Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'll Be Back...

...In 2009

Taking some time off to be Merry...!!!

Ever 'Green' Christmas...

This is the design of He Linkan, a fourth-year student from the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University and the winner of this year’s green Christmas tree design competition.

“The idea is to combine a green idea with creative design and encourage young people to think about how they feel about this festival. It’s not just a Christmas tree”.

Made up of a network of wires with tiny LEDs, over 6,000 corks and masses of empty wine bottles, it is definitely an unusual Christmas tree, especially as someone has to peddle the adjoining bicycle to create enough energy to power the lights

You want to see the lights, you'd better work for it!

Friday, December 12, 2008


...or D-200

No matter what you say: "Jour" or "Day": the countdown has started....

So many things to do... So little time

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Going To The Antipodes...

...Well Not Quite

As we are closing our luggage for our Christmas vacation to the other side of the (big) pond (aka the Pacific Ocean) it reminded me of something I read a few months ago about antipodes.

There is an informal and anecdotal belief among Americans that if you dig a hole deep enough, eventually you would come out in China. This is theoretically possible if the hole is angled in the right way, but if you dig straight down and through the exact center of the earth from anywhere in the 48 contiguous United States, you'd come out in the Indian Ocean. Only in parts of Argentina or Chile would a straight hole emerge in China.

We have actually lived at the antipodes of the world since China and Argentina are at the opposite side of the globe and we've visited two antipodes cities: Santiago in Chile and Xian in China.

To check out antipodes cities:,,

Gibraltar is antipodal to a land location on Great Barrier Island about 130 km from Auckland, New Zealand. This illustrates the old bromide that the sun never set on the British Empire; the sun still does not set on the British Commonwealth.

The northern part of New Caledonia, still an overseas territory of France, is antipodal to some thinly-populated desert in Mauritania, a part of the former French West Africa. As with the British Empire, the sun never set on the French Empire at its peak, either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Were You Really Good..

...This Year?

Santa is coming in less than 2 weeks… did you send him your letter?

This is the letter my well-organized nephew/godson (I think he’s really my son but born to my sister… there is no way he is related to her, really!) sent to (the French) Santa.

Dear Santa, For Christmas I would like this...also this... and this...

Finally this.. for a total of €115.43

Pictures and prices included so there is no mistake possible and Santa knows where he stands budget wise!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Camera, Smile...


December means one thing if you have kids: Christmas show school performances.

When you may think it must not be easy for the kids to perform in front of an audience (no matter how won over they are from the beginning –they are the parents/grandparents/relatives after all) the toughest part of the night is played by those same parents because let me tell you something: It’s war. The best paparazzi in Hollywood must be parents and have learned their craft on those school performances. There are some pushing and pulling from everybody to take the best pictures of their prodigies (or someone else for that matter –you never know there might be the next Oscar’s winner in those budding actors). So no matter what the directions from the headmaster have been (no flashes, nobody on the aisles, etc…), it’s kill or be killed and it can feel like Oscar’s night on the red carpet in schools around the world when you see parent’s behavior as soon as you give them a camera/video. I’ve witnessed more bad behaviors from the parents than from the kids (the smaller the kids the worst behave the parents ).

Good thing that the kids don’t give an acceptance speech or it would go somewhere like this:

“I would like to thanks my parents without whom I wouldn’t be here in (insert the country) today, my ayi for raising me while my parents are out taking full advantage of their time in the city, my driver for countless waiting hours, my school friends who welcomed me unconditionally when I arrived in the middle of the school year and let’s not forget my teachers and teacher assistants for their undivided patience while I’m developing my craft. Thank you, Thank you”

Tough crowd!

It doesn't matter because I am the mother of the futur(s) Oscar's winner(s) of course!


...Maybe Not

The French Embassy’s web site is blocked in China. Wonder if it has anything to do with the French President latest meeting in Poland this weekend… you know who I’m talking about!

I guess I shouldn’t venture to the Louis Vuitton’s store in the next few days (read: Carrefour!)

not so un-common screen

It’s definitely not a maintenance problem

Monday, December 8, 2008

How To Please...

...The In-Laws

Being in a multi-cultural relationship myself it is always interesting to see/read how other people deal with it…. This is one of the funniest things I read about cross cultural relationship in China.
I’ve copied the entire post just in case the link doesn’t work. It’s a MUST read.

The following event happened last week. I retell it only because it’s one of the funniest stories ever. Last week was Chinese national holiday. Everyone in China, besides people that get paid under the table, people that want to make overtime pay and people in the service industry have the entire week off. I could write an entire article just about my opinions on everyone in China having a forced holiday at the same time but for the sake of this funny story, I will let it go. You know where I stand on that.

I work for Tapulous and like everyone else in the world, we don’t do that (take Chinese national holiday vacations). So although my friends were off and JJ was off, I was still a working man. On Wednesday, JJ decided to invite her parents over to the apartment for lunch. They arrived early in the morning and stayed for the rest of the day. The ayi (our housekeeper) came for lunch and cooked for everyone. The tension in the house always rises when Mama and the ayi are in the same room. They have a sense of competition that they both will not admin and they are constantly watching over each other, asking me who’s food is better, who does a better job at one thing or another. It’s quite funny.
Anyway, as I said, it was a working day, so I spent most of the time in my office, secluded from the others. As evening approached, we debated over whether or not they should cook, I should cook or if we should go to a restaurant. I finally suggested to go to this new local place I found with my friend George a few weeks ago that has some killer fried eggplant.
We ate dinner and had a nice meal. The restaurant is about a ten minute walk from my apartment, near the big Cloud Nine mall beside the closest subway station. The food was good and considering the location, the prices are really reasonable. I made sure to pay for the meal, since Baba always tries to pay for meals whenever we all go out. When we finally finished it was relatively late, like 8pm. They wanted to just walk around in the mall, so I obliged and we did that for like an hour until that got old. We debated some more about what to do, since it was starting to get late. I suggested to go get a massage and after more begging, they agreed and we went to the massage parlor near my apartment and got an hour back massage, which ended up being so so. I was not too impressed with this place this time.
By the time the night was finishing up and the massage was over, it was quite late, around 10:30pm. The parents live in a slightly remote part of Shanghai, only accessible by bus or taxi, and they always refuse to take a taxi because its too expensive (even if I offer to pay). I told JJ to tell them to just stay the night at our house, that made the most sense and it was totally fine by me (and of course by JJ). We do have an extra room and I did buy this couch bed for this very reason. So it only made sense for them to stay, especially since it was holiday and JJ was not working.

Here comes the kicker. They were at first totally against it. Why, you might ask? Well it was not for the normal reasons you might imagine, such as ‘we don’t want to intrude’, ‘we have plans tomorrow morning’, we simply want to get home’, ‘we don’t like the couch bed’. None of these things mattered to them. Instead, the issue at hand was literally:
We don’t know if we want to stay because the toilet paper I buy is too soft for them and they really don’t like using it.
Now lets get the facts straight. I am not a freak or anything. I buy what I consider to be normal toilet paper, you know the middle-of-the-road priced roll you buy in packs at the store. I don’t even go top of the line (because I’m too cheap). So what in the world could be wrong with my toilet paper?
Well, it turns out they really cannot use the ‘Western’ style toilet paper. They only use the toilet paper sheets that are a darker shade of brown, more rough and stacked on top of each other. A good comparison would be the toilet paper you’d find at a public restroom in a gas station, you know, the ones that require a key and have the toiler paper dispenser that spits out paper that resembles paper towels more than toiler paper.
So not only do they prefer to use this kind of toilet paper, but they went to the extreme of this opinion and considered traveling an hour on a bus all the way back home at 10:30pm to avoid using my ’soft’, more expensive toilet paper, if, heaven forbid, they needed to take a trip to the WC. Fortunately, they are not just totally insane (I say that with the best intentions). They decided that if they could find a local convenient store that sold their ‘favorite’ style toilet paper, they would agree to spend the night. And what do you know, they found such a store, purchased a little travel pack and was ready to go.
Now I respect cultural values, tradition, holidays, beliefs, all that jazz. But this to me was an altogether new level. How could one actually prefer the toilet paper that I (and I assume most people in the US) despise? Can you imagine actually buying that crap at the store? Can you imagine actually buying that crap at the store in a toilet paper section that sold shelves and shelves of ‘comfortable’, ’soft’, ‘rolled’ toilet paper? Now can you imagine actually not staying at your child’s apartment at 10:30pm because they only buy the soft toilet paper? LOL. Oh my god, that cracks me up just thinking about it.
I guess that proves that no matter how ridiculous and strange something is to me, tradition is always all-powering.

Wonder if I have the same problem with my in-laws. Cindy/Phil, Don/Patty do you like the toilet paper when you come visit? Any other things you might want to tell me after 10 years (well technically 17!) and since we are going to stay with the family in the States over the Christmas Holiday, I want to state right now that I don’t have anything to say about THEIR toilet paper!

And you, do you hang it the right way or the wrong way?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not Only Good For Gambling...

...The Food Is Also Top Rated Now

Michelin launch its first guide to Hong Kong and Macau.

The edition is Michelin's first foray into China, the second Asian country it has featured since Japan.

World-renowned good food guide Michelin has given its coveted three-star rating (its top recognition meaning "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey") to a Chinese chef for the first time. Chef Chan Yan-tak from Cantonese cuisine restaurant Lun King Heen (“View of the dragon”) in the Four Seasons Hotel was honored in Michelin's first-ever guide to Hong Kong and Macau.

Renowned French chef Joel Robuchon's restaurant Robuchon a Galera, in Macau's Grand Lisboa casino resort, was awarded the only other three stars in the guide.

The review also recommends restaurants in the "Bib Gourmand" section, which highlights establishments offering value for money. But it has also stirred controversy. Michelin executives revealed that only two of the 12 inspectors who had visited more than 1,000 restaurants anonymously since last November were Chinese. Jean-Luc Naret, director, Michelin guide, said: "You do not have to be French to understand French cuisine and you do not have to be Chinese to understand Chinese cuisine."

The Michelin guide originated in France more than 100 years ago and has become the "bible" for food connoisseurs.

Good to know:

  • "Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2009" is the first bilingual Michelin guide. It includes 251 establishments (202 restaurants) with a total of 22 starred-restaurants in Hong Kong and 6 in Macau. (2 three-starred, 8 two-starred; and 18 one-starred)
  • Michelin publishes 26 guides covering 23 countries in Europe, the USA and Asia.
  • Tokyo retained its crown as the world’s most Michelin-starred city (227 stars to the 173 restaurants), with more starred establishments than Paris (96), London (52) and New York (56) combined.
  • There are currently only 75 restaurants in the world with a 3 star attached.
  • French chef Joel Robuchon holds 24 Michelin stars, more than any other chef in the world. His nearest rivals are fellow Frenchman Alain Ducasse who has 16, Britain's Gordon Ramsay with 12 and the US's Thomas Keller with seven.
  • 6 out of 28 rated restaurants were French cuisine (1 three-star; 3 two-star and 2 one-star) the others were mostly Cantonese with some Shanghainese and Beijingnese (just saying....!!)

Another Little Red Book!!!

(source: Channel News Asia, Caterer Search, RFI)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chinese Torture...

...No, Only A Tongue Twister!

“Tongue Twisters are phrases or sentences which are hard to speak fast, usually because of alliteration or a sequence of nearly similar sounds”.

Well almost every word has a nearly similar sound in Chinese! (There are approximately 1,700 possible syllables in Mandarin, which compares with over 8,000 in English. As a result, there are many homophones - syllables which sound the same but mean different things)

sì shì sì. shí shì shí. shísì shì shísì. sìshí shì sìshí.
(Four is four. Ten is ten. Fourteen is fourteen. Forty is forty)

妈妈骑马, 马慢, 妈妈骂马。
māma qí mǎ, mǎ màn, māma mà mǎ.
(Mom ride a horse, the horse is slow, mom insult the horse)

sìshísì zhī sǐ shīzi
(44 solitary dead lions)

Like any tongue twister it doesn’t translate well!

Now repeat after me:

The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick.

"She sells sea shells":
Sister Sue sells sea shells.
She sells sea shells on shore.
The shells she sells.
Are sea shells she sees.
Sure she sees shells she sells.

And did you know that the sign language equivalent of a tongue twister is called a finger fumbler. The phrase “Good blood, bad blood” is a tongue-twister in English as well as a finger-fumbler in ASL.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Giant Octopus...

...Attacked Jeffrey

Jeffrey is fond of the massages here (actually having one as I’m typing this!) but a couple of days ago he decided to go onto the next step of the TCM* or Traditional Chinese Medicine (中医 - Zhong1Yi1).

Looking like he was coming down with a cold, the secretaries at his office told him he should go and have a massage (like he needed to be pushed!)…as he entered the massage parlor coughing the “masseuse” took upon herself to fix him!

This is the result of cupping (NOT an octopus attack!).

Cupping (拔罐) is a method of treating disease that is caused by local congestion but placing several glass "cups" (open spheres) on the body. A match is lit and placed inside the cup and then removed before placing the cup against the skin. The resulting effect is the burning of oxygen within the cup, creating a relative vacuum that allows the cup to stick to the skin via suction.

The underlying tissue is drawn up into the jar forming an area of blood stasis. This appears to bruise the area, or at least turn it a bright red. The amount of dark red or even purple blood drawn to the surface indicates the degree of stagnation. Dark blood is a sign of stagnation, which in many cases in modern terms is the amount of toxins in the blood. These bruises are not dangerous and disappear in a few days.

Cupping is generally indicated in the treatment of Arthritic pain, abdominal pain, stomach ache, indigestion, headache, hypertension, common cold, cough, low back pain, painful menstruation, insect and poisonous snake bite.

* FYI: Traditional Chinese Medicine is largely based on the philosophical concept that the human body is a small universe with a set of complete and sophisticated interconnected systems, and that those systems usually work in balance to maintain the healthy function of the human body. The balance of yin and yang is considered with respect to qi ("breath", "life force", or "spiritual energy"), blood, jing ("kidney essence", including "semen"), other bodily fluids, the five elements, emotions and the soul or spirit (shen). TCM has a unique model of the body, notably concerned with the meridian system. Unlike the Western anatomical model which divides the physical body into parts, the Chinese model is more concerned with function. Thus, the TCM spleen is not a specific piece of flesh, but an aspect of function related to transformation and transportation within the body, and of the mental functions of thinking and studying. (source: Wikipedia)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Getting Cold...

...In Here!

The Beijing Bureau of Meteorology released an alert at 5pm yesterday - the first of its kind since 2004 - warning of a "cold wave" that will result in temperatures in the capital plummeting to -9°C overnight. According to the forecast, force 5 to 6 north winds will begin buffeting the city tonight and during the day tomorrow the temperature is unlikely to rise above 0 ℃. According to authorities, the cold front will only affect Beijing for the next couple of days and temperatures are likely to rebound over the weekend. That said, they're unlikely to reach the relatively mild temperatures we've been experiencing lately.


According to the Chinese agricultural calendar, this Sunday (December 7th) is the seasonal marker of “Da4 Xue3 -大雪” (major snow) . It will be the major snow season of snowstorms in full swing. The “daxue” will be followed but this jie qui (seasonal segments):

  • December 22: Dong1 Zhi4 - 冬至 or Winter Solstice (winter extreme)
  • January 6: Xiao3 Han2 - 小寒 or Minor Cold (cold start to become unbearable)
  • January 20: Da4 Han2 - 大寒 or Major Cold (coldest time of the year).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Sky Is Happy

...It's Smiling

Jeffrey took this picture a couple of nights ago and I found out afterwards that the phenomenon of three celestial bodies so close together only occurs once a year. A smiley face with the eyes of Venus and Jupiter and a friendly little smile from the crescent moon graced the sky of Beijing. Good thing that Beijing reached its target of blue sky of the year (already 256 by the end of November compare to 100 in 1998!) or we wouldn’t have been able to see it!!

The moon is meeting Venus and Jupiter

However, despite the introduction of traffic restrictions, December is probably not going to be a great month for blue skies. December is normally the worst time for Beijing's air quality. The index hit 500 back in 2006 and in 2007 the index hit 421 in late December and then peaked at 500 a few days after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Since Celine* Didn't Come...

...I'll Go See Kylie!

Last night, me and 6,000 of my closest friends (a good mix of Westerners and Chinese) went to see 凯丽米洛- Kai2 Li4 Mi2Luo4 at Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium.

The world’s finest derriere, dressed in Jean-Paul Gaultier, started her concert at 8:02 (first time I went to a concert which started on time!) and opened for herself (like that I was sure to be in my bed by midnight!). The show was incredible. The audience ranged from young children with parents to older ones (I place myself halfway in between these two populations).

“In the first half of concert the crowd seems coolly detached with the entire auditorium seated and the dancing was limited to almost imperceptible head bobs and the odd hand clap but by the end of the show the entire auditorium was on its feet, waving its hands in unison and dancing like it’s been transported to the 80’s”

She even said the obligatory few words in the language where the concert is performed. She was apparently happy to be here: Jintian, wo hen gaoxing

the photo that prove I was there

* that’s Celine Dion, not me!

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

Today is the 21st annual World AIDS Day.

Guangzhou Daily reported that 40 sex workers in Guangzhou took an oath yesterday, swearing to use condoms during their professional like:

Health is wealth, the basic guarantee of happiness. For the health and happiness of ourselves and others, from now on we will use condoms. We will insist on them every time!

The Ministry of Health stated that 264,302 people in China have contracted HIV, and that 77,753 are AIDS patients. The Ministry, in coordination with the WHO, estimates that there are about 700,000 HIV carriers in China, and that 440,000 of them are not aware that they are infected.