1. Shanghai Snippets
Electric Mosquito Racquet
It's made in China, looks
like a little tennis racquet or maybe a badminton racquet with a short
handle. But instead of interwoven nylon strings, it has horizontal
metal wires, and a couple of batteries in its handle. And its job
� killing mosquitoes! Just press the button on the handle with your
thumb while swinging at the flying insect, and it'll be immediately
fried on impact, sounding very audibly on contact.
I almost chose not to mention
this little invention because I thought it may actually already be
known around the world. But when I read on the packaging that we shouldn't
touch the wires when it's activated, I thought it would never get
safety approval from many of the countries in the western world.
I was always amused to see
shop-keepers studying large notes (50 RMB and 100 RMB) to see if they
were real or counterfeit. But when I tried to pay for my movie ticket
one night, the girl at the desk quickly rejected my 50 RMB note because
the machine she scanned it under identified it as counterfeit. So
there I was with a dud note in my hand. I had no idea who had given
it to me (who remembers those things anyway?). A thought flashed through
my mind that maybe I should keep it and frame it, but the thought
flashed out of my mind just as quickly, and I settled on my second
I gave it to the taxi driver
who took me home and accepted the change (in real cash) without any
feeling of guilt at all.
Things Cook Better In
Well, this was a first.
Chicken wings being cooked in Coca-Cola. The taste test went well.
The chicken looked very dark from the sticky black Cola coating, but
it had a delicious sweet taste (literally) clinging to it.
Is this just a Chinese recipe?
Or has anyone else heard of it?
In Shanghai, there are little
restaurants that just sell yabbies, which are quite a delicacy in
China. You are given a pair of plastic gloves and then the yabbies
are brought to the table in a tray, half a kilo at a time. One night
5 of us devoured 4 kilos of these fiddly little morsels, though I
was the only one not wearing gloves. Why? Because my hands were too
big and wouldn't fit!
A Catholic Cathedral (built
1906-1910) still stands in Shanghai's Xujia Hui Business District.
It's historically very significant as China's largest church, with
the capacity to seat 3,000 people. It's a 2-story building with incredible
aesthetic and acoustic design. Unfortunately. it's glory days are
well and truly over, and on my visit, a pianist practiced her music
scales while a handful of people sat in the pews trying to concentrate
on their prayers.
I've traveled by public
transport almost all the time I've been overseas, but catching a bus
in Shanghai at 8.15 am is probably not the best time to travel. On
this morning we were already literally squashed like sardines, and
the bus continued to stop and pick up more passengers. And it's experiences
like these which cause you to believe in miracles. Because that's
exactly what it took to squeeze between everyone in order to get off
at your stop, and getting us all extremely well aquainted with one
another in the process!
Black Man In China
There are very few foreigners
in China, and only a fraction of them are black. So I was impressed
to meet Daniel, a 23 year-old student from Burundi (a small African
nation east of Congo) who spoke very good Chinese. He'd won a Burundi
government scholarship to study Chinese at the internationally acclaimed
Fudon University in Shanghai, and was already doing quite well after
only 10 months study. He spoke well of his China experience, and confided
that he was always happy, as long as he wasn't trying to learn Chinese
writing. Because he found it immensely stressful to make much sense
out of it.
Sad And Sorry Jay-Walker
Jay-walking is rife in China.
So I was impressed (and amused) to see the following incident one
A very busy and wide intersection
near the center of Shanghai was being controlled by 2 uniformed policemen.
They were very strict about when the passengers should cross, and
equally as strict with the cars. So when a frantic man was seen running
across the intersection, when he shouldn't have, he was promptly summoned
to explain his actions to one of the policemen. He quickly pointed
to a bus which was about to arrive at the bust stop, but the policeman
was not forgiving. He ordered the man to immediately return to the
side of the road he'd come from, even though he was still crossing
against red lights! But the lights changed to green when he was only
half way back, so the man immediately turned again to catch his bus
which was waiting in line behind a couple of others. The policeman
didn't agree that this was an adequate enough punishment and pointed
at the man aggressively, making it very clear that he was still not
to cross the road. The poor man stopped dead in his tracks, dipped
his head so his chin rested on his chest and slowly walked back to
the footpath � a sad and sorry, defeated man. As I got closer to him,
I noticed him look up and with a glimmer of hope, ran to another crossing
nearby which would take him to the bust stop where his bus obviously
still remained. Unfortunately, I can't tell you if he caught the bus
or not, but I'd like to think that this little battler made it after
having so many obstacles thrown at him.
The Magnum Ice-Creams in
China are tiny. Maybe half the size of the Magnums we have in Melbourne.
But then, they probably have to be so they can compete in price with
the other ice-creams on the market which sell for only about 2 RMB.
These mini-Magnums are 3.5 RMB each, but taste just as good as their
I saw 4 movies on this trip.
The first one was Cassandra Crossing, a film made in the 1970s (and
you could tell by the enormous amount of scratches on the film!) starring
Sofia Loren. It was dubbed in Chinese, so I didn't understand a word,
but I got the gist of the film (more or less). It was probably unearthed
because of its deadly infectious disease plot, making it very SARS-like.
The second movie I saw was
Lord Of The Rings II. I was getting nostalgic to see a movie in English,
and this was the only English-speaking movie being shown. So even
though this was the 3rd time I got to see it, it certainly satisfied
that urge I was feeling.
The third movie I saw was
DareDevil, starring Ben Affleck. Even though this movie had been released
in Melbourne shortly before I left, I missed seeing it, so I was glad
to catch it in Shanghai � and in English too!
And the last movie I saw
was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the low budget movie phenomenon produced
by Tom Hanks. Luckily I'd seen it before on a plane some time before,
so I didn't mind that it was dubbed in Chinese.
Alas, the beggars are everywhere.
Not uncomfortably so, because they don't follow you around and hassle
you like I've been told happens in many countries. But on any outing
into the city area, you get to see several. Some are old and frail,
but some are unforgettable �
Like the young boy dressed
in only a pair of pants, who thanked every donation quite merrily,
though he had no arms from the shoulders down. And the fully grown
man, without any feet, who lay face down in the street with saliva
dripping out of his mouth, and his wife sat sobbing by his side holding
a donation bowl.
Shanghai had been mostly
hot and sunny for the 5 weeks I was there, with only a few regular
showers in the last couple of weeks. So I was completely caught off
guard when I was invited to dinner with a couple of friends on the
Saturday night before I left China.
I'd already been traveling
for more than an hour by bus, so I was reluctant to turn back once
it began to rain. But before I could get off at my stop, the rain
turned into a deluge! And I was still reconsidering my options because
I was wearing sandals and socks. So, when the bus doors finally opened
I had to either go or stay, so I went, and with my first step landed
into 10 cms. (4 inches) of water. Then it got worse as I tried to
find some cover and tried to hail a cab to take me the other 100 metres
down the road. Unfortunately, all the taxis were taken, and I found
myself walking through deeper puddles as I tried to get to drier ground.
Fortunately my guests allowed me to keep my shoes and socks on in
their apartment, and my jeans dried up slightly as I ate. The rain
stopped soon afterwards, as if to say its only mission was to drench
James � mission accomplished!
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
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