Sunday, May 22, 2011

Greatest Day Ever. Ever.

Today had to be one of the greatest days ever, I cannot believe how happy I am right now and how the world can possibly be this wonderful. I feel compelled to share the entire day with you, so if you don't wanna read the ramble - I will put good captions on all the pics and you can just browse those... 

To begin with, my best friend here has a friend from Finland visiting, and so we had a wonderful excuse to become tourists in our own city once more. It's incredible how you can become so accustomed to things which are easily available. The arrival of a guest refreshed our perspectives. On the way out of the house I recieved wonderful mail from an excellent friend (more Cambodia-style postcards from me are on the way... promise!) and we caught a taxi once more to Tianzifang in the French Quarter.

Tianzifang in the French Quarter is a wonderful oasis of boutiques and fine dining.

Old, original brick walls make for a wonderful atmosphere throughout the area.

It's incredible that they still use bamboo scaffolding throughout China
- even in western areas.
Tianzifang is tucked away from the bustle, behind the street front, and is quite an expansive labrynth of alleyways. There are two gates to access the space (fire hazard???) and I'm tempted to say it's somewhere you can't find unless you know where it is... Full of charm and just the right amount of luxury - obviously popular place with expats.

The first stop was Origin organic cafe for breakfast... We were so famished I didn't remember to take pictures before be tucked in! But I had some incredible eggs benedict and we all had bowls of coffee and carrot juice. There is no better way to start a morning than a fancy breakfast...
Origin organic cafe - wondrously healthy and oh so chic.
With good fuel I had the courage to return to an small art gallery I visited last week... I had seen a print that I just fell in love with immediately by Shanghai artist Shan Jiang. It just took my breath away and I could NOT stop staring at it... but it was not cheap and I thought I'd better think about it before rushing in. When I returned home, though, I banged my head on the wall so hard for not buying it! It was so special and it was just love at first sight! I wanted it - I NEEDED IT. But I knew I had to wait a week until I could make it back, and panic gripped me for those 7 long days in case somebody else bought it...

I returned to the store with such dread. I was so nervous, but I rounded the corner and saw the familiar turquoise and my heart leapt for joy! It was waiting for me faithfully, as if it had guarded itself against unworthy buyers...
The front of the gallery where I bought the latest addition to my collection. It's a great gallery we always go to - very conceptual and thought-provoking, yet youthful. There is also clearly an asian influence to the works, without forcing a sense of tradition that often come with Chinese art in particular. The artists personify the contemporary wolrd art scene.

The print I bought was this, and on request of the artist, each buyer must have their photo taken beside the purchased work. I think it's a wonderful idea - the artist can see who their audience is and understand what kinds of people are drawn not only to their works as a whole, but what kind of individuals buy which particular prints... This was my picture - I hope it would make Shan proud...

Mine is the one on the left, but I want you to see and example of his other work too.
Please have a look at his website! (I linked it on his name earlier.)
I had to buy it unframed, and it will be delivered to me tomorrow in an art cannister for the airoplane flight home. I will have it framed in Brisbane as similar to this original form as possible. I am so excited to get it back home and on my wall. The piece is so reminiscent of my time so far in Shanghai...

The rabbits - this is the year of the rabbit. The location I bought it in - almost each weekend we go for brunch. The pose of the girl - classic 'asian squat' found all over this country from toddlers to ancient old people. The single-colour sceme - a big factor in most traditional Chinese artwork. And most importantly, the confusion.

I don't understand why there is a half bathroom in a tree floating in space. Why is this girl bathing so many rabbits? Why does she have cat ears? Is there some significance of a cat bathing a rabbit? Why does the floor appear to be a reflection of the wall? Why is it all crumbling away? Why are there clouds in the background? - WHO KNOWS. Not me, thats for sure, and I can't think of a better notion than confusion to sum up my time in China so far.

Moving on... we took a trip to the fake markets near Nanjing Rd. I haven't been to these markets since arriving in China because I was trying to avoid adding too much more weight to my already-far-too-heavy baggage. We were showing our guest around, though, and they are such a classic part of a westerner's idea of China that we couldn't leave them out of our grand tour.

Baby booties at the markets -
makes me wish I had neices and nephews!!!

No Calvin Kleins here,
but maybe some nice Candy Kirvin???

Just be careful when looking around a small stall,
that you don't wake the owner's baby!

One of those classic I-don't-wanna-know things...
I also want to make clear that I was taking this
photo and did not touch the garment at all.
Hanna did.

"Enhance the protection of intellectual property rights
to legitimise and standardize the order of
market economy" - is what the poster on the ceiling
in the FAKE market says. Sure thing gov.
You've got yourself some incredibly effective adverts there...
These are the goodies I brought home. Let it be known that this booty examples incredibly self restraint... I wanted SO much more!

What I bought from the markets:

1. A beautiful leather handbag.
Purple and tan leather, with an inner (removable) small puch/bag.

2. A pair of 'Beats, by Dr. Dre' headphones for jogging.
I'm told they're unbeatable for bass.

3. Another (yes another) Tintin t-shirt!!!
This one is the "Destination Moon" episode.

4. The silver spoon will be explained later...

Considering the circumstances, I could have come home with a lot more. I think the Beijing markets are better though and I will be heading there for a while in August with my bestest shopping partner (mum) so I wasn't panicked. Also, I clearly didn't buy as much as these ladies, who we passed on our way out - 

Intense amount of shopping. They were surrounded by bags!

I noticed today that haggling and chatting in Chinese gets you much better prices and much kinder, happier and more respectuful shop owners. Sometimes the markets can leave you with a sour taste because they seem so aggressive and impersonal, but even with my limited Mandarin skills I felt infinitely more welcomed and appreciated. It shows consideration to use (or at least try to use) the language of the country you live in. The more time I spend abroad the more I realise that. I cringe now when I hear foreigners yelling loudly and slowly at Chinese staff. It's so incredibly narrow-minded and patronising.

Moving on again! After the long hours of hard work shopping we left the markets and rounded the corner to find Wooden Box Cafe. It was lovely to sit and relax with a good coffee and some great food... and I found another spoon for my growing collection!

It was such a simple silver teaspoon, but with a rounded then pointed end
and two small indentations, a crane came to life.
It's a beatiful example of effective yet subtle design - for a useful object!

The pleasant, musical suprise!
After an hour of sitting enjoying the great cafe, a handsome man and his friends just started playing music! This man in the picture actually looks incredibly similar to Robert Downey Jnr, and he was totally pro at the steel drums. (Previously I did not realise white people could even play steel drums properly. I just didn't think we'd 'get it'.) Three guitars and some bongos later, a jamming session was loud and appreciated by all. The music obviously got us in the mood, because as soon as the sun set, we decided to head (once more) to JZ Club...

Tonight was the fourth time I have visited the JZ Club, and it just gets better every time. We arrived early though - just in time to catch the second half of a performace by a middle school jazz band!!! It was so lovely to hear the kids playing and it whisked me straight back to my days of learning the clarinet. All the parents were beaming up at their children, as if moments like these made the parents realise they must be doing something. It was also incredible to imagine that these kids will be the musicians really playing to crowds at the club in the future. It was like a mini flashback to the youth of those current JZ musicians. Lots of laughs trying to match the child to the adult, thats for sure. 

Arriving early at JC Club meant we caught some middle school kids playing in their jazz band. A real treat. Brought some wonderful perspective to my concept of time and
personal development.

So we shared a bottle of wine and waited until the big kids' music came on  - and boy was it good. SO MANY incredibly talented musicians exhibit their skills here. If you EVER come to Shanghai - promise me you will visit JZ Club. I also have a big crush on the saturday night drummer. Incredible and talent and wonderful smile. Tonight, though, I also heard the best saxophone I have ever heard in my life. It was so punchy and staccato yet smooth. SO SMOOTH. Incredible skill and the young man could not have been more than 30. It renews my faith in humanity, to see so many people coming together to celebrate something like music. It evokes so much emotion without the need for language. Inspirational.

The big kids' jazz.

So then it was 1:30 in the morning and we had to catch a taxi to head home! (Luckily didn't end up like this again. Hahaha.) And here I am writing to you at the end of a perfect day, still a little hazy from all the wonderful imported Aussie wine! (I'm a big supporter of the Australian wine industry. Red in particular...)

I'm going to scoot off to bed and try and get some sleep before Chongming Island tomorrow. No doubt I will be dreaming of rabbits and spoons and handbags and hamburgers and handsome drummers. Goodnight!

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