Thursday, October 14, 2004


I haven't posted in a while because I'm still without a computer and an internet connection, and I've been trying to stay out of the internet cafe, which reeks of cigarette smoke and sucks away my time like a black hole would. If you have been visiting my blog, however, you would have noticed that I've been taking quite a few pictures with my cellphone. In this post, I would like to provide some context for a few recent pictures.

First off, I went to the Xujiahui (徐家汇) shopping/business district with John a few days ago to look at computer parts and get some price estimates, and on the way home I took a photo of some machines in the metro station. The Xujiahui Line 1 station is getting a lot of remodelling work done lately, including new signage that shows the northern extension to Line 1, and these cool machines for adding value to 交通卡 without having to wait in line for a human to do it. The 交通卡 (jiaotongka) is a value-storage card that you can use on all sorts of public transportation in Shanghai. It's very useful for me, since in the course of a normal business day I find myself riding on buses, the metro, the light rail line, and taking taxis. I can swipe my 交通卡 to pay for all four of these!

The entrance to my apartment building has a sign with the words "Respect the Elderly Building" written on it. It's appropriate, since there's an old folks home right next door. Every day when I walk to the light rail station, I pass a little plaza within our apartment complex filled with a bunch of excercise equipment that is packed with old people working out. It's really a normal sight here in Shanghai.

The other day when I was leaving my usual morning school, I saw these four cars parked across the street. License plates in China work something like this:

character, followed by
letter, followed by
space, followed by
letter, followed by
five or six numbers.

The character is an abbreviation for the province that the car is registered in. Sometimes it's quite a puzzle to match the character to the province because some of the provincial "nicknames" are nothing like the province's name. The first letter is an indication of where within the province the car was registered, and the rest is simply an incremental counter. Anyhow, the cool thing about the four cars I saw is that they were each from a different province:

沪 (pronounced "hu", from Shanghai)
A 东方之子 ("Son of the East") CHERY 2.4AT
粤 (pronounced "yue", from Guangdong)
A Mitsubishi Eclipse
京 (pronounced "jing", from Beijing)
A VW Passat
苏 (pronounced "su", from Jiangsu)
A Honda Fit, "Saloon" model

I'm not sure what this all means, but it struck my fancy at the time. And the first time I tried to take their pictures, some lady on a bike rode in front of me just as I snapped the shutter.

Yesterday I made a trip to Carrefour to buy mustard and a serrated knife. One neat thing about Carrefour is that they run several free buses around a large part of Shanghai to shuttle people in and out of their store, which is very convenient for a lot of people, including me. As I sat on the bus and waited for eight o'clock—departure time—to roll around, I noticed these guys lounging around on three over-turned shopping carts under the overpass where the buses stop. I thought it was pretty funny that they would use shopping carts as benches not fifty yards from the Carrefour front doors (though not too surprised; public benches are in short supply in the Chinese cities I've visited). All of the sudden, these guys started making a commotion, threw up their hands, and scattered; where were they going? Well, it turns out that these were the bus drivers! They hopped into the driver's seat of each bus, and drove us home. Hah!

A few days ago I went downtown to the Huaihai Road UNIQLO and bought a brownish-green collared shirt and a grey lamb's wool sweater, both for work. I took a picture of myself in the dressing room mirror.

MUGS! John insists that these should be easy to find, but even the bicycle-back peddlers that I've consulted have failed to turn up monochrome, flat-bottomed ceramic mugs. Luckily, Carrefour redeemed itself on my second trip by having two incredibly cheap almost-the-same-shade-of-yellow mugs for sale, which I snapped up on the spot. So now I have respectable mugs to drink out of. Now, for plates and bowls...

That's it. Except for one thing...

If I start a band in China, it will be called 老弱病残孕. (EDIT: Oops, it looks like I was inspired by Brad.)


At Oct 25, 2004, 12:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I really like your band name -- in fact, I wrote about it 9 months ago:


At Oct 25, 2004, 9:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Er, great minds think alike?


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