatively simple crochet pattern. I was left with this:

Ch 4, join with sl st to first ch to form ring.
RND 1: Ch3, 2 dc in rg. Ch 2, *3dc in rg, ch3. Repeat from * 2 times more. Ch2, slst in top of ch3.

RND 2: Sl st in the first 2 dc's and in the first ch 2 lp. Ch3, 2 dc in ch 2 sp, ch2, work 3 dc in same sp. Work the following 3 times (Ch1, work 3 dc, ch2, 3 dc in next ch 2 lp.) Ch1, join with slst to top of ch 3.

RND 3: Sl st in the first 2 dc's and in the first ch 2 sp. Ch 3, 2 dc in ch 2 sp, ch 2, work 3 dc in same sp. Ch 1, work 3 dc in next ch 1 sp. Ch 1. Work the following 3 times (Work 3 dc, ch2, 3 dc in next ch 2 sp. Ch 1, work 3 dc in next ch 1 sp. Ch 1.) Join with sl st to top of ch 3.

Ok, so I was sure that would make perfect sense, if I knew what the abbreviations meant. So I googled a cheat-sheet for the abbreviations and that was when I discovered that, yes, apparently there is such a thing as a "half double crochet" which is different to a "single crochet" stitch.

I mean... what the???

Monday, December 11, 2006

Manny's China-Palooza Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of Manny's China Palooza: The Great Wall, Mutianyu

Standing on the granite wall, built during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644).

This section of the wall is less comercial than the highly touristic section at Badaling, and is famous for the multitude of Ming Dynasty guard towers along its length.

Manny sits in the window of one of the guard towers, admiring the view.

Posing in one of the archers' defense holes

Manny gazes at the steep wall of steps at the end of this section, trying to decide if he has the energy to ascend the near vertical stairs. (You can see the steps starting from near his right ear, heading towards the horizon)

Half-way up the steps. Near enough is not close enough for this intrepid adventurer.

Resting proudly at the platform at the top of the stairs! This is the last Guard Tower before the Wall disintigrates into ruins. Not many people realise that only relatively small parts of the wall have been preserved/restored, and the majority exists as ruins.

Gazing back to where we came from... and where our tired souls (and our tired soles!) have to walk back to.

Until next time...

xxx Manny

Just Another Manny's Monday


Phil and I went to play mini-golf a couple of weekends ago at a big department store near our home. When we came out we decided we'd pop down to the basement to grab a few groceries at Carrefour. Carrefour, the French supermarket chain, is a HUGE success in China, and although there is not much "French-ness" left to it now, you can still get a few imported items, making it popular with Chinese and Foreigners alike. As a result of its immense popularity, the shop is always crowded, and on a Saturday afternoon it is packed. Our decision to enter at that time was truly suiciadal. I found myself whistling the "Suicide is Painless" song from M*A*S*H, all the while thinking that Johnny Mandel had no idea what he was talking about when he wrote it, because it was clearly quite painful indeed.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we survived the kind of mass hysteria that can only be induced by super cheap packs of 24 toilet rolls (2 ply), and escaped to the check-outs.

As soon as we cleared the check-out, we were jumped upon by 4 Chinese young women, shaking a donations box and waving pamphlets in our faces. "We are from the [something something something] China Foundation, can you give a donation?". After years of collecting donations in Australian shopping centers for World Vision, I usually donate a little if I can in these situations, but I seriously had no change.

I turned to Phil, who rummaged in his hand in his pocket and finally pulled out two Chinese jiao- the equivalent of 2 US CENTS. He sheepishly said that he was sorry but it was all the change he had, and the girls said it was fine anyway. He popped it in the box, and before we could walk away the girl insisted on attaching a huge red sticker on my shoulder, indicating that we had donated to their charity. I felt a bit silly- the sticker would have cost more to make than we had even donated, and so I covered it up with my scarf.

We continued up the escalators from the basement to the exit, and as we stepped off we were attacked by not 4 but 7 women from the same charity, again asking for dinations. I pulled back my scarf and uncovered the sticker, and they fell back imediately, bowing and saying "Thank you! Thank you!"

As we walked away in a bit of a daze Phil turned to me in awe and said:

"Maaaan! That was the best 2 jiao I've ever spent!"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Manny's China-Palooza Part 2

Ok so here is Part 2 of Manny's China Palooza: Tiananmen Square, Beijing

Manny colour-coordinates with the PRC flag

North view

South view

Posing in front of a blurry Mao (too late in the afternoon to get the light i needed for that kind of depth of field... but appropriate as most of his memory here is somewhat blurred from truth)

Getting suspicious looks from the guards on duty

Chilling at the Front Gate: Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644)

Playing nice:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Manny's China-Palooza part 1

I finally got some photos resized, got Beta-Blogger working, got Saturn aligned with Venus, and the wind blowing from the South-east, or whatever, but the end result is that I can finally post some photos of our trip around China.

So with no further ado, here is...

Part 1 of Manny's China-Palooza: The Forbidden City, Beijing!

On the edge of the moat encircling the Forbidden City

"Where's Manny?"
Manny tests his camoflaging skills on the front gate

Posing for a photo in one of the many gardens...

... and checking out the distinctive architecture.

Inspecting one of the old bronze couldrons, that were kept filled with water in case of fires in the old days.

Playing Hide and Seek

The obligatory photo in the main square of the Forbidden City

Stay tuned next for Manny in Tiannanmen Square.

xxx Manny

Just Another Manny's Monday