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Obamao

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Obamao

Thursday 8th October 2015, 11:40am

We were back to classes today after a one week break for China’s national holiday.
For reasons unknown to me, they decided that we will have class on Saturday too; they can’t declare a public holiday and then punish us for it too!

In any case, given my present lack of passport, I couldn’t easily go on any overnight trips, but instead I feel like I walked the whole of Shanghai, starting with Xintiandi on Friday, where I visited a vegetarian’s heaven – a restaurant called Sproutworks – and enjoyed a really good wholesome lunch.

A much-needed break from Chinese food, I'm telling you

A much-needed break from Chinese food, I’m telling you

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Xintiandi is a more affluent area of Shanghai, and noticeably so; one really gets the feeling of being in an uber-modern city, unlike much of the rest of Shanghai. The surrounding shops, restaurants, cafes and malls could easily fool you into thinking you were not in Shanghai at all… at least from my experience of Shanghai being largely not like Xintiandi.

We ventured into one of the local malls, which for no obvious reason, seemed to be cow-themed, with cow print escalators, mini cows on fake grass in between the escalators, and even….live cows. The strangest thing.

Moo Park

Moo Park

There was some good artwork though:

Mwore mwall art

Mall wall art (Mwall art)

Mwore mwall art

Mwore mwall art

 

We then walked up to the Bund, and I think it was actually my first time, because I don’t think we did both sides of the river when I visited Shanghai back in 2012. The weather was good: a hot day and clear skies; and everyone was out enjoying it.

Shanghai skyline :)

Shanghai skyline 🙂

The weekend involved a LOT of walking. Saturday started with going to a friend’s place off-campus for a yummy home-cooked brunch, and the day descended into at least a 15km walk around the city. On the walk to Tianzifang, we stumbled across the ‘Socialist Youth League of China’ museum, a pitiful little 2-room exhibition down a narrow alleyway.

Tianzifang held many interesting things though: Ooo, pretty umbrellas, restaurants with odd names and dishes to match, questionable pharmaceutical products, drinks for supernaturals, and we lost ourselves in the maze of alleyways that is Tianzifang for a couple of hours.

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The most appealing restaurant name ever

The most appealing restaurant name ever

The vision...

The vision…

It's no joke

Would you eat soup out of a urinal?

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Blood bags

Blood bags

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When we emerged, we made our way to the fake market on West Nanjing Road, which turned out to be inside a surprisingly nice building, contrary to expectations, looking very real.

The floors, though probably only numbering 5 or 6, seemed never-ending, probably because each floor is a maze in itself and about 3 floors of shops all sell the same goods. I do like the Oba-Mao tee.

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As in Beijing’s fake markets, the protocol seemed to be ‘don’t touch anything you’re not going to buy’ (which makes little sense…) but at least they didn’t seem as aggressive as in Beijing. After spending probably a couple of hours browsing, and contemplating leaving, we both realised we did actually need to buy something: a raincoat. We had fun bargaining for ‘North Face’ raincoats (I came up with a new line: My dad will be angry if I tell him I spent this much on a raincoat!) and finally left to go in search of some dinner. That was another adventure in itself, but we ended up back near where we started in a standard Lanzhou Lamian place, for some standard Lanzhou Lamian 🙂

 

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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。

Scholarship perks

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Scholarship perks

Saturday 19th September 2015, 22:00

Today was so good. And to make it even better, it was all free. (What can I say, I’m brown, #reinforcingstereotypes)
I was not expecting so much.

We boarded an air-conditioned coach at around 11:30 to head to Pudong (Shanghai’s “downtown” – aka skyscraper central), for our first stop: the Science and Technology Museum. We first enjoyed a movie about the Amazon Rainforest in the huge domed IMAX theatre, the ones with reclined seats, so you feel like you’re actually in the rainforest. After that, we roamed the museum, visiting the Robot Exhibition, the Animal World, the Spider Section and more, before reuniting to board the coach headed to Lujiazui (the financial district).

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

 

The roof from the inside - luckily it was a nice day :)

The roof from the inside – luckily it was a nice day 🙂

 

Rubik’s Robot

 

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

 

This fish was just fun to look at

This fish was just fun to look at

 

Usually I'm average height in China though

Crushing my dreams of being average height in China…

 

The escalator kinda ruins it..

Camouflage game too good.

 

We were each given 30RMB for dinner (not really enough to cover a meal given the area, but welcome nonetheless), and got off the coach across the river from the Bund to find somewhere to eat, and enjoy the views.

We found a halaal Xinjiang restaurant that had a really interesting menu, looked authentic, and was decently priced, but would require waiting at least half an hour before we could be seated, so instead we had a vegetarian pizza with potatoes on it…

I have every intention of returning to the Xinjiang restaurant though.

 

The evening was by far the best part of the day. We ascended to the 97th floor of the second tallest building in Shanghai, the Global Financial Centre, also known to some of us as ‘the bottle opener’, as the picture clearly explains. We then climbed the 199 steps up to the 100th floor, because there were way too many people queuing for the lift.

Far left: bottle opener

Far left: bottle opener

 

From the bottom. The Global Financial Centre is the one on the left

From the bottom. The Global Financial Centre is the one on the left

 

They even numbered the steps for us

They even numbered the steps for us

 

The view from the top was pretty incredible, and we took many pictures, most of them terrible though, because the nighttime cityscape outside was too bright and the windows not conducive for flash usage. We were approximately 475metres up: Shanghai’s tallest building – the Shanghai tower, was right next door, the Oriental Pearl Tower was lit up beautifully, and it was a world away from the environment around where the university is.

I hope we have trips like this often 😀

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WORLD’S HIGHEST! Proof I was there 🙂

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Work, work, work

Friday 18th September 2015, 12:10pm

How has this week flown by so quickly?
It’s given me an idea of just how fast this whole year is going to go, and in all honesty, that in itself is making me antsy already, because I have so many plans!
There is way more homework than I expected, and classes are tough and demanding. I have four core courses; intensive reading (精读), speaking (口语), newspaper reading (报刊), and ‘listening to news’ (新闻听力).
(Translating Chinese class names into English makes them sound so weird…)
I love the speaking teacher and his relatively more interactive teaching style; I like the way the intensive reading teacher breaks down characters, but extremely dislike his public shaming method of teaching. He’s constantly putting us down for not knowing a new word, or reading a character incorrectly; we are a disgrace to Fudan University, falling below his expectations for the language school’s highest level class (Level I, ranked alphabetically).
As students in the highest level, we are also required to choose two extra elective courses, out of a choice of three: Chinese idioms and culture (成语), Chinese grammar (语法词), and Shanghainese (上海话).
To me, the choice seemed obvious: idioms and Shanghainese (a new language, yay!), but I thought I should attend each before making a decision. Man, did that just confuse me a whole lot more…. The idioms class was not even close to what I’d hoped; idioms in Chinese have rich, interesting stories behind them, but this class explained none of that. Instead, the teacher essentially gave/told us a list of about 20 new idioms and briefly explained what they meant. The grammar class was unfortunately taught by my intensive reading teacher, but, to his credit, at least relatively useful. The Shanghainese class however, much to my disappointment, fell short by the largest margin. The first hour or more was spent explaining the geography and development of Shanghai, and the first words of Shanghainese were ‘taught’ minutes before the end of the lesson. But no introduction was really given to the language as such, before we were supposed to repeat words after the teacher said them once, and that was it. If it’s any indication as to how the rest of the year will go, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stand it. The textbook we are required to purchase also looks terrible, and is also kinda expensive, by Chinese textbook standards.
I’m leaning towards idioms and grammar, but then remind myself that I’ll never get a better opportunity to study Shanghainese than now. Gaaaah, decisions decisions.

On another, more exciting note, tomorrow there is a publicly funded (i.e. free at point of consumption (well hello, economics degree)) trip for students of various scholarships, including mine. The confirmation slip of paper we were given when we signed up doesn’t give much information:
“One-day tour to Science and Technology Museum, Global Financial Center”

Given the above, I’m not sure I should have any high hopes for what precisely that entails.

To end, here’s another picture of a cat that is definitely fast becoming my favourite. He (she?) has the best poses, and is often seen lying around as if he owns the place.

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Adaptation complete

Monday 14th September 2015, 23:30

Everything’s great.
By that, I mean there are none of those ‘ah, I wish I hadn’t come’ feelings that accompany the first few days. All in all, I guess that phase lasted about one week, which I’m pretty pleased with.
The formalities aren’t all yet complete though; my residence permit won’t be completed until early October at the earliest, which means I will be unable to travel during the October National Week holiday (which is when I had come to Shanghai the first time in 2012!). However, I fully intend to use that time to explore Shanghai and crack on with some other mini-projects and plans I have in mind.

I shall write about my classes next time, but have an 8am start tomorrow so good night, Shanghai!

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Here is a nice picture of a nice cat, a stray around the foreign students' dormitory

Rogue Nation

Thursday September 10th, 11:55am

Almost nothing has changed since my last entry, but things are already looking up nonetheless. Tonight will be one week since I arrived in Shanghai. It’s crazy to think that this time last month I was still in Vermont, frantically writing final papers at Middlebury College. Since then, I’ve spent a weekend (almost) in Michigan, one week in Toronto, a few hours in Reykjavik, and a week at home in London.

Two nights ago a friend and I were approached by a woman outside the IMAX theatre not too far from my university campus; she had tickets to see Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation that evening, but was unable to stay. We bought them off her cheaper than if we had bought them from the main desk, and I really enjoyed the movie too, so win-win.

This morning I had the pleasure of being ‘examined’ in a bus (a makeshift mobile surgery) as part of the Physical Examination for Aliens, a requirement for the residence permit I must apply for. After being jabbed with a needle drawing two tubes of blood, we were ordered to undress and don a gown (better not to think about how many before you have worn them) for an x-ray, ordered to lie down and “just relax” for a blood pressure test, followed by a totally inconclusive and non-scientific eye test. Asking me to ‘read’ out the numbers ‘8’ and ‘9’ after hearing the few people before me say them does not say as much about my eyesight as it does about my awareness and ability to read situations.
The final stage was something I remember clearly from my Beijing experience: lying down to have strange wet probey objects placed on your chest, wrists and feet, testing for…I don’t know what, and then, an ultrasound… Fun times.

All the students who had their medical check done last week have got large bruises on their inner elbows where the blood was drawn from, so I know what to expect.

China, here I come!

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Hello!

Allow me to summarize my respite from blogging:

I graduated from university in July, with a degree in Chinese and Economics. I spent the summer at Middlebury College, Vermont, studying for a Masters in Chinese, which was an incredible experience. I’m going to Shanghai next week for a year, to maintain and improve my Mandarin before I join the world of work. I plan to blog (regularly) during my time in China, just like old times.

In short, I’m back.

Let’s go.


你好!

我好久没有写博客的原因有几个:

我今年七月毕业了,我的专业是中文和经济。我这个夏天去了美国,在佛蒙特州的明德中文学校读中文硕士。我下个星期去上海留学,在复旦大学学一年的中文。我打算继续写博客!

对了, 我回来了。

走吧!