Friday, February 25, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

Quite a depressing and anxious week.A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck my hometown of Christchurch,New Zealand on Tuesday just before 1pm.Apparently this was an aftershock from the September 2010 earthquake which was bigger but without any loss of life.The one on Tuesday was shallower but also struck at lunchtime with fatal results.
Obviously being in Shanghai I was in no immediate danger.However my mother happened to live near the epicentre and I was unable to get in contact with her or other family members for over 24 hours as power and other essential services were destroyed.
Thankfully my sister emailed me.My mother came to no harm while my sister and two nephews who were in the middle of the central business district were also unscathed.My brother's house is uninhabitable and like many others will probably have to be demolished.Seeing the scale of damage and the rising death toll,(which at the time of blogging stands at 113 confirmed deaths) one can only get an idea of what it must have been like to be there on Tuesday.
I took these shots in this blog when I was last back home in January 2009.The stone building above was the old Provincial Chambers near the centre of town.Like many stone buildings it collapsed.

This statue of Captain Scott that stood near Oxford Terrace has like many other statutes been toppled from its pedestal.Viewing the TV video reports and other websites it seems the older churches and buildings such as the Arts Centre have suffered badly tho newer ones such as the Pyne Gould Guinness and CTV buildings also were flattened.

The iconic Christchurch Cathedral in the Square was badly destroyed in the quake and lost its spire.There are reportedly 16-20 people buried under the rubble and masonry of the collapsed spire.At the time of writing,rescue crews were beginning to sift through the rubble.However,after four days,there seems little hope of finding anyone alive under the stones and brick.Again this was photo was taken in 2009 -well before the Sept 2010 and last Tuesdays fatal quake.
I know when I return the city scape will have changed and looking at these older shots and seeing the destruction has been very sobering.

Friday, February 18, 2011

WinterSweet and the Shanghai Tower

Wintersweet,(Climonathus) or mei hua is a deciduous or evergreen shrub native to China.It flowers during the Chinese New Year where the small yellow flowering sprigs are used as hair accessories.Cuttings are dried and kept to perfume linen cupboards.The spicily scented yellow flowers stand out on drab,foggy days as today.The shrub is seen as a symbol of resilience and strength blooming as it does in the midst of freezing,damp winters.

Slowly rising near the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Finance Centre is the Shanghai Tower.Due to be completed in 2014,the Shanghai Tower will rise 632 metres dwarfing the Jin Mao and Shanghai WFC buildings.

There's not a lot to see at the moment.There are four cranes strapped to the side of the huge concrete base busily lifting steel beams up to the top of the structure which currently stands at 11 floors.You can see the JIn Mao and Shanghai WF Centre in the background.Below you can see the cranes and building silhouetted against the grey,foggy skies.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Had a couple of days off this week.Too cold to do much plus spent most of one day waiting for my washing machine door handle to be repaired.
Valentines Day in Shanghai doesn't seem to be so popular as it is in Japan from a cursory glance at shops this week.There are of course the usual chocolate and jewellery shop "bigging up" the event .There didn't seem many takers for Godiva confectionery at 500 odd rmb a small box.One also has to remember that it is still the Spring Festival vacation period and the day falls on the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival which was a romantic holiday in feudal China.
The traditional Chinese Valentine's Day is called 'qixi' and is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar commemorating a fabled story about a couple who could meet only once a year.

A photo of my lunch mid week consisting of shredded pork,bamboo,mushrooms,carrots and various vegetables.This came accompanied with a similarly sized container of rice for the princely sum of 12 rmb.A little on the oily side but quite delicious and spicy.

The final picture is of Marks and Spencers four storey department store at 863 Nanjing Road.There's the usual men and womens and kids shoes and clothes departments and a small cafe.The men's department had some clothes on sale and larger sized shoes were also being discounted.I was disappointed by the food selection available-no cheeses or anything that really stood out in terms of comfort food like baked beans or even any tempting biscuits.There was a small bakery with fresh cookies and bread but nothing really making it a 'must shop here again' store.On the plus side I did note a number of shelves devoted to foreign wines from New Zealand and California among others if wine is your thing.
Access to the store is very easy- just head out Exit 2 of the Nanjing West Metro Station and you can't miss it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Chinese New Year

This year's Spring Festival/Chinese New Year started yesterday February 3rd.New Year's Eve(Tuesday night) was punctuated with booming firecrackers reaching a crescendo round midnight.The noisy fireworks are let off to frighten away a scary mythical creature called Nian (year).They rattle the windows and set off car alarms throughout the days leading up to and following the start of the New Year.There were three statutory holidays plus most companies also give a couple of holidays leading to a week of vacation or more for most workers.In total the festive season lasts around fifteen days.

This years animal in the Chinese Lunar Calendar is the rabbit ,the fourth character in a twelve year cycle which also includes a cycle influenced by fire,earth,metal,water and wood.Each of these have a yin(female) form and a yang(male) form.Some people believe the rabbit is the luckiest sign and this year that may be the element symbol is metal-which symbolises great wealth.
The photo above shows a mall frontage displaying the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Rabbit.

People born in Rabbit years are considered to be financially lucky.Personality-wise rabbits are seen as honest,sophisticated and modest but by others as standoffish,oversensitive and introverted.
Famous rabbits include Johnny Depp,George Orwell and Albert Einstein.
The photo above shows the red envelopes that parents and relatives fill with money as gifts for their children-ya sui qian or New Year gift money which is sealed in a red envelope -red is believed to be a lucky colour in Chinese culture.If you wear red it allegedly brings you good luck,health and happiness particularly during the festive season.