Dear Idiots

Laws.
Rules.

As teenagers they all seem made to be broken. Some are stupid , arbitrary, and down right nasty. The longer I live in Shanghai , the more I come to despair at the utter disregard that a certain set of them receive.

Traffic Laws.

Tell that to my 18-year-old self speeding on the highway and I probably would have laughed.

After two and a half years of watching pure stupidity at wheels , I’ve come to hold traffic laws in a brighter light.

This one’s for you , Mr.Idiot on a motorbike.

Dear Moron,

I spotted you at the intersection of West JianGuo Rd. and 2nd Ruijin Rd. Do you remember me? Probably not as you were blatantly disregarding the red light in front of you ( it means stop!) and the pedestrians crossing the road. Perhaps you may recall the one blond head in the sea of black hairs. That was me.

You probably haven’t heard of the American saying used in my youth , “No Cop , No Stop”. But I’ll go ahead and inform you right now that only is applicable when in the middle of nowhere. In the kind of place where farm animals outnumber the people and the only thing in sight is corn , not in the middle of a city of 23 million people.

In your defence , you could have been trying to turn right and in China there is no stop on red rule before making a right hand turn. It would certainly be a great idea , and it would save us pedestrians a lot of grief but we pedestrians know that you drivers are in such a hurry to do such important things as ; gossip , play mahjong , chain smoke , and spit. These things are arguably more important than any grievous bodily harm that may come our way. However , you weren’t making a right hand turn! You were making a left hand on red through traffic! And it wasn’t a gun-it-on yellow kind of deal. That was a stale red light buddy. That’s why when the taxi almost slammed into you, and came to a skidding stop a meter in front of you because you were in the middle of the intersection , I laughed.

My pleasure quickly turned sour when you glared at the taxi while he honked his horn. Like you were being wrongly affronted , insulted, and accused. That simmering look you gave him could have sizzled the oil in my wok. That’s the point of time when I yelled, “F*ck you, You idiot! at you. I couldn’t stand that look you were giving him , Mr.Almost-Hit-Me-And-Then-Almost-Causing-Yourself-To-Be-Killed. Usually I would glare at the stupid taxi drivers too but not this time. I know you probably didn’t hear me ,and then anyways probably wouldn’t have understood , but it still felt good.

Your Biggest Fan ,

Roomaomao

It’s important to try to defend my walking/biking safety seeing as how the metro just turned into a war zone. It just got personal. Blood was shed. Yes, on the metro.

My good friend L-Dawg was just recently pushed to the ground hard enough to break her skin. A fellow rider knocked her down, and her knee struck the gap in between subway car and station platform. This fellow did not offer to help her up but instead an actual good Samaritan (too rare in China) gave her a helping hand. The pusher didn’t say a word to my friend , didn’t try to help , avoided her look , and slunk off with his tail between his legs to hide. Real great guy.

Will the traffic and behavior of the citizens of China ever change? Any fellow expats have comments on this?

Google imaged this photo
By Maciej Dakowicz
opentravel.com

Boxing Cat Brewery Thanksgiving

The menu looks pretty damn awesome. Creamed Brussel Sprouts with Candied Bacon and Apples , what!?! Western foods in Shanghai have a way of letting me down though. At $64 USD a pop this meal had better be amazing. In any case I will try to get my moneys worth on the straight free flow wine , beer, and coffee. The beer at this microbrewery is very good. I’ll need like 10 of them at happy hour prices to break even haha.

Thankful for a bunch and eagerly awaiting this meal!

Happy Halloween!

Building Up a Superiority Complex

With China’s changing economic situation and the influx of wealth that has hit the country like a bomb in the last thirty years has come a steadily building superiority complex.

With Monday’s departure for Vietnam looming ahead , various people have asked me about my plans for the Communist party’s week-long bash. My answer like usual is to get out of China. The sheer brilliance of giving almost everyone in the nation’s most populous country time off equals an insane migration of people and massive crowds. However , when I tell them where I’m going , they seem to be less than impressed. Keep in mind that these people aren’t China’s wealthy. They make around a little less than $500 USD a month.

My Co-workers.
Me – I’m going to Vietnam!
C (Co-workers) Vietnam? It’s too dirty!
IMH ( In my head) And China isn’t dirty? The newly found wealth in the country is pretty much the direct result of the sacrifice of the environment.

My girlfriend’s brother.

GFB – You’re going to Vietnam? Vietnam doesn’t have any fun places!
Me- Hanoi’s eclectic old french quarter , Halong Bay , hiking in Sapa , beautiful remote beaches , the upcoming Phu Quoc island resort center.
GFB – China has beaches too! Go to Sanya ( on China’s tropical Hainan island)
Me- What ? With the 5,000,000 rich people who descend on the island every year? With the full hotels and the quadrupled prices? Anyways, I enjoy the experience of going to a different country with different languages , architecture , and culture.
GFB – CHINA!

(Chinese beach courtesy of Chinatoday.com)

My girlfriend’s co-workers.

While my co-workers are nice to me for the most part , my girlfriend works in an extremely competitive office and she is on the low ranking side of things. These people are mean to her.

GF- I’m going to Vietnam!
GFC – HAHAHAHA , POOR YOU! YOU CAN ONLY AFFORD TO STAY IN POOR ASIA. TALK TO ME WHEN YOU GO TO EUROPE.
GF (Angry but trying not to show it) – Well ,where are you going?
GFC – Staying in Shanghai .

Now China , it’s best to remember that you have more peasants than the entire population of Europe. Just because there is an (admittedly) strong elite with vast amounts of wealth , and you have a huge military doesn’t make you number 1.Living in a relatively expensive city like Shanghai with a relatively low wage doesn’t make you superior to the Vietnamese who have a low wage but live in relatively cheap Hanoi.

Let’s quit with the superiority and enjoy the holiday!

Senkaku aka Diaoyu Island Tensions

Right now , China is undergoing the most heated anti-Japanese sentiments in decades. Various simmering issues and resentments have come to boil over the rocky , uninhabited , uninviting , islands called Senkaku (in Japanese) and Diaoyu ( in Chinese) .

These guys are causing protests , egg throwing , rock throwing , Toyota smashing , Nikon destroying , convenient store closing , and hot noodle attacking.

.

Let’s take a look at the physical location.

Well , it’s very close to clusters of other islands that Japan owns , and it’s closer to Taiwan than mainland China. What’s the argument all about?

It’s a simple one very short word answer. It fuels many of the world’s problems as well as most of our vehicles.

Ahhh, oil. Of course!

As far back as we can trace in history the islands were ruled by the Ryukyu kingdom (14th century). This kingdom was its own political entity but had a special relationship with the Chinese and was a tributary of the Ming Dynasty. Vietnam was also once a tributary kingdom of China but no one is arguing that now. In the 17th century the kingdom found itself in sort of a dual subordination to the Chinese and Japanese. The kingdom was dissolved in 1875 and Japan annexed the entire kingdom in 1879 ( Senkaku islands being a part of the kingdom). A private Japanese family straight out purchased the island in 1930. History passed pretty quietly until 1968 rolls by and oil is discovered. Let the fighting begin. China previously had no contention on the islands until this key point in time. Mainland China made its first claim of sovereignty in 1971 but until the 2000s thing were pretty calm. In the last decade there have been some protests and activist movements which have slowly built up tensions until July of 2012 when these events : 4 July, Coastguard vessels from Taiwan and Japan collided in waters near a disputed island chain Wednesday, as the Taiwanese vessel was escorting activists to the area.
On 7 July, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that these islands are an integral part of his country and the Government is considering their purchase from the Japanese owner.
Three Chinese patrol vessels entered the disputed waters around these islands on 11 July 2012. On 15 July 2012, Japan recalled their ambassador to China to work on the response to the transgression. In late July, Japanese officials have raised alarms regarding increased Chinese military expansion. (from Wikipedia) , dramatically increased the tensions between the two countries.

The situation in China is going insane right now.

Around August 12 or 13th in an attempt to ease tensions, Japan outright purchased the islands back from the private Japanese (JAPANESE ) owner. This sparked the current rage currently ongoing.

There is government sponsored protests (let the people rage against other countries but not their own shitty government) , smashing of Japanese things , attacks against Japanese , and a bunch of other ignorant and embarrassing things causing Family Mart ( Japanese own the majority of stock) family mart to fly Chinese flags , the search engine Baidu to support the CCP , and Zhonghua toothpaste to declare the islands to be part of China.

It will be interesting to see how things develop , and I’m drinking a Japanese KIRIN beer while using my SONY PS3 . Japan, you rule. China , sometimes I wonder why I came here.

Check these Shanghaiist links for some awesome coverage

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/09/18/shanghai-japan-consulate-general-protest.php

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/09/18/baidu-diaoyu-islands.php

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/09/16/china-anti-japan-protests.php

Rainy Season Again?! Already?!?

Well it’s late June again and with that comes Shanghai’s rainy season once again. The plum rains kicked off with a nice 12 hour downpour on the 18th and we have been getting little bits of rain everyday since then. Of course the 4 day work week is relatively un-rainy with the main blasts expected to start on our free Friday , a heavy downpour with thunderstorms all day Saturday continuing on to Sunday. Monday will see a clouds , with the rains picking up again on Tuesday and Wednesday. The next two to three weeks will continue on like this.

Hard to believe it was already a year ago my family picked the start of the rainy season to arrive for their first visit to China. It was quite fun wandering around Suzhou’s gardens trying to balance a camera underneath the umbrellas. Last summer I had two whole months off and traveled with my family throughout China (Shanghai , Suzhou , Hangzhou , Xian , Beijing) before heading off alone to Yunnan province and then finally dipping down into Laos. This summer will see myself working the whole time with no break until a Taiwan stop-off in October. While my mind might not quite be as satisfied my bank account will certainly be much happier. For next summer I think I hear India calling my name.

Along with the plum rains it means it’s time for the dragon boat festival. While the forecast doesn’t look too good for catching the boat races on the Suzhou river , I’m still gonna try.

Last year’s post had me explaining some of the history behind the dragon boat festival and this year with my new apartment I’ve caught something I didn’t encounter last year.  People are hanging leaves from the Acorus and Artemisia plants outside of their doors in the hallways. On the way to work this morning I saw many older people carrying bunches of these leaves back home and heading up the 5 floors to my new apartment I saw about half of the apartments were hanging these branches. Apparently they have anti-toxin functions and also work to keep insects out. Sounds pretty good to me.  I told my girlfriend to keep an eye out for them. Couldn’t hurt!

Nanhui Peach Blossoms

With Monday , Tuesday , and Wednesday off due to the bizarre holiday schedule in China and beautiful weather = more time to enjoy outside before the blazing , humid summer rolls in. Yesterday called for a trip to the far , far , outreaches of Shanghai , where nay a Laowai is to be seen. We took the NanXin bus line from Shanghai Railway Station for 2 hours way out into Pudong New District , past the airport , and almost all the way to the sea. Sitting on the bus for two hours to reach the distance outskirts of Shanghai takes longer than hopping on the bullet train to Nanjing!An interesting thing about the burbs’ is even though there are farmers fields and open areas of rapeseed (yellow flower currently in bloom) the fields sit in between high rises and construction of new high rises. Does anyone live in these new apartment buildings? It seems like everywhere in China is constantly building huge buildings on the outskirts of cities. I know China has a ton of people but are is there really that much demand for new buildings in the middle of nowhere? If I have enough money to buy a pad , I’m certainly not going to buy one with no cool amenities around , no access to the subway lines , and a long commute into the city. There are even new communities of American style suburban multistory houses. The Chinese difference though is that they are all clustered together without any yard , kind of defeating the American idea of idyllic suburban living. If you have the cash to buy that nice place you’d be better off moving to America and buying a bigger house for less cash.

Ok on the festival. We finally arrived at 南汇桃花村 (Nanhui Peach Blossom Village) . Peach Blossom Village sounds like a quiet little hamlet with cozy stone houses , maybe set on the banks of a small river , with old ladies hanging laundry and playing Mahjong but well it’s not quite like that. First of all , it’s not a village at all. There are no homes or residents living there. It’s a peach farm with a small lake and some entertainment options. Like most Chinese “parks” there is a mini amusement park for children , paddle boat rental for the lake , and performances. This place had an amazing stilt-walking show with a really , really , freaky main old perverted guy role. He would walk around and have “fights” with his old lady on stilts wife and pretend to touch her chest and lift up her skirt. He would walk around and scare kids and try to give young girls kisses all while his wife chases him around and hits him with various objects. The two main leads were supported by a large group of younger guys and gals dancing around. A highlight of the show was the people on stilts holding others and spinning around all while precariously perched up on the air. Awesome stuff. Another weird activity of the “village” was the Pig Excercise Meet. There was an obstacle course set up with a jump section , a slide section , and a high dive into water and subsequent swimming section. A man would march around the track with a whistle and the little pigs would run through the obstacles. It was really cute and very ridiculous .

Besides the strange activities , it was great to wander around the park and take in the wonderful smelling white , pink , and red peach blossoms. The flowers weren’t quite in full bloom but it was still really nice. The area also has some little canals with boat rides and wonderful weeping willows lining the waterways. Also a must try in the area are the plum blossom sweet cakes. A sticky glutinous bun is filled with sweet red bean paste and a peach flower flavoring. If you like sweet its awesome.

While the festival was nice , I’d say it’s not quite worth the 55 rmb admission price plus the 2 hour bus ride. If I had a car and made in the drive in the supposed 50 minutes it takes then I’d be all for the festival. If you don’t make it out to Nanhui there are some other flower options in Shanghai.

Gucun PArk  – Cherry Blossom Festival

Shanghai Botanical Garden – Cherry Blossom Exhibit

Century Park – Spring Garden

Gongqing Forest Park – Flower Exhibit

It’s spring! Put away those winter heaters and get those lazy bones outta the apartment!

Cashing in on Christmas

We know what Christmas is supposed to be about , right?  Togetherness , sharing ,remembrance,and celebrating family and friends. Right?!?!

While maybe we have forgotten the deeper meaning of Christmas beyond , gasp, presents! Here in China we don’t learn about what Christmas is really about. It seems like the whole Christmas thing was culturally copied and lifted from the Western world without much analyses beyond the surface.

I see Santa Claus in the shopping mall , reindeer horn wearing workers , gigantic gaudy crystal laden Christmas trees in the streets, clubs have Santa Claus greeters, and frosty the snowman beckons people to come into his restaurant.

The basic message is the same. CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME.

Maybe the Western world needs to stop thinking about presents and set a better example for everyone else. Back to the roots people!

However China does have an entire week-long festival dedicated to family. Yes, that’s right , an entire week of eating, hongbao (red envelopes with cash), and fireworks!  The upcoming Chinese New Year features the world’s largest annual migration of humans as millions of sons, daughters , husbands , wives, etc swarm by the millions back to their hometowns to spend time with family. Some of these people only get to see family this time of the year.

I’ve been teaching the kindergarten kids Christmas songs and vocabulary all month-long and on Friday the 23rd I got to dress up in a Santa Suit and deliver presents in the school. I learned one thing ; Santa suits are damned hot. I have some empathy for those mall Santas.

Now on a more personal note, I had a pretty swell Christmas myself. Got to celebrate with three people who have never celebrated it before. My roommate is Jewish, so that explains that, and both our girlfriends are Chinese and they see the decorations every year but have never actively celebrated. We ghetto-wrapped some presents the night before (the grocery store ran out of a limited supply of wrapping paper) and the day started with my roommate pounding on the door excited to open presents. Hahaha like me when I was 6 years old. We tore into the gifts and a merry time was had by all.

After this I got to engage in a little Skype action with some good friends and then it was time for food!

Went out for a traditional Christmas lunch of spicy stuffed fish wrapped and roasted in banana leaves , traditional lemongrass beef , north pole style stir-fried chicken with plantain flowers , all topped off with some tamarind juice. Yummy authentic Christmas Yunnan fare. Spicy Xmas style.

This was followed up by some cold bike riding errands and then back to an evening Skype chat with the family. Good times y’all!

Oh yea one other thing , tons of restaurants in Shanghai had Christmas dinner offerings. Some had really offerings but they are all so expensive. Think in the range of 300-800 Rmb (~ $50-120). Places were even offering totally non-Christmas related Christmas meals. 3 course Thai meal featuring chicken satay , crab curry, and Tom Yum soup ,anyone? Sushi blast?

Alright, I’ll leave ya with some photos.  (Keeping with the consumerist theme. It’s all our presents! Wooo hooo!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Red Light Revolution

Last night I went over to Kento’s Live House , a really nice venue nearby my house, to go check out a screening of Australian director,Sam Voutas’, Red Light Revolution. (Mandarin audio with English subtitles)

The movie is a hilarious take on an out of luck former Beijing cab-driver trying to open a sex shop to make some cash. His wife has just left him for another guy , he has lost his house , his cab was re-possessed , and he is penniless.  He bumps into a former schoolmate of his who made some cash off peddling sex toys and this leads to a meeting with a crazy Japanese investor. He along with his new-found female friend open a shop in the middle of a conservative hutong neighborhood. Hijinks ensue as the neighborhood comes out at night to visit the store. I don’t want to give anymore anyway.

Red Light Revolutions had me laughing pretty much the entire way through (except for some serious parts where you aren’t supposed to). Everything from the witty banter between the characters , to the gentle making fun of Chinese social issues (one scene dealt with bureaucracy and the characters had to fill out a form to gain access to the form for a business license), to the slapstick with the toys (c’mon it’s too hard not to!) , to the characters themselves (The Community Patrol Leader , and geeky Virgin Chen are my favorites) , are all spot on.

Even though the film was directed by a foreigner it doesn’t feel like it and offers a glimpse into Beijing life. The directors and producers are both long time residents of Beijing and worked closely with the Chinese cast and crew to ensure an authentic experience.

The director , producer , and the main female star were on hand to host a Q&A after the film and they gave us some great insight into the filming process. They worked closely with the actors and crew to make an authentic dialogue. Obviously Chinese isn’t the directors native language (although he can speak it quite well) so he gave the actors reign to make a more natural script ,  and also the film crew would sometimes stop and say ” no. no, not that way , try it like this instead”.

They also provided interesting insights into the process of marketing and releasing the movie. They had tried for over two years to gain access to movie theaters in China but were rejected by the government censors. They(censors) just didn’t understand the point of the movie . They were flat-out told that this wasn’t a comedy and why is the movie being held in a sex shop , maybe they could perhaps host it in a tea shop? The government rejection leading to the small film screenings and the movie doing the foreign indie film rounds (Where they have won quite a few awards). The movie should be available for purchase on DVD and maybe iTunes after January.

If you are in Shanghai there is still time to catch two other movie screenings , Friday Nov. 11 & Sunday Nov. 13. Check out this link for more details  http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/event/Film-Film_Screenings/4706/Red-Light-Revolution-screening-weekend.html .

Here is a link for the trailer

www.traileraddict.com/trailer/redlightrevolution/trailer

As an extra bonus the first 50 to 100 people will receive (received in my case) a free giftbag with some sexy lotion and a fun little toy. Enjoy!