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Mid-Autumn Festival

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Tuesday 29th September 2015, 1am

I promised myself I would write today, because it’s been too long.

Yesterday (Sunday) was the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is meant to be at its fullest and brightest in the whole year (this coincided with the supermoon phenomenon in other parts of the world). Traditional foods eaten in China are mooncakes, which we gathered to eat on Sunday night, and appreciate the moon in a relatively clear Shanghai sky.

On Saturday evening, I happened to be in Wujiaochang (an area full of shops/malls/’plazas’ and a funny UFO type roundabout thing, just a 10minute bus ride from campus), where Chinese couples danced to beautiful music under the moon. It was quite a charming scene, amid the UFO lights in the background.

The spaceship at Wujiaochang

The spaceship at Wujiaochang

 

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Evening dances

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Wujiaochang is kinda fancy

 

I also took an opportunity to capture the fashion craze that has swept China. I personally don’t see why grown women, nor men for that matter, feel that this is a good look, but what do I know about fashion?
It’s considered fashionable to clip shoots to your hair, as in this picture:

"Oh I wish I was a punkrocker with flowers in my hair"

“Oh I wish I was a punkrocker with flowers in my hair”

 

I asked her if I could take her picture, she agreed, and then wanted to take a selfie with me. There are so many different types of clips; my favourite is probably the mushroom…. -_-

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More often than not, they just sport one in the middle of their head. Reminds me of a Teletubby...

More often than not, they just sport one in the middle of their head. Reminds me of a Teletubby…

This week is also the start of the October National Week holiday; we have regular classes until Wednesday and then we are off from the 1st to the 7th, resuming classes on the 8th, and even compensating by having classes next Saturday. I fail to understand why we are meant to make up classes for a national holiday – they can’t declare a public holiday and then punish us by making us attend class on Saturday too – but I’m sure China has a sensible reason somewhere….

Night for now, Shanghai.

晚安。

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It’s that time of year again…

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…when exposing your stomach and back is back in fashion.
A typical sight around Beijing when it gets a little hot: the men of Beijing (the young, the old, the slim, the not-so-slim..) will hitch their t-shirts up, tuck them under (or over) the top half of their t-shirts, leaving their stomachs and backs open for public viewing.
Guys, does that really even cool you down?
Either way, it’s not really the most pleasant of sights.

It is a sign however, that Summer is here. The wind that blows over you when you step outside is warm, and the sun – hot. The temperature has been within 25°C and 30°C over the past few days, and it’s going to get hotter still.

Last night I went to have dinner at Al-Ameen, a Lebanese restaurant, and realised after that I should have written some reviews throughout the year of restaurants I’ve eaten at! Some of the information online is outdated, and I could genuinely have provided some information on eating out (the Halaal way) in Beijing, but alas, it’s a little late for that now… Hummus and Falafel though, yum!

Not my picture, but close enough 🙂

The highlight of today was dealing with an issue we had with our electricity top-up card. I often miss the way how things just work in the UK, whereas here, if something works, we’re surprised. Pleasantly, at least. It shouldn’t be like that though!

We have a card with which we can go to the bank and top up our electricity meter as and when required. A few days ago when we tried, we were unable to ‘buy electricity’ (as we say in Chinese), and told that there was a problem with the card. Sigh. We called the number given, were put on hold and told that ‘the line is currently busy, please wait in line or hang up now’. If I’m calling, clearly I want to speak to someone, why would I hang up?! Instead, after a few minutes of ‘waiting in line’, we were hung up on. And not just once, not twice, but three times. Thank you. Very. Much.

Trying our luck today at the bank once more, entertaining the idea that the card not working was a temporary, one-off problem, and still being unable to top up, we were given yet another number to ring. This one took us straight through to a woman who told me that we had to go to the office of the State Grid company, in order to replace our card. We have no idea why, but it needed to be done if we wanted to buy ourselves more electricity before our current supply ran out. Off we went to find this address, and from then on, it was a pretty smooth procedure….

The woman told us which counter to go to to get the new card, and tried explaining to us that when we next go to the bank, we don’t need to insert the card into the slot in the machine, as we had had to do previously, but instead we should just top up at the counter. We didn’t understand what she said the first time round, and when we asked her for confirmation, she just gave up! She picked up her phone, and began talking about “some foreigners, who don’t understand her trying to explain how we should use this new card” and “could you please explain to them, because I’ve tried and they don’t understand me”. Excuse me, but we can understand you very well just now, and some people might say it’s a little rude to talk about us like that when we’re sat right in front of you! We’re trying our best, please be a little patient and do the same with us – we didn’t get it fully the first, and ONLY, time you said it, but please give us another chance 😦

The answer to life, the universe and everything? NO!

I know she was only trying to help, but it really wasn’t a huge change, as they made it out to be, and it probably took more time to understand this via the attempted English explanation over the phone than it would have had she just tried once more.

And that was actually, probably my best experience with systems in China.
Doesn’t that say a lot?

Not exactly a typical Friday evening…

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…but a typical insight into daily life in China.

Last Friday, we went to try out a Xinjiang cuisine restaurant about 5 minutes walk away from where I live, which we’d kept meaning to go to, since it was so close. I’d been here with my brother way back in my first week in China, but due to a combination of, a) – not being accustomed to the food yet, and b) – not knowing the cuisine well enough to know what (and how) to order, it’d be an understatement if I said that we were not the restaurant’s biggest fans. As expected, given our now-excellent ordering skills, and acquired taste for the food, last Friday’s was a much better experience.

However, the restaurant is not what I’m planning on writing about, but rather, the ‘adventures’ that ensued after dinner. This is, instead a post to give an idea of the sort of things we see as standard (A bit of Chinglish coming up). We walked back from the restaurant on a different road and saw some clothes shops which looked half decent and decided to go in for a look…

On the bottom half of the back of a pink t-shirt.

On the bottom half of the back of a pink t-shirt. Makes total sense to me.

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The heart on your shirt could suggest otherwise.

The clothes were surprisingly cheap for the look of the shop though, even for China. A lot of the tops were only 25RMB, but none of us bought anything. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned how weird most Chinese fashion is to us… as you can see from the above examples. We spent a good while in there though, quite literally sifting through every item of clothing and amusing ourselves. When we left the shop, possibly 15minutes later, I commented that the woman inside might have been quite annoyed with us, having spent so long looking around and then left, having bought nothing. “Actually,” corrected Nafeesah, “spent so long looking through all the clothes and LAUGHING at them, and then left!”. Yeah, about that… Oops.

A little further up the road, was a supermarket. that despite being so close to us, is not one we usually frequent. (This is because there is an even closer, albeit smaller, one for most of our daily needs.) Some of the following pictures are not meant to be amusing, (though some are), but just to show a little of what the inside of a Chinese supermarket is like.

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srtrange odour?!

Strange taste beans?? I’ll take 20!!

In the above picture of ‘Strange taste Beans’, it’s not so clear, but we originally misread the company name as “Shaming Foods”, and just found it amusing (Alright, so maybe we were in strange moods – finding not-so-amusing things overly hilarious. What can I say? Maybe it was the Friday night fever…) Then we remembered we were in China, checked with the Chinese characters, and realised it was Sha-Ming and not pronounced ‘shaming’ as in ‘shame’. Ah well, it was funny at the time…
I just put the characters for ‘strange taste’ into my dictionary app, and it translates it as ‘strange odour’. They’re both equally strange beans to have, anyway.

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The fish counter

Not only is the fish counter, very literally, alive, it’s also self-service!

Not only is the fish counter live (quite literally), it's also self-service!

Nafeesah, just helping herself.

“What did you get up to on the weekend?”
“Ah, just did a spot of fishing…”

Part of the meat counter

Part of the meat counter… some nice pig feet in the foreground here.

At least this looks vaguely like a refrigerated section. In the ‘butchers’ outside, i.e. not in supermarkets, the meat just hangs…. outside, a lot of the time. Who said raw meat needed to be kept cool??

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Spice it up!

(Actually, I’m not really sure what they all are, apart from the red chillies.)

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Rice and lentils…and stuff. No Tilda Basmati though, sadly.

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…So cats can enjoy a holiday at home!

Admittedly, I don’t know anything about taking care of cats, but I’m sure I’ve never seen or heard of ‘cat sand’ before. Anyone care to enlighten me?

And finally, by the checkout counter: (Not very clear, sorry, taken on my phone!)

Free soy sauce with your orange juice

Free soy sauce with your orange juice. So stereotypically Chinese!