B-grade actor, made by Corgi toys

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I didn’t know that Corgi toys  made cars in this size. At least it was to scale, and you could probably fit four people inside, five in an emergency. I thought this was a one-off. But getting off the train later in Shenyang, they had two of them parked in the foyer sidebyside. They, the cars, do make for compactness an form but what about function? Unlike police cars in the West, where police cars were often bought and built for the chase. But these, I’m not sure what their intended purpose is. Aside from issuing parking tickets,  it doesn’t really lend to any authority. Like any B-grade actor or actress, they do the job, but where’s the (stage) presence?

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Ghosts in the park, they were only there to play

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Miss Gray: paging Miss Green. Paging Miss Green!

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Maximising STT, failure within earshot

IMG_20120217_155054While I was in Shenyang, I got to spend a lot of time in one of the local Starbucks. To paint the scene, the first thing you hit after you’ve gone through the revolving doors is the counter. You’re greeted (in Chinese of course) by the staff. I stroll up to the counter and order my usual hot chocolate, grande’ size. The shop is normally crowded but I’m usually able to find a seat. Coffee shops tend to be places where all sorts of people meet. Not uncommon that I’ve seen foreigners congregate here for whatever reasons. I’ve seen a bible club run, meetings occur (locals and foreigners alike) and of course the 1 to 1 English lesson. I have to say that this guy was talking way too much. When I took my CELTA training, the specific teaching footnote was to maximise student talk time (STT). They are afterall, there to practise their English, not to sit and hear someone preach. Having to sit in close proximity to the ‘1 to 1’ couple, was annoying. CELTA, I think, had turned me into a stern critic of English teaching. This way or nothing. To be fair, the student did look on the shy side, or heaven forbid was seeking advice, but there’s always room for improvement, on both sides of the fence.

Adventures in Shenyang, a frozen vista and walking the street

Shenyangweather12_02_15EDITIt’s freezing cold in Shenyang. Daily temperatures are down to single figures and that’s during the day! At night apparently it gets colder. Thankfully, the people who administer the building that my wife’s parents live decided that there’s enough money in the heating fund to actually send some heat through the tower block. (Later on in the month they did actually reduce the heat flow from less than toasty to absolutely meager flows of warmth).  Having arrived directly after the initial Lunar new year’s celebrations, I managed to miss the first salvo of fireworks. Not to worry, there was a second (closing) firing of fireworks 15 days later. I have to say that having seen it kick off for the third or fourth time, It wasn’t their most colourfull or noisy effort. Still, not bad for something that’s not formally organized. Some years they actually prohibit the use of fireworks because of pollution which hangs low in the cold, still air. I can attest to this. Fun does have it’s price.

In the 30 days I stayed in Shenyang (30 days is the maximum allowable length for a visa for China) we went shopping, but mainly went to a massager that lives across town. I have to say that she was quite good at loosening up my shoulder. But in waiting for my wife to finish, I’d hang out at the local Starbucks order a  hot chocolate and very slowly drink it. I have to say that it was delicious topped off with mock cream with the heavier, chocolatety fraction condensing at the bottom. Drinking the last third was like having a dessert course within a dessert course. The dark chocolate was a silky, made almost syrupy by the cooled milk already in the cup. Another thing that was good about Starbucks was the free wi-fi.  Made possible with my Toshiba Thrive, I blended in well with the rest of the patrons, as they were also surfing hard on their laptops or smartphones.

Traverse this.

Something I never ever do in Korea or indeed anywhere else is jaywalk across a road. For me this is no small matter, and in veritably I’m the first person across since I don’t just walk, I jog or sprint. I’m just shit-scared of getting hit by a car. It’s the mindset of the person behind the wheel that is just deadset on driving, and not even pedestrians, will stop that. I once saw a woman driver veer towards some fellow ‘froggers’ waiting along the middle of the road. I can’t think of any reason than they (the froggers) might be known to the driver, or, she was on some sort of power trip. The fellow pedestrians glanced at her go by. Maybe they were as surprised as I was.

But aside from going out for massages, there wasn’t a lot for me to do. Once I went out to take photographs. It was Shenyang’s finest weather that it had to offer, the sky was a powder blue with a pale sun hung halfway in the sky. A walk around the neighbourhood that surrounded the tower block apartments that my wife’s parents lived in yielded some photographs.  Passing through residential areas, and the nearby shops that support the also nearby monastery, I snapped photographs, cursing my laziness for not packing my zoom lens. I’ve been known to say, “just get closer”.  I cursed again as the reason for the super zoom lens was the prevention of shyness, on the part of both parties.  Having said that, I do think that I got at least one photograph that made the walk worth the effort.

Happy festival, ends with a bang,

"Happy festival"

It’s a yearly pilgrimage to my wife’s home town in Shenyang. In staying there, I go to parties, visiting relatives of my wife’s and of course, the letting off of fireworks. Huge ones. It’s almost like burning money at the price a single firework goes for.

Mortar boxes, used.

Even my father-in-law and I got into it, but at a smaller scale. He and I proceeded to let off firecrackers. Firstly individually, and then the whole lot. I always feel a certain amount of tension holding a firecracker before hastening to throw it away. This year the people who manage the apartment complex decided to put up glowing LED lights on one wall. It was in Chinese, and to me, looked like a mass of glow in the dark spaghetti that had been spattered up on a wall.

But by all means people come out and let off fireworks. Loads of fun. 🙂

Guy Fawkes day done Chinese style

Chinese or lunar new year is always an explosive event. Standing beside my parent-in-law’s apartment window looking out at the goings on, it was actually possible to feel each and every explosion from the blossoming fireworks. Each exploding firework a virtual super nova or blossoming flower made of burning phosphorus.

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Outside, the attack on the senses was even more tangible. Smoke from launched fireworks, paper and debris littered the ground, while the fireworks launched with a thunderous boom that echoed around the citadel. Dressed in green army trench coats, the two security guards for our building (there are 4 tower blocks) looked up in amazement while holding their hands over their ears to dampen the bangs and booming of the fireworks. Any evil spirits had long since left.

Jiang and I decided to let off our small contribution. Two lots of hand-held fizzers and mortar sticks. We also had a firework the size of my fist. It was like a stick of dynamite. Setting it on a metal rubbish bin, I lit the fuse and walked backwards while watching the fuse run down. The resounding bang was adequet enough and the underlying metallic clang-echo made me laugh.  Guy Fawkes in New Zealand for  my brothers and I had always been about causing enough double-happy driven mayhen without loosing our fingers. The rubbish bin was untouched, the force of the explosion being directed upwards. No dent in the lid.

The end result of Lunar new year celebration? Red coloured debris on the ground, empty mortar boxes that look quite substantial even after they’ve let off all of their ‘ammunition’, but an immediate side affect of all that burning of sulphur was smoke. Thick dense smoke that would not go away in the cold,  in what seemed, the breathless air of Shenyang.