Thursday, April 22, 2010

Organised Spirituality

So last weekend we went for a lovely day out to a monastery. To be honest I didn't have high hopes. I've visited many a religious site in China and generally the standard has been low. I know this isn't really a quantifiable issue but I think you could easily make it one. General religiosity, atmosphere, architecture, composure of visitors they could all be marked out of ten, easy. In which case most Chinese temples would lose points for the fact they're often brand new, garishly painted, full of noisy noisy tourists, with gift shops at every turn.

A big fake-man statue from a Confucian complex we visited on the Yangtze.

But the monastery was actually very nice. It was calm, quiet, secluded and you could almost forget you were in the middle of a city still with the heady incense and prayer music (taped but I'll let that one go..)

Even more impressive was that we actually saw people praying, this side of religion is sometimes rather ignored in the hurry to get to the snack stand beside the alter.

Essentially the monastery almost deserves the high praise of the fact it reminded me of the Shinto shrines in Japan.

Now Japan knows how to do religion. We visited a few shrines and in general they were amazing places to be. I'm not spiritual at all but I do have fairly set ideas about how this sort of thing should be carried out and Buddhism definitely requires incense and calm. Even more admirably in Japan there was a feeling of steady devotion, nearly all the visitors we saw were stopping to briefly pay their respects. Partly as they weren't just tourists, they were just people for whom it seemed a quick dose of the spiritual was just another part of their busy schedules.

Plus like so much of Japan they were designed beautifully, the colours were so natural that the shrines often just felt like an extension of the scenery around. They seemed right, fitting.

Much like many of the Indian temples we saw. With the hotchpotch of different religions in Northern India we saw quite a variety. My favorite being a 'fun house' style temple where we got to twist up and down stairs, crawl through tunnels, splash through a bit of water and bump into ourselves in a million different mirror mosaics. The defining feature of many of them though was marble, India has a lot of white marble and it's a good look.

Worship there was so active it was fairly awe inspiring. As in Japan it felt like a fervent part of peoples lives.
So there.


Thursday, April 15, 2010


Scrap that, interesting things have happened. I made myself a shirt. I say 'made' I bought the shirt but the penwork was all mine and I'm rather proud of it.

AND, I found a shop called 'Franz' so really things have been happening...just not major things...

I sell crappy glass ornaments!


Rain and biccies

It's that time of year again, when we're mired deep in our semester with the beginning but a distant memory and the end far from sight...bad times. Which makes for bad blogging, that and a weekend in Shanghai (woo) which dumped a massive dirty bomb of worry on my lap and made me behind with all my homework. To further compound this litany of misery is the weather, Nanjing - mate, get your act together, it's been raining loads recently. By now we thought we'd be hot enough to sweat so much we didn't need to pee. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Nanjing looking wet.

However all is not lost, my Polish mate Lukas gave me this biccie in class the other day and it cheered me up no end. I think he gave it to me partly as I turned up to class accidentally wearing all black, which to him probably seemed remarkably sympathetic, to everyone else just a clear sign I need to do some washing.

Hopefully things will start happening again soon. Things that aren't season 1 of The West Wing...Josh, CJ, Sam, Toby, POTUS, where you been all my life?!?!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

message on a wall...

(In case you can't tell 'message on a wall' is supposed to be sung in the style of 'Message in a bottle' by the Police)

The wall between floors 2/3 of our building....

look a little closer...

So this little gem appeared on the wall between floors 2&3, which is odd. Firstly because if this person lives on floor 2/3 they will have had to stalk us up to the 6th floor to know where we live. Secondly because people don't normally contact people by writing messages in the stairwell of where they live. Thirdly, well personally I find the fact it took him (I'm sure it's a him, the weird ones always are) two attempts to get his phone number right pretty odd. Fourthly and finally, it's just bizarre, it's such a removed way of contacting us, a note under the door would be more normal, even a note on the wall outside of our flat...All in all strange, but very very Chinese. Laowai or foreigners, as we're regularly referred to are pretty much fair game for staring at, talking to, emailing/phoning out of the blue. I suppose writing a message on our building wall is really no more odd though then adding us on facebook and popping a message on our facebook walls, except the Chinese don't generally use facebook, maybe something was lost in translation.


Monday, April 5, 2010

them krazy koreans

Well, I was going to be very serious and blog about the Nanjing Massacre Museum, however luckily for everyone I bumped into this poster this morning which made me giggle enough I wanted to share. Basically all the Korean students out here study ridiculously hard and are known for being absolute geeks, and then this got posted up outside our building..

I don't understand any Korean, but sometimes a word, and some serious looking percentages, explain everything.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

fixing my bike

Me and my bike have quite a relationship going on. I bought her about 3 and a half weeks ago now. In that time I've ridden her pretty much every single day, it feels weird and slow to leave our flat on foot.

Over here there's no point buying a new bike as it'll only get nicked, I left mine outside our school building both unlocked and with the key still in the lock for two hours earlier, it was still there when I came back - safe as houses. I bought her from a bloke on a corner for 100 which is about a tenner - not too shabby at all. However, this is what I believe is referred to as a false economy. So far I've had to return to bike corner..

..four times.

- One damaged brake
- One mysterious bumping
- One punctured tyre (the source of the mysterious bumping, which he only worked out second time round)
- One detatched mudguard.

The mudguard especially was a pain as we went on a massive bike ride to the mountain and just as we were setting off home it snapped off, luckily D-I-Y me stepped in with a hairband and all was well.
But my favorite time was definitely the puncture because it was a bit busy on bike corner so I was assigned the lady with the broken hand, and you haven't seen funny till you've seen a lady with a broken hand try and fit a new inner tube.

I did step in and help her, I wasn't much use though as my Chinese doesn't yet extend to "take the inner tube and insert it carefully in the tyre whilst I hold the other end of it and yell at you."
But overall, this is classic China. You buy something cheap and cheerful, get it mended a million times by a bloke on a corner and carry on your merry way. Bikes, shoes, clothes, laptops...the list is endless.