Category Archives: China trip

Home is where the heart is

I’m not sure where that phrase comes from, but I know I’ve heard and seen it many times before. I had my own version of this phrase before I left Vancouver and it was something I decided that I would try to live by:

Home is wherever it is you are.

Of course, all that is easier said than done. The moment I got to China I had difficulty believing that the phrase I had chosen to adapt myself to. The first day here was terrible and I realized that I had romanticized the “art of travel” way too much. I was disgusted with myself. I had originally thought about how I would be out and about capturing China in photos, exploring everything, and practicing Mandarin. No, reality isn’t like that; I was just dreaming.

However, after all that I slowly started to grow accustomed to where I was. The habits I found to be annoying and strange became “it’s just the way they are”.  The streets, busses, and metro trains I found to be new and different are now familiar. The oddness of Chinese characters on signs is not so weird looking. Crossing the street isn’t so scary anymore. Basically I’ve gotten used to most things here.

Yes, I wanted an adventure that would be mind blowing. That I never got, but I did get a new insight about many things. I now have a bit of difficulty in defining “home” for myself. On one hand Vancouver is home, but on the other, while I’m here in Shanghai, I call where I’m staying “home”. I found it a coincidence that I ended up coming across another Blog Squadder’s post about home again.  Her name is Sammy and I found her post to be quite interesting. Take a read if you can, I found her thoughts on “home” to be quite thoughtful.

In the end, I feel that home is wherever you feel comfortable being in the moment. Sammy is quite right on that.

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The Origin of Species!

There is one thing that I find completely curious, and that’s the fact that there’s an ad in my Hotmail account that advertises Salons and Spas in Shanghai. Gotta love targeted advertising right? It knows exactly where I am!

The impression I’ve always had about people in Shanghai was that they would generally avoid strangers. This doesn’t mean that they’re mean in any sort of way; it just means that my impression has always been that Shanghai locals were very cautious (if one could call it that) when it comes to strangers. Based on that, one might assume that it would be extremely hard to strike up a conversation with strangers here. Oddly enough, I’ve had a greater success rate at striking up conversations with strangers than I’ve had back home. This probably has to do with four things:

  1. I take how friendly and laid back people are generally back home are for granted
  2. I’m actually counting how many people I talk to
  3. I have a more “gung ho” attitude when it comes to my attempts at talking to strangers here
  4. And finally, I am under the impression that I have basically nothing to lose and if I get judged then whatever! I don’t live here!

I remember thinking to myself a few days ago “Dang, I’ve gotten a lot more risky and talkative since arriving in China”. Where I plan on going from that statement now is a comment on what I’ve realized I take for granted back home and what I’ve learned about myself.

I take for granted:

  1. the peace and quiet that exists back home as well as the open space
  2. my current social network of family, friends and acquaintances
  3. how comfortable I find being in familiar surroundings (that said, limiting oneself only to familiar situations is bad)
  4. how efficient a system of rules can be (when followed)
  5. how awesome mild climate is

I’ve learned that:

  1. I am pretty freakin stubborn sometimes
  2. I am able to adapt to new situations relatively quickly
  3. I in fact, do like to talk (perhaps too much sometimes)
  4. I can find being the centre of attention to be fun instead of finding it scary
  5. I love being random
  6. There is nothing I love more than water. Seriously. Give me a choice between food or water and 80% of the time I’ll pick water.

I was originally thinking of explaining all those points in detail, but have since decided against it. For starters it would end up being pretty long and secondly, MEH, I got lazy. I’ve realized that this post is itself, absolutely meaningless. I am using it as a gateway to more serious (and possibly interesting) topics. There is a lot I want to blog about and I just need to find a way to somehow get all my thoughts together in some order that makes general sense.

As well, I have a few books I brought along I should probably finish reading (yes I brought books on my trip for some light reading). One of which is “The Origin of Species” by none other than Charles Darwin. Yes I consider that light reading.

Mozzies go NEEEE NEEEEEE NEEEEEE

Mosquitos generally REALLY REALLY ANNOY ME (I was thinking of using “piss me off” but that might be a bit vulgar in CAPs).

At the moment, I have about 7 mosquito bites. They wouldn’t be much of a problem if I reacted to them like most people. Unfortunately for me, I’m more or less allergic to their saliva and 70% of the time, my bites swell up to EPIC proportions. It’s really quite fun. 3 of the bites are on my left hand right now and I cannot make it into a fist (otherwise it’s painful).

Because of this, I’ve gotten pretty good at mosquito killing. I can grab one from the air and squish it to death most of the time. The night before was even more awesome. I felt something on my left hand and I was able to grab it with my thumb and index finger and kill it. Bare in mind, this was all in the dark and I was half asleep at the time. Mosquitos are my least favourite things, actually there is no other insect I resent more. I kill them without a second thought. Other insects, I usually try and find an alternative.

It’s something I find quite curious really. When I take the life of a spider, ant, or fly I feel bad for it. A mosquito, it’s like “YES I GOT YOU”. The idea itself of being able to take the life of something so easily without a second though and being able to kill something else of a similar size, but with regret, is something I find extremely curious. At the moment I don’ t have any words to explain it.

At the moment, I am watching an old Chinese kung fu movie of some sort. I can’t really understand what it’s about, but there is a lot of kung fu fighting and it’s pretty amusing. There’s a love story in it somewhere too. Guess love is in every culture. How odd.

 —–

Update, it seems the bites have stopped swelling when I woke up this morning. YAY

Also, I’d like to share with you some quotes I found on online forums the night before about mosquitos (mozzies):

  • Get a wife like mine.
    She attracts all the Mossies while I sleep.:D
  • i got a mosquito net for my bed… perfect barrier.unless they get inside it and hide, waiting for you :DSerious, I reckon mozzies hide under your pillow when you try to catch them.

    It’s that thing we’ve all done at 2am in the morning, when that neeeeeeeee eeeeeeeee neeeeeeeeee noise happens right inside your ear.

    First, you swat around your head in the dark and it goes away, but struth god, they always come back just as your about to nod off again, every time !

    So then you get up and switch on the lamp, grab something to swat with and wait. Across the room you see one, so you carefully get out of bed with your eye on the target and it vanishes.

    Now this is war and you usually find yourself stealth pacing round your room naked (or in your jocks or pajamas, depending on your naff quotient)

    Eventually you give up and decide the mozzie has gone, but what you don’t realise is that mozzie is hiding under your pillow, smart little f@cker !

    And if you do get to know this trick, then the mozzie hides under your bed, or inside the your lamp.

    In fact, it’s watching you from wherever it’s hiding, although it doesn’t see in a conventional sense. It sees your fingers, toes and ankles glowing and smells your sweaty body now that you’ve exerted all that energy trying to catch it.

    There’s only one thing for it, the attack from all angles strategy.

    As you rip your room to shreds, searching for the mozzie hiding place, it quietly buzzes out of the room until your done and decide to go back to sleep.

    Then, just as your starting to nod off again …

    neeeeeeeeeeeee neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • My advice: go to the pet market and buy a couple hundred frogs… take them home and release them in the water near where you live, they’ll multiply and wah-lah, no more mosquito problem. I love where I live because of this simple fact.
  • Seriously, 1000 frogs will end the problem – should cost you about 57 RMB.
  • I have a large desk fan at the end of my bed blowing at my head, they cant get me through the turbulance
In other news, I’ve found street photography at night to be much more interesting and challenging. Forget day time shots, those are for chumps!

People in China need to neglect their kids a bit more. Seriously.

This is hopefully just going to be a quick post, but without any pictures.

There are a number of customs and habits that are unique to each culture, country, city, and person. To understand all of them would, perhaps, take longer than a lifetime. While staying at my grandma’s, she constantly pesters me to eat this eat that, wear more, drink milk, eat more before going to bed, and everything else that involves pampering your child/grand-child. The first few times, I followed her wishes out of respect. Now, the more she tells me to do certain things, the more I get annoyed and occasionally I just refuse to do what she says for a while (I end up doing them half the time, but grudgingly).

Loosely translated, situations usually go a little something like this:

  • I come back and since I find it really hot and I’m sweating a bit, the first thing I do is take off my shirt and turn on the fan. I plan on staying this way for a few minutes just to cool down.
  • Grandma walks in and says “What are you doing? Put on a shirt! It’s COLD. You’ll get sick!”
  • Me: “What? It’s boiling. I’m sweating, and it’s driving me crazy. I’ll put on a shirt in a few minutes after I cool down”
  • Grandma: “People from Shanghai get sick easily in this weather.”
  • Me: “Yes, but I’m not from Shanghai (meant literally as I was born in Vancouver so in theory I’m used to Canadian weather).”
  • Grandma: “Psh, put on more clothes.”
  • Me: “Ugh…”

This is what happened yesterday and things like that drive me up the wall.

Another situation goes like this (but is not limited to grandma, it includes every relative):

  • I’m minding my own business carrying my bag that includes clothing, toiletries, and other things, as I am moving around a staying elsewhere for a bit at a time.
  • Relative: “Let me carry your bag for you, it looks heavy.”
  • Me: “No.”
  • Relative: “Nonono let me carry it for you. You’re carrying 2 bags.” –makes a move to grab my heaviest bag-
  • Me: “Nononono it’s ok!” –as I spin around so that they can’t grab the bag-
  • Relative: “Don’t be like that, let me carry it for you” –still trying to grab the bag-
  • Me: “Seriously no need” –still making sure they can’t grab my bag-
  • -in the end the relative gives up after a lot of back and forth-

I usually feel a bit better once I “win” and it’s not so much of an annoyance as it is funny, but I really really dislike having to be in that situation.

Basically, the things that people here do to try and “help” you annoys me. Ask or remind once or twice and that’s being polite and/or helpful. To pester one over and over about “helping” is just annoying. The idea of leaving kids to carry their own stuff is a concept my relatives seem to be able to understand when explained to them, but in practice, they just can’t seem to grasp it. Back home, I can’t remember the last time my parents asked me if I needed help carrying something, but I do remember that if I said no the first time they usually wouldn’t ask again.

Honestly, the I really want to just be neglected right now. Getting this much attention is just annoying. This isn’t so much of a rant as it is an observation.

In other news, I would like a new pair of shoes.

Surprise China! I’m secretly CRAZY

I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Shanghai, though more leaning towards the “WHY IS IT LIKE THIS” side.  Right now it’s raining pretty hard, but not enough to make it “too loud to hear yourself think”. I would love to visit a place where that is the case one day. Rain so hard and loud, that you can’t even hear yourself think. I’ve read Kenya has rain like that. I’d like to check that place out during its rainy season (I think).

Now here’s a funny story. I was taking the subway the other day and it was a pretty long trip (around 40+ minutes or so for one way). Being in the happy mood I was in, I decided to stick my headphones in and listen to some music. About a minute later, guess what? I started to dance (not amazing, you know the dance where you just move your body and look stupid). The more I did it, the more fun it got. I thought “heck, I’m in Shanghai and I’m not gonna see any of these people again. Let’s mess around”; and so began my dance of 40 minutes.

Let me tell you, it was epic (in my head). Probably one of the best moments I’ve had here in Shanghai. Call me weird, but doing stupid things gets me happy these days, especially in public. It’s a lot more fun here because of one thing. People here in Shanghai (possibly China too) are just way to serious. Apparently being happy on the subway is one of the symptoms of being insane in the membrane (and unfortunately no, that wasn’t one of the songs I was listening to as awesome as it would have been). It’s something that made me laugh inside and find very curious. Back home, if someone does something odd or seems really happy on a train someone else will end up smiling or chuckling to themselves (not all the time, but the occurrence rate is relatively high). Here, if you seem happy most people will consider you to be a lunatic of some sort and avoid you.

Even while aware of a bunch of people judging me, I kept dancing like a fool. It was fun and honestly, I didn’t care what they thought. I mean, yeah people back home might consider me to be crazy too, but not everybody would be so serious. I’d still get the odd hidden chuckle or two. Will I do it again? Quite possibly. For starters, I was riding the train during rush hour and while everybody else was packed in like a can of sardines, I had a decent amount of space to stand in (no invasion of my personal bubble). I like that.

I plan on doing a lot more stupid/odd things from here on. Nothing to get me killed of course. At most, get judged. Oh yes.

Damn I suck at smiling

That realization came about after looking at some pictures that were of me taken here in Shanghai. I thought I was smiling, but turns out I look pretty pissed. Wonderful. I guess I need to be in front of a camera a bit more instead of behind it now. Photossss

Speaking of photos, I’ve flipped through a lot of ones belonging to my grandparents (from both sides of the family, and the idea of doing so came from the recommendation of a friend, thanks Cecilia!) and there’s something to be said about the act of doing that. On one hand, going through them makes you think “wow things looked really different and weird back then” and on the other, you find it extremely interesting and you wonder “how were things like back then?” That’s how I basically felt when I flipped through them; a mix of wonder and “LOL” (by the way mom, LOL stands for “laugh out loud” or in Mandarin something like 好笑). Yes, my mom is reading this blog while I’m in China.

Anyway, there’s something about flipping through old photos of your parents, relatives, and their friends that is just intriguing. It’s like watching a frozen moment in time that will never occur again (or very unlikely to do so). Each photo I looked at, made me wonder what they were thinking at that very moment. Did they want to go home? Were they having fun? Were they thinking what they would be like years from now? Did they tell themselves “yes this is going to be a memorable moment”?

When flipping through physical pictures, there’s something about holding that photo and knowing that if it was somehow lost, there was little chance (if any) to get it back. Digital photos (or files of any type) can be recovered using special software. If you put it on the internet, it’ll always be there (so long as the internet stays).

With the way pictures are digital now, I have to wonder: will kids in the future be able to look through photos of their relatives on a screen and get the same feeling I get when physically flipping through photos? I mean, if they’re printed, ok. But the majority of people these days don’t print their photos. They just stick them on Facebook or Flickr (or both). Yes, kids of the future will definitely be way more tech savvy so I guess it’s all a matter of sharing accounts and connecting your accounts of whatever to theirs. Will it be the norm to add your kids on Facebook? Probably. It’ll be interesting to see what things are like once your kids are flipping through your Facebook photos and seeing you partying it up. Seriously, that’ll get you some responsibility points. Of course, that all depends on Facebook not being replaced by something more ridiculous (or how public you make your own profile to your kids).

I’ve always told myself to print out the photos I have, but I never actually do so. I could say that I will now once I get home, but I probably won’t. However, in not saying so, I might actually do it. I should probably figure out my plans for once I get back (thinking wayyy too far ahead? I think so, but might as well).

Be ridiculous, fart, and be merry.

It seems as though I brought rain to Shanghai. Sweet (apologies for the vulgar-ish title)

What really annoys me is that I had expected Shanghai to be insanely hot by the time I got here. Granted, it was, but for 4 days so far total. At the moment, it’s raining a fairly large amount and the fact that I have shorts and one pair of jeans is a bit annoying. However, I’m not going to complain. I dislike heat so the fact that it’s raining makes me happy. Makes things feel like home. Almost.

Here’s one thing you don’t really see often back in Vancouver. A bunch of old, retired people hanging out at a local park or sitting around on a bench or sidewalk and just chilling and doing their thing (after typing this, I’m kicking myself for not getting pictures of things like that). You’ll see a lot of old folks back in Vancouver near retirement homes, maybe, but generally speaking you don’t see them loitering in one area for an entire day. Loiter…I like that word (speaking of which, ever wonder why signs always use that word when, for the most part, I don’t think people really understand the meaning in its entirety?). Anyway, where was I again? Right, old people. Earlier today, I saw a bunch of old folks playing away on various instruments at a local park I went to with my relatives. I don’t ever recall seeing that in Vancouver, but I don’t rule out the possibility of it. It got me thinking. Usually we associate getting older with being “less movement, less work, and less effort”, basically less in whatever it is that makes you tired. How healthy is that?

When a lot of people retire, it seems that they choose to stay at home and only go out when needed (i.e. groceries). There are, of course, exceptions but for the most part it’s either “chill” at home/retirement home and do basically nothing or go travel the world with tour groups. Which of the two is healthier do you think? Probably the latter. Of course, not everyone can afford to go on random vacations and those that do may only go once or twice at best (this is all based on speculation bear in mind). So let’s say you get old and retire. What do you plan on doing with your time? Take a break and just sit on that couch and watch the tele? Surely after working for so long, you deserve that. Right?

Maybe, but is it the best thing to do? Doesn’t seem like it. When you’re older, it seems as though when you choose to do nothing you just get slower. Yes, it may have to do with aging, but ever not talk to any person for a while and notice that when you start talking to someone again (let’s say maybe 2 weeks or so) it seems a bit odd and you find it hard to think of things to say? Generally, people like talking to other people. Some like to talk non-stop and some like to talk in short bursts. Regardless, a lack of conversation makes the brain slow and turn to mush.

Sitting around and being lazy feels pretty nice when you’re doing it. If you’ve done it for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that you don’t have the same amount of strength you did when you moved a lot (as an example let’s say you used to go for walks a lot). The less of it you do, the more weak your muscles become (regardless of the aging process). The weaker your muscles become, the less you are able to do.

The less you are able to do, the more you will just sit there. The more you sit there, the more your body turns to mush. Throw in some conversation…wait what conversation? You have no strength to get up and go out and talk to people.

So, a lack of conversation and a lack of movement turns both your brain and your body to mush. For that reason, a lot of the elderly have health problems. Constant movement or social interaction can solve not every health problem, but I do believe that these things play a role in a person’s mental and physical well being. So when you get older, I would say you owe it to yourself to be healthy bot mentally and physically (and if you’re an economist, think of how much money that can be saved from unnecessary healthcare costs and used elsewhere).

A lot of people seem to dislike getting old. What’s wrong with it? For starters, everything you’ve done in life previously is done and being old is probably the best time to be ridiculous, fart, and be merry. You don’t get to do crazy physical things like you did when you were younger, but you are able to a lot of things that people won’t judge you for (or at least, if they do it’ll be more like “oh he/she is old, it’s what they do”). I for one can’t wait to get old and be ridiculous.