Tag Archives: Random

Shanghai Randoms #3

28 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone, friends or random readers! Hope you’re all having a fabulous time off. I’m too busy spending quality time with family and friends to write anything lengthy but here are a few totally random pictures of Shanghai mostly, which I’ve been collecting for a while. Hope you’ll enjoy them and happy new year to all!

In summer, there are street dancing classes. This one is next to our house.

In summer, there are street dancing classes. This one is next to our house.

Vendeuse lotus Pudong

In the subway

In the subway

Waiting for the train to arrive

Waiting for the train to arrive

On summer holiday

On summer holiday

In Sanya

In Sanya

The method of those who can't afford pampers

The method of those who can’t afford pampers (it took me a year to finally get this shot).

Crazy laundry

Crazy laundry

On how to combine a loft and Graeco-Roman temple and miss a column out of two

On how to combine a loft and a Graeco-Roman temple and miss a column out of two (Shaanxi Bei Lu).

Global city, major attraction. Still I'm always amazed when I walk on the Bund.

Global city, major tourist attraction. Still I’m always amazed when I walk on the Bund.

I just can't get enough...

I just can’t get enough…

Prosecco at the Peninsula

Prosecco at the Peninsula

The ashtray I intend to steal some day

The ashtray I intend to steal some day.

Young Chinese English names

21 Oct

I’ve started teaching English in a university, which I shall not name in order to be able to speak freely and not cause any embarrassment to anyone working or studying there. It’s a good change but it’s also a tough job as the students have a lower level than what I expected, given the class books the administration asked me to teach from.

I teach kids who are between 18 and 20 years old. Regardless of their age, they are all freshmen students. Most of them come from Shanghai or cities around, such as Hangzhou, Suzhou or Ningbo. A small number of them come from further afar. As far as I know, there are no or extremely few students from abroad, except from Taiwan, which people in the People’s Republic of China probably don’t consider to be “abroad”.

Before becoming aware of the kids’ English level, I was mostly surprised, not to say totally bewildered, at their choice of English names. I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but basically it is quite difficult for us foreigners to pronounce correctly Chinese names (because of the tricky tones), let alone remember them. Likewise for Chinese people with our names. So we all play each other’s game by choosing Western or Chinese names to make things a little bit easier for everyone. In my classes for example, I’ve got many very classical – if not old fashioned – names such as John, Kevin, Karl, Sylvia, Georgina, Rose, Wendy, Maggie etc. There are some original but totally acceptable ones: both Coco and KiKi, Young or Aster. But a few students have taken that practice to a whole new level. Please meet: Black, Lion, Lucifer (wtf???), Dolce (where is Gabbana I felt like asking him), HoC, Krayza (everytime I speak of him, I say he’s a gangsta and move my hands rap-style), Phoenix (a girl), K.O. … The other day I met one of the original kids in the tube and took the opportunity to privately ask him how he had chosen his name. He said he was inspired by a little known Canadian basketball player…

It must be fun to give yourself absolutely any name you want, just to be understood by your English teacher. Also, it’s not official at all except for the university administration and still there’s room to doubt that. I’ve had two or three students who had different names in different classes. Thankfully, I am fairly good at recognising faces and therefore asked those whom I did recognise to stick to a single English identity in all their classes.

I’ve told this to many of my friends and so those of them who will read this will not find it very novel. I just thought it was both interesting and hilarious and, mostly, made a good story. That was until tonight when I met J., a lovely girl, who works for a big international bank here and also has a colleague called Lucifer. She then completely killed my story by telling me than one of her colleagues is called Watchman and another one called, brace yourselves, … … … … Durex!

The groupie in me

8 Sep

Yesterday evening as we were leaving Din Tai Fung (an excellent Taiwanese chain of restaurants specialised in yummy dumplings) and walking on Nanjing Xi Lu, we saw a small group of paparazzi waiting for someone to leave the Ferragamo store and enter a car waiting just outside. Then we saw a young lady, dressed in a short champagne sequin dress, leave the place and get into the car under the excited eyes of photographers and some passer-bys. Out of curiosity, I asked a foreigner with a big camera who she was. He didn’t seem to know much despite his camera but told me she’s an actress called “Sūn Lì”. Not being experts in Asian cinema, apart from the big international stars, we didn’t feel particularly enthusiastic about the encounter as we had no clue who she was.

We carried on our walk on Nanjing Xi Lu, slowly making our way home. Two or three blocks later, by the newly opened massive Louis Vuitton store, we saw that same car stop, with the same bodyguards all dressed in black shirts and trousers getting out first. I told J.: “There she is again” and, encouraged by the excitement around, I screamed in my totally toneless Chinese accent “Sun Liiiii”, ran towards the car and took a shot of her with my phone. I hadn’t realised I had actually come quite close and there she was, she looked at me and gave a nice big smile to her only lǎowài* groupie while I continued to fake it. One of her many bodyguards then gently blocked me from getting any closer to her while J. stood a bit further, totally dumbfounded by my infantile behaviour.

My shot of Sun Li

Once at home, I looked her up. It turns out she’s also known as Betty Sun Li and is more of a soap opera comedian but her cinema career is taking off. Her latest films are “Mural” or “The Lost Bladesman”, neither of which sound familiar to us. Anyway, she was cute enough and, until we meet Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, Chow Yun-Fat or Fan Bingbing, that’s the closest we got to Chinese celebrity.

Images of Sun Li when you do a Google search

*lǎowài: respectful word for foreigner

Shanghai Randoms #2

14 Jun

Our balcony

View from a friend’s house – very typical of Shanghai

Mailbox – in the former French Concession

Chinese don’t like number 4 because it sounds like the word “death”

Cats in hammocks

Chinese are mad about crickets and the sound they make!

Surviving Sichuan food

On motorbikes: like father, like son



Chair seller

Must buy two of these eventually


Shanghai Randoms #1

6 Jun

As some of you may know, I am taking a break from Shanghai these days and enjoying more familiar places in Europe. I do have a few pending posts to write but until I do, I thought I’d keep whomever is reading this blog or just stumbling on it entertained with a series of totally random shots that I’ve been collecting since moving to China.

Hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I was amazed, amused or puzzled when I witnessed them live. For more regular updates, you can follow me on Instagram. Just look for jolicanard.

Boats on a boat

The map of China in our kitchen

Way too warm at Beijing’s airport

Siesta in the printing shop

Workshop in the old city

Getting dinner ready I suppose

Sacrificial paper

Just down my street, selling a turtle

Checking the quality of the goods

Oddly enough, one of our favourite snacks over here

Visits: Hángzhōu

22 May

Whilst Shanghai itself is not that old, it is surrounded by lots of “smaller” towns with a long history. The most famous ones are Sūzhōu and Hángzhōu (pronounced su-joe and hang-joe), which are respectively 30 minutes and an hour’s fast train ride from Shanghai.

When my parents were here, a while ago now (I have been a bit lazy), they felt like escaping from the city environment for something quieter and relaxing. So we headed to Hangzhou, which I was told is very pretty, prettier than Suzhou despite its UNESCO Wold Heritage status.

We thought we’d hire an English speaking guide at the train station to show us around and explain us a thing or two. As soon as we left the platform, we were greeted by lots of people selling their touring services. My speaking and negotiating skills were put to the test. I did well but it still took 35 minutes to get a guide (non-English speaking) and a car just for ourselves. English speakers are difficult to find at the station (I think you’ll have to hire one from a travel agency in Shanghai); also it wasn’t clear that we didn’t want to share a car and finally of course, there was no way we were going to pay 1,000 RMB (80 euros, 100 pounds) per person. So I got it down to 400 RMB for the three of us :D

Totally random: a black cab in Hangzhou!

As for the other posts on my recent visits, here’s my practical piece of advice. Although it can be pricy, I’d advise anyone with limited time in Hangzhou to hire a guide if you don’t want to walk a lot. Once you’re around the historic places, it will be very difficult for you to find a cab to get back to the station or anywhere else in town.

In Hangzhou, most places to see are around the large lake, which is located to the west of town. As everywhere in eastern China, you have to expect company anywhere you are, even if you think it’s a cunning plan to visit Hangzhou on a Friday. For a long time, it was difficult for Chinese people to move inside their own country, because infrastructure were not as developed, people couldn’t afford it but also because it was forbidden or highly regulated. In fact, you still need to give your passport number to be able to buy a train ticket to go anywhere. So they’re now making the best of it and are therefore the first tourists in their country.

Anyhow, despite the crowds, traffic around the lake and the mist, Hangzhou was beautiful and very relaxing. It’s very green and there are some mountains in the horizon which remind you that nature survives outside Shanghai. Around the lake are pagodas and houses of historic and learned figures. I’m sadly unable to give much details. I just know that Hangzhou was the capital of the Wuyue Kingdom during the 10th century. During this short time, the arts flourished and so did Buddhism, leaving us with the pagodas. Hangzhou is also known for having an Arab community, which settled in the 12th and 13th centuries when the city was an important sea trading post. Ibn Battuta visited the city in 1345 and praised its beautiful lake.

A lot of more private resorts, like the one at Mogan Shan, developed lately, catering for really quiet and relaxing weekends away from the crowds. So there’s definitely a lot more to do in Hangzhou, you just have to dedicate more than one afternoon. More on that next time hopefully…

Why do I…

4 Jan

… put myself in odd situations? Now that I feel a bit more settled here and that the weather is too cold most days to do long walks, I have started going back to the gym. After two weeks of procrastination (technically one as we were in the Philippines for Chinese New Year), I finally put on my trainers and sportswear and headed to a 45 minute “Basic Aerobics” class, starting at 19:05. Although I am not at all a fan of aerobics, I thought it would be soft way to re-awaken my numbed muscles.

After making sure I wouldn’t be the only one to attend this class, I went into the studio only to find myself with about 25 mid-aged Chinese women and the male instructor. They obviously all noticed me but never looked directly at me. Conscious of the awkwardness of the situation, I really couldn’t help myself from having a big smile on my face.

The class started with some warm-ups. We then did a few basic moves which I was able to follow fairly well. Then the teacher started to get into a frenzy of various moves, which all formed a routine. I did my best to follow and was able to do it to some extent, but nothing compared to the ten women standing in front of me.

At 19:15, I was out of breath, had a look at the watch and thought I’d never make it until 19.50. I tried to follow the routine, but couldn’t help being distracted by the instructor’s shouting, alternating between “four, three, two, one!!” and “sì, sān, èr, yīīīī!!!!”.

At 19:25, the routine felt more like the behaviour of an overly drunk and excited clubber. I really wanted to get out but made it a point to stay.

At 19:30, although the class was losing more and more people but gaining spectators at the door, the instructor maintained his weird choreography, adding twists and moves and occasionally turning around like a princess with his arms lifted at waist height.

At 19:37, I was really ready to leave but then Madonna’s “Hung up” came up and gave me an extra boost.

At 19:45, it felt like that wretched watch was broken and just would not move to the next minute… At some point, I just gave up and exchanged compassionate and amused smiles with a Chinese lady, also unable to follow.

At 19:50, we were only 10 survivors to leave the class.

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