Monday, February 26, 2007

Refurbed MacBook

picked up the "new" refurbished MacBook from Siva on Saturday. the feel of the MacBook took some getting used to since I was more accustomed to the old 14" iBook, especially the keyboard n smaller (but wider) screen. but the speed was comfortable enuff even though it was only 512Mb RAM. brought two tubs of ice cream from Seow Hua's shop along as offerings. the belgian chocolate n durian ice cream was quickly quaffed by Siva n Airani.

Friday, February 23, 2007

CNY celebrations in Beijing

This Chinese New Year in Beijing was a sedated affair for Robina and me. We met up with friends for gatherings and makan sessions. other than that we basically vegetated at home with our DVDs. Robina was under the weather probably due to the changing seasons.

After dinner with friends on New Year's eve, we joined the rest of Beijing to unleash a storm of fireworks and firecrackers.

Robina and the kids playing with sparklers
On one occasion, even the local police stopped by for a look. they left sheepishly after we reminded them that letting off fireworks was legal within city limits during this period. all this while the rest of Beijing was merrily blasting away around us...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gaobeidian furniture wonderland

Gaobeidian, essentially a small kampong on the eastern end of Beijing, is better known to expats in Beijing as a furniture superstore. Imagine the narrow alleys filled with many furniture shops and factories. And they don sell IKEA, believe me. some claim to sell antique Ming and Qing dynasty furniture while others sell "refurbished" old furniture (from cannibalised parts) and yet others produce "modern style" Ming and Qing furniture. Many expats come to Gaobeidian to buy or custom-make their furniture. A trip to Gaobeidian is a pilgrimage undertaken by expats usually some months before they are due to return home, to stock up on Chinese-style furniture.
Last weekend, our apartment organised a day trip to this furniture enclave. There's apparently more to Gaobeidian than just furniture. We visited a Beijing "temple fair" (somewhat like our pasar malam) disguised as a "Folk Culture Village". There were dragons dances, drumming by fiesty grannies and stilt-walkers. Like the amg moh fairground attractions like Bearded Ladies and Siamese twins, a Beijing temple fair must-have are "snake ladies" (sorry, forgot to take pics!). At 3 Yuan entrance fee, you can watch a Chinese lady (in pseudo- Aladdin costumes) together with a pile of snakes. This temple fair must be very respectable since they have 3 snake lady shows within 3 meters of each others. Beijingers must have a thing with ladies with snakes....
A more interesting part of the iternary was a visit to a local Beijing family where we were hosted to lunch. We get to learn how to make the ubiquitous Beijing "jiaozi" (dumpings). After a few tries, Robina and I learnt from the aunty to crimp decent-looking jiaozi, just slightlymis-shapened. thankfully we don have to eat our handiwork.

last stop was at a musical instrument museum with lots of zithers like gu qin, gu zhen and yang qin. there were short recitals by musicians playing the ethnic instruments including the ocarina.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

hunt for Götheborg DVD

Robina and I spotted China's CCTV9 English channel broadcasting a documentary series on Götheborg's sinking, rebuilding and voyage to China (you can try watching the clips on wmv). I went online to search for the the DVDs of this docu. CCTV produces a wide-range of docus on archaelogy, culture and history. After airing on TV, the docus are usually released as DVDs. I found the Götheborg DVD on the CCTV online sales website. However, they don have the full 11-parter only the first 2 episodes on the sinking of the ship in 1745 and the rebuilding process. the DVD was only in Mandarin and no subtitles.

the sales staff was quite helpful (surprising for China service standards) and told me how to find their office. I popped down to their office one day and bought the DVD at a discounted price of RMB18 (only S$4.5).
returning home, I checked the DVD's quality. Robina commented that the DVD picture quality was lousy compared to the docu we saw on TV. but that's what you get for $4.5! Luckily (for Siva n Airani), the interviews with the SOIC staff and crew were in English. they describe the rebuilding process like the wood they use for the keel and masts, which I thought was the most interesting parts. you will be able to spot a very pale (before the voyage) Lars the Bosun, whom we met on board Götheborg in Singapore. Lars looked suspiciously like Ryan Giggs, I must say...

Alvin's spiel

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