Tuesday, March 30, 2010

bag a fake

So, what's this?

It looks like a classic Longchamps weekend bag...

Whoops, its Agnes B, my bad...but wait..

Giorgio Armani poppers?

Fred Perry tags?

Louis Vitton lining?

Well now I'm just confused.


Sunday, March 28, 2010


Right, two rather different subjects today.
First off, another wedding photo, these two were by Xuanwu lake, they didn't seem to mind us taking photos and I even got a wave as we walked off.

Look into the distance...


Nazis! Yes everyone's favorite Indiana Jones baddies. Found this car on Nanluoguxiang in Bejing. The photo isn't too clear but over the swastika it says 'Adolf Hitler'. Peering closer at the car we found something even more disturbing...

The boot was full of teddy bears. Normal teddy bears, not even Nazi teddy bears. It was like they were about to start shooting some sort of Marylin Manson video. As usual - bizarre.

It's hard to decide how informed the owner of this car was. A friend of mine at the time saw the guy that owned it, he sold the teddy bears out of the boot. He was Chinese and my mate attempted to ask if he knew who Adolf Hitler was, what he stood for, if this guy understood how extremely offensive many many people would find his 'nazi car'. Unfortunately he didn't speak Chinese so the conversation didn't go far.

I suppose for China Hitler is a complete abstraction. World War II is generally seen as the war against the Japanese. General knowledge about this sort of thing is also depressingly low. When I was teaching last I found that my students - all second year business students at Nanda (one of the best universities in the country) had only a hazy knowledge of Chinese history. The Opium War often got confused looks, the civil war that preceded the Communists taking control was a mess of...was it the Japanese? the Taiwanese? So ignorance could be the reason for someone vaguely having an idea that this person and imagery were very strong and powerful at one point in the west - so something to be emulated.

However I think that may be too lenient. In general I have found Chinese attitudes towards race to have been mixed. My friend was shocked at the start of the year to receive an offer of a job with the finishing sentence being 'Black men don't apply'. It got us all into a debate over what exactly was meant by this, bearing in mind China has comparatively little racial history - colour of skin has never really mattered as such over here. Groups have regularly been enslaved and prejudiced against but almost always on the grounds of ethnic/tribal grouping.

With this is the Chinese habit of very much saying things as they find them, Chinese people refer to themselves as 'yellow', us as 'white' and so to them using the word 'black' is less loaded then in the west. Here is has no history to it, China has it's own values and stereotypes linked to 'black people' which are totally different from western ones. They don't have the spectre of segregation or the KKK or lynchings hanging over their history. So when someone says 'Black men don't apply' what I presumed she was trying to say, in bad English, was 'people from Africa who don't speak standard British/American English don't apply.' Here there is no taboo on making that generalisation. 'Jewish' equally has no history of persecution, intolerance, nationalism. So when someone says 'Hitler persecuted anyone of Jewish background' it could be merely an abstract event that happened a while ago to a general group of people.

I suppose my idea here is that many ideas and things will have only come to China recently. So their reading and understanding of them will lack the values and attitudes we automatically ascribe to ideas and rememberances such as the Nazis. So Hitler becomes just a man in history who tried to wage war on the world, killed many people of the same ethnicity and was very powerful, well whack put him in the same category as Genghis Khan. And who would protest against the idea of a Genghis Khan car? It would be odd, but why not.

You can see why I normally stick to quick photos and witty comments, I try and think an idea through and I end up confused and in two different places. Hopefully you understand the vague gist of what I'm trying to say.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Scratchcard Project Returns

Right, the basics, if the card is up there I didn't win, if there's a post-it I won the amount written on it. Each card costs 3
元 so...
45 cards
135 spent (£10.35 roughly)
Total winnings 57
Total profit -78
Which puts me at a 28.8% win rate.
Which is a little down on last time. Which is bad. However last time an unannounced fact was that my average win was
4元, which has now risen to 4.4元 overall and only counting those since the last count has actually risen as far as an average of 5.6元 per winning card. Which is good.
In conclusion, things are still running smoothly.


Monday, March 22, 2010


Dust...or more accurately sand. I've never lived in a city that has a dust problem before, its very odd. Thats deforestation for you (I think). See nothing in China is ever a small problem, everything is related to something bigger. Nightmare.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh China

We went and had a picnic on Friday as the weather was so nice, we found a lovely little area next to the city walls with some beautiful trees covered in delicate pinky blossoms:

Which on closer inspection were FAKE....

Oh China...China China China....


Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Culture, Space and'...something

A while back at Manchester we had to do a course on 'Culture, Space and...'...well 'and' something. Most of the course was badly thought out and taught, mainly because the flimsy premise of the entire course was based on one lecture. That lecture was about architecture in modern China, and in particular how people relate to each other as a result of the layout of public spaces. Following me? One massive legacy of the fifty years of socialism out here is in the design of Chinese cities. There is still a massive emphasis on public spaces, shared areas where people can socialize and do stuff - it's been a long hungover day so 'stuff' is the best word I can find for it.

Every textbook we've studied from so far has included a chapter on 'What happens in China in the morning', it's an obsession. What happens is that people, old people especially get together in these public places and practice qigong, taiqi, synchronized dance, yoga, ballroom dancing...etc. It's amazing to see, hordes of grannies lined up in rows practising what appears to be the macarena, someone's boom box blasting out cheesy mando-pop, all with serious serious faces.

What makes this more interesting is that through out the day the demographic of those using the space changes. A good example was in Beijing, next to the tube station I used was a sort of open garden thing:

Used by old people in the morning for qigong and in the afternoon for dancing.

However when the wrinkles weren't shacking out to pounding techno music the skaters moved in.

Whilst the youth on skateboards did their thing on the rails apparently erected for that purpose all the OAPs who apparently had nothing better to do just hung around. They chatted to the kids on skateboards , did a little exercise around the edges of the square, and everyone got along nicely and it was fine. When people started congregating again and the boom box came back out the kids that had been skating disappeared off.

Nothing about this seemed at all unusual. Compared to our situation back home however this seems a little crazy. The idea of people of such different generations so happily sharing a public space probably just wouldn't happen. It sometimes seems old people have been scared off the streets in big cities by the ever present threat of the youth of today. Out here although the idea which underpinned the building of these areas - to create a sense of community, is slowly being lost in the swirl of capitalism and money it hasn't fallen as far as back home and that cheered me up no end.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Inappropriate Animalism

Back to one of my favorite themes - 'they do things differently over here'. Todays topic being 'pets' - this is great, next time I have to do a presentation in class I can simply translate this - two pet birds and one stone and all that. But yes, yesterday my day was made immeasurably better by a lady sitting a few seats away in our lovely little posh-starbucks-esque cafe pulling a kitten out of her bag.

The kitten meowed a lot then just started roaming about, read a few books, sat on her laptop, drank some coffee. Standard cafe behaviour. Except it was a cat, you just couldn't do that in England.

Another example from a while back. Lots of people here dress their dogs up: coats, hoodies, shoes, a bumblebee costume, all sorts ( Obviously I have no photos, that would be too convenient - use your imagination). So, anyways, the next obvious step is....

Dye your dogs tail and ears, yellow and orange. I'm pretty sure this would get a lot of RSPCA attention back home - those people have no sense of humour.
I suppose my only point is that we take far too many things for granted as 'normal', when the lady pulled her kitten out of her bag to share her coffee with it was only us staring (and laughing and falling in love with the little kitty-witty). After all, it was clean, why not take it out to see stuff? Same with the dog, its only a dog, I'm presuming it was animal-friendly dyes they used, who says you can't do that sort of thing. I bet Crufts is actually riddled with dogs with dye jobs.
So again, I don't have much of a point except maybe we take ourselves and our pets a little too seriously back home.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Terracotta Paedo

I'd forgotten I had this photo. We found this statue in the Museum accompanying the Terracotta Warriors at Xi'an. Apparently it was built somehow in accord with the Olympics in 2008 and is meant to represent peace and history and good stuff...personally I just found it well creepy.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


We'd only been back in Nanjing a day and our first port of call? IKEA, or 宜家 as it's known out here. I know its called 宜家 because it turned up in our school text book. Now that is globalization in ACTION! I'd never felt so middle-class student-y as when we rocked up big blue bags at the ready. Well, I've not felt that student-y since last semester when we also went within 2 days of arrival...Unfortunately we needed various things for our flat and the success of these global brands is due to the fact they're very good at what they do. I would have preferred to get a duvet and some sort of shelving and a mirror from Chinese stores, but we checked out the biggest ones near us and there was so little choice and the quality of what they had was piss poor. At least when you buy from IKEA you know what you're getting and at a pretty reasonable price.

Also I love flat pack furniture so this was a dream come true for me to put my shelves together with the little allen key. So I'm not sure what the point of this blog is, possibly globalization - it makes sense.


Monday, March 8, 2010


So, marriage. These days many young Chinese often have two ceremonies, one in traditional red Chinese dress (or at least near-traditional), and one in a big white western-style gown. So far I've yet to actually attend a Chinese wedding - boo! But, luckily for westerners in search of kooky Chinese-ness, a massive part of Chinese weddings is the wedding photos, not just taken on the wedding day - oh no, these are taken days, weeks probably even months before the event.
There are huge boutiques:

(bad photo, it was taken off a bus. But look, its huuuge)

dedicated to dressing couples in rented attire, making up the brides to look gorgeous (and if most of the photos I've seen are to be believed 'white'), and then photographing them in front of fake backgrounds, or more dedicatedly, outside, in Haerbin, in -20 degrees, wearing nothing but a dress! Mental.

It was cold in Haerbin, very very cold...this cold:

The white stuff, that's ice, on my hair and on my gorgeous purple satin face mask.

But yes, weddings, another weird point which I've noticed a lot is that people don't get dressed up in the same way as we would at home, or even at all. Naturally I don't have any photos of this, that would be too convenient. However, last week we were paid to pop along to this TV show which was to be screened on International Womens Day (8th March, did you celebrate it? It's odd, is it patronizing or nice? Here its a big thing, most women get at least a half day off work. I did last time, it was great I went with all the lady teachers and played games in a park amongst the cherry blossom and then got a free slap up meal - immense!) But anyways, we went along to the filming of this show partly because they gave us 200 kuai (£20) to walk on stage holding some kids hands and look happy - we call this 'pulling a whitey'. And mainly because our mate Linda won an award for her hostel, Jasmine International, which was amazing, I've never seen her so excited. There were quite a few other lady winners of various things - community projects, charity work, other successful businesses. But, not a single one was dressed up for the event. Most of them were in puffer jackets, and big coats with scrotty or no make up.

Its not great but that's our Linda in the middle looking proud as punch, and also a little embarassed; we were whooping and hollering at her from the front row - the front row of a 500 seater theatre? That too is pulling a whitey. But yes, to her left we have a charming set of coats and to her right we have more coats. I'm not saying its a bad thing, its just a bit odd I suppose. Most of her fellow winners looked like they'd just been pulled off the street. No sense of occasion.


Monday, March 1, 2010


Yes, tea, one of my favorite things ever (the kettle is boiling as I type). So imagine my excitement when I found one of the best things ever in Japan, tea! Available from vending machines! hot!
So sit back, grab a cuppa and a biccie and check out my amazing range of Japanese-straight-from-a-vending-machine-hot-tea.

I feel I should mention that in the month we were out there I did actually wear other clothes than what you see, it just so happens I'd get the tea crave when I was cold and outside. Tea makes me happy.
More blogs soon, back in the Jing now (Nan not Bei) so classes have started and that old feeling of 'My Chinese Sucks' is rearing its ugly head and prompting yet another turning of a new leaf...I've got more leaves then a bloody book...a chinese dictionary at that.