Monday, April 29, 2013

On the river at night and a study in contrasts

There will also be some strange but interesting Shanghai miscellany and a fiber mention in passing.

Ariana commented on the bride's dress in my previous post, asking if Western culture had taken over to the point where white was no longer the color of mourning. I think Western culture has taken over to a large extent. I see ads with brides dressed in Western style dresses. I don't know if they wear traditional colors for the wedding with white dresses for the reception or if they wear white. The other thing to remember is that there are Christians here and they may very well wear white for their weddings. In India, Christian brides typically wear white sarees, even though Hindu brides do not wear white.

We went out to dinner the other night and took the ferry across the river at night. Some of the older Shanghai areas have been made into nice little oases with restaurants. One of these is now labeled the Cool Docks.
The pool/fountain in the middle is surrounded by restaurants. There is a nice Indian restaurant here and that is where we had dinner. It was a very pleasant evening so we sat outside.

The Shanghai skyline is well lit at night and many buildings have light patterns that move across their faces.
This is the Pudong skyline from the Puxi side of the river. You can see the Oriental Pearl Tower to the left and the Shanghai World Financial Center (aka the can opener building) on the right.

I also took a movie, hoping to show some of the light patterns. It is about a minute long. I'm not sure I was able to capture it properly but you can hear the water as the ferry moves away from the dock and then a little of the Puxi skyline also. For some reason, it wouldn't upload into here so I have linked it.

Shanghai also has a huge economic divide. There is a new, very tall building going up next to my office building. It is taller than all the other buildings in Shanghai. Work goes on 24/7. The construction crew comes to work on bicycles.
They are stacked up around the corner.
And a few blocks away...
with a...
next door to it. My office building has a Jaguar dealership on the ground level. Note that there are a number of cars in the showroom, ready to drive.

Every corner has bicycles chained to the railing between the pavement and the road. Lots of motorbikes and scooters too. And of course, lots of cars.

One also comes across quirky things in Shanghai. First a painted bus I walked by coming home from work.
Next a painted utility box near my apartment.
It is not like all the boxes are painted. Look at the bicycle picture above and you'll see a utility box that looks like a utility box.

Last but not least, there are swarms of window washers and painters who keep all the glass clean from the outside. They ride up and down on scaffolds which look reasonably safe to me as long as they are kept horizontal. I think I can handle being this high up, though. :-)

They are cleaning the outside of our apartment building also. At least that is why I found this sign in the elevator.
But why it was in the elevator, I don't know. One tends not to question these things, but just to enjoy them as one comes across them.

And as promised, a passing fiber reference. I have been knitting slowly on the handspun shawl. I am about half way through the lace section now. It gets easier so I hope to finish it soon. I had a few problems with a couple of the rows that involved a bit of tinking and counting and fudging. That took time.
The fiber gets very fuzzy very quickly so I don't know how nice the shawl will look after a bit of use. But it was a freebie fiber and the shawl colors are pretty.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Strolling by the river

Today we are going for a walk along the Bund in Puxi - visiting Shanghai's colonial past while looking at its modern facade.

We started off by taking the ferry from the end of our street. But, we got on the wrong ferry. There are two ferries that go to the Puxi side from Dong Chang Road. We took the one that went away from the colonial Bund rather than the one that went towards it. But it was no big deal. We just walked a little more.
 That red boat, that is the ferry we should have taken! But we were in the wrong gangplank area. It docked to the right of us.

From the ferry, we got some good views of the area around us. This is our apartment complex from the ferry.
And a view of the ferry building...
The ferry is very inexpensive. It is 2 yuan per person per ride, which is about $0.30. It is a commuter ferry on the weekdays but is also a way for people to get out on weekends and go across the river. Motorbikes and bicycles are also allowed on the ferry.

This is the landward side of the ferry building where we got off.
We walked along a city street parallel to the river till we found a place to climb up onto the Bund walkway.
The walkway goes for miles. It is not so crowded here, where we got on. But it got progressively more crowded as we walked and as the day wore on.

Here is a gratuitous flower photo from the Bund
The Bund was the center of colonial life in the early part of the twentieth century. These are some of the buildings that date from that era.
Lions guard many of the buildings.
A close-up of the entrance to the Peace Hotel.
We also came across a couple getting their wedding photos taken on one of the streets taking off from the Bund.
I saw my first China Post box. They are green.
There is also a lovely sculpture of a bull on the Bund. Apparently there is one on Wall Street? The Bund is now home to the offices of many of China's largest banks and is part of its financial district. The bull is meant to represent the financial market. No bear to be seen though.
See the colors in the background of that photo? That is a gorgeous mural made of flowers that extends a long way along the Bund at street level.
Those weren't the only flowers on the Bund. The buildings had lovely boxes of flowers in front of them.
We also had the privilege of seeing them being set up. Lots of potted plants, soil and lots of boxes get unloaded from trucks and then the gardeners set to work.
As we continued, we saw this monument but I have no idea what it is or whom it represents.
All the lovely flowers are maintained by swarms of gardeners. Here is one weeding the flower bed you can see in the edge of the previous photo.
We ended our walk at the Monument to the People's Heroes.
There were a number of walls with writing in Chinese surrounding the Monument. Maybe they were the names of the heroes. We walked down a ramp to a wall of sculpture.
We made our way back up to catch a view of the Pudong skyline from the Monument.
You can see that our wedding couple has caught up to us here!

We walked back to the Bund ferry terminal and caught a ferry back home. We barely made the ferry and therefore were not able to get a place on the top deck which has outside seating. From inside, the only pictures were through the glass and it was tinted yellow - either from dirt or to cut down the sun's glare in the summer.
You can see the ferry terminal (white) and a floating restaurant (red) next to it. The floating restaurant is lit up at night and we can see it from our study window. I think I have posted pictures of it at night from the landward side before.

As we near the dock, there are people waiting to catch this ferry on its trip back to the Puxi side of the river.
And last but not least, a sign of the seasons changing. The pansies in front of our apartment building have been replaced with petunias.
This is a very photo heavy post. I hope the wait to load it was worth it!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why I have been silent

First of all, my heart goes out to the city of Boston and all the people who worked so hard to qualify for the marathon - only to see their dreams vanish in the blasts of two bombs. We are strong, we are one and we will not give in to violence. We will pick ourselves off, bind our wounds and go back to our lives because that is the only way to show the perpetrators that they cannot take away our freedom.

I was traveling on business and sadly, did not do any knitting or spinning while I was away. It was a tough week - 3 cities in 8 days and lots of presentation to prepare and give. However, I did get to spend the weekend with family.

Now I am back home and ready to tackle my projects again!

Friday, April 5, 2013

What do you do while doing your homework?

I have a 90 min Chinese lesson every week. I have to review the recording (listen to it) and do homework before the next lesson. I also have to organize what I have learned so that I can remember it. Initially there were only a few new words every week. Now we are learning lots of new words every week and unless I organize the vocabulary and write it down, I don't remember it.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I got behind on the homework. Bad move. I haven't been able to catch up till today. Yesterday and today were holidays in China. It is the Qing Ming or Tomb-sweeping festival. Yesterday, Chinese families went to the graves of their ancestors, cleaned them and paid homage to them.

My intention was to review 2 weeks worth of lessons yesterday and 2 weeks today. That would have meant 3 hours of review + homework yesterday and 3 hours today. Well, it didn't work out. Since I got back late on Wednesday, I was very tired yesterday and I had a few meetings since the rest of the world wasn't on holiday! I only got through part of a lesson yesterday.

The result of all this was a long, marathon review and homework session today. I am finally done with all the review and homework and am caught up for tomorrow morning's lesson. Yay!

What did I do during these hours of review? Why, I plied of course! I slowly spindle plied my gradient. You can see that I have made substantial progress since the last set of pictures. Most of that was today. You can also see that there is lots more to go. Well, that is how it goes while plying on a spindle. I haven't been pushing the speed as I want to get enough plying twist into this yarn. I typically have been putting too little and I don't like that when I knit.

 You can also see the layers of how the plying ball was built up in this picture as I am at the color-changing part. That is my Chinese text book and my notes under the spindle.

 I came back to this message on Wednesday. My Chinese lessons are focused on conversation, not reading or writing. So this was a mystery. I knew who had written it. It was Miss Chun, our ayi (or what a maid/nanny is called here). She doesn't speak English and we don't speak Chinese so we usually communicate via pantomime. But I didn't see her this week as I was out and my husband is also traveling.
When we need to communicate anything complex, we do it through our landlord's agent, who introduced her to us. We text him, he texts her, and then texts us back. So I thought I would take a photo of it and send it to him for translation. But I couldn't send the photo to him. Hmmm.... what to do?

I then just decided to text him and ask him to ask her what she had written. I suspected that she was telling me that she wouldn't be here Friday due to the Qing Ming holiday. But maybe she wanted me to buy toilet cleaner? It turns out that my first guess was right. She was not coming on Friday due to the holiday. Justin, the agent, said my Chinese was getting better. Nope, just my guessing!

I am now off to bed to rest up before tomorrow's Chinese lesson. I am feeling very virtuous. Let's hope I can keep it up!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Advantages of being stuck in an airport

Yesterday my flight was 3 hours late so I spent quite a bit of time at Beijing airport. Now, I am sure you are all thinking about what a waste of time this must have been. But no. It wasn't.

I fixed my counting issues. I adjusted the sts to the correct number, started the lace pattern on the shawl and am now far enough along that keeping track of it is easy.
I have markers separating each repeat and the pattern is beginning to develop so it is easy to work.

I also found ways to manage my yarn. This yarn is both sticky and slippery.
Loops of yarn come off the ball together and if I am not careful, I end up with a big tangle that takes a long time to fix. The first thing I did was to wear the loops as a bracelet.
This works pretty well as long as you are gentle while rotating it to get the yarn off to knit with. It is a good management technique for the next process I developed, which was to wind the loops back on the ball more tightly and then remove the yarn in a very controlled fashion, a few feet at a time. Unwind, knit, unwind some more worked best. So that is what I ended up doing.

So overall, I have something to show for the extra 3 hours I spent at the airport. Other passengers, not so much. A whole bunch of them raised their blood pressure by yelling at the gate agents for about an hour. I felt very sorry for the gate agents but was quite amused by the whole thing. Entertainment is always good.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Knitting in unexpected places

And no, that doesn't refer to my knitting in unexpected places. It refers to seeing knitting in unexpected places. I was on a plane destined for Beijing and picked up the airline magazine because I was bored. I couldn't knit because my pattern was on the iPad and we were taking off, so no electronic equipment [I knew there was a reason I should have printed the chart!]

Guess what I found!
An article on how handknits are in fashion once again. There were some photos of classic sweaters from the 70's and 80's but also some newer creations. I had to snap photos as soon as I could turn my camera on.
I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g... they talked about weaving the sweaters with a weaving needle.

I flipped a few pages and...
... an article on socks with Kevlar in the yarn! Two in one airline magazine. That has never happened to me in all the decades I have been traveling. Not even one article. Ever. And two in one shot!

We landed in pretty bad smog.
I was glad that I had packed one of the masks I had brought from the US. I pulled it out and put it on and it did kill the smoky smell. How much of the actual fine particles were filtered out, I don't know.

This morning was much better. The building I was in was right next to the Olympic park. I got a good view from the Costa Coffee place where I had lunch on the 3rd floor.
Looking to the left was the panorama above. Looking to the right was the panorama below.
And finally, a whine about counting. Why is it that stitch counts cannot stay stable? I must have counted the 285 sts on the needle at least a dozen times yesterday and each time I came up with different numbers. Then the yarn came off the ball and tangled itself up rather nicely. So I spent most of the flight counting and untangling and didn't do any knitting. I suppose I'll have to eventually count again and put markers in every so often so I get an accurate count. I would have accepted a number that I got twice, but it was not to be. Oh well.