Germans do have a sense of humour!

Yes, the stereotype that we love so much appears to be false  This is based atleast on my own work colleagues, most of whom are German. I really do feel quite some way away from the UK’s political correctness and we regularly tease each other about topics such as WW2 or common stereotypes. I didn’t think this would be acceptable before coming here. Indeed the other day they were laughing at this YouTube clip that i include below. It makes a mockery of such stereotypes. I only watched a small part, but there seemed no mention of David Hasselhoff??

I am now planning for some more weekend fun and am hoping to find a waterpark somewhere close to Shanghai. Something like CenterParcs, with rapids, big slides, etc… would be great. Unfortunately i have only found one such place so far, and it is now closed until next summer. It includes a man-made beach and specially treated water (pretty crucial around here!). I will have to try looking in the neighbouring provinces perhaps. The company is also organising a sailing day which should be great fun. That is a week sunday, and i can take Ruby as a guest. I hope to hire a boat for the day, and finish with a BBQ. Whilst the weather holds, i need to do these things. Unfortunately in this part of China it is not simply a case of taking a train to the nearest beach. Certain areas are simply too polluted to be worth considering, but other areas can be fine.

The company’s offices are on the river in north Shanghai. This gives me quite a lovely view whilst i work, but the Suzhou river is certainly not good enough to take a lunchtime dip  Infact, i would rather throw myself into the River Cam.

My weekday evenings here are still pretty tame as i continue to save for holidays next year. My evening’s TV is dictated by what UK programmes are uploaded to my torrent websites. Currently i have Soccer Am, two weeks of EastEnders and the final series of 24 awaiting me. Perhaps that is reason enough to go out tonight! Unfortunately nights out with work colleagues are typically to western bars which eat into my savings very quickly. So as much fun as they are, i try to only go when there is some Football to watch, or the company is footing the bill.

Time is starting to go VERY quickly here now and it will very soon be christmas. I hope to do several things around then and maybe even visit Vietnam, but getting time off here is not so easy, as you have to earn it before you can take it :-(. I will continue to try to fit as much in as possible whilst i am over here, and will try to draw up a list of must do events soon. I can get most of these from various Shanghai books and will add in some other suggestions from my chinese friends. I still hope to visit Tibet one day, but perhaps it would be a long holiday in itself in a few years time, rather than short trip from Shanghai. The train from Shanghai would take around 24 hours, and i would also need a special visa for visiting here.

Some of the chinese guys at work continue to make me laugh too. They are always friendly and polite and i like to help some of them to broaden their English vocabulary. Many already speak fluently. I could never imagine being a teacher, as my English is not good enough, and grammar is oh so dull, but i very much enjoy helping my colleagues here on a more adhoc basis. One colleague is a middle aged man who’s English was imcomprehensible when i arrived around three months ago. But he has improved dramatically and now presents his work daily to the team. Many here have a slight American twang to their English which must come from all the copied DVDs and music that swamp the city’s streets. I have done my best to encourage people to lose this twang, and speak the Queen’s English (Yes, ENGLISH – the clue is in the name!!). I guess i can’t really blame people for this when there are seldom few brits in this city and International English, as it is sickeningly referred to, is of more use to foreigners. So i got off my high-horse some time ago

Some of the chinese colleagues were discussing music and wanted to know which bands i would listen to and where they were from. Chinese people generally know of cheesy pop artists and not so much of what i would call proper music. They knew Backstreet Boys, Westlife and Avril Lavigne. One of my friends also likes Mariah Carey, “for her music”. Not sure if i believe him! Once our Internet is up and running again i shall send him some info on the lovely Girls Aloud ladies, which might tempt him away from that rubbish.

The best known chinese acts also tend to be very pop based. With such widespread copyright fraud in China i do not know how artists make much money. Indeed sponsorship is a relatively new thing here and there is also not as much of a live music culture as we have in the UK. There are music events in the more modern cities of China and even occasional “festivals” but they are never the size or regularity as at home. The Chinese “powers that be” do not trust large gatherings of young people, so its impossible for a city here to hold a chinese equivalent of the likes of V Festival or Glastonbury. Still, i guess in a Communist country, that’s hardly surprising!

Crabs in Shanghai :-P

I am absolutely crackered today after traipsing around the Bund all yesterday afternoon with Ruby and her friend, who was visiting for the day. How stupid was i for believing that they would just be going for a “quick walk and a little shopping”! I guess it was mainly the humidity and number of tourists that made the walk so tiring. But they did enjoy themselves which is the main thing, and i now just have to keep my eyes open at work today before crawling back home for a good kip.

As a special dinner for her visiting friend, Ruby cooked some nice crab dishes this weekend. See the video below to get an idea of quite what was going on. At one point i had live crabs pushing the microwave door open with their claws to try to prevent their imminent death. I made sure i was a safe distance away and so found it all quite funny. One crab seemed to possess special powers and continued to struggle about even after a good roasting in the microwave. As with almost all chinese food, it seems, they were served up with a little garlic, ginger and vinegar and the end result was rather tasty.

Plans for the weekend in Shanghai

I have not planned too much yet for this weekend, but we will certainly be staying in Shanghai. Weeks here are starting to pass very quickly and i have now been in China for nearly three months. Before i know it, it will be christmas, so i am going to try to start ticking off key sites that i must see whilst i am here, be it locations in China or visiting other Chinese cities that are close by. Xi’an (Terracotta warriors)and Urumqi (Islam province) appeal to me very much but are too far away to travel to without some serious time off, which i cannot do for the time being. Most people here in Shanghai that i meet tend to spend all their time in Shanghai with very few visits to other domestic destinations, and rarely rural ones. For me, this is a shame and i have had my best experiences when travelling to such spots. For me, living in China is not about shopping in some Shanghai mall for some fake shoes, but investigating quiet areas with traditional activities still being pursued.

That said, the trip to Thailand next year will be a proper holiday, full of rest and relaxation and perhaps much will lack any cultural discovery, but that is fine by me. Cocktails by the swimming pool doesn’t sound too bad  I am now starting to think it could be wise to fit in Laos, Cambodia or the like if i am away for an extended period. Not sure yet, but whatever we do should be good.

I spoke to my parents yesterday and they mentioned some economical problems in the UK at the moment. A few banks seem to be struggling at the moment, but i am sure its not anywhere near as bad as back in the 70s and other events since. It may even help to get back on the housing ladder, which i cannot be sad for. I hope to re-join the rat race when i return to UK, and by then things may’ve stabilised enough to get my first property.

Trip to Yang Sha Shan, near Beilun, Ningbo

We spent Saturday afternoon in a small beach town close to Ningbo called Yang Sha Shan. The town was relatively quiet once we got there, for several interesting reasons. Firstly it was mid-autumn festival, so most Chinese familities were together at home. Unknown to me, there was also a Typhoon coming, which probably more explains why there we only a few people about. The police were out in force preventing coaches from entering the area. What a complete waste of time that was, as people just walked through the road block instead. In the end we left the area before the typhoon arrived, although judging by some of the pictures on CCTV, it was a close escape, with some people injured in a area down the beach.

Yang Sha Shan reminded me a little of Tenby, bizarrely, where i went last year. We spent a little time on the beach, then wondered round to the rocks to look for interesting sea creatures. Ruby managed to catch a few crabs and other unidentified crustaceans, but it was hardly enough to start a restaurant on! There were free barbecues by the beach which allowed locals to cook up their catches before returning home.

I have now visited Ningbo quite a few times, and would say that i quite like the city now. In comparison to Shanghai it is much more relaxed and cleaner, with many modern developments. My one major gripe would be the beggars, though, who harass me everytime i step around the key areas of the city centre. In Shanghai bizarrely, in such a large city with many immigrants from other provinces, i never have any problems with such people. Chinese beggars are much more “proactive” than their UK counterparts, to the extent that yesterday i had people pushing their begging bowls through the window of my taxi before i had even got out! This kind of aggressive behaviour really gets my back up, and i will always respond in similarly aggressive manner. If they did this in the UK they would soon be slapped about by members of the public, if they hadn’t already been arrested.

Liverpool 2 – 1 Man United

Great !!!! Not much needed to be said here, really. The blog title speaks for itself. It was a good few years since we last beat United in the Premiership, so i was delighted with the result, and also a little surprised. I managed to get to Ningbo in time on saturday night to watch the whole game live in an Irish bar. Unfortunately my celebrations and excitement was a little bit too much for Ruby, who had to have an early night after falling asleep in the bar, haha.

The bar was full of a bizarre mix of americans, who mainly had no idea of what was going on, or why a small number of other drinkers were getting so animated, a few expats and some chinese who do understand football but don’t tend to mix it with alcohol. I expect this result will keep me in good spirits for several weeks yet  :-)

20 Things i hate – please add your own

Hahha, i am actually in quite a good mood at the moment, despite the title of this post, but i am trying to encourage a little more interaction with my blog for people. So find at the bottom, 5 things that i really hate at this moment, and i encourage you to suggest the remaining 15. I shall add as they come in, so long as i roughly agree!

Tonight my company and I are off for some Karting in a different part of Shanghai, should be fun. I got my excuses in early, and pointed out that i have never driven (except when i nearly crashed Bryant’s car in Tesco’s, Cherry Hinton)! I hope to have some footage of how we get on tomorrow.

With 3 days away i am looking forward to the weekend and just hope i can return to Shanghai without any problems. It is my turn to visit Ruby this weekend, and i am looking to when she is in Shanghai too, hopefully next month, and then neither of us will have to endure this painful weekend travelling.

Whilst there we will pick up 6/7 paintings to add to our new site and on Ebay. I have never sold anything on Ebay before, but it can’t be that hard. I see plenty of chavs selling all kinds of crap on there, so a web designer should have no probs listing a few paintings…!

Things ok at the moment at work too. I am building a new section for our community based website, meaning plenty of research and surfing, great. Have to actually design and build it now. Its an entire Events section, so i’d better get on with it. :-)

Things i hate:

Celine Dion (due to her singing & her teeth)
Microsoft (because of that bl**dy Word Wizard)

(please suggest more)

General Shanghai update + plans for the weekend at last!

Things here have been pretty quiet over the last two weeks, hence a distinctly quiet blog :-P The simple fact is i haven’t done anything worthy of being mentioned. I shall make a concerted effort to start posting several times a week again, but this is always subject to me having something to say!

I do have a few pics to add here later of last weekend. We played a little Pool and i tried unsuccessfully to improve Ruby’s skills at this. We also went swimming a couple of times, although the underwater heating there does not now seem to work, so if i stood still at all i’d quickly freeze. On a more positive thought, at least the swimming pool is now fairly quiet and i can swim some lengths without getting a Chinese elbow round my chops. I managed to invent a new swimming stroke where i basically do breast stroke but with my feet pushed forward in front of me. I look completely ridiculous, but it was great for my arms and stomach. It is fair to say that they need a fair amount of work after the last two months of gluttony.

I have realised that any work on our online shop is fairly irrelevant until Google starts to appreciate it a bit more. Without rankings, we won’t sell a thing, so i am just going to continue my brain storming of ideas for the business and see where that takes us.

We will get some stock for the first time this weekend and i shall try to sell that through Ebay & Craigslist. I am learning as i go along, so am prepared for difficulties. We will visit an area in the centre of Ningbo which includes several local art galleries, with a decent amount of paintings on offer that might be of interest to westerners back home.

Aside from that this weekend we aim to go out into the countryside. This sort of thing really excited me as i get to see the ‘real’ China, relatively untouched by recent commercialisation. I shall take the following Monday off though, as experience as taught to expect problems and difficulties when travelling around outside of the main cities. Things should be a little easier now that the Olympics have finished.

I already find Shanghai a little bit much for weeks on end, so this should be great. One difference between here and London is that i can happily lose myself in London for months without any need to escape to Cambridge, Brighton, etc. But in Shanghai, perhaps because of the language problems and general pollution, i often crave a little trip away.

I can’t believe that it is already approaching mid-September and weeks here are beginning to fly by very quickly. The weather itself is quite nice now as temperatures have dropped to manageable highs of 28C. This is quite ok, but soon temperatures will drop for winter. I have been warned that winters here are a little nasty as althought UK has colder ones, China lacks our double glazing, making cold draughts a common problem. The thought of this worries be a little as i do not have great protection against the cold in my flat.

My poor social performance recently is down to an on-going desire to save for Thailand next year. We have now replaced nights out with evenings of Mr Bean & X Factor auditions. It may well be a little sad, but i actually quite enjoy X Factor at the start, where local people humiliate themselves. Simon Cowell is always funny. I have also been enjoying House too. I think as my time here continues and i have savings ready for my holiday next year i shall start to pop out down the pub a little more again. Big Bamboo is probably my favourite bar here, and i hope to return soon. They also showed the England football last weekend, but to get up at 2am to watch that dross, i decided against it!