Archive for May, 2012


Pretty nuisance

One of the local “thrills” (aka stress tests) that I like our overseas guests to experience while visiting us, is to gauge their reaction to the local traffic customs and driving traditions.

One of the highlights of most visits has been the somewhat challenging, stomach-twisting, eye-opening U-turn across Wuning Lu after a visit to our nearest branch of Carrefour. Because the actual store is located down a side-road, to return to the mainstream traffic after shopping, one has to pass underneath Wuning Lu Bridge, resulting in the taxi pointing in the opposite direction to our apartment. After coming up from under the bridge, the taxi is always in the far-right lane, which means one can only accomplish a U-turn by using the pedestrian crossing if the traffic lights are red for the 5 other lanes. This is quite an impressive feat, but you have to get the timing with the traffic lights right.

Up until recently, if one had the misfortune of a green light, you could travel about 80 metres across the intersection, changing lanes along the way and then do a pretty neat U-turn directly into the oncoming traffic: aforementioned challenging, stomach-twisting, eye-opening, breath-stopping “local” experience for the uninitiated. So cool for the seasoned veteran of Shanghai traffic – yeah! A glorious “we beat the system once again” moment.

Now it appears that some joy-killer in the traffic department has decided to eliminate this tourism opportunity by pretty-fying the road – for about 2km’s! No more U-turns, unless you have the fortune to encounter a red light and an uber-gung ho taxi-driver willing to take on the pedestrian crossing version.

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Maybe when spring is over and the flowers die, we can re-instate this part of our guest itinerary again!


The risks of chivalry

a. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.
b. A manifestation of any of these qualities.

My husband is always chivalrous – and I really appreciate it – it makes me feel special and cared for.

Some of the small acts of chivalry that I have come to love and accept on a daily basis are things like him opening the car door for me; standing aside to let me exit the elevator or the room first; standing up when I return to the restaurant table; and walking on the side of the pavement nearest to the road to protect me from encountering a possible misfortune from any wayward/straying vehicles.

Only problem is – some of these precious moments of love and care and protection may have some unforeseen consequences as they are acted upon here in Shanghai.

Picture the following scenes:

  • A lovely dinner, I go to the wash-room and return to the table, he stands up politely to welcome me back: ….and then… the waitresses descend upon the table to clear it for the next set of hungry diners that are queuing up outside the restaurant.
  • The elevator/metro doors open and he stands aside, arm behind me to usher me through the door: ….and then… I get run over and trampled on by the mob of people trying to get on board the lift/train who don’t wait for anyone to exit before they storm inside.
  • We walk along the pavement, he walks on the side next to the road, watching out for any danger from the road: ….and then… I get taken out from behind by a motorcyclist travelling against the traffic flow who is using the pavement as a short-cut to avoid the traffic jam on the road.
  • The taxi pulls up, he rushes over to open the door for me: ….and then… I get knocked over by a bicycle coming up on the inside of the taxi.

To stare or not to stare….

I think that most Chinese people do not bother with this question – as foreigners, by default, are stare-worthy. It doesn’t really matter whether we are short/tall, fat/thin, brunette/blonde, male/female, big or small nosed… It is the right of a Chinese person to stare at a lăowài!

No, “to stare or not to stare” is it the question that I have to ask myself – usually in one of two situations…

  • when I get stared at – should I pretend that I haven’t noticed the stare, or that it doesn’t bother me in the least? Should I just ignore the totally obvious gawk in spite of the fact that the person has stopped in mid-stride, driven into a lamp-post, stopped the traffic or fallen over their dog? If it’s been a long day and I am culture-fatigued, I turn away and pretend not to notice. If I am in a more competitive frame of mind/mood, it’s game-on and I choose the “I can stare at you too” approach. This has one of two results – in a few situations my stare is met with a sheepish smile as the person feels a little embarrassed and looks away. By far the general reaction is a look of surprise and a deepening stare/glare, along the lines of “What are you looking at? Why are you staring back at me? You’re the odd one out, not me – you’re not playing by the rules, in fact, you’re not allowed to play this game!
  • The other situation happens when…I spy another fellow-lăowài…especially in an area where there aren’t too many expats around… about 5 seconds after I see them I catch myself in mid-stare and mid-thought of “Hey, look, a foreigner!” and then have to remind myself – “啊呀! Āyā! is this the right time and place and means of trying to blend in by adopting the local mannerisms?

The Wedding Bus


30 sexy years!

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May 2012
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