Month: April, 2012

Pomelo Love

I can’t believe I’d never eaten Pomelo until China. Now I am completely in lust. And I got bored the other night so I tried to make juice, which turned out more like a smoothie. Actually, I did have a reason for the juice, which I’d hoped would have a laxative effect after weeks of hardly eating any carbs (and I guess not much protein on my recent ‘diet). It wasn’t quite fibrous enough, unfortunately.



Time and Efficiency

Fake it 'til you make it, China

The Ayi

We have an Ayi who comes 6 days a week to clean the apartment. For the uninitiated, an Ayi does everything from housekeeping to child-minding, depending on the individual arrangement. Anyway, our Ayi is for the most part sullen and a little odd. Generally she buzzes around muttering to herself (constant muttering), which has gotten to the point where I am wondering if she is all there. She has never once replied to my Ni hao. So I’ve given that up.

I used to feel sorry for her having to clean (what I assume is) all 4 of the staff apartments in our complex. Until the day I busted her resting. Not that I blame her (and I have done similar myself). But often times I see her getting quite frantic to try and get everything done. Procrastination is an art form here, at least the way it’s practiced…

So yeah. We have this stupid and frankly bizarre chair in our apartment. The stupid part is obvious – the bizarre aspect I mostly attribute to the placement – it is sideways against a wall, facing a wall, in an area that no one uses… if I cared more I’d ask where it came from…but I save my breath and write it off as ‘….eh, China’.

So one Saturday I come home from the gym and as I push open the front door I hear a sort of scurrying. But when I walk in all I see is this chair (it’s on springs…) merrily Boing-oing-oinging…busted.

Chilli Chair

Flight etiquette

On a flight home to Hangzhou yesterday I wanted to take a photo of the other passengers, but I was a little too self-conscious, as it would have been completely obvious, and in the context have appeared pretty strange.

As is customary here, no sooner had our wheels hit the tarmac, than the sound of seatbelts unbuckling violently could be heard throughout the cabin. Mobile phones went on, despite warnings not to power them up until inside the terminal, and I fully expected people to stand up and begin moving around during the somewhat long taxi to the gate (miraculously, this time they did not). The picture I wanted to capture was during the usual crush that occurs when  300-odd passengers (or a mostly full plane-excluding yours truly) has moved from it’s seats, gotten it’s luggage ready and stands in the aisle. And waits. Without fail this occurs, and I could probably count on one hand the amount of passengers left sitting at this juncture. It’s usually just foreigners.

I myself cannot get used to the crush, the suffocation, the violation of personal space that occurs in these instances. It’s a common thing here, for a crowd to form (often times for what appears to be the stupidest reason, or no reason at all). The little old lady who had been sitting next to me on the aisle seat was almost pulled up off her feet in the squash. I could see her tiny body listing diagonally, her little hand straining to clutch at the large box that appeared to house a toy dump-truck. If her feet left the ground I would not have been surprised. She was as thin as a prepubescent 10 year old girl, and about the same height. How she had borne children at all is a little mystifying. When I imagined the recipient of the gift playing with it briefly before losing interest, I felt a bit sad. I hope that wasn’t the case. She had cradled that box between her knees all the way from Shenzhen.

So bearing in mind that oftentimes instructions are ignored in these instances, and that I have seen several people struggling with the toilet doors on flights recently, this really comes as no surprise.

I so often see mishaps here as a result of pure impatience, too. There is this lovely level of obliviousness that occurs here – almost as if they think, ‘if I wish hard enough, it will be so’. YANK. Then out pops the escape slide. And the person who did it pretends it never happened.

China has ruined bragging for me

Although I wouldn’t say I’m highly accomplished, in any area in life, I have a few feathers in my cap professionally.

But here in China I’d be completely wasting my breath evening bringing them up – because none of them could top the fantastical stories I hear here. And not only that, but I am beginning to doubt anyone would understand, being that we are from different planets and all.

Case in point. I was talking to my boss (ok, I was sort of using the example in a secretly boastful way – but I did have a point to make) about some of my previous work and the kudos I had received, and telling him the how and why. ie, that my work was selected because of xyz quality, good design blah blah, and that that is why we should be aiming for that…(like he should need to be told – but! we are in China people….). But he immediately responded by pointing out that I had paid to have my work to be in the position to be selected.

Well, yeah. I did. I paid a PR agent and they showcased my work, a magazine selected it and featured it. I mean, Vogue (it wasn’t Vogue) fashion editors don’t wander around shops asking to borrow things. They visit a press office, get served a nice cup of coffee and then choose from what is presented. Or they get sent images and select some. I was hired in part because I had experience working with a PR agency so I know a bit of the ins and outs of dealing with that side of things. (Of course, now I’ve found out that there is no budget for any of that, therefore that side of things is going untended). I didn’t bother to mention the blood, sweat and tears that went in to paying the agency in the first place. I knew it was a lost cause.He then proceeded to tell me that in China, that is not how it is done. Here, you can simply pay for whatever you want. That is if you are willing to spend the money, have the money, and apparently having good guanxi also helps, not just the $$…

What the above was intending to illustrate is that I’ve done some work I’m pretty proud of, that I so far have not bothered to tell anyone here about.

Last week my boss told me that a colleague had lied to me about one of ‘her’ projects being well received by a big client. According to him, it wasn’t her work, she had appropriated it from another designer here in another department, who was now very pissed off. Without even beginning to explore why my boss would tell me this (as it was gossip, plain and simple ), it made me realise that I may as well never bother getting close to anyone here. And I also may as well never bother to describe to anyone my accomplishments (not that anyone has ever asked). Because they would either 1. Find some reason to be pissed off about it (if you lived here, you’ll probably be familiar with this – for everyone else, sorry but I don’t know why this is either, I just know that it’s one possible scenario) or 2. Think I was lying.

I have no idea what the people I work with think of me. If they are anything like one of the first Chinese people I ever befriended here – they probably think I’m not really a ‘fashion designer’, due to my tendency to dress down quite frequently at work. According to this Chinese girl I made friends with back in the day I ‘don’t dress like one’. I’m not sure what she was expecting…. orange hair and a basque a la Vivienne Westwood, perhaps? At any rate, there is no way in hell the people at work think I am glamorous enough for this job. I know that in my bones, because I”m starting to get an idea of how they think…

And considering that we have a member of staff here that everyone (even my boss) refers to as K**, from Gucci (extremely derisively, as NO ONE believes it…) there is no way they look at me wearing tights, a sweater and uggs to work and think anything other than…who is this ugly, sloppy foreigner and why is she getting xyz? Let alone believe me if I told them about my past experience and successes.

So, as much as I might get the urge every now and again when I see someone here reading a an issue of G****a to say ‘My line was in G****a a few times’, I’m just not going to bother.