Thursday, May 29, 2008

new decorations

An artist friends wrote a calligraphy piece for me. I gotten it framed up and put it in our living room.
the previous centre piece painting was shifted to above the TV. this one is a copy not original.
some cheap replica paintings are now decorating both ends of our hall way. the frame cost more than the paintings which we bought from Pan Jia Yuan antique market (and home of cheap replica paintings). we like this brightly coloured farmland scene.
Ryan Giggs autograph is now up in the hallway! nice touch to have Tony Adams, former Arsenal defender sprawled helpless on the ground (poetic!).
close up of his signature
some update on the honours roll would be needed like 10 Premiership and 2 Champion League titles! hurray!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Tuesday morning photo of the road junction near my building. part smog and part dust storm.
dust storm lasted until Thursday even though there was relatively strong winds.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Canadian charity ball

Robina and I attended the Canadian Ball this evening. it was a black tie event so I have to appear in my penguin suit.
there was a silent auction of Olympic posters and other paraphernalia with proceeds going to the Sichuan earthquake fund and other charities.
We place bids for the Nagano and Berlin Winter Olympics which we thought were quite nice, but we were quickly outbidded
there was a serious bidding war for some popular posters and some guests were quite serious about winning their bid
In the end, we went home with a signed Ryan Giggs poster. I'm a Giggs fan and this season Man U had done the double by winning both the league and Champions League. too bad that Giggs will probably fade out and retire soon.
First Nations native americans performed during the dinner. they were here for the Canadian pavilion at Tiananmen promoting the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. I thot it was interesting that the native american groups were promoting their culture and music in China and Asia since Native Americans shared a common cultural and genetic heritage with us Asians.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sally on the sofa

Sally was watching American Idol final together with Robina. She settled herself comfortably resting her head on a cushion.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Heart-rending stories from the rubble

Earlier I thought that no TV image could beat the sight of Premier Wen Jiabao comforting a young girl whose parents were killed in the 12 May earthquake. As the girl was weeping, Wen was telling her to live on with determination since she had survived. Robina was crying her eyes out...

This evening on Chinese CCTV, I saw the news clip on the rescue of a young man, Chen Jian, who was trapped under a collapsed building in Wenchuan for 73 hours before rescuers got to him. Pinned down under 3 concrete slabs, Chen was conscious and kept talking to the rescue team and journalists. His words were not focus on his own misery or suffering, but were words of determination. After 6 hours of digging, Chen was freed but as he was carried away for treatment, Chen went into cardiac arrest and even CPR by rescuers failed to revive him. It was such a tragedy that a young man had died moments after being pulled out from tons of concrete and surviving a massive earthquake. Chen had a young pregnant wife waiting for him in his home town.

earthquake mourning

China grounded to a halt at 1428hrs today. state flags are at half-mast while air raid sirens and car horns were sounded. we held a 3 minute silence to mourn the victims of the massive earthquake in Sichuan (now upgraded to Richter 8).

as China goes into 3 days of official mourning, it seems that the no public entertainment ruling was taken very seriously. our cable channels including HBO, Discovery and NGC, were gone leaving only news channels like BBC, CNN and CNA and local news channels. but Star World was still on so we can watch Friends and American Idol while Discovery was considered entertainment. Even Chinese youtube sites like Youku and Tudou were blanked out except clips on the Sichuan quake. apparently people were told to postpone their weddings. I thought no entertainment meant no public celebrations etc...
Robina grumbled that only in a Communist country that you can pull a blanket ban like this. While everyone should demonstrate respect and mourning for such a tragedy, I am baffled at how not watching documentaries would help the quake victims. Like I told Robina, some AO (or the Chinese equivalent) probably thought that it was a good idea.
Robina was at BreadTalk today and she saw that BreadTalk was donating proceeds from a special earthquake bread series costs RMB10 (about S$2). She bought a frowning panda bun (Note: 3 pandas were reported missing from the Wolong Panda Research Centre and 5 staff were killed)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

an evening on the Great Wall

we spent a very pleasant evening on the Badaling Great Wall. our friends invited us for a gathering at the German restaurant on the wall itself. the restaurant is not open all the time and only accepts bookings for private functions.
Robina like the main branch of the restaurant Der Landgraf at Fangzhuang, south Beijing. It serves excellent German food and beer.
although it was not a full service restaurant due to lack of a full kitchen, we had an excellent spread of cheese, sausages and BBQ and of course, great Bittburger beer.
before getting onto the wall, we had to take a trolley car up the slopes. it was nice to be on the Great Wall in the evening when most tourists are clearing out. At night it was breezy, a little chilly at times and the moon added a poetic touch
we had a lot of fun both on the way up and later on the way down after the dinnerthe party was very nice with many friends catching up on the latest happenings and each others' families. amongst the boys, a mysterious brown bottle of Hungarian cognac and potent Mongolian Chinggis vodka kept the chill at bay.
even our journey from Beijing was full of unintended excitement when our coach was involved in a 3 party "minor" accident. A No. 919 bus was overtaking our coach but a Shandong truck cut into the bus' path and the bus driver had to swerve into our coach's path. Nothing serious happened and there was no serious damage or injury. There was just a superficial scrap on our coach and the bus' side mirror was damaged. but the truck was clearly driving dangerously and the 919 Bus managed to chase the truck down and we stopped by the side of the highway and there was much excitement amongst the coachload of foreigners.
another 919 showed up to offloaded passengers and we carried on our journey while the bus and fugitive truck waited for the cops to arrive. you can see that most of us are quite jaded after living in Beijing for a while, that we don bat an eyelid at such an incident.

Jeremey's early birthday celebrations in Beijing

Jeremey was in Beijing this week so Sherry, Malcolm and Robina gave him an early birthday celebration at Beijing Hooters!
As it was raining, Jeremey caught a ride with his boss and was 30 mins early, where he promptly "upset" the hooter gals by playing his PSP while they dance and sing. So he was blamed for all the subsequent bad service at Hooters...

Anyway, this was Robina's second visit to Beijing Hooters (and first time for dinner) and her impression...
Beijing Hooters:
Rude and Poor Service, VERY LOUD Music, A Hooter gal that either don't smile or have a "strange" smile, funny dancing, repertoire of kiddy songs (this was according to Sherry since Robina could not understand some of the songs), and for some reason... excellent chocolate mouse cake!!

Overall, a strange experience. As usual, the best entertainment is still provided by Jeremey by being himself!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

blood donation crowds in Beijing

I was passing by Wangfujing (Beijing's busy shopping mall district) during lunch time and spotted a large crowd in front of the mobile blood donation bus. it seems that the Beijing people was rallying to donate blood for the earthquake victims in Sichuan. I counted at least 50 people lining up and filling up the forms. this was just before 2pm and there was still many people waiting.
I was very impressed by this scene as usually the bus would be more or less empty, and more so because blood donation in China has a bad rep due to poor peasants in rural areas selling their blood and getting infected with HIV in return. even "blood donation" here is termed "giving blood without compensation" (无偿献血) as opposed to getting paid for your blood.

Update: due to overwhelming response Beijing Blood Bank is now asking donors to register and wait for call up when there is need for more blood.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chengdu earthquake felt in Beijing

Robina called me frantically that the building was swaying. she grabbed Sally and ran out. Sally is still panting from the excitement. all the people from our apartment building came downstairs. nearby office buildings were evacuated. bemused office workers and construction workers were all out on the street. even kids in the nearby shopping mall skating ring were all out!
all these felt like the 3.3 scale earthquake we went through in Taipei on 31 Mar 2002! our Taipei survival training helped.

Update: more good news. China Earthquake Bureau (from cautions that there might be 2-6 Richter scale after shocks experiences in Beijing area from 2200-0000hrs this evening. the tremors this afternoon around 1430hrs were just Richter 2. good luck!

Update 2: Chinese official media is now discrediting earlier reports of after shocks predicted for Beijing area tonight. casualty figures for Sichuan epicentre not good. reports coming out that some schools near the disaster area had collapsed.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

kaya in Tashkorgan and other adventures

our first day (1 May) was a disaster. our flight to Kashgar was almost landing when it had to turn back bcos of dust storm. can't blame the pilot or airlines since I could see the dust plumes from the plane. it was like a scene from The Mummy!

we kena turn back to Urumqi to fly back the next morning. the usual mayhem followed, including a long wait to retrive our luggage, plus lousy transport by the airline (China Southern). it was almost 2am when we reached the lousy hotel provided by the airline.

when we landed in Kasghar and left on our coach, we saw a highway advertisement board being twisted like aluminium foil just outside the airport. it shows how strong the winds were on Thurs night!

as we started our journey proper, Xinjiang landscape was spectacular! we drove from Kashgar to Lake Karagul, then to Tashkorgan. we went from Uighur farmland to open desert up valley gorges, pass glaciers and onto the Pamir highlands at 3600m.

we stayed at Crown Inn at Tashkorgan, the best hotel in the Tajik town. the hotel is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and it seemed more like the Swiss Alps than the Pamir plateau. surprisingly it was runned by a Singaporean couple. they were very nice and efficient (as usual). the hotel was clean and beautifully furnished. we even got kaya for breakfast! quite surreal actually: kaya at Tashkorgan!

this morning we visited a Tajik family. our tour group was feted with naan, yoghurt and various pastries. Robina bought a hand embriodered Tajik hat from the family. their 19-year old daughter, Kemartigol, was very sweet and liked Robina a lot. she kept talking to Robina and hugging her. She seemed very reluctant to let Robina go when we were supposed to leave. Robina was nearly adopted!

now we'r back in Kashgar and the city is blanketed in a dust cloud. we heard that all flights in and out from Kashgar were cancelled. apparently, the dust were brought up to high altitudes by the strong winds on Thurs and was now falling back to ground level. hopefully our pm flight on Sunday would be alright. anyway we will hit the Sunday bazaar in the morning and load up on local specialties!

P.S. posting from free internte in Kashgar Hotel

Alvin's spiel

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