Archive for July, 2011


Yu Garden

I have started dabbling with watercolours and am working through a series of lessons on landscape painting from a DVD course – Watercolour Secrets by Bob Davies, a UK artist.

This is my first attempt at a real “postcard” from Shanghai – my techniques are still hopelessly inadequate, and I have a lot more to learn (and practice, practice, practice), but here goes:

The Yu Garden, or 豫园 – established by a high-ranking official from the Ming Dynasty in 1559, consists of beautiful pavilions and walkways wandering through carefully landscaped ponds, bridges and rocky outcrops. Except for the endless tour groups, it is a “quiet” place in the midst of the noise and bustle of the city of Shanghai!

It is definitely one our favourite places in Shanghai and hopefully the next time I paint it, I will be able to produce a more deserving rendition of this beautiful space.

Further info from


Taxi-driver Sociability Index

At the low end of the the scale, there is the “Grunter“. Greeting him/her elicits an “en” (rhymes with “ng”) – if you are lucky. Waiting for the question about where you want to go might lead to sitting in a stationary car all day. So to fill the silence and speed up the process, you end up blurting out the destination. Another “en” as a response – maybe. No other comments for the rest of the journey, no goodbyes, no thank you’s, no please take my taxi again. Silence. These dudes are not into socialisation.

Slightly more verbose is the “Greeter“. Greets you, asks you where you are going, gets you there and then might ask “cash/card” (you can pay for Shanghai taxis with a public transportation card), says thank you and goodbye.

Chatty” described the man/woman that says all that “Greeter” does, and adds in some additional conversation e.g. discussion about which route to take, pointing out other bad drivers on the road, etc.

Singer” might be “Chatty“, but also sings – either along to the current song playing on the radio; or unaccompanied.

Newby” is one of the new intake of drivers, usually from Chongming Island just north of Shanghai – basically they don’t know where they are going and you have to tell them how to get there. So they don’t say a lot, but as the passenger, you have to keep up the flow of directions. It helps to know how to get to where you want to go. Would be helpful to brush up on your Shanghainese at the same time, because that’s their dialect of choice.

Nosy” comments on your ability to speak Mandarin, asks about your nationality, how long you you’ve been in Shanghai – generally all the standard beginner Mandarin questions and answers.

Effervescent” is all of the above and enthusiastically jokes about your usage of the Chinese language, repeats all your directions/instructions with much hilarity, and wants to chat about anything and everything on the planet that you have no clue how to translate into English. It gets rather embarrassing to keep saying “So sorry, I don’t understand” at regular intervals during the conversation, but agreeing to everything could get you into a whole lot of trouble when you have no clue what is being said. Although trips with “Effervescent” are very entertaining, they can be very tiring!


A man, a fish and a motorbike…

… and a mini-van.

In the middle of a busy intersection during after-work rush-hour. The driver’s door of the mini-van is open.The motorbike is parked a few metres away from the the man, the fish and the mini-van.

We are in a taxi stopped at a green traffic light, our way blocked by the scene that is unfolding in front of us.

The fish is lying on the road. Flapping… and flopping on the road.

The man tries to pick the fish up. The fish jumps out of his hand. He gets hold of it but struggles to keep his grip. Eventually he manages to get hold of enough of it with both his hands. He hits its head against the road a few times. The fish is no longer flapping or flopping.

The conversation between the man and the driver carries on for a few minutes, and then the door closes and the van drives off. The light is now red, but we can’t proceed because the motorbike is still parked in the middle of the intersection.

The man and the stunned fish get onto the motorbike. The man hunts around the many packets and boxes arrayed around his motorbike. He picks a plastic bag and pops the fish into the bag. He hangs the bag back over the handle bars, peers into the bag once more to checks that the fish is still docile, releases the motorbike stand, and rides off.

The light changes and we continue on our journey home.


A Saturday (grocery shopping) outing…


O Mom, look at the pretty fish!

Mom (thinking):

Mmmmm, which one shall we have for dinner? How fresh should it be? Dead or alive?……

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


En…(rhymes with ng)

Mandarin 101 coming up… Why don’t any of the textbooks teach you that “saying less is saying more”?

This all important word is left out of every textbook that I have seen – maybe they hide it in the Advanced series?

嗯 “En” (rhymes with ng) can be used in any one of the 5 tones, depending on the context, mood of the speaker, audience and any other factor you would like to add.

  • 1st tone: high-level, flat tone: eeeeennnnn. Translation = Satisfied grunt / Whatever / (a groaning sound)
  • 2nd tone: rising tone: eeeeeN. Translation = What? Huh? So? Why? How? Really? etc.
  • 3rd tone: falling and rising tone. EeeeeennnnnN. Translation = I’m not really sure / I need to think about that / Well….
  • 4th tone: sharp, falling tone. En! Translation = Enough! No! Not interested! Get lost! / (nonverbal grunt as interjection) / OK, yeah what?
  • 5th tone: neutral tone.  en. Translation = interjection indicating approval, appreciation or agreement

Why bother with hundreds of phrases when this one word can get you through most conversations with incredible ease????

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 20 other followers


July 2011
« Jun   Aug »

%d bloggers like this: