Saturday, 23 June 2007

Hello Summer!!

Every single person I had spoken to about Shanghai, every book I had read about Shanghai, mentioned the horrible summer that exists here. So I got scared. I got really really scared. I don't mind the heat but the humidity gives me a rare type of intensely itchy eczema that doesn't go away until it starts to become cooler and and drier pretty much (probably September at least - aaarrghh!).

Anyway, I had been marvelling to myself at how lucky I was that the whole time we had been here (from May 6th) the weather had been really nice. Sure there were some hotter days but overall, it was comfortable and especially in the late afternoons and evenings it was nice and breezy and cool almost - down to the low 20s or high teens. I even had to wear a long sleeve fleecy jacket at night! It was so breezy and cool.

Well I guess all my friends and books were right. Summer just hits you in the face here in Shanghai. One minute it is nice (all of May and around half of June) say the guidebooks, but then it's humidity city.

HOT. HUMID. WET. RAINY. That is what summer is like in Shanghai!

The week started to get hotter and hotter starting from Monday and today was the hottest it had been. Yesterday was pretty hot too but nothing like today. Today was the first day I had to use the air-conditioning since we moved into our flat. I tried to tolerate the heat but it was just unbearable, plus my poor computer couldn't cope either.

Earlier it was reported to be around 34degrees on a site, but I went to Yahoo and it said 32deg, 70% humidity, feels like 40deg. I thought - Wow, I'm not imagining it. Even Yahoo tells me it feels like 40deg!!

At around 7pm there were some massive thunderstorms complete with lightning. Since we are so high up, it felt like the lightning was right outside our window! Incredible (and scary).

Now, at 9pm, according to both Yahoo Weather and Shanghai Daily it is 26deg, 89% humidity, feels like 29deg.

I suppose there is no point hoping and wishing it would cool down. This is Asia afterall, and this is summer!

I suppose I should be thankful, though, I am not in Taiwan, Hong Kong or southern China where it would already be this hot in April or May.

The funny thing is, everyone back home in Sydney had been complaining about how cold it has been there. Down to 6 degrees some nights. Brrr...

Friday, 22 June 2007

Zhang Yimou 张艺谋 One of the world's greatest directors

Mike and I both love films by Zhang Yimou. They are so beautiful, inspiring, and show the undeterminable strength of the human character.

My mother introduced us to his films a few years ago. She said, "I borrowed this video tape from the Chinese video store. Here take a look. I bet you'll like this movie." I watched it, and I was hooked. I bawled my eyes out. The film was The Road Home the film that launched Zhang Ziyi's film career.

(NB: In English their names should be Yimou Zhang and Ziyi Zhang but I feel so weird saying that because I'm used to calling them by their Chinese name which puts the surname first).

No matter how many times I watch that film I am reduced to tears. When Mike and I were in Kuala Lumpur (just before we arrived in Shanghai), it came on television and I was already bawling my eyes out because I knew what was going to happen.

I thought that movie was 'bad' for making one cry.. that was until I saw To Live, starring Gong Li.

I bought the DVD For Mike as a Christmas present. I got some 40% off DVD vouchers at Borders and figured it was a good idea to use them for Christmas presents. I also bought my sister a DVD from there for Christmas. Anyway, since I know Mike loves foreign films I went to that section and ummed and erred for HOURS about which ones to get. I ended up getting him To Live and Pushing Hands by Ang Lee.

We finally got around to watching To Live only in April (due to all our wedding planning, wedding and honeymoon in Jan-March).. and OMG it was the most beautiful, sad, gut-wrenching, amazingly emotional film I have ever seen! If you have seen the trailers you get a vague idea of what it's about. Apart from the story lines involving family relationships there is the backdrop of the historical changes throughout China in the turbulent times of the 40s, 50s ,60s and 70s.

In terms of pulling at one's heartstrings it is along the lines of the wonderful Life is Beautiful (La Vita è bella) by the wonderful Roberto Benigni. I also find those two films similar because the backdrop is based on real events through time and history. I love how you get a sense of what it must've felt like to be in that situation. Just amazing.

Another one I should mention is Not one less. A low budget film, it reportedly stars no actors. All of the people in the film are just normal people that Yimou found. It is such a simple story, but so sweet, and lovely. It is one of my sister's favourite films.

Of course then there are the recent blockbusters Hero and House of Flying Daggers. It's so easy to compare the two, as they were released so close together and both star Zhang Ziyi. I'm not sure which one I liked better but I absolutely loved the way that colours were used in the landscape scenes in House of Flying Daggers. The way it was filmed and done with the frozen water and everything, it was breathtaking.

If you have never watched a Zhang Yimou film, you should. You won't regret it! :)

NB: The beautiful film To Live, which won a prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994, is banned in China which is ironic given it was made here and starred Chinese actors/actresses. But if you have seen the film you can understand why. There is the sensitive issue with the cultural revolution and that tumultuous era.

PS: Under no circumstances should you go and look it up on imdb. Unless you want to know pretty much everything that happens!

Those Wacky Japanese - Japanese Human Tetris

OK this has absolutely nothing to do with me, Shanghai, or China but I had to post it because:

1. It's so ridiculously funny. If you don't find it funny there is something wrong with you!
2. I want to test if I can embed videos in my blog.

So enjoy! Japanese Human Tetris

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

People and prices


I'm not sure how many people there are in Shanghai and I can't find any conclusive answers. All I know there is more people here than in Beijing and there aren't that many cities in the world with a bigger population than Shanghai!

OK according to wikipedia there are 18.6 million people in the municipality and 9.8 million in the urban area alone.

I have thoughts running through my head every time I go out and these little occurences have slowly made me realise not just how many people there are in Shanghai, but in China as a whole.

Shopping in the supermarket in the middle of the day on a weekday you'd think it'd be pretty quiet, right? Wrong! It's still just as busy no matter what time of day you shop. And every aisle is filled with people and their trolleys and the aisles never seem wide enough and I'm constantly dodging trolleys and trying to avoid hitting something or someone with my runaway trolley. As part of my early days here and still dealing with culture shock I complained to my mother, "Why are there so many people here?" and all she could reply was, "This is China!" which about sums it up.


They are everywhere, except Chinese don't quite understand the concept of queuing or waiting. In their mind you just rush to the front of the queue or counter and push in to get served, simple. Hmmm...


I am still gobsmacked and shocked at the divide between the rich and the poor. A few weeks ago Mike and I went to Grand Gateway 港汇广场 shopping mall (which, incidently we can see out our living room window) for some lunch and some window shopping. We went into a store which caught my eye, called Vero Moda a fashion label started in Denmark. The clothes in there were really beautiful and Helena Christensen was one of the models.

Some of the t-shirts were $40 or $50 Australian which I thought was absurd. I mean it is probably the going rate for a European label but I'd never pay that muh for a t-shirt in Australia, let alone China! Yet, I think most people in the West think of China as being really 'poor'. But noooo. On this Sunday afternoon, this shop was absolutely packed and I was constantly being followed with an overly zealous sales assistant wearing false eyelashes and bright blue eyeshadow.

I felt kind of sickened that these spoilt little rich fashionistas could afford this kind of stuff, yet there were people out on the street starving, or pulling tricycle wagons and sleeping in old, run down shacks. Erk.

A few days ago Mike and I were talking about where to go for the October public holiday. After researching endless options I decided it'd probably be best to find somewhere close by so as to not waste time and not spend too much money, and decided that Sanya in Hainan would be a great place. I started looking into the 5 star beach resorts and Mike said, being a public holiday, it would most likely be very crowded and booked out. I quickly blurted out, "How many people in China do you think can afford to stay in a 5 star resort?" without even thinking or realised how stupid I sounded. Mike said back, "More than you think. There are more rich people in China than any other country." And I thought to myself, Oh, shit, yeah... since there are over a billion people, even a small proportion of that is a huge quantity of (rich) people. Yikes.

So my conclusion is, you don't realise just how many people there are in China until you come here, and if you hate queues and crowds don't come here ;) And if you want nice designer label stuff (for anything, not just clothing) be prepared to pay the price because, even in China, it ain't cheap!