Hello Y’all

2 05 2008

So I’ve been here almost a week and it’s been heaven and I mean that in a very wholesome way… even though we’re all adults here and very well know that couples can easily find more exciting things to do than play chess… but yes let’s keep it PG.

I told people including D that for this holiday, what I really want is to completely chill out and not worry about any itineraries nor feel compelled to visit any historic and cultural landmarks. So having said that any urge to be productive should be nipped in the bud right? Wrong. I wake up to brew coffee and prepare breakfast (because I want to be useful/productive), I do the dishes then the washing even if there are less than five articles of clothing in the laundry basket (again because I want to be useful/productive) then I go online and research historic and cultural landmarks (why? take a guess!). Then finally I shower and get ready for lunch with D and then get dropped off the shopping centres so I can tick things off my US shopping list. Apart from that, before I actually leave the house I check the cupboard in case we’re out of milk, special K or honey.

I did try to chill out and bum around last Monday but I nearly died of boredom, lying in bed the whole day watching the Style network and HGTV just isn’t my cup of tea. When D got home I immediately informed him that I’ve realised I won’t make a great housewife because waiting at home the whole day will drive me crazy.

But you know, even if I sound like I’m complaining, I really am not, I’m just hmm objectively describing the kind of chilling out I’ve been experiencing the past few days.

It really has been a wonderful week. I recovered from jet lag on my fourth day here hooray, turns out my boyfriend is better than any of the antidote I’ve read about over the net. I’ve met all his work friends and been part of the staff dinner of one of my company’s “friends” hehe. I’ve been to shopping heaven at Marshalls, Ross and TJ Maxx. And honestly, I don’t think anything can ruin my time here for the obvious reason that I’m with the person who can turn even the crappiest place into paradise for me. Ewww corny haha.





Shopping Shanghai, shooting shanghai, loving shanghai then leaving shanghai.

13 03 2008

I love shopping in Shanghai more than any other city I’ve ever visited as the city’s character extends into its retail culture. Haggling is of course better if you’re accompanied by a local as the stores will give you the “Chinese” price instead of the tourist price.

There is a sort of play to haggling here; after the storekeeper gives you her/his price you offer to pay only a third. If she/he doesn’t budge initially, turn around and walk away. Then count to five.

Sometimes you don’t even reach the number five without hearing the storekeeper yelling and running after you, displeased but nonetheless conceding to your offer.

Good shops abound in the Yuyuan Bazaar near the Old City God Temple and Yu Gardens in the Old Town, and the Shanghai Museum shop of course.

***

I am in love with this city and I think New York and Dumaguete have found a worthy rival with Shanghai. This city is definitely a photographer’s heaven and I don’t think I’ve ever visited any place gifted with this unique character and enriched with so much culture. Even my shopping finds have a quirkiness to them which make them very pretty to look at and photograph.

I’m not looking forward to going home this Friday. Melanie is going away to Japan and D is in the US so I don’t really have anything at the moment to anchor me to Melbourne. Plus the hustle and bustle of Shanghai and the warmth of its people remind me so much of Manila that I actually don’t feel like I’m thousand of miles away from the two places I’ve been calling home.

Work here has been so busy and sometimes I’m nearly burned out but it’s all good. It’s nothing I can’t handle and it’s a type of challenge that one should face once in a while to keep on improving… and to maybe reinforce to one’s self that patience is indeed a virtue. My workmates are brilliant, it’s just the language barrier that’s sometimes a tough thing to hurdle.

Oh well. Mum and my aunties are coming over on Easter Sunday so I have that to look forward to. So anyway, I really believe all good travelers should include Shanghai in their must-visit list, otherwise your travel life will never ever be complete. Lagot.





Nanjing at Night

6 03 2008

I finally did it. I summoned enough courage to walk more than 10 meters away from my hotel. Of course it helped that my hotel towered over all the other buildings in the area so it still acted as my security blanket.

My first foray into Shanghai streets alone took me to East Nanjing Road. It is a pedestrian road so no vehicles are allowed except for the mini-trams going back and forth. I had several mini-feats last night, I crossed the big intersections by myself, I dodged several bicycles and cars and people in a rush and I was able to ward off a group of hustlers posing us Chinese students. I was forewarned by several websites that these people lure tourists into “artsy/cultural trips” which eventually end in a dinner with a bill higher than one is willing to pay. I guess their pronunciation of Nanjing gave them away.

It was a rich visual and sensory experience. Shanghai is a paradise for a photographer. There are so many images to capture and the place has a lot of character.

I am planning to explore more places and wander farther away from my hotel as days go by, even if it’s just a few meters of progress each day ;P





Ni Hao

5 03 2008

I’m on my 3rd night here and despite having no friends here nor acquaintance, I do not feel lonely.

My workmates have been very warm and welcoming. On my first day of work I was treated to my first real Chinese lunch by a couple of teammates and today another two guys invited us to a fancy Shanghainese lunch to celebrate the birth of their sons.

I was told that out here, baby showers and celebrations occur after the baby is born, not before the birth, like how Westerners do it.

A more interesting cultural fact I learned is that by tradition, a baby’s name isn’t given by the parents. It is in fact given by a future/fortune teller. When I asked what the basis is, they said it is based on the five elements; water, fire, gold, earth… I’m missing one more, I can’t remember what it was. I’ll get back to you on that one. So anyway, the baby’s name will have to signify a balance among the five elements. And mind you, you can’t just go to any fortune teller, parents consult with the famous ones and sometimes the wait list is so long that your kid has to wait 4 months before she gets called by a proper name.

Food here is orgasmic and is a social activity as it is shared by everyone on the table. My workmates keep worrying that I dislike Chinese food and I keep reassuring them that as long as I know what I’m about to put into my mouth then I’m a happy camper. This is definitely my kind of foodie heaven, without a doubt, especially since the cuisine differs per province, there’s Shanghainese food which I’m informed is sweeter, then Beijing which is spicier, and then there’s a region which is the greasiest oiliest of them all. Heaven indeed. So let me take back what I said about Minneapolis several months ago hehe. Just kidding. Maybe…

Anyway, before I came here I was told Shanghai was a mix of the old world and the new and progressive. I don’t quite get that impression.. Maybe because I’ve played witness to that kind of setting when I was in the Philippines or maybe because I don’t normally associate modernity and progress exclusively with a Western backdrop. But for others it could be the opposite, so when they see progress with an Oriental or Eastern flavor, they automatically say it’s a mismatch.

I’m still working up the courage to wander far from my hotel’s vicinity. I find it unnerving that I can’t read any of the signs around the city and that I can’t speak the language so it’s very easy to get lost. That’s all for now. I’ll check back again in a couple of days, if anyone cares…





Singapura

28 02 2008

This post is obviously long overdue ’cause the trip happened over two months ago, but in this case, it’s better late than never. I wrote snippets during the trip which I then glued together so they can be comprehensible.

***

I’ve been wondering since I got here, what is Singapore’s tourism tag line? If Malaysia is “truly Asia” and Australia’s asking where the “bloody hell” everyone is, how is Singapore lurking tourists?

I’m very lucky Ate Joan is based here ’cause she’s one hell of a good lakwatsera (I think it runs in the family actually). And it only takes her a few days to get all street-smart when she’s in a new place, no learning curves at all hehe. So we’ve done the usual touristy things; went to Sentosa, Singapore Zoo (but only reached the gate and had a quick dinner, we decided to forego the night safari due to the rain), hopped on a river cruise along Robertson Quay and checked out Lucky Plaza (Haha, Pinoy e). They were all OK but they weren’t the highlights of the trip for me.

For me what made this 3day stay worthwhile were so off the tourist trail and invisible from the travel brochures. If I were to advise someone about to go to Singapore, I’d tell her/him to get up early, take the train or bus, go to the nearest kopi tiam and order kaya toast and the traditional Singaporean kopi, or go to the East Coast to have an orgasmic dinner of chili crabs and cereal prawns at Jumbo Seafood, or stroll through the Kampong Glam district, Kandahar and Arab streets to indulge and maybe recall your Sibika at Kultura lessons at the Malay Heritage Centre. Simply put, do what the locals do… albeit on a payday (sadly, chili crabs do not come cheap, but kaya toast and kopi do!), or heck discover what the locals themselves have yet to discover.

My favorite memory during this trip has got to be the time when I saw a woman wearing a hijab (if I’m not mistaken) getting off the bus be welcomed by her young kids by pagmamano. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t Pinoy but seeing that gesture made me think of how deeply connected we all are and that we can move away and forward but we can still find a reason to celebrate and be proud of our heritage.

***

There you go, my travelogue for Singapore.

I’m leaving for Shanghai this Sunday. I’m more nervous than excited and this is the first time I’m feeling this way about a trip. Firstly, because I don’t speak the language, and secondly, because I don’t speak the language. Oh I already said that. Right. Sorry. Well I’m sure the experience won’t kill me and I know it will turn out to be a mind-blowing adventure. My colleagues say it’s like the modern Manila.

How can I find comfort in that when deep-down in my heart I’m a probinsyana? Lumuluwas pa nga ako para makipagkita sa mga kaibigan ko sa Manila eh, take note, lumuluwas. I bet you you’ve never used that word before in your life, unless you’re related to me. In that case you’d say mage-eeroplano ka or magb-bus ng bente-kwatro oras to get to Manila.