Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May Day Holiday

May Day (1 May) in China this year is slightly different than what it has been in the recent past. It is slightly shorter, due to the addition of the recent Qing Ming holiday. This year, most people will enjoy a 3-day holiday, starting tomorrow (Thursday), and heading back to work on Sunday.

Tonight, the streets are lively with the holiday feeling. I was riding my bicycle home a few minutes ago, at nearly midnight, and had to weave in and out of the pedestrians walking on the road — and I mean literally on the road, not the sidewalk or even on the side of the road, but right down the middle of the street. The street was full of lazily strolling holiday-makers, with a few of us on bikes. The cars were fewer than what you normally see on the streets of Shanghai.

I did catch sight of something that made me smile. A family was right in front of me, on two bikes. The father was riding one, and on the other was the mother with her sleeping child (probably about 5 years old) perched behind her. She had her arm wrapped around the child behind her, in a somewhat awkward position, but obviously holding tight. They cycled slowly home, seeming quite pleased after a night out with the family. Even the child seemed to be pleasantly dozing on the back of the bicycle (though seeing her there made me a little concerned for her safety).

The time I've spent in Shanghai on this trip, the first really extended stay I've made here, has run roughly from Yuan Xiao Jie to the Labour Day, right about 3 months. It's winding down in the next couple of weeks, and I will be heading back to Singapore then. Overall, I have to say that this is a good time to spend in Shanghai, with lots of fun things to see. The holiday seasons here always seem to have a special feeling of alive-ness. It's good to have been around for two of the big days on the calendar this year.


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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Queensland Theatre Company

I have recently been contacted by the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane concerning a post on another of my blogs, and in response I went over to have a look at their site. It looks like they have a great programme in the upcoming months.

The post of mine that caught their attention was about Heiner Müller, a gritty playwright whom I have grown to love over the years. The Queensland Theatre Company will be staging his Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome Sept 1 - Oct 4. I have not seen any of Müller's play's onstage before (a pity!!), but would very much love to. His work is rough at times, but also tender and poignant.

I am sitting here looking at the theatre's schedule, wondering if I might be able to schedule a trip to Queensland in September. Müller is that good... it would be worth making the trip if I can possibly schedule it. If you are in any position at all to get to see the show, don't miss it.


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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Novel City

Novel City is another in a long line of good spots to eat and shop in Shanghai. It opened up late last year, and has lots of good restaurants and shops. My favorite eateries are Nian Nian Bu Wang and the Blue Frog. I wrote about another branch of The Blue Frog about a year ago, and this new one is not much different. Only the atmosphere tells the two places apart — one being in Shanghai's old-style buildings, while the other is in this new shopping center — but the service is equally good, and the menu is identical.

Nian Nian Bu Wang serves local food, and it is very nice. The hong sao rou was especially good, and very filling. I had a set meal for 30RMB, and it filled me up so much that I didn't have room for dinner that night. That's a pretty good deal.

There are plenty of other shops at Novel City, including groceries, clothing, and a bit of everything. It is on Tian Yao Qiao Lu, and makes for a good place to sit and have a nice meal, followed by a nice set of shops to walk through when you've finished eating.




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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baseball in China

Well, it is not quite the same as the MLB exhibition game played in Beijing earlier this year, but you can catch the Beijing Tigers vs. the Shgnahai Eagles tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 pm.

The game is at 201 Yunlian Rd in Pudong. Entrance is free, and it should be lots of fun to watch!

To get there, take the metro Line 6 to West Gaoke Rd and walk west for one block.

I've watched some baseball at the college level in Shanghai before. It's always nice to get a chance to see what the sport looks like in countries where it is not as much a part of the culture as it is in the US (or Japan or various South American countries). I've enjoyed seeing the level of play in China. I think it could be a very fun afternoon at the ballpark in Pudong tomorrow.

The teams will also meet in the same venue, at the same time, on Saturday and Sunday.


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Monday, April 21, 2008

Nice Weather We've (not) Been Having

The end of April will be upon us in the next week or so, and I am still sitting around the house in long sleeves and sweaters, and adding an additional overcoat when I leave the house. If there are two sunny days back to back, they are sure to be followed by three or four foul rainy days. This is not the image that generally comes to mind when I think of spring.

From what friends are telling me, it has been an unusually cold year here in Shanghai this year, or at least, the colder weather has lasted longer than usual. While temperatures are rising in Beijing, a good two hours' flight to the north of here, Shanghai continues to refuse to allow sunny, warm weather in. It looks like I picked a lousy time to spend the whole spring in Shanghai.

That said, the flowers are still stubborn in their belief that spring has arrived. The brighter colours on the trees and plants in town have changed the look of the streets, and really do give hope that warmer weather is on its way soon. I've been snapping some pictures here and there, and plan on posting them as soon as I get a few minutes to sit and put them all together. It's always nice to see the flowers making their appearance in the midst of a big city, and the cold weather this year has made them especially welcome.

It does seem that warmer weather is going to settle in soon, though. Each time after the temperature dips (usually accompanied by a few rainy days), it ends up climbing just a little higher after the cool front passes by than it was before it settled in. There have been several false starts to the spring weather already. I'm hoping the next one will stick.


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Website Review: Holiday Whistler

Whistler Accommodation is a nicely put together website that offers great lodging at ski resorts in Whistler, BC. The information provided at the Whistler condo rentals site is easy to access, and very informative. The pictures not only give a very clear view of what you could expect from the various lodges listed there, but also make the place look pretty enticing!

For the sake of reviewing the site, I did a random search, based on the group I traveled with when I last stayed at a skiing spot (that one in New Zealand). That group included adults and kids, some who were interested in the ski facilities, and some who were just along for the trip. Making it a little more complicated, there were 7 of us. That can be an odd number to plan for.

With those criteria, I got back a good selection of accommodations, with a fairly large spread across the price range. Some of the special offers were really competitive. I like the look of the Bluffs at Taluswood 27, particularly for the spectacular views that you can get in the lodging there.

It all makes Whistler look like a very appealing destination. If I get a chance to head that way for a ski trip, I know right where to go to make my plans. The website at www.holidaywhistler.com gives easy access to all the information you'll need for a trip to Whistler, BC.


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

TNT Britain's Hamlet at Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center

Last night was the final performance in Shanghai of Hamlet by TNT Britain.

The troupe has made several visits to Shanghai, performing Macbeth and Oliver Twist in recent years. They've also done Romeo and Juliet in Singapore back in 2005. My travel schedule had caused me to miss them at all of those performances, so last night was my first time to see the troupe. They really are as good as their reputation... and then some.

You can read my full review of the show here.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Love Letters

Last night I got to see what was supposed to be the final performance of Love Letters at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center. As it turns out, the show has been so popular that they will do another run in May.

The play is translated from A. R. Gurney's 1989 drama, which was adapted for television 10 years later. It is poignant, though predictable. I liked the way the two characters change over the course of the play. In the production here, each was played by 4 different actors of various ages, reflecting their development as the play wears on. I liked the two kids and the two older actors very well, but I think the teenage boy really stole the show for me. He played his part just right, and balanced it all with just the right bit of feeling. There were several spots in his speeches that were very moving, and he handled them with just the right touch.

The show is a lot of dialogue, and no action. For many that could become boring, so it might not be just everyone's thing. But if the actors handle it well, as they did on the stage here, it is a very entertaining piece. The poignancy of it can leave a little ache inside as you leave the theatre.

I can certainly see why the show here has been so popular, creating a demand for another run next month. It is well worth the time to see this one. Tickets are not on sale yet at the Dramatic Arts Center, but should be before too long.



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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Homesickness

In a recent assignment for my language studies, I had to write an essay with the title (translated from Chinese) "My First Time Far Away From Home." Part of the exercise was to use some set phrases in the body of the essay. I didn't have any difficulty doing so, from a language perspective, but I did run into another problem... some of the phrases were just too sappy for me. Things like, "just as the tears started to drop...." and things like that. Ugh.

The thing is, I started traveling at a fairly young age. I can hardly remember the actual feelings of that first time I was far away from my parents, though I do remember feeling somewhat empty when I got to my room to have a rest... only to find I couldn't sleep at all. That was a pretty bad feeling.

I am presently staying in Shanghai for 3 months, and am enjoying it. That's not to say there aren't things I miss about Singapore, but just that life gets moving along where you are, and that leaves little time to sit about moping over the things you do miss.

I don't guess I have ever fully understood homesickness, mostly because I think there is an easy solution to it. Get busy. Get involved with your surroundings, observe, and just enjoy. There are good and bad things about every place. Whether we enjoy the good things, or merely sit around missing what we have left behind (and perhaps focusing on the bad things in the place we are now) is all a matter of attitude.

I've been posting my essays that I have had to write for Chinese class at another blog, but I doubt I'll be posting the one on my first time away from home. It's just too embarrassing to think that someone might read it and think I actually was ever that sappy! :-)


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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hamlet, next weekend

I've got tickets lined up for Saturday night, and will be going to see the British troupe TNT's production of Hamlet with some friends. The show will be at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, and it looks like it is going to be a top-notch production.

TNT has performed several plays over the past few years at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center. Some of my friends attended performances of The Tempest, Macbeth, and Oliver Twist, but it seems that my schedule has never coincided with the shows. That's unfortunate because all have received rave reviews from those who saw them.

I'm glad I will be around when TNT takes the stage to put on Hamlet next weekend. It should be a really good show, and it has been much too long since I've seen a good tragedy onstage.




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Friday, April 04, 2008

Pancakes for Breakfast in Shanghai

The "roadside food" (that sold in the small stalls along the roadside) is one of my favourite things about Shanghai. I've got several things that I really enjoy having from the various stalls along the road between my house and the train station. My favourite has to be the pancakes. There are several different styles of pancakes sold at the various stalls. This video shows my favourite spot, making my favourite breakfast.




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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Staying in Touch when Overseas

For the 15th year in a row, I am on the other side of the world for the first week of the baseball season in the US. I grew up in a baseball-watching (and -playing) family, and so always miss following the games with my family members.

This year, I canceled my ESPN service at home, because they rarely show baseball in Singapore, and when they do, it is only the Red Sox or Yankees. On top of that, I will be in Shanghai for about half of the baseball season anyway.

In place of ESPN, I have subscribed to MLB.TV. I used the service a few years ago for the playoffs, but found that it was not of very good quality. It seems that it has really improved over time though. I've been able to watch a couple of games live already in this young season, and have access to the archives for any games that I have missed (only 1 so far). The quality of the feed is not something you'd want to watch on a large flat screen TV, but it works nicely for the laptop. It is great to see the live action of my hometown team, following the in real time (or very close to it — there is a few second delay).

If you spend much of the baseball season away from home, particularly in a place where your hometown team's games are not aired on TV, this is a great way to keep in touch.


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