Saturday, 24 November 2007

Novel Place, TianYaoQiao Lu, XuJiaHui

On 21st November, last Wednesday I went to Xujiahui. I wanted to check out the City shop there. However, I had no idea where it was apart from the fact that it was on Tianyaoqiao Lu. I found it soon enough and found myself in a brand new Western orientated shopping complex called "Novel Place." In the underground level are lots of nice restaurants including Blue Frog (all over Shanghai), and Baby Doll (another one in Raffles City), and the American chain Applebees.

First of all I went to the City supermarket and spent ages there. This one is bigger than the one in Times Square. I also spent ages browsing the books they had there. Decided to buy two: "Bound feet and Western dress" by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang and "Chinglish", a hilarious photo book by Oliver Lutz Radtke. It's been so long since I've read a book and I hate fiction so this biography seemed perfect for me. :) The second one... just because I 'collect' weird books like this!

I also bought some delicious orange-jam-filled chocolate-covered biscuits known as "Jaffa cakes" in England and Australia but these were called "Soft Cake" and were made in Germany. I ate 1/3 box when I got home (oops!)

The best part was I got them to deliver all my stuff to me for free! Yay! So then I was free to peruse XJH without having to carry 2-3kg of groceries.

I then had lunch in Kissho of Tokyo. I don't know why I went there other than I was hungry and went to the first place I saw and I like Japanese. DO NOT GO THERE! That place was an absolute joke and I very rarely have anything bad to say about any restaurant I've been to here. First of all, it was reasonably empty and those that were there had teppanyaki or sushi train so in effect they were only cooking for me. I had to wait 15 mins for my meal. Given it was so quiet this was really unacceptable to me. Second of all, all the plates looked dirty. Thirdly there was an eyelash in my soup, and there seemed to bit bits of fluff (like you get on clothing or fabrics) INSIDE my tempura. OMG. Sickening. I know I should've complained but I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I ate a little bit so I wasn't hungry but certainly didn't finish it all given how gross I felt. YUCK.

This picture is exciting because it's what I believe to be my first (and only) Christmas-decorated building related sighting!! It's the Pacific department store.

This is just a random picture I thought which looked quite nice and almost un-China-ish! :D

Discovered something about blogspot blogs' comments and TGF

I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out. The other day I was reading someone's blog and clicked on the time that is listed at the bottom of their post and sure enough I could read all their comments. So that is one way to read someone's blogspot blog in China including their comments, WITHOUT a proxy. :)

My blog is popular. What the-?

The other day I was asked by a girl online, "Are you that girl that writes that Shanghai expat wife blog?" Shocked I said, "Yeah..." So we got 'chatting' and she tells me that my blog is the highest ranked Shanghai expat blog on Google. So I do a search for the words 'shanghai' 'expat' and 'blog' and sure enough my blog is the 7th on the list. 1st-6th are blog directory sites, not an actual blog URL. So going by this I guess you could say my blog is the most highly ranked Shanghai expat blog on Google?!

Now I admit I like it when people read my blog (even if they don't comment (but I love comments :D), even if I don't know who they are or how many there are...) but I have no idea how my blog is ranked so highly?! I am not one of those people who submit their blog to a billion and one sites in the hopes of becoming 'popular'. In fact, to be honest I had thought about submitting it to some blog sites and places like but really, now, I just couldn't be bothered.

Now, I have only told my sister and about 3 friends about this blog. If I'm not even going to tell people close to me about it I'm highly unlikely going to tell the rest of the world about it - right?

I am writing this blog for two reasons. 1) to get some of my crazy thoughts out. 2) hopefully provide some source of entertainment or help for others. So if you enjoy reading it - great! And if you don't - well what are you doing here? ;)

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Funny translations

I'm trying to find how to get to a particular road and getting very frustrated. First I tried to find it on my map (which is all in Chinese) then I realised that it may be too far out and not even on there and searched the smartshanghai map (nope) and google extensively, can't find it. Looked up the road on Wikipedia, nope. Looked up a hotel that is on that road and the map of that hotel, nope, no help. About to give up and decided to search the Chinese name of that road on Google. Found some discussions about it and someone else was asking the same thing. Someone answered take the train and someone else answered take the taxi ie 打的. (but still didn't specify HOW to get there). Anyway I also opened up a tab with the exact same website in English (done by computer translation) and nearly spat out my water when I read the translation. The second replier's answer was "Fight." LOL!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Guess the geisha?





One of the things I wanted to do in Kyoto was to take geisha photos. This is when you get dressed up wearing traditional make up, kimonos, getas, the whole shebang.

It took me 2 hours to be transformed from a normal every day Asian girl into a Japanese geisha (or maiko or geiko - apprentice geisha). The make-up took ages to do. During that time I couldn't touch my face and to be honest I didn't really feel the need to cos I was so frozen and scared I'd mess it up or something. I rarely ever wear make-up and have only got my make up done professionally twice (one of which was for my wedding). As well as that I normally cannot wear mascara because the bristles irritate me and make my eyes water like crazy.

Firstly, I was told to get changed into their special toe socks, and a thin white cotton undergarment. Luckily the indoor heating was good or else I would've froze!

Secondly, I went upstairs to the make-up area. They first put this cold thing on the back of my neck, which I later found out was some kind of oil. Lots of oil. It looks like white powder but it is a thick oily gunky thing the consistency of oil paints! This was supposed to make me beautiful? LOL. The eyeliner was tricky. I don't recall ever having used liquid eyeliner before and she put it right into the inner corners of my eyes and I tried to hold it back but alas, the waterworks started running. I had to get a tissue to soak up the moisture and compose myself before we could continue. I didn't want to use the mascara but she told me my eyelashes would be white. She didn't use much pressure and just only put it on the ends so it ended up being OK.

With that done I was instructed to go downstairs and pick out my kimono. Easier said than done! The girl who got there just before me was trying to tell me it was hard to choose. My Japanese is extremely basic but from what words I do know she said 'muzukashii' which means 'difficult' so I knew she was trying to tell me it was difficult choose and difficult it was! There were about 100 designs, all different colours and prints. I wanted a red one but the only nice one was an orangey red and I wanted a pinky cherry red. Instead I ended up choosing a green and blue one (totally not red!) because of the beautiful cherry blossom prints all over it. Hubby said that my kimono was the prettiest one that he saw.

After I chose the kimono they dumped it on the floor in another room and then I had another staff member 'dress' me. They put padding on - kinda thin flat pieces of wadding around the top of my chest (just under my neck), stomach and waist areas and this was tied with cotton string. Then they put on another robe, yet more padding and more string. I lost track of how many layers there were. Five? Afterwards the kimono went on. At this point I could barely breathe and the heavy wide obi sash was digging into the top of my pelvis bone - fun! I asked if they could loosen it a bit and they did but it still hurt (damn boney pelvis).

With that done, some more long pieces of fabric were tied around my waist near the obi and then they plonked a wig that felt like it weighed 1kg on my head. Plonk. Wow. Now I looked like a real life geisha!

Almost done.. I had to put on my shoes. The shoes did not seem to match up. The one on my right foot seemed smaller and way tighter than the left foot, so tight I couldn't barely get my foot in, so they gave me another. But that ended up being an inch taller than the other one - crazy stuff I tell ya! So I spent the whole time limping.

With that done they put my own hair pins and elastic in a little purse and I met hubby and the photographer out the back in a little alleyway. Once outside I was freezing! The temp. was in the mid-teens or so and my torso being wrapped in so many layers was fine but my arms were freezing. Oh well, on with the show!

Luckily it was a Friday and not too bad in terms of the crowd. Everywhere we went we didn't have to wait long for people to move out of the way to get that perfect shot. Strangers came up to me and wanted a photo of me or with me. I just smiled politely but wanted to say to them, "Psst! You know I'm a fraud, right?" It was quite funny actually. But I actually was quite composed and didn't let the cat out of the bag! That was until we met an Australian couple and I couldn't hold it in any longer. I said to them, "You know I'm not really a geisha?" and they said, "Oh, we know." And then hubby and I got chatting to them.. hehe. On the whole it was easy to remain composed because I was forced to take tiny little steps and walk very upright and everything and once you start doing those things you actually start to feel refined and poised, LOL.

The photographer was only with us a for little while but we paid for 60 shots and got 80 so I was very happy with that. Then I had 15 mins with hubby (which I tell you felt like an eternity) to roam the nearby streets and take more shots with our own camera. On one hand I wanted to go on forever and take advantage of the time and this beautiful location, on the other hand I was slowly getting into agony city. The cold I could take, the uneven shoes I could take (they were platform clogs, and and shoe was a lot higher than the other remember?), the trying not to laugh or 'lose' it I could do too, but the wig! Oh the pain! There was one spot where the wire frame was digging into my head and I swear about to give me a major headache. It was poking. I don't know why I didn't feel it initially but man it was painful.

Still, in hindsight I did have a lot of fun and I'd do it again in a heartbeat! :D If only to realise how much pain the real geishas have to go through! haha. I'd recommend it to any female visiting Kyoto. For the guys, you can get dressed up as samurai. :)

Afterwards it was even more fun. 8 layers of baby oil to wash the makeup off my face! :)

Lea Salonga, Mulan and auditions

The other day when I was looking for the song from "I not stupid too" I somehow stumbled across Lea Salonga's audition clip for "Miss Saigon". I had no idea who she was but looked her up on Wikipedia. (listening to the clip again gives me goose bumps). She is now almost 37 but in the clip she was only a young teenger, so beautiful, so innocent, so talented. I became fascinated and looked up more of her stuff on YouTube. She is Filipino and was cast as the lead in many broadway productions like Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. Also, she does the singing voice of many Disney films including Mulan. I absolutely love this song "Reflection". The moment I heard it I just loved the lyrics which describe the way I feel a lot of the time, and also the tune.

Reflection (From Disney's Mulan)

Look at me
I will never pass for a perfect bride
Or a perfect daughter
Can it be I'm not meant to play this part?
Now I see that if I were to truly to be myself
I would break my family's heart

Who is that girl I see staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection someone I don't know?
Somehow I cannot hide who I am
Though I've tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside?
When will my reflection show who I am inside?

How I pray,
That a time will come I can free myself,
and meet their expectations
On that day,
I'll discover some way to free myself, and to make my family proud

They want a docile lamb, noone knows who I am
Must there be a secret me I'm forced to hide?
Must I pretend that I'm someone else, for all time
When will my reflection show who I am inside?
When will my reflection show who I am inside?


Interview with Lea when she was 18. She seems so intelligent, friendly, bubbly and sweet in this interview. Her and Simon Bowman's beautiful, sweet performance after the interview.


Watching her audition clip brought back many memories for me. I used to go to acting auditions and it was so much fun. Nerve wracking like nothing else on earth but such an amazing experience. The most amazing time was when I got asked by my agent to go to Fox Studios in Sydney, not the part that the public can go into but the top secret security staff only area. I was on such a high. I didn't have a car and only had 2 hours to get from wherever I was back home, get changed and get to the eastern suburbs. Plus it was like a 30 degree day in the middle of summer so I was rushing and sweating like anything. It was so cool to see some behind-the-scenes places that most people will never get to see, and the now defunct Backlot theme park. I didn't get the part of course but the amazing experience was enough for me. It seems like a lifetime ago now!

Reading about Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and all the other broadway productions Lea has been in has made me really miss seeing musicals. For as long as I can remember I have seen a different musical in Sydney almost every year. I particularly like the ones with kids or teenagers in them. My all time favourite is The Phantom of the Opera and I'm dying to see Miss Saigon, Rent and Wicked. We saw an abridged version of Wicked at Universal Studios Japan and I read up on it last night and it seems to have rave reviews. It shows you what really went on in Oz. ARGH! Get me to NYC or London, pronto! ;)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Helpful words for fabric market visitors

It's hard for me to rate my own Chinese ability. If I were to rate it honestly I would say it is that of a 6 year old but on the other hand it's not. Also, although I have never studied it, my grammar is usually pretty good (almost as good as my English) because I can just tell when a sentence doesn't make sense.

Whenever I go shopping I have this paranoid fear that I'm going to get ripped off because they know straight away that I'm not a local due to my accent and my not up-to-scratch vocabulary. The weird thing is although I've not learnt that many words, if I hear them I can usually figure it out what it means by the context.

Now, I had no idea how to say 'cashmere' in Mandarin. Since I wasn't planning on getting my coat made that day I didn't plan anything either. However, I asked one of the salesladies what fabric it was, "这个是哪种布?" and she replied, "羊绒" (yang rong). Immediately the cogs in my brains started turning. 羊毛(Yang mao) is wool, so Yang rong must be cashmere? I think? Rong must be the same rong as 'velvet.' But hang on! Isn't cashmere made from a goat? Oh yeah that's right... 羊 (yang) can mean both sheep or goat (I know because my sister was born in the year of one) but technically a goat is a 山羊 (shan yang - mountain sheep). Haha. It's weird because I've known the words 羊毛 and 绒 for as long as I can remember (my mother was/is an avid sewer - as in a person who sews, not a place for human waste - haha) but the word for 'cashmere' never entered my vocab - guess because she never sewed with it and didn't really buy clothes made from it! (don't really need it in Australia).

I'm gonna have to teach myself more clothing fabric words because whenever I buy clothes one of the first things I do is look at the label. This tells me what it's made of (will I be allergic to it? Is it a quality fabric? How will I care for it, wash it? etc) so I can determine if the price fits the quality. But also because I am allergic to wool, and I don't like fake-wool either AKA acrylic which 'pills' like nothing.

So here we go:

Cotton 棉 mián
Wool ( 绵)羊毛 (mián) yáng máo
Cashmere 羊绒
Silk 丝 sī
Acrylic ?
Polyester ?
Spandex 氨纶 ān lún
Denim 牛仔布 níu zǎi bù
Jacquard 提花织物 tí huā zhī wù
Brocade 锦 jǐn
100% ... 全 quán (used more verbally)

qipao/cheongsam 旗袍 qípáo
shirt 衬衫 chèn shān
pants/trousers 裤子 kù zi
jacket 茄克 jiā kè
coat 外套 wài tào
dress 礼服 lǐfú
handbag 手提包 shǒu tí bāo

size 大小 dà xiǎo
little bigger 大一点 dà yì diǎn
little smaller 小一点 xiǎo yì diǎn
little narrower 窄一点 zhǎi yì diǎn
little wider 宽一点 kuān yì diǎn
little longer 长一点 cháng yì diǎn
little shorter 短一点 duǎn yì diǎn
little higher 高一点 gāo yì diǎn
litte lower 低一点 dī yì diǎn
darker (colour) 深一点 shēn yì diǎn (颜色 yán sè)
lighter (colour) 浅一点 qiǎn yì diǎn (颜色 yán sè)

sleeve 袖子 xiù zi
cuff 袖口 xiù kǒu (lit. sleeve mouth)
collar 衣领 yī lǐng
armhole 袖笼 xiù lǒng
chest/bust 胸 xiōng
waist 腰部 yāo bù
hips/butt 臀部 túnbù
3 vital measurements - bust, waist hips 三围 sānwéi

buttons 扣子 kòuzi
zipper 拉链 lā liàn
velcro 魔鬼粘 mó guǐ nían
press stud 揿扣 qìn kòu

stripes 条 tiáo
spots 点 diǎn
pattern 图样 tú yàng
embroider(y) 绣 xiù

to be continued!

I just found this online Chinese dictionary but I still think Xuezhongwen is a little better. :)

13 degrees and 44 % humidity

The rain has cleared (last night the sky was amazingly clear, we could see the Pearl Tower and Jin Mao over in Pudong so clearly) and it is now sunny again, yay! I don't know about you but isn't 44% incredibly dry?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

一生絕望 Our whole life is hopeless

Love this song. It is from the Singaporean film "I not stupid too." (小孩不笨 2). Highly recommended viewing for any overseas Chinese. Seriously beautiful, thought-provoking, and gut-wrenching stuff.
The song has a real 'teen angst' melancholy feel to it, kinda the way I'm feeling at the moment ;)

曲/濨波 诿/梿智强 唱/洪俊扬

我们肆无忌惮 我们房群结党
我们目无尊长 对什么事都不满
看翀我们的房长 忪会制造麻烦

我们don't give a damn那看不起的眼光
我们什么都不是 我们什么都不管

1st verse
别以为看不起我们 就告诉自己比人家强

忈有谿会 替我们想想苹果为何忘烂

2nd verse


(back to 1st verse)

As a challenge to myself I'm going to translate the lyrics to English (of which I can understand about 70% of). Someone who knows Mandarin better than me - tell if me I've done it incorrectly ;)

We have no morals, our group formed a clique
Our goal is not to have superiors, we are not satisfied with anything
(don't get this bit), we're restless, we meet up to make trouble
We are just not here, what can you do?

We don't give a damn about those that look down upon our vision
We are all nothing, we don't care about anything
Why isn't there any communication between us?
There is only a wall between us

School teacher doesn't have a method, father scolds us for being unable to think
This society's criteria has already exceeded the imagination of people our age
The restless maintain it is possible to study, this is a model of a good child
Don't think that if you look down on us you, yourself must be stronger than us

How many people care about how the people in our group are going astray?
Why don't you look at it from our point of view; why did the apple become rotten?
Actually, we try very hard to earn praise
With a heavy heart I only ask you, how much hope have we given ourselves?

2nd verse
The tears have already dried, the road is very uncertain
We've lost our souls, what are we supposed to do?
To punish us is a grand...(?)
Then our whole lives will be hopeless

Some people are lucky, they don't have an internal battlefield,
As soon as we were born we were a lonely soldier
Standing at the vehement road in the middle of the wind and the rain to cry out
Don't let everyone see our whole lives be hopeless

(This was harder than I thought! In translating I also discovered some of the characters are wrong. I just copied and pasted the lyrics and some of the characters are not the same as the ones in the song! D'oh!)