Sunday, December 16, 2007


Call off the Saint Bernards, I am still here and alive... however I wouldn't mind the brandy, so in fact if they have nothing better to do the Saint Bernards can keep on coming.

St Bernards always make me think of Belle and Sebastian...

Give me a minute here, what was I saying?

Oh yes, I am alive and kicking, or at least twitching. The last couple of weeks have been filled with writing reports (yes, report cards for two year olds- how many different ways can you write "Little Johnny is a pleasure to teach but should try to remember that we don't lick our friends..."?), doing assessments, putting together "topic books" (compiled craft and art works for each child from the last three months), Christmas shopping, running errands (like paying three months worth of overdue bills before they cut us off), and attending a plethora of Christmas parties and going away parties.

Oh, and on top of all of that, in the next few days I need to decorate a three-tiered wedding cake for our fabulous friends Daniela and Gerald.

So in short: my life, she's a crazy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas is coming...

Christmas is coming... don't forget that you can get original gifts created by yours truly at the Loud Creations Cafepress store -- without ever having to leave the house!

Now, what could be better than that?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of

Last night Phil woke me up by shouting "NO!" in his sleep. Thinking he was in the middle of a nightmare I shook him awake, and when his breathing calmed down we had the following conversation:

Me: "What happened?"
Phil: "Oh, there was this guy in my dream and he was really pissing me off!"
Me: "Well... how?"
Phil (still agitated): "He said my handwriting was sloppy!"
Me: "Uh-huuuh....?"
Phil: "And he kept interrupting me!"
Me: "Uh-huuuh...?"
Me: "Oh. That's it? Oh."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Farewell Summer

The title of this post is not a reference to the weather- summer has been well and truly over for a month or so in Shanghai. It's a reference to the fact that on Thursday night I sold this painting, titled 'Summer':

It is a bitter-sweet feeling to sell something that is so much a part of me- I sometimes say my paintings are like my babies. You put so much work into it, blood sweat and tears, and then someone comes along and says: "Yeah, I'll take it" and just like that, your baby is gone.

Don't get me wrong, this is what I want to do, but when the euphoria of having a near-stranger fork over a wad of cash in a bar (a transaction that felt distinctly shady!) wears off, I am left feeling a mixture of elation and grief. Will they love the painting? Will they take care of it? And what happens in a few years? Will it be passes down as an heirloom (unlikely) or dumped in a moldy basement somewhere?

Perhaps this is an artist's version of Empty Nest syndrome. My babies are going out into the world on their own.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My kinda diet

While I was standing at the counter of Starbucks this morning (yes, I ordinarily hate Starbucks, it's over-priced bad coffee and everything it represents, but in China there are very little options available for coffee drinkers, and even fewer at 7.15am) I heard the man next to me say:

"I'll have a Tall Latte with non-fat milk... and whipped cream"

Is it just me or does the whipped cream kinda cancel out the non-fat milk?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Happy Birthday To You, Happy Birthday Tattoo..."

So for my birthday this year I asked Phil to get me a tattoo.

Wait for it....


There. That was the sound of my mum's brains exploding onto her computer monitor.

(Actually I pre-warned her, to avoid exactly that situation, but I think there may be some thud-splatting going on anyway.)

So, with no further ado, this is it:

(please ignore the creases in my foot from sleeping with socks on!)

The writing is Tibetan dbu-can script, saying "Om Mani Padme Hum", the Buddhist mantra which invokes the attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.

The mantra has no exact translation into English, but the following explanation by Gen Rinpoche describes it's purpose and meaning:

"The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Päd, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom. "
Source and more.

Some Buddhists say that it is inappropriate to have the mantra tattooed on the body below the waste level. However, for me personally, positioning it on my right foot has a great significance- it is with my right foot that I make the first step in any journey, big or small, and so this mantra will always lead my path in life.

So the next questions is "Did it hurt?"

I'm not going to say it didn't hurt (of course it did), but it really didn't hurt as much as I thought it would- it felt like a strong stinging, and if I concentrated on something away from my foot (I found focussing on my head helped- and I made Phil put his hand on my head to help me focus on it) it was quite bearable. On the plus side, although detailed, the actual tattoo lines are not thick, so there was no need to outline first and then fill-in with coulour,- the usual procedure- which shortened the time. Overall, I'd say that getting my nose peirced hurt more, and for more days afterwards than this did. After the actual procedure was over I just felt a general dull ache in my foot, and it was only for one day after that it felt tender to touch or was bothered by my shoes rubbing on it. About 30hours after having it done, it was fine, yet my nose hurt for a good week after having it pierced, and for several weeks after that I had to be gentle with it.

Oh, and on a final point, I can totally see how getting tattoos is addictive- I'm already thinking about my next one.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Birthday and Bronchitis

So it's my birthday tomorrow, and for the second year in a row I am sick for it. I have been nursing a cold for the last two weeks, and now for about the 20th time in my life I have Bronchitis. I probably should have gone to a doctor sooner, only that is not as easy as it sounds for a foreigner in Shanghai. Basically if you are a foreigner in here (without medical insurance, as I currently am), you have only a few options:

  1. Shell-out between US$50-150 just to see a doctor who speaks English (and that is not including any tests or medication);
  2. Self-diagnose on the internet and go to the nearest local pharmacy and pay about US$5-10 for some over-the-counter antibiotics;
  3. Go to the emergency department of the nearest Chinese Hospital and pay very little for a consultation entirely in Chinese.
Option number one is easy and safe, but I hate paying that much money when I know what is wrong with me and I only need a prescription for antibiotics.
Option number two is also easy, however, although I have done it before, it is obviously not the safest course of treatment.
Option number three is safe and cheap, but the language difficulties certainly do not make it easy. Although I have picked up enough Chinese to for day-to-day life here, my vocabulary falls far short of words such as "bronchitis", "phlegm", and "is that needle new?"

Luckily my friend Daniela, Chinese-speaker-extraordinaire, offered to go with me to a Chinese hospital last Saturday night.

We turned up at the hospital at about 7pm, and walked into an empty waiting area. A passing guard directed us through a door, behind which was a young nurse waiting in a corridor. She plucked a glass thermometer out of many lying in a tupperware container, and thrust it under my tongue while Daniela started filling in my registration form. All they wanted was my first name, age and address (which they didn't check), and I sat down while Daniela went to pay the 5RMB (US$0.67) it cost to see the doctor.

Then we were ushered into a room with about seven people sitting around the desk of a man in a wrinkled white coat. I surmised quickly that the man was the doctor (duh), and all the people were waiting to see him. Yes- you wait IN the doctor's room while the people in the queue in front of you tell the doctor their most embarrassing personal details and physical symptoms. I was reminded of the time a friend told me she went for a gynacological exam at a local hospital, and was lying on the bed, naked from the waist down with her legs in the stirrups while men and women- other patients, doctors, nurses and orderlies- walked to-and fro around her. I was thankful at this point that I only had bronchitis.

After telling the doctor my symptoms he listened to my chest and told me that I needed an x-ray (overkill in my opinion, but ok) and a blood test. We couldn't understand why I would need a blood test and he kept telling us that it was to see if there was _____(insert Chinese word) in my blood. Daniela guessed at what he was saying to look it up in her dictionary. She turned to me and said: "According to the dictionary he is looking to see if there is a dishwasher in your blood".

In any case the doctor wouldn't give me the prescription until I had the test, so we traipsed off to the 3rd floor. After stopping to pay on the way (you always pay before treatment or tests in China), when the lift doors opened we came to a dark and completely empty floor. The corridor went in two directions so we took a guess and went left... then left again... then right, with still no clue if we were even going in the right direction. Luckily we chanced on something that looked like a cross between a bank (counters with glass from ceiling to about 20cm off the top of the counter) and a laboratory (blipping machines in the room behind the glass). We buzzed the doorbell and a man, nay a boy (he looked about 14 years old but must have been at least 19), instructed me to sit with my arm pushed through under the glass partition.

Now normally my skin is so transparently white that finding a vein is about as difficult as finding a neon sign in Vegas, however the environment must have scared them all into hiding, as he just couldn't find one, no matter how tightly he pulled the rubber junkies' strap around my upper arm. While he was doing this I distracted myself from thoughts of gangrene by looking around. I wish I hadn't because up until that point I hadn't noticed the old blood splattered up on the glass. Daniela pointed out the overflowing mound of used bloody needle points sitting on a tray on the otherside of the glass. I was suddenly grateful of the glass wall. Finally on the second arm the Boy Lab Dude finally found a little vein and took the blood (with a new needle!). He popped it into his machine and within about two minutes I had a print-out analysis of my blood. We amused ourselves on the trip to x-ray figuring out what all the values referred to.

X-ray was much as usual, aside from the fact that the door was wide open and any patients could walk in. Again within minutes of having the x-ray taken I had the film in my hands, and we were heading back to the doctor's room. He stopped talking to the patient in front of him, glanced quickly at the x-ray and blood results and told us that there was indeed that mysterious something in my blood. Again we gave him blank looks, and he pulled out his mobile to call his friend to ask him to translate for us. Somewhere along the line Daniela cottoned on to the fact that it was not after all a dishwasher in my blood but bacteria. Or at least the bacteria was somewhere in my body, evidenced by an elevated white blood cell count in my blood.

So the doctor decided that I was right and I did have bronchitis after all. He recommended that I have IV antibiotics, as that was the quickest way to cure it. IV antibiotics are administered like candy in China and I was having none of it. Oral antibiotics were good enough for me, and I promised dutifully to take the whole course.

So, the total tally reads like a Mastercard ad:
Time: one hour in total
Cost: about Rmb350 (US$46) including consultation, x-ray, blood work and prescriptions for antibiotics, something to ease my breathing and a cough elixir.
Privacy: 0
Cleanliness and hygiene: umm.. let's not go there...
Confusion: only about 5% on Daniela's side; 95% on mine
Having a Chinese-speaking friend translate and provide playful distracting banter: Priceless.
Thanks Daniela for being the hero of the hour, and while I'm saying thanks, thank you to Phil for putting up with my miserable face, continuous hacking coughs and constant need for hugs and attention over the past few days.

mmmm... yummy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The chinglish never stops coming...

On an ad for 'Top Goun' hardwear company, overlaid over an image of a walk-in wardrobe:

"Light and soft music
Cut through the time that have no language
Gradually widespread
Place oneself the among them small and soft tasty"

Ummm.... tasty?

Friday, October 26, 2007

nutritional labels

A conversation at dinner:

Phil: "I know you are vegetarian and you don't eat meat or fish, but what do you call someone who doesn't eat meat, but does eat fish?"

Me: "Picky?"

Please wait while this blogger ducks to avoid projectiles from all her so-called "picky" friends... just kidding guys!! Forgive me...?

Colds and Kindergarten (well Nursery actually, but there's no alliteration in that...)

A mum shepherds her kid into my classroom and as I say good morning to them I double over, coughing up a lung or two.

She steps backwards, instinctively thrusting her arms down in front of her child with the age old back-away-from-my-kid-you-evil-predator-move.

What I actually say: "He he, it's just a cold, nothing to worry about" [splutter. cough. croak]

What I want to say: "Hey lady, you didn't see me backing away from your kid when he was coughing snot balls onto my favourite shirt and literally sneezing in my face, so the least you can do is have the courtesy not to flinch when I catch the same cold off him and yet still manage drag myself off my death bed into this petri dish known as a Nursery to look after your child."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

email surprise

I recieved this from STA Travel in my inbox today.

My first thought was "Wow, what a great deal!"

It was soon followed by "Why does that world globe have legs... hang-on, I can see it's bum! Oh, what's it saying to me? .... ew, I feel dirty."

Seriously, who designed that campaign?

Help please!

My Mum has been searching for some game rules for my Nana.

The game is called ‘Option’ and is described as either “the family fun game” or “the double sided word game”. It was produced by Parker Brothers in 1983.

(Photo lifted off ebay!!)

It was given to my Nana without the rules, and unfortunately the only place they can find the rules is based in the US and won't sell outside of the USA.

We'd love to get a copy of the rules, so if anyone has them could you please email me at lou_adele(at)gmail(dot)com.


Monday, October 22, 2007


At school the other day I took my kids to play in the Fun Dazzle* room- essentially a climbing frame with tunnels, trampoline, slide, ropes and pool filled with plastic balls. As the nursery aged children are likely to run away we lock the door whenever we are inside, and when we arrived another nursery class was already using the room.
I knocked on the door, and a couple of my kids started knocking as well... as hard as they could on the aluminium sliding door in their excitement to get inside.
As Kelly, another nursery teacher, opened the door I said in a bright voice befitting a nursery teacher:

"We've got some good knockers out here!"

I swear I meant it in the nicest possible way.

*The Fun Dazzle room looks something like this, but without the annoying teletubby rides.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

a very religious experience

I took this photo of an ad on the front page of a mainstream Thai newspaper back in December when we were holidaying in Krabi, but forgot to share it. Better late than never:

Can you think of anything more sacrilegious than an online porn site called "Buddha Porn"? What next? Jesus Jubblies? God Gropes?

Edit: I have a feeling I am going to regret the referrals I get from what I have just typed here...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Live from Nanjing- Behind the scene photos

I've added photos to the Live from Nanjing post- scroll down to see them.

Pretend Scrabble

My sister Liz and friend Dan have been playing using the Scrabulous application on Facebook to play Pretend Scrabble. The idea is to make real or fake words that are permissable as long as you can provide some justification of the phonetic spelling or definition.

Dan and I played our first game today:

CEENBAD= when someone thinks badly of you
QUITEGOY= adj. the state of being very much a gentile.
AN = an ant cut in half
YE = the sound made durring a fit of hiccups
IV = acronym for Intone Violently
OA = the sound made when hit in the stomache
VANEHOOR= a prostitute enamoured with her own appearance
JENT= phonetic abbrv of gentleman
IM= I'm for those unaware of proper usage of puntuations in contractions
FIVGRINDUS- the collective noun for a group of organ grinders numbering no more or less than five
LIEECEENBAD = when someone thinks bad of you but its not true
OR = a short oar, more like a paddle really
HOILEE = someone who is hoiled... (hoil = verb, to hurl in Brooklyn)
FM- as in radio
BX= one third of an unassembled BMX bike
TAUCHA = the interrogation techniques employed in guantanamo bay... looks and sounds like torture but legally it is something completely different
HOILEEO= The act of 'hoiling' (see 'hoilee') someone named Leo.

Repayiou= to repay a debt
NEVAID = to sit carefully at a table so as not to bump your knees on the bottom of it.
WRITLIUR = verb. to write pretentious, self-indulgent poetry ('liur' as in the sound of the last syllable in "grandeur"- trying to sound french when in fact they are white bread anglos)
JIASH= Scottish variant of the male name Josh
DWEMD= dreamed as said by someone with an inability to pronounce the letter r
SAUAS = hawaiian sauna (as it uses long groupings of vowels)
OZIAGO- an Australian from years gone by
GOEEV = a chat akin to "aussie aussie aussie oi oi oi" that is reserved for women named Eve
HEKLFIB- verb. when someone tells a lie whilst heckling (greek spelling)- as in "yo mamma so fat...."
MEXTINT- the tan one gets in mexico
PRORN- porn for prawns

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Live from Nanjing

Pre- shoot:
2pm- We board the fast train from Shanghai to Nanjing- it leaves 5 minutes early which is a promising sign. After having been awake since 6.30 this morning, and looking at being awake until tomorrow evening, we are eager to get this started- and therefore finished- as soon as possible.

4pm- arrive at Nanjing. We are quickly streamlined out of the train station and into a waiting taxi- a major accomplishment in China- and after some difficulty finding the ground plaza, we arrive at 4.45.
It is at this point that we are told that contrary to the promise the hotel gave over the phone, the windows in our room on the 40th floor do not open- and it is impossible to shoot through the glass as it is tinted and a little dusty.

Dirty window

By 6.35 we have been shuffled from guest relations back to the manager again, and looked at 3 different rooms from standard suites, to executive serviced apartments on the 53rd floor with a terrace (but the view is obstructed). We have just found out that the photos will be a time lapse segment in footage about Nanjing commissioned by the Nanjing Government. The helps grease the wheels (slightly) though to be fair the staff we are talking to now are trying everything they can to help. Eventually Phil settles on a suite on the 52nd floor which has a window that opens horizontally outwards about 4 inches. With the right maneuvering he can JUST fit the lens out the gap to get the shot. Phil takes a test photo to send to the client for approval.


6.40pm- we get approval and move into the suite. By the time we set up and overcome logistical issues (balancing the tripod on the windowsill, power outlets, internet connections, etc) it is 8pm.

8pm- Phil has set up the camera connected to a laptop computer that will automatically (fingers crossed) take the photos every 2.5 minutes. After some technical issues it is sorted and ready to start.

24Hour shoot:

Hour 1 / photo 001: 8.31pm Friday. The camera is taking the photos every 2.5 minutes and the photos are being sent to the laptop to be stored. Although the process is automatic (knock on wood), however we have to stay awake to make sure the camera is continuing to capture the photos, that they are indeed being sent to the computer, that the camera batteries don't die (a probability and we have back-ups ready to change in 2.5 minutes between shots), and that it doesn't start raining!
We have ordered room service for dinner, and we have brought a DVD player with us which Phil has just set up in the same room as the camera so we can stay awake as long as possible. We have also brought a PS2, Monopoly, Uno, Backgammon, playing cards, and my laptop, however at some time we will have to take shifts to sleep. We have both worked a half day this morning and the kerfuffle at the hotel check-in was mentally and physically tiring (although the Guest Relations Manager was very helpful).
Yet we are only in the first hour out of 24 hours of shooting, and I am already feeling sleepy. 15 photos done... 561 to go. Coffee here I come!

Hour 2 / photo 028: 9.30pm. As I only finished the last hour's entry 20 minutes ago there is not much else new to say. Our dinner has arrived, we've cracked open a beer and are watching Star Trek Voyager (and as I write this log I keep hearing my own thoughts in voice-over mode: "Captains log, hour 2....")... with a glance at the computer every 2.5 minutes after hearing the camera click to check that the latest photo has been sent to the laptop.

Hour 3 / photo 047: 10.30pm. Phil said earlier: "Why is it so hard to fall asleep when you have a big day ahead of you, but so easy to fall asleep when you are supposed to be staying awake?"
I am getting more and more sleepy, and it's making me feel pathetic and old- after all, it is only 10.30pm on a Friday night!! It doesn't help that I was listening to the 'O Brother Where Art Thou' soundtrack yesterday and the one line keeps repeating through my head: "Go to sleep little baby. Go to sleep little baby..."
It looks like I'll be taking a nap while Phil takes the first shift awake, and then I'll take over in a couple of hours. The next log entry will probably be from Phil.

Hour 4 / photo 073: 11.30pm. Phil here. Lou's quietly sleeping in the next room as I watch the lights from different buildings slowly twinkle away from frame to frame. Night is settling in on Nanjing, and since it's not the Big Apple style of life around here, I think the night will be fairly quiet. I wanted to take over the first shift to oversee the first few hours, since it's the most likely time to have some kind of a mess up happen. (until now, nothing to report on the technical side... we like that and are keeping our fingers crossed!)
I can't help but think that all this work, this time (!!) will be tightly compressed and zoom by audiences at insane speeds (24 frames per second), amounting to maybe 20 seconds in the final cut of the film. It astonishes me sometimes how much work we put in (videographer and photographer alike) in our final products. This attention to detail, or the insane amount of work we'll put in just for this "cool" effect.
I'm off for a shower. The city is sleeping at my lens and it's starting to get to me.

Hour 5 / photo 0098: 12.30am. The shower was good (I'm quite sure you were all dying to know!) I feel awake again. But, for how long?! We'll just have to see. This is pretty much the most boring part of the shoot. Middle of the night, nothing happening. Lou's still napping. I'm looking forward to sunrise... not only because it'll put a bit of life in the frame again but also because I can't wait to see the results.

Hour 6 / photo 119: 1.30am. Lou just got up, she's grumpy. I booted the PS2 up... still not much to report really... erm... it's night outside and, erm, well yeah that's it.

Hour 7 / photo 142: 2.30am. Lou went back to bed. Apparently two hours isn't enough sleep for her. Oh well! It'll be my turn soon to take a quick nap, a few hours. Looking forward to seeing the sunset.
As for myself, not beating any records on the PS2, but keeping my mind busy and awake. Since the computer is doing most of the work, at this point it's just a question of making sure everything runs smoothly - I expect Lou to wake me up in a panic as the camera batteries die or something... in the mean time, I'll enjoy the chaos-less shoot!

Hour 8 / photo 165: 3.30am. This is Lou again. I finally got up at 2.45am, though I can't say that my mind is awake really- I just put my sweater on backwards, which was a little problematic since it has a hood. All I can say is that I probably shouldn't be operating heavy machinery.
I left Phil to choose some DVDs to bring here from home- we had a whole stack of them sitting on the coffee table- and I was looking forward to watching a crappy chick flick while he is asleep... but of course he didn't bring any chick flicks... at least I can't find them if he did.
It is amazing to flick through the photos taken so far and see the changes in the city. It is getting darker and darker as not only all the lights on the buildings go out, but also all the neon advertising is extinguished. I have been in China so long that seeing a city without its advertising lights flashing as subtly as a hammer to the head is a little disconcerting. Almost apocalyptic.
My eyeballs feel like they have dried up inside my head, and I desperately need some coffee.

The actually view through the small space in the open window as viewed by the naked eye (ie. not a wideeangle lens)

Hour 9 / photo 186: 4.30am. Crap!The camera's batteries are dead- have to wake Phil.

Hour 10 / photo 215: 5.30am. The computer will not recognise the replacement batteries in the camera. Phil sets the camera to manual and as he is dead tired I tell him to go back to bed. I have to take the photos manually every 2.5 minutes until the original lithium batteries recharge.
The window the camera is pointing out of is high up near the ceiling and there is luckily a very deep window ledge. The camera is set up on a tripod in that ledge, but when I climb up into the ledge the camera is still too high to reach comfortably from a seated position, but there is not enough room for me to stand.
I move a cushion from the couch onto the ledge and settle in. Pretty soon I have to get down and in the 2.5 minutes I have between shots (which I am timing on a bedside alarm clock) I scramble to put on Phil's hoodie sweater and his sock, wrapping a bath towel around myself for want of something better. The weather lately has been nice, but at 4am on the 52nd floor, sitting on a cold marble window ledge with the window open and the wind howling through, it is pretty cold.
All goes well for the first half hour. Phil is asleep and I am managing to read and time simultaneously and haven't missed a shot by more than a couple of seconds.
*pat pat pat*
"Huh? What the....?"
Oh shit it's starting to rain. The window opens horizontally out above the camera bu there is a gap at the top where the rain is coming through. I dash into the living room to find something to cover the gap. Just when I accomplish this I realise that the rain is falling harder and the wind is whipping it straight into the lens. Rain drops in the photos are highly undesirable so I wake Phil long enough to get him to pass me a small notepad from the desk. He stumbles back into bed and I start the process of holding the pad in front of the lens to keep it clear, timing, and removing it long enough to take a photo before covering it up again. My arm is hanging out the window at an awkward angle above my body to do this and it quickly goes numb. I cannot sit down, and I cannot stand up. Every two minutes I alternate between kneeling and stooping. My back is killing me. My hand is cold, wet and numbing fast.
After 45 minutes I can see that dawn is coming. It is 5.45am. I wake Phil from a deep sleep. He stares at me from the bed- his eyes are wide open but no-body is home. Talking as if to a child I tell him to go splash his face, and when he comes back he is comprehending enough to take over the technical details.

Hour 11 / photo 240: 6.30am. The camera's original batteries are re-charged. Phil's brain is barely operating on two hours of very interrupted sleep, and the poor guy has to figure out some of the most technical details of the night- how to set up the computer again to take over the camera, to get the photos I took off the cf card and into the camera, and to renumber them so that the stream continues in order.
I make him coffee while he mutters obscenities in Quebecois at the non-complying program.
Phil has finally got the computer set up, and is talking less like a robot. I'm feeling ok, though a bit seedy. We decide that as soon as the shops open I will go searching Nanjing for some replacement lithium batteries. We can see some department stores from the window, and I hope to hell they have what we need- I don't fancy traipsing around a strange foreign city on 3 hours of broken sleep.
Time for more coffee.

Hour 12 / photo 267: 7.30am. Everything is back on track and I have settled in to watch (in 5-10 minute installments) the DVD I started at 3am this morning. Phil is off checking out some information with the concierge. As soon as he gets back I'll have a long hot shower and try to shake some of this seediness, as well as the dull ache that is still pervading my right arm. It's still sprinkling- hopefully it doesn't rain to hard or we will have to be back up at the camera again. And more importantly, hopefully the client accepts the photos regardless of the less that perfect weather or the whole thing will be a waste.

Hour 13 / photo 284: 8.30am. Half way there. I had what must have been the longest hot shower I've had in years, and the neighbours probably heard me groaning in relief. Still watching the camera and the DVD while Phil has gone downstairs to have breakfast. When he's back, I'll go eat and then head out to find some new batteries.

Hour 14 / photo 302: 9.30am. This is Phil again, invading Lou's blog while she's out for breakfast. More than 300 photos done, and some 275 to go, or so. Morale is not at an all time high as I see the grey, cloudy, depressing skies of Nanjing - apparently the first weather like this in a long time, just my luck - and the possibility of the client asking for a re-shoot looms over my head. It's standard, our contracts define that weather is out of our control and if it requires a re-shoot it's done at the client's cost. So, that's fine, but it's the pain of staying up another 24 hours, this time alone for the most part as Lou will have to go back in town for work. *grumpy sigh*

Phil doing his best Quasimodo impression.

Hour 15 / photo 326: 10.30am. Lou's not back. She must be having difficulty finding the batteries. I hope she can find them and come back soon. In the mean time, I've found out that while playing Need for Speed on the PS2 trying to escape the chasing police cars by turning in a circle in a parking lot doesn't work. I guess, there's still 9 hours to find a better strategy!

Hour 16 / photo 362: 11.30am. I've been on the phone with my boss, with the client and my producer. There's a possibility of extending the shoot by another 12 hours in the hopes of better weather conditions, hoping my body and batteries will hold. We're both exhausted. I'm going back to the client. (Lou's back, and seem to have had quite the adventure out there).

Hour 17 / Photo 377: 1pm. Lou's sleeping, which is good, because I have a feeling I'll be crashing fairly soon myself. By the sounds of it, though I don't have confirmation from the big boss of the film, it looks like they're going to say it's fine... maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist. (This is the point where Lou would jump in to say "MAYBE?!?!?! honey, don't flatter yourself, you totally are!")
Since the beginning of this whole thing I have this little dialogue going on in the back of my head, all the way back to Shanghai, maybe even before, where I imagine there's a documentary team following us. Not that I'm taking myself seriously or anything, but I can here them make voice over comments when things go wrong. "tensions rise as the batteries fail and Lou desperately tries to wake up Phil. Confused, shocked and still in his dream world he has no clue where to start. If he doesn't rectify the problem quickly they might have to start all over again... this is a defining moment that could change the outcome of the whole movie."
I'm probably just insane. But I don't have the stamp on my hand, so I'll believe myself innocent until proven guilty.

Hour 18 / Photo 402: 1.30pm. Lou is still crashed on the bed and I'm back to playing PS2 waiting for the response from the client.

Hour 19 / Photo 422: 2.30pm. This is Lou again. I just had an hour and a half nap, and I feel a little less like curling in a ball and dying. The "adventure" I had this morning would have been frustrating enough on a full night's sleep, but as it was it was excruciating. I am almost too tired to write about it now, so I won't go into much detail. I tried to look in 3 different department stores for the batteries we needed. They are all within about 15 minutes walk from each other, so that wasn't so bad. However, internally all the department stores were a mess- the electronics always seem to be on the top floor, but the access there always seemed to be an after thought. We had calculated that we probably had until 1 or 2pm to change the batteries, however the new batteries would need to be charged for at least an hour before that. So I was somewhat in a hurry when I kept finding that the lift in each store would only go to the 3rd or 4th floor, then I had to get out and walk to another corner of the store for an escalator, which too stopped at the 5th floor, at which point I'd have to find another escalator to the top floor. The third time this happened, I finally got to the top floor only to not find any Canon equipment anywhere. I asked the saleswoman at the Sony store and she informed me that the Canon store is actually on the 1st floor with the cosmetics. She then took a little nervous step back from me and I can only assume that it was at this point that my eyes began rolling about in me head. Stopping short or foaming at the mouth- and noticing that it was 11am already- I ran down the stairs, pushing people out of my way, to the first floor.
I ran up to the Canon store and tried to think of the appropriate Chinese in my sleep-deprived state. The conversation (translated) went like this:
Me: "Do you have the Canon blah blah blah battery?"
Sales Woman (SW): [nervous twitter] "Sorry I don't speak English"
Me: "I spoke to you in Chinese."
SW: "Oh."
Me: "So do you have it?"
SW: "Yes..."
Me: "Well can I see it?"
[she shows me a generic Chinese brand version of the same Canon batteries]
Me: "I need the Canon version. Do you have it?"
SW: "Yes we have it."
[pause again]
Me: "Well can I see it?"
SW: "Oh we don't have it. It will be here on Tuesday."
ME: "But you said you had it! Ok, fine give me two packs of this one."
SW: [Nervous twitter]
Me: "Do you have another one of this one?"
SW: "Yes we have it."
Me: "Well give it to me!"
SW: "Oh but we don't have it here NOW..."

By this stage I was sure that I was on candid camera or that the entire 24 hours had been set up as some kind of bizarre and twisted psychological experiment. Eventually I waited 30 minutes while they had the extra battery run across from another store.
I eventually got out of there with two batteries, and made my way (somewhat confusedly) back to the hotel. I had to stop at the lobby to get my room key card fixed. During this process I had to tell them Phil's date of birth for security reasons... I almost cried from the effort of remembering that small detail in my exhaustion when I wasn't even sure I could remember my own name.
All I can say at this point is that I take my hat off to anyone who has suffered this kind of sleep deprivation after having a baby and still managed to maintain some sort of cohesion in their lives- you are my new heroes.

Hour 20 / Photo 445: 3.30pm. I only finished the last entry about 10 minutes ago (my fingers are typing almost as slowly as my brain is clicking over) and am back to trying to watch the same DVD I started at 3am this morning while Phil has gone out in search of the KFC I saw in my travels. The difficult thing about the set up we have here is that as the window in the bedroom opened about half an inch more than the one in the living room, we have had to set up the camera/laptop in the bedroom, which means sneaking about if someone is sleeping, and not being able to watch TV/DVD/PS2 in the same room. However that extra inch mattered more to the photos than the logistics of it so we had to sacrifice from the perfect situation.

Hour 21 / Photo 470: 4.30pm. Phil is back and we are both feeling much better after having had some good ol'greasy food. The camera is working without a hitch (at least for the moment) and we are watching DVDs.

Hour 22 / Photo 493: 5.30pm. Nothing new to report... other than the fact that we are getting giggly and delirious...

Hour 23 / Photo 518: 6.30pm. Phil has finally crashed and I am on guard duty for the last leg of the shoot. I have instructions to wake him at 8, and he'll be able to check the technical details of the last few photos. So far things seem to be progressing smoothly... I'm keeping my fingers crossed as the last time he went to sleep it only took an hour for everything to go to hell. Wish me luck...

Hour 24 / Photo 542: 7.30pm. Soooooo close. We will have to go into a little bit of overtime to make up for some lost minutes during the battery fiasco of this morning, but we are very close to the finish line. Phil is still asleep, I am still trying to finish the DVD that I have been watching all day (it's The Namesake, for anyone wondering), and the camera and laptop are still behaving. All quiet on the Eastern Front.

Hour 25 / Photo 568: 8.30pm. We are nearly on track- just 20 minutes more- we've gone a little into overtime, but in any case we are close enough that there will be no visible difference in the end result. We are getting ready to celebrate, though still keeping everything crossed in the meantime...

Photo 576- FINISHED!!! We are off for a drink in the lounge...

9.30pm Friday night.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On assignment

Just when I was thinking I didn't have anything interesting left to blog about, Phil calls me with the news that a movie company has hired the photography studio he works for to travel to Nanjing, book into a high rise hotel room and, and take a photo of the city out of the window every 2.5 minutes for 24 hours straight.

Oh, and the studio has said we can go do it together.

I have decided we will document the experience hourly for the full 24 hours, so get ready for some riveting writing ("2am. Playing cards.... 3am. Playing cards.... 4am. Still playing cards....")

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More silly buggers

More photos for the immigration department:

Monday, October 08, 2007


Dan just sent me the following cartoon and I snorted out loud:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More Chickomedy

Travel takes Time

Conversation in the Air China office:

Me: "...I am departing on the night of the 21st of December and returning on the 4th of January, but I want to change my departure date to the 17th of December."

Air China Employee:
"Ok, let me just see if we have flights available... yes, ok so you want to leave on the 21st of December and come back on the 17th of December, right?"

"Ummm, not unless you can give me a free upgrade to Time Travel Class..."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hollywood trend-setter

Hey look- I started wearing bandages and accessorising with crutches and before you know it hollywood starlets are picking it up too!

I wonder if George will notice if I just slip in there next to him and knock her out of the way?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When Chickens Attack!

Yesterday's typhoon brought with it a serious case of cabin fever.

Evidence of my sanity slipping slowly away:

All images created using Artrage 2 (trial version)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Typhoon Whew...

We're still here- Typhoon Wipha passed fairly uneventfully in Shanghai during the middle of the night. I was more disturbed by Typhoon Phil who kept jumping in and out of bed when he couldn't sleep. Babe- top tip: next time you smother a sneeze outside our bedroom door, forcing it instead to come out as some sort of strangled howl, can you please stick around long enough as I am ripped terrified from my peaceful slumber to reassure me that there is not actually a maniac outside our bedroom?

[that's quite possible the longest sentence I have ever written... ah to hell with it, it stays]

But back to Wipha:

Typhoon Wipha made landfall in eastern China on Wednesday, knocking out power and water supplies to tens of thousands of residents, but promptly lost strength as it travelled inland.

Forecaster Tropical Storm Risk downgraded Wipha to a category one typhoon that would weaken further into a tropical storm as it headed north towards Nanjing.

Its projection showed the eye of the storm passing some 250 km (155 miles) to the west of China's financial hub, Shanghai, within 24 hours.

More than 2 million people had been evacuated in the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang and Shanghai ahead of what Chinese officials had predicted would be a powerful and destructive typhoon.

Officials reached by Reuters said it was too early to assess damage on the coast, but there were not immediate reports of casualties. Sometimes such reports take hours before being released by state media.

The typhoon made landfall at the border of Zhejiang and Fujian -- just where Typhoon Saomai hit last year killing hundreds.
--Reuters (read full article here)
For the time being there is still a lot of windy rain, and it's not a fun day to venture out in to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Typhoon Wipha

(click on image for enlargement)

What kind of name is that anyway? Typhoon Wipha?

At present Typhoon Wipha is descending on Shanghai and the surrounding provinces and true to form the rain and winds are starting to whip about. Although Shanghai mostly only ever gets hit by the tail end of typhoons (read: a bit of rain and wind, but nothing to make you want to stock up in preparation for armegeddon), Typhoon Wipha "may bring to Shanghai the most serious typhoon damage in recent years".

The best information today says that Wipha will either be upgraded to a Super Typhoon (from its current status of severe) or it could just switch directions and fizzle out. I guess the responsible thing for me to do today is to make sure there are no potential projectiles loose on the balcony and check that we have enough water, food, and, more importantly, DVDs to ride out the worst case senario.

So I'll let you know tomorrow if Typhoon Wipha turned out to be Typhoon Whiplash or just plain Typhoon Wimpy.

UPDATED: 4.20pm Tuesday- the rain is picking up, as is the wind, and the forecast is not great-

"This is the first time in 10 years that the eye of the storm will probably make landfall in Shanghai," said Ding Ruoyang, a meteorologist at the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau. (AFP.)
The typhoon is expected to hit the coast in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Wednesday), though 200,000 residents of dilapidated or temporary housing are being evacuated by 6pm tonight. Knowing Shanghai's typhoon history, it may still blow over, but I did just duck out through the rain to the supermarket to stock up on the essentials anyway.

However, the best news so far is that school is cancelled for tomorrow, and possibly Thursday also. I'm starting to like Typhoon Wipha.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Graphics made easy

A couple of weekends ago I splurged and bought myself the Wacom Graphire4 graphics tablet*:

The idea of a graphics tablet, for those of your who have yet to try the best thing since sliced bread, is that you use the pen like a mouse, together with software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, to actually draw or paint entirely digital images. It serves the same purpose as your mouse does in these programs, but it is much, MUCH more accurate and more intuitive. For example, if you are using the pencil tool in Photoshop (my software of choice at this point) and press harder or softer on the tablet, the line that is drawn in Photoshop will become darker or lighter respectively.

I splurged on the Graphire4 not only because it is a totally cool gizmo, but also as a part of my grand plan to combine my experience with teaching children with my art skills to do something useful with my career- children's book illustrating.

As I have been forced to spend the last couple of weeks on the couch I have had a little time to practice with the tablet. These are a few things I've drawn/painted in Photoshop (bare in mind that I am still just experimenting with the possibilities):

"Daphne" 2007- My 1959 Morris Minor 1000

A composition copied from the Wacom Graphire graphic tablet (Asian version) logo as test/study- my colour and lines

Study of an illustration by Jill Schwarz

My composition, still experimenting.

Overall, if anyone is interested in buying one of these tablets, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

*This may seem like a shameless product plug, however I am really just a very satisfied customer. That said, should anyone from Wacom stumble on this site, I will expect your checque in the mail....

Friday, September 14, 2007

For the Honor of Grayskull....

I have been masquerading on Facebook lately as Wonder Woman, but truthfully the real hero of my childhood was She-Ra.

Unbelievably (to me at least), many people I talk to about She-Ra have no recollection of her at all. My crusade for the week is to turn that around.

She-Ra: Princess of Power:

The premise of the show is that Princess Adora, whose secret identity is She-Ra, and her friends must free Etheria from Hordak and his Evil Horde, after realizing her true destiny through the help of her twin brother Prince Adam, who is also known as He-Man.

The cartoon's premise is similar to that of the He-Man cartoon, with the distinction that while He-Man serves King Randor on Eternia, She-Ra is a revolutionary engaged in a rebellion against Hordak, the tyrannical ruler of Etheria, and to a larger extent against the rarely seen Horde Prime, leader of an evil intergalactic empire. Another similarity and distinction is that while both series mixed science fiction and sorcery, He-Man's stories tend to lean towards science fiction and technology, while She-Ra's are geared more towards swords and sorcery.

She-Ra, like He-Man, wields a magic sword: the Sword of Protection. Adora transforms into She-Ra by holding it above her head and saying, "For the honor of Grayskull... I am She-Ra!" The Sword of Protection differs from He-Man's Sword of Power in that it has a crystal set into the blade. The crystal is the source of Adora's transformation power, and if cracked, prevents her from changing to She-Ra, as revealed in the episode, "The Stone in the Sword". The crystal is able to emit a beam of light, akin to a laser, capable of cutting through stone and metal. The Sword of Protection is also unique in that it can change into other forms at She-Ra's command, changing into a shield, helmet, parachute, lasso, or flaming blade among others.

Additionally, She-Ra and her alter ego, Princess Adora look exactly the same, much as He-Man and Prince Adam do. This is due to budget restraints on the animation, and the presumption that youngsters would not be able to follow the stories with a vast distinction in appearance. The only real change that occurs in the transformation is a change in clothes and a deeper, more authoritative voice as well as giving She-Ra longer hair than Adora. Unlike Adam, who pretends to be a lazy, irresponsible playboy to keep people from suspecting he is He-Man, Adora never acts as anything than her true self: energetic, somewhat tomboyish, strong-willed but with a kind streak.

She-Ra also possesses superhuman strength and stamina, in addition to being very athletic and agile, and like He-Man, She-Ra often outsmarts her opponents rather than simply beating them up. Her personality combines the archetypical female traits of kindness, compassion, and a soft-spoken manner; however, she also displays bravery and perseverance in the face of danger. As well as the super-human strength and stamina shared by He-Man after his transformation, She-Ra had additional skills in her changed form. These include a healing touch and telepathic communication with animals.

From Wikipedia (read more).

And if that wasn't enough to jog your memory, this might just do the trick:

"For the Honor of Grayskull... I AM SHE-RA!"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Views from between the crutches of evil- vol 1

Crutches are evil.

I firmly believe that they do nothing to help your injured foot/leg, but instead just make every other muscle in your body hurt so much that you actually forget about your original pain. Kinda like following up a Britney Spears concert with an Avril Levigne special.

Right now this "Views from between the Crutches of Evil" post series is really just a whinge (whine/complain for those not up with the aussie lingo) about how miserable I am, but I hope that in time it will become a highly insightful but none-the-less amusing accounting of the trials of us Crutch-Cripples in Shanghai.

"coz she's got hiiiiiiiigh hopes, she's got hiiiiiiiigh hopes....." come on, sing with me now...

Last night was the fifth Shanghai Roller Revival- an event we've been looking to for weeks, and of course I had to go and and watch from the sidelines. Yes, there's not much point in going to an 80s-themed roller disco on crutches, even if my costume did rock. I received comments ranging from "Good on you for coming anyway- you rock" (thanks dude), to "What are you even doing here?" (Well, you see tonight is the one night of the month that they let me out of the cripple home and the special bus just dropped me off here- I wanted to see how the real people live.)

Phil won the best costume contest- who can deny a 6'2" man dressed in brown velour hot pants complete with head and wrist sweat bands and knee length sports socks- and I even managed to climb onto the raised dance floor for a swinging sexy crutches boogie to "I wanna dance with somebody". Unfortunately the photos and video of that spectacular moment will be on facebook before I can say "delete".

The highlight of the evening was visiting the ladies room. When 99% of the women visiting a squat toilet are wearing roller skates, well, let me just say that accuracy in aiming is not exactly up to par. Then you get me trying to balance on one leg, the other sticking out in front of me, and my crutches failing to grip onto the urine-slick porcelain surface of the floor. Not pretty. The most amusing moment was when the girl in the stall next to me was complaining loudly to her waiting friend about having to pee in roller skates at the same moment when I hobbled out of the stall, and her friend, on seeing me, told her to "shut the f#@$ up, Melanie".

On another note, I must say that I was always a strong supporter of the (highly ineffective) anti-spitting campaign in Shanghai, but now I am much more so. Having one of your crutches slip out from underneath you because it landed on a big, juicy chuck of spit on the footpath is a highly unpleasant experience.

But it's not all bad. I have had some people actually make room for me in public (an otherwise unheard of even in Shanghai- it's usually very much an every man for himself situation), and some taxi drivers have even gotten out of their seats to open the door for me!

On the bright side, that's one week of my sentence down. Only five more weeks to go.

Excuse me while I go dose up on some more mind-altering pain killers.

Phil's gets his groove on
Photo by Charlie Xia (my crop)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Limpin' Lou

My top tip for all the kind readers out there:

If you are going to tear a ligament in your foot, try not to do it a week before the Rollerskating Disco you have been looking forward to for months.

Yep. I tore a ligament in my foot. I stumbled down an uneven gutter- and to be honest with the state of the gutters here in Shanghai, I'm surprised I haven't done it sooner really- and now I am on crutches for a month or so (4-6 weeks, according to the doc, but I'm hoping my foot will be a ligament-healing prodigy).

Some observations from between crutches in Shanghai:

  • When you go to the hospital with an injured foot, they will put you in a wheelchair to take you across the huge grounds to the right wing, however if you leave after 5pm (i.e. when all the orderlies have left for the day) you will have to hop back to the entrance.
  • The doctor will demand strict bed-rest, but finally concede to the use of crutches during work time, but when it comes to administering medications he will ask YOU what you want.
  • Random people who see you on the street will look shocked and then utter a (sometimes embarrassed) chuckle.
  • Crutches are really bloody inconvenient when you teach a nursery class of 2 year olds.
  • When you trip into the gutter strangers will shout "Ai-ya!" ("Oh no!"), but then just stand there and watch you struggle to get up.
  • Some of the strangers watching you in the gutter will actually laugh at you.
  • The gate guard of your compound who stood there chatting with someone while you were lying in the gutter will feel guilty enough to get you a chair and find a taxi for you when he next sees you on a pair of crutches.
  • Crutches are sold packaged as a pair, but priced for one only. It's like pricing shoes individually.
  • Muphey's Law says it will rain the first day you have to use crutches- everything is slippery, and you have no free hand to hold an umbrella!
  • If your colleagues start calling you "Hobbledy", it helps if you don't have a surname also starting with 'h'... alliteration can be so cruel.
  • An accepting close-lipped smile coupled with a slight shoulder shrug will become your facial expression of choice when you meet inquisitive people throughout the course of a day.
  • 'crutch' sounds enough like 'crotch' to make some really inappropriate jokes (childish, I know, but it helps when you are feeling a bit useless and pathetic)
  • Handbags and crutches don't mix. I am back to a day pack/backpack- what a fashion victim!
  • Likewise, Crutches + Gin = Disaster.
On a personal note, I have the best boyfriend in the world... thanks for taking such good care of me honey.

I must say though, my new hero is my sister Liz, who was on crutches off and on from the age of 11- 16. I don't know how you did it, but I'd take my hat off to you if I had a spare hand.

My un-broken, yet still rather useless, right foot.