Friday, September 24, 2004

A Friendly Letter

[enlarge by clicking to view a legible size]
I didn't realise how I had impacted this Primary 2 girl. I was in her class for only one lesson, observing a teacher I would be co-teaching with. I walked around as they were doing their work and gave a few casual words of praise to some of them on their work; this Mridula was one of them. Later in her classroom assignment (writing a letter), she wrote one to me.
The girls, especially the younger ones, absolutely adore their teachers. While I was eating at the teachers' table in the canteen, a row of girls stood about 3 metres away, entertained and fulfilled just watching me eat.
Once, when I was having a baby bowl of hei-mee (prawn noodles) alone, this Primary 5 girl from one my 'observing' classes, came up to my table and made herself comfortable. Students are not allowed to seat at the teachers' table, so she conveniently bent over the table, plonked her elbows at the corner, rested her chin in her hands and watched me eat while ranting a monologue on how she finds her form teacher "cute" (the word at which I choked on my hei-mee). The Indian girl's name is Chua Kai Ying.
During the teachers' photo-taking session in the foyer after school, the girls in the canteen nearby area ceased their activity to come watch us being arranged by the photographer and having the flashlights at us. At the end of the 10-minute sport, the girls applauded.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Rest of My Shanghai Experience

My family at Yu Yuan (A man called Yu built the lovely place for his beloved mother dragon years ago, but it has been defiled by the communist-claimed-but-capitalist-minded Chinese and made into a commercial tourist trap).
Can you see my father flagging his right arm irritatedly? He was complaining about and trying to stop the oblivious/rude people of China (many of the tourists in Shanghai are actually domestic tourists) from cutting across our photo-taking path. We had to do this shot 3 times.

The queue for the infamous Shanghai Xiao Long Bao! My father did his manly act by offering to join the queue as the 39th in line. But frankly, the Xiao Long Bao at Singapore's own Crystal Jade is of a much better quality.

What a young salesgirl, I thought. She's barely hit puberty, but nevertheless very persistent and business-wise, just like the other pre-pubescent salesboy (right of photo). I really pity these children. They come from the rural areas to Shanghai to work, and have barely an education. In this respect, China's really behind time. It's current literacy level is possibly that of our Singaporean grandparents. By the time I have my own children, I would think their peers would be able to speak English. However, in the case of China, I think there would still be many with low levels of education in the next generation.

Gigolo undies. It's got a money/condom pouch in front.

An innovative mop made of the skeleton of an old mop with old socks to add body to head. This was found in the Zhou Zhuang, a rather well-preserved village. Although tourist shops have sprung up through this Venice of China, the people are still simple and traditional.

Rows of tu-kar..

...left on display for who knows how many days and coated with caramel, or some illegal dye to preserve it's appearance.

I combined these two pictures thinking that the statue on the left was Guanyinma (which is correct) and that the words on the right read Guan Yin. Pardon me, my Chinese is that rusty. Those two words were part of a sign that probably read, "Joss-sticks for common use".

I love these photos, especially the one with the old beggar woman. She's so old with her sinewy skin stretched over her face and so oblivious that she wasn't aware that my father had put money in her hands.
The one with the beggar man looks quite supernatural eh?

The waterways of China's Venice, Zhou Zhuang.

We got invited into one of the locals' home, and I sneaked a few shots. In the year 2004, this home looks like a display set-up we are more likely to find in our heritage museum.

I've never seen a weaving machine before, much less a traditional one. That old woman next seating at the wooden machine wanted me to pay her for taking the photo. I feigned ignorance and walked away quickly.
I took the photo of the fishing birds (at first, I thought they were vultures) from across the the waterway, but the owners (seated) saw me and shouted at me. They wanted money too, but too bad, they were too old and did not attempt to make it across to get to me.
What a crafty enterprising group of people!

Mum complained that she never did like scenaries from China because they were all grey. I agree about the grey part, but look at how colourful they made this photo!

Pretty? I don't know what to comment on for this photo.
A traditional Chinese theatre.

A wishtree in the temple grounds, where wishers probably have to buy the red ribbons from the commercialised shop in the temple itself.

Mum and Cui tired out, seating in front of a closed shop. They stare at the little Chinese girl that trots by. She's the daughter of one of the shop owners and trying to occupy herself walking from one shop to another.

I've never sat in a trishaw before! We got this chance from the touts in Zhou Zhuang -- a ten minute ride to the heart of the village for only 5RMB (S$1) per trishaw.
The touts are very cunning. They attracted us first with such a low trishaw rate when we first got off the coach, but later tried to be our guides (these guides would then collect their commissions from whichever shop we purchased items from while under their care). Thankfully, my father was experienced enough with the money-making culture here and dismissed them with a 10RMB note to be split between the two trishaw riders.

Something local in Shanghai! Do you know Breadtalk even has its own shares on the stock market? I'm so proud of Breadtalk!

Unlike Singapore's family package of 4 (Family packages in Malaysia's come in 5's), China's one is clearly 3.

Those unscrupulous Chinese sell probably illegally farmed or stolen baby animals in the train stations.

The government housing found in Shanghai.

Everytime we passed this building (it was on the way to town from the villa), Lauretta raved about this being Soviet-built during the communist era.

The colonial gang probably left their mark in every city, China not spared.

Admittedly, I don't have very much respect for the modern Chinese culture (not history). However, this 4-tier highway impressed me greatly.

Earning money with a TV attached to his back, this man walks slowly along the shopping street, stops and faces the wall for the rest of his hours.

Check out the Chinese attempts at English (warning: Chinese-bashing):


Muahahahaha again! Pardon me..
I have one more that is even more _________(fill in the blank), but Blogger doesn't want to upload that for me.

The rubbish bins at the airport caught my eye. The left one collects "inorganic garbage" while the one on the right does the "organic garbage".

Guess who we met on our way back at the Shanghai airport? Donna from church! She was on the way home alone after covering some opening event in Shanghai for Her World.

Shanghai - The Homestay (Graphic Descriptions)

While in Shanghai, our family of 4 put up at Lauretta's (Mum's taitai expatriate friend) place -- a luxurious villa. Look at the garden! It's my dream to have soft unblemished carpet grass within my convenient reach...

The sexy man of the house (you'll see him later) bought this place and designed it. Check out the designer staircase. It was the centrepiece of the first level, in my opinion.

The shower area (guest room only). I didn't manage to get a picture of the master room toilet's jacuzzi shower.

Matching vanity top.. all designer stuff eh?

Another vanity top.. I felt like I was living in a hotel.

Their hall. In the first hour we were at her villa, Taitai Laurette was discussing the itinerary she had planned out for us.

The man of the house prepared dinner of chicken rice and chilli crab. My sis and I were swooning over this manly man who can cook.

Shanghai - The Homestay (Part 2 - Meet The Rest)

The 10-year-old young master of the house. Lovable (and patriotic) isn't he?

Meet sweet sweet Xiao Hong -- the resident maid of this house. She's 18 and yes, that is her uniform. In the first photo, she was trying out some of the paper folds I taught her. In the first few mornings, she would fry us our "zha dan" (fried egg). I was craving for eggs and they were still in abundance there. Laurette told us that she only bought foreign-imported eggs because she once saw a news report with a spy camera showing how workers in an egg farm illegally injected dye into the yolk to give it a stronger colour -- these eggs sell better because Chinese love their yolks with a strong orange.

Here's the gardener..

[I apologise the pic doesn't want to load despite my umpteen attempts)]
..and Laurette's personally hired young handsome driver. His first day happened to be on the day of our arrival. The 25-year-old Xiao Hou (Little Monkey) didn't quite impress the Missus with his lack of familiarity with the Shanghai roads. The poor nervous boy even beat the red light and got booked on his first day. It was quite an experience -- the cop found out Xiao Hou didn't have with him the proper driving license documents with him and told us that he could officially confiscate the car. My father, in his gruff but sly Chineseness and his thick-lip smile, got out of the car to help the young inexperienced boy sort things out. After a good 10 minutes, the cop finally let us go with a 100RMB fine (approximately S$20).

Monday, September 13, 2004

More to come from the Shanghai collection..