Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The People of the People's Republic

In order to get to our local supermarket we have to walk out of our apartment building and 100m down our street. It is a street so small by Shanghai standards that it doesn't even have a name- technically it's a numbered lane coming off the next biggest street. It is a street so small that we tell all our friends that we live in a "quiet area". A street so small it would measure a maximum of only 150m from end to end.

And yet I just walked that trip to the supermarket to buy some things for dinner, and between our apartment building and the front door of the supermarket, at 6pm on this normal Wednesday evening, I saw a grand total of 98 people.

That figure does not include the people in the few cars that passed me, nor does it include the people I could glimpse through the trees of the park opposite us.

Those 98 people were just going home from work or school, getting their groceries or walking their dogs. And yes, it is a quiet afternoon, among the 20 million other inhabitants of Shanghai.

A friend of mine went to Australia after living in Shanghai for two years and had a panic attack in the middle of the street- she couldn't see anyone and thought something terrible had happened.

I honestly think that this will be one of the hardest things I will have to re-adjust to when we eventually leave China.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Roll on

Two words:

Roller. Disco.

Oh my god I haven't had this much fun in years.

On Saturday night Phil, our friend Daniela and I went to the Shanghai Roller Revival (IV)- we donned our best 1980s styles-, layered on the baby blue eye shaddow, and rolled the night away in a seedy old Shanghai roller rink. And where else but Shanghai can you pay AU$16 and get an open bar, old school skate hire, DJs playing all the best 80s oldies, AND free arcade games??

We were rolling the light fantastic.

And, my god, I have never seen Phil move that! The man won't dance in any bar, but get him on skates and he was dancing round the curves before the dj had even warmed up- and didn't stop for 4 hours.

However the crowning moment of the night was starting a train with Daniela in front and then Phil and I, rolling around the rink a bit and in no time looked back to see that 40 people had joined OUR TRAIN!

We were, like, the GODDAMN COOL KIDS!

And seriously, haven't we all been waiting for 20 years to wear a side ponytail in public?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

100 Things About ME!

It was about time I did one of these....

  1. Cheese is my drug of choice.
  2. I am a vegetarian.
  3. I was raised Catholic, but I now consider myself Buddhist. However to this day if I walk into a Catholic Church I will bless my self on auto-pilot with holy water.
  4. I often therefore feel like a hypocrite in Catholic Churches.
  5. I lived in the same house in The Blue Mountains of Australia until I was 21 years old.
  6. Since then I have lived in Sydney, Nepal and China.
  7. I adore travelling, but I never left Australia until I was 20 years old.
  8. If I won the lottery I would buy a house and then not live there- I'd be too busy travelling
  9. I am in love with a French-Canadian photographer, who happens to be my best friend. And my boyfriend. How lucky is that?
  10. I spent a summer putting together high security locks by hand for my locksmith father.
  11. Having a locksmith for a father is unbelievably convenient.
  12. But he never taught me to pick a lock properly- locksmith code of ethics, or something.
  13. I was Young Australian of the Year for the City of the Blue Mountains in 2001. And I vomited at the award ceremony. It may have had something to do with the amount of sangria consumed at a graduation celebration the night before.
  14. The week before I had my appendix removed in the 7th grade I dreamed about myself lying unconscious on an operating table.
  15. I am somewhat OCD.
  16. The Boyfriend would have a lot of trouble with the word "somewhat" in that last sentence.
  17. I love snakes but I hate spiders.
  18. My favourite colour is green
  19. I HATE that any microsoft program re-sets itself automatically to spell-check with US English every time it is re-started. I consider it to be insidious cultural imperialism.
  20. After living with a Canadian for two years I have started to say 'elevator' instead of 'lift'. And it kills me.
  21. My favourite movie is 'All About My Mother'. 'Office Space' comes a close second.
  22. I don't have a favourite book- there are too many great ones out there.
  23. I have taken a few books with me to every country I have lived in. These include: Dante Gabriel Rosetti's collection of poetry, and "Violence and Compassion" by the Dalai Lama and Jean-Claude Carriere, "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.
  24. I am hopeless at writing emails.
  25. The longer an unreplied-to email sits in my inbox, the more stressed about it I get- but the less likely I am to reply to it. It is overwhelming.
  26. My first tooth fell out when I was doing a handstand and my aunty smacked me (jokingly) on the bum. It took the whole family 10 minutes to find the tooth in the shag of the carpet.
  27. As an adult I was horrified to learn that my parents flushed our baby teeth down the sink after the Tooth Fairy had come- I always imagined my parents had them them nestled in cotton wool in some secret place, fondling them occasionally in the still of the night whilst they reminisced about our childhood. Seeing that in writing now, I realise that it looks sick.
  28. When I was 8, my sister and I asked for the Easter Bunny's autograph to prove his existence. It never occurred to us that "E. Bunny" was written in our father's hand-writing.
  29. I am allergic to chocolate.
  30. Actually I am allergic to many things- beef, cheese, tomato, wheat, buckwheat, rye, salmon, broccoli, avocado, aspartame, sodium nitrite, oranges, mandarins, cream, whole milk, and the list goes on.
  31. Some of the things I am allergic to (like wheat, cheese and tomatoes) I eat anyway. As a result I am sick a lot.
  32. But I never eat chocolate.
  33. I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 4 years- the entire duration of my bachelor's degree. I am still not entirely over it. It's an awful condition.
  34. I make the best Vegetarian Lasagna in the world. And I'm not even boasting about that. It's just a fact.
  35. I met The Boyfriend in Kathmandu, Nepal. In a pizza parlour. I really love Pizza.
  36. Five years later we are living together in Shanghai. And I still love pizza.
  37. I fell off a football goal post when I was 14 and broke one of my vertebrae. I didn't go to the doctor about it until 18 months later.
  38. My beer of choice is Cooper's.
  39. The Boyfriend's beer of choice is Stella Artois.
  40. We have agreed to disagree over this.
  41. The day my Godson was baptised I had not done my laundry for two weeks- and as a result was forced to stand in front of the priest and the rest of the congregation in a beautiful dress but no underwear.
  42. I am a complete clutz. I trip over everything.
  43. I once slipped on a banana skin while walking down the street.
  44. I can never remember the dates for daylight's savings changes- and inveriably turn up early or late for something at least every year (the worst being the year I was late for my niece's baptism).
  45. I am an artist.
  46. It took me 26 years to say those last four words. I still stumble over them at times.
  47. I love camping, and miss it terrible here in Shanghai.
  48. I used to work at one time in Sydney as a nanny and a maid. Now that I live in Shanghai I have a maid of my own. It makes me very uncomfortable.
  49. When I was 21 my boyfriend was 15 years older than me. I don't recommend it.
  50. I have always had a green thumb, but since I moved to Shanghai every plant I look at dies.
  51. I have to cut the entire pizza into separated pieces before I can eat a slice.
  52. I always buy Nokia phones- not because I think they are better but because they are the only phones I know how to use.
  53. I have really white skin. I once got so sunburned I couldn't wear pants for a week.
  54. I cry more when animals get hurt on tv than when people do.
  55. I had my first pedicure at the age of 26
  56. For some reasons watches tend to go slow when I wear them but work fine when I take them off. My mum has the same problem.
  57. When I was a child we had a giant labrador called Harry. He was my hero and I used to ride him like a horse
  58. I remember the day Harry died when I was 8. Years later my grandmother died, but I don't remember that day at all.
  59. I have a degree in Archaeology and Linguistics. That's kinda useless.
  60. I hate mosquitoes, and once I hear one in the bedroom I will be awake all night until I hunt it down and kill it.
  61. I never kill any living creatures except mosquitoes- I guess it comes from living in countries where they carry deadly illnesses.
  62. As a vegetarian I will still cook meat for The Boyfriend or guests, but raw chicken terrifies me. Salmonella, you know.
  63. When I was in Kindergarten my older brother in the sixth grade made me perform Billy Jean on the school bus. Every afternoon for about a week. I still know the words.
  64. I once hit a cow while riding on a bicycle in Nepal. It was particularly bad because cows are holy in Hindu countries. Thankfully it wasn't hurt. I can't say the same for the bike though.
  65. I love karaoke.
  66. My brother Richard conducted a Pavlovian experiement on me when I was a child. He'd tickle my feet and if I laughed he would punch me. To this day I am not ticklish on my feet.
  67. With the exception of my feet, I am extremely ticklish- I have been known to black out/stop breathing/pee/vomit if I am tickled too hard.
  68. During the middle of winter in Nepal (where my house had no hot water) I didn't shower for two weeks.
  69. I fell asleep while watching Soderbergh's 'Schizopolis'. The Boyfriend has never forgiven me for it.
  70. I'm terrible at remembering anniversaries or people's birthdays. It's not that I don't know when they are, it's just that I never know the date on any given day.
  71. The first song I ever bought with my own money was Martika's 'Love Thy Will Be Done' in primary school- on 'cassingle'
  72. I have always wanted a remote-controlled car, but never had one.
  73. I am pathologically afraid of owls.
  74. I hyperventilate in road tunnels, but love caves. Even caves with tunnels. Go figure.
  75. Until this year I had never had any clothes dry-cleaned.
  76. I have 24 teeth. Adults should have 32. I had 8 adult teeth removed just to fit the teeth I have into my mouth. Plus two years of braces. I didn't smile with my mouth open for two years.
  77. Sometimes I feel compelled to bite The Boyfriend on the arm when he least expects it. I can't explain that.
  78. I get very angry at bad drivers. Of course I consider myself to be a great driver. Don't we all?
  79. I have a great sense of direction. No, really.
  80. I am the Queen of Shortcuts. They are not always shorter, but I will rarely admit that.
  81. I love frogs.
  82. I have two rabbits called Marcel and Francis. They are named after Marcel Duchamp and Francis Bacon, and both are house trained.
  83. When we were kids my mum made us recite our multiplication tables if she cought us singing the jingles to television advertisements. She figured if we could learn the ads we could learn the tables. It never worked.
  84. I am a really atrocious morning person. I hate everybody before 10.30am, and I even consider that too early on most days.
  85. If I don't set an alarm I will not wake up before midday. No matter how much sleep I've had.
  86. I used to have nightmares about having to pee in front of people. That was cured after a year of public peeing in fields beside highways in Nepal with bus-loads of men watching me.
  87. I hated coffee until I went to East Timor in 2000, where I was force-fed it religiously. Now I can't live without it.
  88. I have a ridiculous capacity for storing useless pieces of information. But I can't remember my multiplication tables or how to do any kind of division.
  89. I consider myself to be a good photographer. But living with a professional photographer tends to make me doubt my own judgment on that.
  90. I once had 23 pets at the one time in highschool- mice, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, a turtle and a duck.
  91. The duck was lame so it's name was Forrest (Gump). It used to swim in circles.
  92. I had pet mice for years as a kid. They were all named after members of the Adams Family and they all died of cancer, except Wednesday, who died in a mining accident (She was digging under her water bowl and the tunnel collapsed).
  93. Regardless of the fact that I had so many pet mice, if I see a mouse in my house/apartment I will scream like a girl and climb on top of furniture.
  94. My car (in Australia) is 46 years old. Her name is Daphne and she is a Morris Minor 1000.
  95. I grew up as a biological kid in a foster house. My parents fostered about 15 kids over the years. My younger sister and I (both biological children) thought we were the unlucky ones because we only had one set of parents.
  96. I love cooking but I hate cleaning up afterwards.
  97. I was interviewed live on national news when my dad was arrested in East Timor. Boy, is that a long story.
  98. I am hopeless with money, and cannot save.
  99. I freak out when people stand over my shoulder. School was tough- what is it with teachers doing that?
  100. Writing 100 things about myself is really hard, and I secretly doubt anyone will actually read this far. Did you learn anything?

Friday, May 18, 2007

What pie??

We got this receipt from a restaurant about 18 months ago but I promptly lost it. It just turned up squashed down the back of the entertainment unit, so I am sharing it with all of you now before I lose it again:

Yes, that does say "Ass Pies + Ice cream"

You just can't make this stuff up.

Stupidity on Balconies

This is the view from my desk at home:

Next to the red arrow I have drawn is a man wearing an orange t-shirt. Balancing on the rail of a balcony. On the seventh floor.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this sort of thing here- I don't know why more people haven't plunged to their deaths.


To the Good People at the Bank of China,

It was very considerate of you to abolish the queue system in favour of a ticket system in your banks. However, abolishing the queue does not automatically abolish the waiting time. Do you have any idea how demoralising it is to take a ticket, scan the counters, and realise that your ticket number is #298, a whole fifty people behind the ticket #248 that is currently being served?

This, in fact, is almost as bad as watching the only three counters open for business serving numbers 246, 247 and 248 for a grand total of 25 consecutive minutes- what could possible take that long? Are they all applying for home loans at the counter windows? Interviewing for jobs as the general manager? WHAT???

I know exactly how long it took you to serve these three people, because you graciously provide us with a giant red digital clock, to mark the minutes and hours of our lives we waste in your hallowed halls. Thank you for putting a number to the mind-numbing blackout of boredom.

On another note, thank you for providing us with seats. Not many seats, but if we wait like hawks, each time someone is served the remaining bulk of customers still waiting can rush to the one space that has opened up- like a maniacal game of adult musical chairs. However, in all of China, could you not find something a little softer than those metal bus shelter benches? Have you ever tried sitting on one of those for an hour and 15 minutes, as I did yesterday? I know they must be cheaper than anything with actual upholstery, but I suggest you wait an hour in your own queue before you get back to me on this issue.

Yours in Brain (and Butt)- Numbing Boredom,



To the Driver of the White Van, parked outside the Hualian Supermarket last Wednesday,

I have a crazy suggestion: perhaps it would be a good idea to actually look behind you before you slam your van into reverse.

And, correct me if I am wrong, but if you are also deaf (as well as apparently blind), you should probably not be driving. I assume you are deaf as you did not hear me madly beeping the horn of my scooter you reversed towards me. However, even if you are deaf and blind, you should still have felt the vibrations from me slamming my fist on your back window in a vain attempt to get you to stop.

I understand that with all the crazy beeping in this city, it is hard to know what is being directed at you, and what is not relevant. However, here's a tip: when someone is bashing frantically at your back windshield, you might want to assume they are trying to communicate with you, and perhaps even hit the breaks.

As it was, thank you for generously stopping after you had knocked me and my scooter sprawling across the road. However, out of politeness' sake, when you do finally notice that you have hit another human being with your death-trap of a van, it is common courtesy to check that they themselves are ok, and not fatally injured, before you check your van for scratches.

Yours Limpingly,

(aka the foreigner you ran over on Tuesday)


To my Immune System,

Ok, I give up. I don't know what it is you want, but I will do anything. I realise now that you have gone on strike. The first two colds I contracted in the last month I chalked up to coincidence. But three colds in a month can be nothing less than a message. It's enough. I'm ready to crack. I hereby give in to your demands, whatever they may be.

I know I ask a lot of you- forcing you to work in not just one petri dish of bacteria otherwise known as a "school", but in five of them, but please bear with me. The more schools I work in, the more vitamin C I can supply you with. If you just get back to work, I may even be able to splurge on some echinacea... now doesn't that sound nice?

If you will come off strike I promise will send away the SCAB Strikebreakers, otherwise known as massive doses of cold and flu medications, currently doing your work.

However if we cannot come to an agreement soon, I am afraid I will have to bring in the big guns- and I know how much you hate those antibiotics.

Yours Snivelingly,


"Running the Numbers"

This photographic series, titled 'Running the Numbers' by Chris Jordan is truly amazing. I'm not going to preface this with any more blathering on, just get over there... now... go-on, I'll wait right here for you.....

PS- Thanks to Phil for showing me the link.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Chinglish doesn't even come close to this

My $1 summer house slippers are delightfully Chinese- a true specimen of modern China.

They are rubber soled, yet the inner sole is lined with stitched bamboo sticks. The wide strap passing over the top of my foot is made of woven bamboo straw, but is edged with nylon fabric.

Like many Chinese products, they are emblazoned with English writing, which is very popular here. The rubber logo on the top of the shoes says:

-the quality chhn grm grh ment-


-the quality chhn grm grh ment-

Usually I can guess at what they meant to say, but this time I have absolutely no clue.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Child Trafficking

I find the story of Madeleine McCann extremely sad, a British girl abducted from her parents' hotel room during a holiday in Portugal. I cannot even begin to think about how I would cope with this if it was my daughter, and it is all made worse to think that this may have been part of an organised trafficking ring.

Watching people band together over the past week to raise money for a reward has been amazing. Celebrities and business people have combined to raise a phenomenal amount of money.

Yet, after working with other such victims (or their families) in Nepal, I cannot help but think it is sad that the millions of victims of child trafficking around the world get such little publicity in comparison. Everyday, mothers and fathers are heartbroken over the loss of their children in the same situations. Most of them never see their again, and none of them receive such publicity, money, support, hopes or prayers.

According to the ILO (International Labour Organisation), 1.2 MILLION children are trafficked world-wide every year, into exploitative work in the fields of agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict, or commercial sex work. I have seen first-hand in Nepal the conditions child labourers work under and it is heartbreaking- children as young as 5 carrying 12 bricks on their heads for 12 hours a day, earning only 30 cents a month; or 6 year olds going blind after a shard of rock penetetrates their eyes while they sit in the hot sun all day breaking rocks into gravel. And I don't even want to talk about the stories I heard from the few victims of child prostitution rings who managed to find their ways back to their families (albeit usually shunned for life and infected with the HIV/AIDS virus).

I would hope that if anything can come out of this, the people that have contributed such vast amounts of money to Madeleine's reward would also consider donating some money to organisations committed to stamp out child trafficking around the world. And perhaps you and I can contribute what we can as well.

Child trafficking is a heinous crime- whether it be one white British girl in Portugal, or 1.2 Million faceless children world-wide.

"Child Trafficking- A threat to Global Peace", by Ehsan Ullah Khan for Global March conference on Child Trafficking in Esposende, Portugal 23-24th September 2005 (PDF)
"UNICEF Child Protection Information Sheet- Trafficking" (PDF)
Interactive Child Trafficking Map- UNICEF- Read about the stories of victims of child trafficking from all over the world.
World Education Brighter Futures Program In Nepal, one of every three children is a child laborer, with an estimated 2.6 million children between the ages of five and fourteen working on farms, in factories, in businesses, or in other people's homes. World Education is implementing a four-year project to combat child labor through education.
Global March Against Child Labour
Child Labour in the Sporting Goods Industry by the Global March Against Child Labour (based on the investigation led by Philippe Roy, International Media Coordinator, Global March International Secretariat, 2002) PDF

End Child Trafficking- UNICEF Campaign
Donate to UNIFEC

All photos on this post are my own, taken in Nepal, 2002-2003.

Taken shortly before this boy's 7 year old sister was abducted from Karkabhitta, Nepal and sold into domestic labour in Darjeeling India (their parents knew of her where-abouts but had no means to buy her back)

A garbage collector in Bhaktapur, Nepal
(she collects rubbish to sell what useful materials she can find
Estimated age: 12 years old)

Child agricultural workers in Jhapa, Nepal.
Many child labourers in Nepal work long, hot days in the tea fields, planting, maintaining and picking the tea. It is something we can think about over our next cup of tea.

Young women cleaning a public temple in Kathmandu Nepal.
(Estimated ages: 15 years old)

A young girl carries grass home to feed the family's livestock in Phikhel, Nepal
(I've tried this myself and it is deceptively heavy)

Young women labourers working on building construction in Jhapa, Nepal. Women are used as manual labourers, little more than mules, while the men do the skilled construction work.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Soap on a Hope


So Delightful To Your Skin!

Our "BEE & FLOWER" SANDALWOOD SOAP, made from selected materials, gives you delightful and lasting fragrance. It possesses all the merits a sandalwood scented soap may have, Just try it, and you will see our sincere recommendation is rather convincing.

This is a "rather" polite recommendation for something I am going to use to rub dirt from my skin. But none-the-less, politeness is well received in this household. Thank you to the good people of the BEE & FLOWER company.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Report time

It is report time at one of the schools I work for. Instead of the reports being written all at once at the end of the term, they have to be written every time students finish a level of the curriculum (about 16 weeks). I never feel more like a teacher than when I am writing reports, and it brings out all sorts of existential angst, questions about my future and my "career".

The school being more of a business than an educational facility, we have to be very diplomatic when writing reports for poor students. I find it very amusing to encode what I would really like to say into comments more appropriate for the reports.

for example, I had to write this:

"Jerry has continued to improve during this level, however he often appears unwilling to participate in class, and has to be reminded to work on assigned tasks. His language skills are appropriate to this level, however his skills would be increased with more participation in class activities. I believe his speaking and listening levels are much higher than they appear, but it is hard to assess when he is unwilling to contribute more than the bare minimum to the class and his assigned tasks. "

... when I really want to say:

"Jerry is a typical teenage boy-, he does little more than grunt, and has perfected the art of sleeping with his eyes open."

I wonder what would happen if I just submitted the reports as I want to write them?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I don't think I have ever mentioned it on this blog, but the Chinese have a habit of walking the streets in their pyjamas*, at any time of day or night. It is not unusual to see a grown woman doing the grocery shopping in pink pyjamas emblazoned with teddy bears, or to witness a middle-aged man bedecked in satin paisley while discussing business on a cell phone.

So far I have resisted the trend, although I have ducked out to the convenience store in track pants that I would normally keep under house arrest in any other country.

However, last night, suffering from my second cold in three weeks, I joined Phil on the back of our scooter in my pyjamas (just black cotton pants and an oversized t-shirt, but clearly not day wear) and my slippers, for a quick trip to the supermarket.

I must say that I felt very Chinese- like it was something that was bound to happen eventually, and I couldn't think why I had resisted for so long.

I must have looked pretty Chinese too, because we had only got one street away before the driver of the car stopped at the lights next to us asked us for directions.

To be stopped for directions by a Chinese person in Shanghai is relatively unheard of. Astonished, Phil and I calmly told him where he needed to go, and then only managed to drive about 500m away before shouting with joy that we have finally been accepted into this society!

Or at least my pyjamas and slippers have.

*ok before we have an indepth "discussion" about the spelling of "Pyjamas" I've looked it up:

py·ja·ma (pə-jä'mə, -jām'ə)
n. Chiefly British
Variant of Pajama.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Welcome to the world Cooper Jye!

Welcome to the world Cooper Jye Hubbard!

Cooper Jye, born 4th May, 2007.

Congrats to my Little Big Brother Richard, and his ever-gorgeous wife Kellie for cooking up this bundle of scrumptiousness- it's probably a good thing I am so far away, because I just wouldn't be able to resist taking a bite!

Well done guys, you've made me a very proud aunty (again), and you are going to be GREAT parents!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I am continually spooked by the "brain" in my iTunes- the way it seems to know just what to play on shuffle to suit my mood.

However it just freaked the hell out of me.

In China, we get anywhere from the government mandated 3 days to a whole week off for the May 1 holiday (Labour Day) holiday.

Still on my holiday, I just opened iTunes, and sure enough the first song to be randomly selected was "Labor Day (It's A Holiday)" by The Black Eyed Peas.


UPDATED: Oh my god, after I just wrote that it played "Spooky" by Dusty Springfield. I am slowly backing away from the computer.....