Archive for the 'Experiences' Category

01
Jan
13

Xinnian kuaile – Happy new Year!

新年快乐!

Thank you for reading and following!

Here’s a little glimpse of our world….

China Time Lapse

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08
Nov
12

Who dunnit?

After hearing about my “accident” last week,  one of our staff sent me an email saying:

“I’m so sorry to hear what happened on you, and I hope you can get better soon, and don’t forget your rights and claim for compensation against the troublemaker!”

Compensation is a very Chinese concept – the alleged perpetrator must compensate the alleged victim for any alleged damages or injuries. On the street a minor traffic accident can be settled within minutes without involving the police: on condition that someone is willing to pay enough to make the problem go away. It cuts out the need for insurers and middle-men and is a very lucrative money-making opportunity if you can get in somebody’s way and convince them and the police that the other person is at fault and needs to cough up. It has also led to an intense unwillingness for anyone to help a stranger in need in case they get accused of causing the problem in the first place.

So, after my close encounter with the cement pathway and grass verge – who is the “trouble-maker” that I can tap for compensation?

  • The spiky plastic mats in the grass verge? [Aside – they don’t look dangerous, do they, but take it from me – these little swine are not face-friendly]

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  • The gardeners who put the spiky mats into the grass?
  • The management who told the gardeners to put the spiky mats in the grass?
  • Asics – it was their running shoes that didn’t keep me upright?
  • The cleaner pushing his cart towards us that I might have seen out of my peripheral vision and caused me to subconsciously step out of the path to get out of his way?
  • Apple – because I was looking at a running app on my iPhone when I wiped out?
  • The makers of Runkeeper – the running app that I was looking at?

I guess I will write it off to experience and hope that any further exercise will be less harmful to my nerves and my general well-being and to our financial state [We are covered by travel medical insurance and so far it seems that they will be willing to settle most of the medical bills for my endangering my own self].

I had my last visit with the plastic surgeon on Sunday to remove the stitches – much less painful experience all round – except that my lip was not impressed at being attacked again. Most of the injured areas are healing nicely, just one cut above my lip that was deeper than others will take a few more days to sort itself out (M called it a star-shape because the skin was flapping in more than one direction).

Eating and talking are no longer a problem – now that’s a relief! – and the doc/prof has given me some ointment to deal with potential scarring. So hopefully I am on the way to recover…

Running commences next week – I will attempt to remain injury free!

30
Oct
12

Tackling the statistics head-on

In one way or another, I managed to survive my entire childhood and adolescence without the need for a single stitch or injection, somehow managing to sidestep, dodge and duck the many possible mishaps that a girl with tomboy tendencies could encounter. No broken limbs, no after-hour trips to the emergency ward, no, nothing more than a twisted ankle and a regular selection of bruises.

In China, the opportunities for injury abound – if you’ve read some of my other posts, you will know that the statistical probability of traffic accidents is relatively high – by motor vehicle or bicycle or even fellow-pedestrian. Anything can and will happen. There have been reports of falling panes of glass from high-rise buildings; elevators going into reverse; balconies falling off buildings – the list is endless.

Up until Saturday I had defied the negative statistics and complemented myself on being remarkably unscathed and immune to the chaos that surrounds us. [Correction: Except for stepping into a hole in a construction site in Guilin in 2008 and walking into an eye-level overhead cable soon after we arrived in Shanghai in early 2009.]

On Saturday my immunity expired – I had a close encounter with a Chinese pathway and patch of grass – not just any patch of grass, as it turns out, but a patch of grass inlaid with spiky plastic mats.

I still cannot describe the precise order of events. It just happened. One minute I was setting out for a run, checking my running app on my phone, and the next minute, I was lying in a heap, bleeding from multiple gashes in my face. It appears that I was making up for all those times when I DIDN’T get into trouble – so I really made a good job of it this time.

M rushed me back upstairs, using his handkerchief to mop up the blood, looked at me in horror and dashed me off to the medical centre (as much as one can dash in a Shanghai taxi in early Saturday morning traffic with 3 minute cycles on the traffic lights at every intersection from here to Nanjing Road)

We camped outside the clinic door until they opened at 9.00, encountering the first of many stares – poor M – I’m sure he is getting his fair share of stares too – glaring accusations of wife abuser and so on. The clinic staff immediately placed a call to the plastic surgeon, who had to travel 1 and 1/2 hours to reach us.

To cut a long story short – my face is an interesting blend of yellow and purple and dark red seemingly random squiggles, betadyne make-up and stitching, and Chinese elastoplast. I had to have my chin, lip, nose, cheek and forehead stitched up. I am ashamed to admit I whimpered like a woes during each injection – there were at least 10 or 12, and it did nothing to improve my dislike of anyone in the medical profession. It is a well-known fact that I avidly avoid dentists, ophthalmologists and doctors as far as possible – they always bring pain into my life. And this Chinese doctor, a professor, trained in Shanghai and Germany, very skilled and competent in in his chosen field – well, he might be good, but he hurt me and even if  I could have laughed at his jokes, I didn’t find them at all funny.

M says my face is looking much better – he has sat through many a stitching up procedure with his children and reckons this guy is a skilled craftsman and knows his stuff – my facial wounds are currently down to a grade 3 war zone instead of the trench warfare scenario they initially resembled. I will give you my verdict once the stitches are out in a week’s time; after my black eye has mellowed to a lighter shade of purple; and as soon as the intricate dried blood textured patterns caused by those spiky grass mats have dissipated. My lip hurts – it really doesn’t appreciate being hemmed; eating and drinking is problematic; and it doesn’t look like I will need Botox for a while (as if I would ever CHOOSE to let anyone inject anything into me!)

So that’s my week – no photographic evidence – cameras are banned from our household for at least a month.

I am actually fine, just feeling very sorry for myself and highly irritated that something so absolutely ridiculous happened. I can’t wind back the clock, so I guess I shall just have to grin – smiling and laughing is still too painful – and bear it. Actually grumble, mutter, sigh and spit are more likely responses than grinning at the moment.

So what started off as your average, uneventful, common old garden Saturday morning jog around the park turned into a VERY expensive non-running session, providing a very profitable sewing opportunity for the plastic surgeon. Not my favourite way to spend a Saturday morning.

21
Oct
12

Things can get complicated

Coming soon to a loo near you….

Instructions and procedures
(So sorry for you if you can’t read Chinese characters…)

Operating panel

….so as you can see, all toilets in China are not created equal. At least some of those rumours you hear about squat toilets are not true!

06
Sep
12

Morning traffic

The traffic I am referring to here is mostly not the four-wheeled kind that we encounter on a daily basis as we rush, crawl, swerve, hoot our way to work in the mornings. This is about the traffic we encounter in our daily jog around the park – in the interests of health and exercise!

Traffic varies from day to day, depending on the weather and what time we stagger out of our 12th floor apartment to lope around the track in our complex. Weekends also bring out different groups of people.

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The regular traffic consists of:

  1. The walkers – a group of three – two men and one lady that stride around with intent and purpose. We greet each other and they are always obliging and step out of the way to let us run past.
  2. Old man walker No. 1 – he keeps to himself and follows an interesting route, swinging his arms enthusiastically. He never says much: head down, don’t talk to strangers.
  3. Old man walker No. 2 – another chap that wanders around on his own, but seems to be less focussed than Old man walker No. 1. Sometimes he joins the group of 3.
  4. Tai Qi lady – she dresses the part and performs her moves, even brandishing a “tai qi” sword on occasion.
  5. Tai Qi gent – he’s a new addition to the morning traffic – he picks a spot on one of the wooden decks next to the central pond and does his stuff overlooking the water.
  6. Various other joggers – some more fit than others – the man in the orange vest pounds past us when he is not do stretching exercises against one of the low walls alongside the pond. I can outrun the gent in grey tracksuit pants and white vest (or no vest on a hot day), but he gets a bit irritated with me and so he speeds up to overtake me and then heads for home!
  7. American strider man – he’s always walking against the rest of the traffic.
  8. Young couple trying to get fit – they walk at a fairly leisurely pace.
  9. Bird and cat lady – she brings a black bird in a cage to get fresh air and then feeds the stray cats and kittens that live around the property – not sure if they come for the bird or the food – probably both! The other day one of the kittens thought that she was late or not coming and it tried to waylay me with cute purrs and “pick me, pick me” manoeuvres in the middle of the path.
  10. Mom/granny with baby in pram no’s 1 through 10, and mom/gran with toddlers on baby bikes no’s 1 through 5 – on the days that they are all out in force comparing and bragging about baby development stages, trying to stay on course becomes a major problem – one has to dodge and dive around prams, babies, ranks of mothers and other obstacles. A few months ago, M was sent sprawling into the pebbles and lawn next to the path as one of them stuck her leg out and tripped him as she bent over to rearrange the blankets in the pram. Oh – so sorry….
  11. Tall foreigner lady with tiny baby – sometime she joins the other mothers, at other times she seems to prefer her own space.
  12. Dog people: mostly poodles, one or two labradors, some mixed breeds, chihuahuas; some on leads, some wandering freely; some with diligent owners with poop scoops, others with less socially-aware minders. Occasionally a dog fight threatens to break out and then everyone scurries to replace leads and reign in the delinquent children dogs.
  13. The gardeners: weeding, cleaning the ponds, clipping the trees and shrubs, picking up other people’s rubbish
  14. The ayi’s on their way to clean other people’s homes
  15. Since the new school term has started we see children off to school. Sometimes the older ones head off on their own, sometimes they are accompanied by a parent that carries their bags for them.

Non-regulars/random people:

  1. Man looking at his cell-phone – he moved 20 metres in the time that it took me to complete 6 laps – and 15 of those metres took place between my lap 1 & 2
  2. Lady in high heels looking like she wants to get fit but forgot which shoes to put on.
  3. Dancing lady – she does pirouettes and twirls along the path
  4. Pyjama people – wandering around in your pj’s to go to the local shops or for a walk is totally acceptable here – they tried to do away with this custom when Shanghai was on show to the world during the 2010 World Expo, but local customs don’t change easily – and why should they? Pj’s for outdoor wear are generally modest
  5. Random men looking like they were kicked out of their apartments by wives to encourage them to get exercise or go outside to smoke: sometimes they just stand/sit in one place.
  6. More cellphone people

[Sorry – No recent photos – I’m too busy concentrating on running and breathing and dodging the dogs and the prams….]

[I also wrote about the morning people in the early days of my blog: there are more people now, but much is still the same as it was then.]

03
Aug
12

Road creep… or….dash

Yesterday, while waiting to catch a taxi to the office, I realised what the behaviour of the motorcycles and moped and scooters at our busy intersections reminds me of!

Let me try to paint you a picture….

Let’s say you have a dog, or maybe two. When you have an area in the house, e.g. living room where they are not allowed, it’s as if there is an invisible line drawn between the go/no-go area where the dog is/isn’t allowed. Let’s say that the aforementioned dog wants to come into the no-go area – after all, in the dog’s way of thinking – if everyone else is allowed there, why should I be excluded? And yet, they actually know all about the invisible line because they have been chastised before – often! – for crossing it.

So the animal follows one of two approaches: firstly there is the SLINK (a.k.a. the CREEP) approach. The dog starts off by standing or sitting just outside the invisible line. The facial expression is usually one of boredom and arrogance I SO don’t want to cross this line, so I am CHOOSING to stay on this side. No one is going to accuse ME of bad behaviour.

Then the next stage involves lying down with a paw – only one – tentatively stretched towards the borderline. Even hawk-eye at Wimbledon Centre Court would have a hard time refereeing this line-call. The accompanying expression is always one of feigned innocence and total blamelessness.

The next effort probably involves turning its head away – if I can’t see you, you can’t see me. If I’m not looking at you, you won’t notice me. Everything happens with excruciating stealth and slowness – there’s a strategy here – slow movement will not draw attention and you will forget about me, you’ll hardly know I am here!

Then comes the shuffle, or wriggle, or squirm that moves a further paw, and a head and eventually – if ignored long enough – the rest of the body g—-r—-a—-d—-u—-a—–l—–l—-y into the no-go area. If success is achieved, all movement ceases, but invariable the delinquent animal is so proud of its achievement and after all, it was actually trying to join in the party, that it cannot help but give itself away in its delight at managing to get so far….and is summarily booted out, temporarily defeated, but not surrendering. It will flop down on the “right” side of the invisible line and humph and sigh at the inequality and unfairness of life.

The second possible approach is far more brazen. With total confidence and declaring no prior knowledge of EVER having been told that the area is off limits, the dog casually strolls in and lies down, feigning sleep and possession of this piece of real estate immediately. This method relies on the strategy that if I pretend it is not an issue no one will know that it is an issue – after all, it is perfectly natural for me to want to be here and now I AM here!

– Personally, I think that the over-confident strategy is far more likely to be effective, but you may disagree!

Anyway, what’s the point of my story?

The two-wheeled vehicles at an intersection tend to follow one of these two approaches when waiting for the traffic lights to change in their favour. Some of the cyclists SLINK/CREEP/EDGE out away from the safety of their side of the intersection – and are often “more than two paws” into the centre of the road by the time the lights go green, sometimes to the extent that they are already blocking the traffic flow BEFORE the lights have changed and the motorists have to weave around them to proceed.

Others are far more bold and don’t even slow down as they sense a gap in the crossing traffic and belt through to the other side without as much as a bat or blink of the eyelid! No hesitation, total ownership, speedy achievement of goals = immediate success!

27
Jul
12

Let’s play Courier, Courier…

Actually, let’s rather not play this game – it can get a bit complicated. And very exhausting. The rules seem to vary from one day to the next, depending on which courier service, which courier messenger does the delivery, if his mobile is working or not, what the customs official had for breakfast and whether the sky is green!

Over the last few months we have received a few parcels from overseas – varying from online shopping, to parcels of documents sent by clients and gifts from family members overseas. This appears to have stretched the capacity of the various courier services to the nth degree, or maybe it is just my nerves that have been pulled.

Most delivery companies have 3-letter acronyms for their names, but in my thoughts their names consist of 4 letters and lots of those characters at the top of the keyboard that you need a SHIFT key to access. The most consistent behaviour has been by the government postal service: +/- 10 days delivery from the UK to Shanghai via a sorting centre in Hong Kong or Guangdong province – except for one book that went via Beijing and arrived in its own special postal sack after taking a detour through customs and ending up in a locker in the back office of the local post office – Read more here!

Courier services are another matter. Sometimes they phone ahead to check if we are at home to receive the delivery, other times they just arrive and then phone in a sort of perplexed sort of way that no one is at home during office hours. Sometimes the service centre person can speak English, sometimes not. Sometimes they leave the parcel with the management office at our apartment complex, other times they won’t. Sometimes the office sends us notification about a parcel, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are happy to deliver after 18.00, others say they only work from 11.00 – 18.00.

“So sorry for you, you will just have to leave work early, not our problem.”

“Yes, you can change the deliver address to your office address, but you need to fill in a form.”

“And you need to put the company ‘chop’ (seal) on the form.” ~ But it is a personal parcel, addressed to me, not the company – why does it need the company chop on the change of address form?

“If you want it delivered to the company, the company needs to supply the chop to say they are happy that the parcel is delivered to the company during office hours.” Whatever!

My Mandarin is passable and if all is OK, I can get by tolerably well, but I have realised that problem-solving takes foreign language acquisition to a whole new level. I don’t can’t do problems in Mandarin, especially over the phone – time to admit defeat and hand over the phone to the nearest local speaker.

Last month I ordered some paintbrushes from the UK – the parcel went via customs and collected a fee for import duty.

No phone-call. Courier arrives at apartment during office hours. No one is home. No phone call. After 10 days I am wondering what has happened to my parcel. I track parcel on internet and see that a delivery attempt was made for the previous 3 days in a row.

Phone call centre. “Do you speak English”, I ask in my best Mandarin. Helpful call-centre person puts the phone down.

Skype message to staff member still at the office and ask him to phone call centre. Yes, have tried to deliver for 3 days, no one home. Can’t deliver after 18.00. Please deliver to office tomorrow.

Need form + company chop.

Next day at office: Download form from internet – chop, scan, email.

So sorry, please put address in English and Chinese. Download, chop, scan, email.

So sorry, please sign and chop. Download, chop, sign, scan, email.

Phone call from warehouse – trying to deliver parcel, no one is home. Have you spoken to service centre? We have asked to change the delivery to the office address.

O.

No, service centre and warehouse and delivery guy are not in communication.

Phone service centre. Email hasn’t arrived yet. Please phone the warehouse, they don’t know what is going on.

So sorry, please wait a moment. Email has arrived, must contact warehouse, maybe parcel will be delivered today.

Phone call from warehouse. Cannot locate delivery guy, maybe not today.

Delivery guy arrives at office at 14.30. Everyone happy…..and exhausted.

Fast forward 5 weeks….

Different courier company, different parcel, different rules. Phone-call. Some English: parcel has arrived, no one is home. Problem. Hand phone to staff member. No delivery after 18.00. Tomorrow 17.00, please. No problem.

Rush home from work early. Tell taxi driver to break more road rules than usual to make it home by 17.00. 3 missed calls while in taxi.

Phone call as I arrive at the door. Some of her English, some of my Mandarin. Anyone home? Can we deliver now? Sure, here I am! I came home early and stressed out at least one taxi-driver.

Phone-call 5 minutes later. So sorry, cannot contact delivery guy – maybe tomorrow? AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!

————————————————————————————

P.S. Thanks for the parcel, Lilly!




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