Monday, March 02, 2015

Close Call

New Zealand and Australia met in a one day international cricket match at Eden Park,Auckland for the first time in around four years on Saturday.I wandered down to Victoria Square to watch proceedings on the big screen having worked that morning.
New Zealand had bowled out Australia in their innings for a modest 152 runs after the Aussies had won the toss and got off to a flyer before slumping against the bowling of spin bowler Vettori and fast bowler Boult who picked up 5 wickets for 27 runs,a career best performance.
New Zealand also started well with captain McCullum scoring a quick 24 ball 50 runs despite being hit on the left arm by pace bowler Mitchell Johnson.New Zealand was cruising along to victory with a fifth wicket partnership of 52 runs before Aussie bowler Mitchell Starc took five wickets for 15 runs and nearly turned the match with a career best performance of 6 wickets for 28 runs.

The earlier jovial atmosphere at Victoria Square grew tenser as each dismissal led to groans and gasps of exasperation.Was it possible Australia could grab victory from the jaws of defeat?It finally came down to New Zealand being nine wickets down requiring 6 runs to win with number 11 batsmen Boult facing two balls.He successfully navigated those.Thankfully first ball of the next over batsman Kane Williamson came down the pitch and hit a six to post an edge of the seat victory much to the delight of the 40,000 spectators at Eden Park and the relieved crowd at Victoria Square.The shot above shows the cheering crowd after Williamson's winning stroke. The fanzone will be back for the semi finals later in the month and I'll be there with my cushion and wallet to buy some liquid refreshment and food from the assembled food trucks and tents.

C.P.I.T Gardens

I spent most of last week moving soil and bark at the newly built buildings at Christchurch Polytechnic.The shot below shows one of the garden plots we were working on.With the digger in the background we moved about 80 cubic meters of screened soil.This was raked,levelled and stamped down to provide the basis of the gardens.

This shot below shows the planted tree ferns,(cyathea dealbata), also known as the silver tree fern or silver fern, also known as ponga or punga.The bark layer is around 100mm in depth and covers an irrigation system that provides the necessary moisture for the plants.

As the pungas like growing in free draining soil rich in organic matter,we added some natural compost to the soil when they were planted to aid their growth.

A final shot of the main garden bed.The pungas have been underplanted with a few native grasses that should clump up and cover the bare bark expanses in a matter of months.The windows of the gym/recreation area overlook the garden which should provide a peaceful,relaxing view out of the building.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Time to dust off and reboot this blog

Been a while.A long while.Fitting then I begin blogging again on the fourth anniversary of the February 22 2011 earthquake back here in Christchurch,New Zealand.Four years ago the city was hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake that killed 185 people and levelled many buildings.Much has changed in those four years since the quake. For one thing Ive changed occupations and hemispheres.I'm no longer teaching in Shanghai and instead work outside as a landscaper for a large firm here in Christchurch.I'll write more about my career change in later blogs.

As for Christchurch's landscape and the rebuild in some places such as the end of High Street (pictured above) there is little sign of any movement.In this once vibrant area near the local polytechnic college ( CPIT ) there were a number of cafes and alternative clothing shops.Now its very quiet,deserted and decaying.

Meanwhile,in the Square,the Anglican Cathedral continues to moulder and provide a refuge for pigeons as various groups decide its fate.Four years on it is not looking any the better for its exposure to the elements.

On a more positive note, the 2015 Cricket World Cup has started with some games being played at the newly opened Hagley Oval cricket ground - a so-called 'boutique cricket ground'.Theres an area set up for fans in nearby Victoria Park which includes a stage, a large screen for viewing games and various food trucks and vending stalls.Bring on the Australia-New Zealand game this coming weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shanghai Zoo

So last week,Thursday, actually, was brilliantly clear by Shanghai standards and full of energy I made my way to the Shanghai Zoo.A little apprehensive.I'd read reports that the zoo was more like a prison camp with the animals as inmates.I wanted to judge for myself.I'd also read of the poor conduct of the local visitors.Anyway I wanted to see for myself.The subway trip from Peoples Square involves changing lines at least once.One also has to watch out as the line to the zoo and airport split so you have to watch which train you're on -the one to Hangzhong Rd which is the wrong one or the one to the airport the correct one.The line splits at Longxi Rd.However there are announcements in English and the train station staff seem aware of the possible confusion.In total it took about 45 minutes from Peoples Square to the Shanghai Zoo station.Take exit 4 and you arrive at the entrance of the Zoo.Walk briskly past the hawkers and pay your 40rmb admission for adults.As I didnt have any kids in tow Im not sure what their ticket prices are.   
The first thing I noticed was how green and leafy the place was.Apparently it was the site of an golf course so there are some impressive established trees.There were also swathes and banks of colourful poppies and petunias in big beds and some nice expanses of grass where couples were having picnics and doing what couples around the world do.
There were also large numbers of school groups.Noisy little,enthusiastic,high pitched ,backpacked school kids enjoying their school trip out.
 The second and more disturbing thing I noticed was the complete disregard for the no feeding signs that were plainly visible and in full view of the visitors.Despite these signs and large posters explaining the dangers of feeding animals in English and Chinese I saw many animals being fed chocolates,bread,fruit and vegetables.
I also noted the complete absence of staff patrolling the more popular animals on display.It may have just been the fact I arrived mid morning and the staff may have been on their lunch break.But I reasoned I was there for over 4 hours and apart from the odd gardener,toilet and shop attendants as well as the staff riding on the tourist bus thingy there wasnt a lot of supervision or crowd control.
 The couple above fed this monkey several chocolates wrapped in plastic wrappers.You can see the No Feeding sign on the cage to the left.I just shook my head and moved on as other local visitors clapped at the monkey's acrobatics and begging antcs as it stretched its arms to get the sweets.
 I'd read there was an pet area where different domestic dog breeds were being exhibited in somewhat squalid conditions -but thankfully I think this area has closed down.There were a large number of empty,abandoned cages so I presume thats where they had been housed.
 However just as worrying for me was the state of accomodation for these three wildpigs in the photo above.They didn't seem to have any access to anything that resembled their natural habitat and didn't at least from my untrained,unprofessional eye seem to be particularly well cared for.
 I know that they are only pigs.But if one judges how a society treats its animals then there is a lot to be said and much to be done if these creatures are to be treated and housed in a humane manner.
There were a large number of different birds on display and they seem to fare rather better than other species in terms of space and cage size.They do however face the public feeding problems of the other animals.Here is another blatant example of ignoring the no feeding rules in full view barely a metre away.
Next blog I shall post panda photos(nice alliteration).

Friday, May 04, 2012

50 Moganshan Rd
 In a sprawling compound of former industrial warehouses converted into galleries and workshops you can find Shanghai's artistic community busy at work.Here among the different buildings you can see on display many different forms of art from traditional ceramics and calligraphy to sculpture and huge paintings that fill the cavernous spaces from floor to ceiling.
 I spent the best part of a day poking around.You could see,smell and hear some of the artists being creative and there was a friendly vibe as you walked round and the shop staff explained who the artist was and what the work represented.Not the usual hard sell feeling of being obligated to buy something you get in other places.There were a couple of restaurants within the compound where you could eat, grab a drink and rest your legs.
 As well as the standard paintings there were also installation artists who obviously were using the space to store some of their works including this set of huge Doc Marten boots complete with their own leg bones.
 Different types of pottery and ceramic styles were on display and available for sale.This particular piece was one of a set of four figures depicting different emotions.
If you couldn't afford to pay for the real thing or would have difficulty lugging it home,then some galleries had handy packs of postcards on sale.The set above shows some postcards from Yu Lin's works depicting the Chinese Red Guards.
Getting to 50 Moganshan Road Art Centre is a bit of a hike.Different guide books suggest different routes including taxis and buses.I chose the following route.I got off at Changshou Station Line 7 on the subway and took exit 7 to Changshu Road.Turning right once I exited the subway station,I then walked for about 15 minutes or three big intersections that cross Changshu Road.At this point you should come to a bridge that spans the Suzhou Creek.From here  you should be able to see a large chimney stack on your right.This is where you are headed.Don't head over the bridge but walk down the side till you come under the bridge and a road directly in front of you.On the other side of the road is Suzhou Creek.Turn left at this point and walk towards the chimney-the road should curve as it passes some huge apartment building compounds and you'll shortly come to the warehouses.Look for taxis and tour buses as it is a popular sight seeing spot as well as a large metal hippo outside one of the galleries. All in all a nice place to head to with no entry fee and a pleasant feel about it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shanghai Brewery
This microbrewery (apparently the second if you read their website) is located in the French Concession area on the corner of Dongping and Hengshan Roads.Theres an outside patio area leading toward the front doors and a more sheltered outside terrace running down the side of the building overlooking the street and pavement.Inside you can see lots of brass associated with the microbrewery and some restored polished timber floors.
There are six kinds of fresh beer brewed onsite such as Peoples Pilsener,North Star IPA Black Eyed  Bear Stout and a Peach brew I didn't fancy.Just check which ones are available before ordering.They do a special sampling deal as well.
The two photos above and below show two of the local brews.The service was friendly and efficient.We were even prompted to wait on ordering until the happy hour started ensuring we got a better deal on the drinks.As well as beer,the usual spirits and cocktails are available.
 The photo below shows the Mexican nachos on the menu which also features Mexican and German offerings including sausages as well as fajitas.The nacho dish also included freshly made salsa and an adequate number of olives.Not really memorable but reasonable in terms of price and size.
 The last shot shows a mojito cocktail.Lots of chunky lime sections and mint leaves.Only a minor point but the mint taste would have been enhanced if the mint leaves had been crushed more to bring out their flavour.I'd stick with the beers in the future.
In summary their local beers make a refreshing change and are worth checking out while the food is reasonable by Shanghai standards in terms of size and price.The service is professional and above the usual 'meh' levels.Well worth another visit to check the beers I missed.You can find details of the location and menu etc on their website.

Friday, April 06, 2012

A few more shots of Christchurch

 I've included this shot of the Amuri Courts building as I noted someone had done a search on it but I hadn't included a photo.This was taken across the street near the remains of the old Provincial Government building.At the time there were workmen and a large excavator busy demolishing the building.
 This photo shows the facade of the Mckenzie and Willis building heavily braced.The area is fenced off as High Street was badly affected.In fact the one prominent building that remains is the old Post Office building that houses Alice in Wonderland the video store.Nearby Poplar Lane has been virtually levelled.
 A shot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel awaiting demolition.Apparently there are two types of demolition-'dirty' where the buildings are deemed too unsafe and are pulled down and 'clean' where the buildings are systematically taken down and materials etc are saved or recycled.Not sure which type this is but the presence of a small excavator in an upper floor suggests a clean demolition.
Final shot today shows the road into Sumner.Theres a line of shipping containers stacked two high along the foreshore road.The containers are there to provide a buffer should there be any further collapse of the hill behind them.You can make out the abandoned homes on the skyline balanced on the edge of the cliff.The amount of debris-both stone,boulders and housing materials is already building up and can be seen behind the containers.Some of the containers have been painted or sport colorful covers.Its a daunting prospect driving down that road with the containers towering above the cars.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring in Shanghai

The weather this time of year is very temperamental.I should have taken photos yesterday when Mother Nature choose to keep the clouds and rain at bay.Unfortunately today, low fog combined with short downpours and clammy drizzle meant that a lot of the magnolia flowers had fallen or were looking the worst for wear.As you may know the magnolia is the city flower of Shanghai.The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall in Peoples Square boasts of having a roof designed in the manner of a magnolia flower.If you use your imagination when you gaze up and knew this useless piece of information then it may be possible to discern the similarities.Possibly.

The two shots above are from the grounds of the Shanghai Art Museum in Peoples Square.You can see how grey and murky the sky is.In the past week flights from Pudong have been delayed or diverted due to this low cloud and poor visibility.Not only is the temperature variable each day but throughout the day as well.One needs to come armed with a coat and an umbrella due to the nights still being chill in contrast to the pleasant afternoons which have shot into the mid 20s.

The last two photos are from Peoples Square.You can make out the Radison UFO like dome on the top left.The other photo is near the entrance to the Metro for Line 2.There were two lines of magnolia trees looking very nice yesterday in the mid afternoon sun.Today however, the rain had caused them to look very fornlorn.Lots of petals lying on the ground and those remaining on the tree already looking stained and turning brown.