my favourite taxi-driver.

Taxi drivers in Guangzhou, or in general, don’t usually provide me with any entertainment. However, one day last week I happened upon a chance meeting with the best taxi driver in the world.

1. He was friendly.
2. He liked to sing-both classical music and pop- circa. Chinese 80′s.
3. He had a beautiful voice.
4. He said we have beautiful noses.
5. He said we reminded him of Michael Angelo’s ‘David.’ (Yet to find out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…either way I love this taxi driver).

There should be more friendly fellows like him around this city. He was a true legend. I hope I run into him again soon.

a river runs through our pretty city.

I live by a river and everyday I pass this little path that runs alongside the river. Today we decided to take a stroll and explore this path. It has been a really beautiful day. A fresh breeze has been blowing, and the sun was big and bright in the sky, reflecting off of the big buildings making them all look orange. A man stood on the edge of the tallest roof and his shadow against the sun looked stunning.

This river isn’t the ‘cleanest’ of rivers and it carries a distinctly, dirty smell but nonetheless it was still a fun walk. We passed a little fishing village, a sea world. The fishermen had built a rickety, old bridge from their sea village to the banking. It really looked like it would cave in at any moment. Didn’t risk running across even though I really wanted to.

We passed many a jogger, many a bicycle. When I buy my pink, sparkly bicycle with rainbows and green, glittery streamers I shall also cycle alongside this little river with all the old, cheery men. We saw a lady doing some kind of tai chi- where she tapped her head intensively. We peeked through the trees and saw kids playing basketball. On the otherside of the river I saw two kids. One boy and one girl. They were running after one another and looked so in love. I think they were on a date, frolicking down by the riverside. We eventually reached the next bridge and climbed the old stairs. The view was amazing. Even though it was so industrial, it was so peaceful. No cars. No smog. Just a big bright sun and happy people.

On the way back we were greeted by a lovely jogger. He was wearing a suit. He said ‘Hello! Nice to meet you!’ He looked so happy and he put the biggest smile on my face. So friendly, and running in a SUIT. Lovely. We passed kids with their grannies, and even four men in suits having a little poker picnic party in the deep grass, right in the riverbed. They looked cheerful and content to be finished a day’s work. Zooming on their bikes to the riverbed, they fell into the grass, pulled our their playing cards and laughed at the passing foreigners…that would be us then.

We then decided to visit our local fruit and veg market. Dan bought some chicken legs. I bought some sweetcorn. Then we decided to treat ourselves to a new, big plant. We chose this huge purple tree. She looks so pretty out on our balcony now. I also bought some purple and white flowers. They smell so sweet.

I love the area of the city that we live in. It has the big, city feel. The lights, the tall buildings, the buses, cars, bicyles. But it also feels peaceful. With the coolest market ever. And we definitely have the best view of the huge rainbow t.v tower that Dan thinks looks like a multi-coloured lollipop. It’s so nice to get off the metro and cross the bridge with all the laser beam lights and the new flowery-lit square building. The rainbow tower guides me home and as I hop up the steps to our complex, I see the big, swishing trees and the little kittens and I’m home.

Did I just call my apartment in Guangzhou home?!

What a glorious day!

loft of dredlocks and graffiti.

After a wonderful day of delicious blueberry muffins, buying more exciting books and eating yummy Japanese noodles, I was ready to lie down with a good film. But then Dan said ‘never put off one good night for another good night’ so off we danced into the moonlit street to find ‘Loft 345.’
Walking along by the river, I really thought we might run into a serial killer/zombie/monster who eats girls with blue flowers in their hair. As you enter the run-down, graffiti-ridden building, down by the shallow, mysterious areas of the city, you begin to question why on earth you are here? You treasure your existence, so why put it at risk in a dungeon of doom?  It’s just as people described. But actually, to be honest, a million times cooler! I loved it immediately! As you walk up the stairs you meet a mixture of people. Grungy punk girls, and what looked like the most hardcore gang in Guangzhou. Yet, they also look so friendly and chilled. I want to be their friends. Am I cool enough?

Loft 345 is dark and dingy and freaking cool! It’s filled with naked rasta-painted mannequins, old books, beaded curtains, big blue stars hanging above the bar, and a dolly-mixture, random assortment of people. As we entered, the band started. The lead singer was wearing a creepy mask and had piercing, meadow-green eyes. He played the saxophone and had blond dredlocks that reached all the way to his knees, like long, mustard yellow, slithery snakes. He spoke perfect Chinese. The music was so experimentally cool. Too cool. Jazzy punky melodies that told stories and folk tales about three brothers.

To only discover such a cool place like this now is upsetting, but at least I’ve been now. The big comfy sofas, the menu of donuts and sweet popcorn and cheap cocktails stole my heart immediately. This place is too cool for words, you have to see it for yourself.

I am going back for the halloween party tomorrow night. A perfect location for a scary evening. They are going to be screening old horror movies and we have to dress up as our favourite movie star. Yay!

frame your eyes, sting your knuckles.

To the land of walnut whales and bridges and balloons…we shall go! Each peach pear plum- sawdust and diamonds, and us- allegiance to a life of hovering under the moon, among the stars, balanced on a cloud. Finally we will be free spirits, running around the fields, boots filled with snow, being chased by monkeys and bears. Dance darling- there’s a place for us….Can we go before I turn to dust?

my best friend.

Dear best friend,

Do you know who you are? Of course you do, because we eat chocolate together, and pasta together, and laugh hysterically together, and are laughed AT hysterically by other, random people. We go on crazy adventures into foreign lands and every moment is wonderful and magical. We think about the same things at exactly the same time, even though we are on opposite sides of this big globe. We talk everyday, even if it’s not in real life. Best friend you are so cool. I love youuu.

Now, if you are truly my best friend…can you please bring your lovely self to China and bring me chocolate and second-hand books, and one carton of strawberry ribena. I will love you forever. And we can snuggle, you can be baby spoon….
Lots of love and kisses and snuggles and funny laughs,
me. X

butterfly land.

I teach ballet. To say that (or write that) makes me chuckle so much. Me? Ballet?! Believe it. And I love it. It really does make you feel so feminine and delicate. Most of all I love the fantasy land that it takes me to. A land of butterflies and balance and metamorphosis. Caves of caterpillars tied together with strings of purple flowers. Cycling through space on our bicycles with pink, stripy hoola-hoop wheels. A world of mini ballerinas prancing around in miniature versions of my costume. Snow white legs jump from hoop to hoop. A twirl here and a dragon jump there. Crawling through the tunnel of doom, then the emergence of beauty. Imagine you are being chased by a lion, and at the same time if you fall from this thin bridge made of green twigs, you will be eaten by the crocodiles.

Talking of crocodiles, I clearly have them on my mind a little too much. Last night I had the scariest nightmare. I was being chased around my apartment by a baby crocodile. He was the exact baby crocodile that I use in my ballet class. Except he was real. And had very sharp teeth. He was actually a vampire crocodile. He liked belly buttons. So he bit into my belly button. I then screamed and said ‘please be a dream, please be a dream.’ Luckily, it was!

Then today, Dan emailed me saying download this band called the ‘crocodiles.’ EXCUSE ME?! They seem to be haunting me now.

Take me back to butterfly land please.

Even when I am supposed to be teaching a ‘serious’ class, we whizzle off on some magical journey. Last night we had a tea party filled with poems and riddles and pretty, pink china cups. The little girl then drew her and her boyfriend with matching pink heart tops. I saw her mummy when she picked her up. She was wearing a pink heart top. Cute.

Lunchtimes are also adventurous. While munching on some Japanese curry type thing (I like to mix it up), I fly to meet the Red Bull demon and Lady Amalthea.

My days are crazy. No wonder I can’t sleep at night. Eating so many jelly beans probably doesn’t help the matter either….

coconut conditioner and a big wooly cardigan.

Today I am sick. It is my first sick day from work. It is suddenly really cold in Guangzhou (OK, only 16degrees cold, but still, keep in mind it has been around 37degrees until now) so it was inevitable I would catch a cold. It also doesn’t help that the kids I teach like to sneeze and cough in my face, and give me slobbery kisses. Gross.

I decided to cuddle up and watch a film. I chose an Audrey Tautou movie (I love her) called ‘Ensemble, c’est tout.’ In English-Hunting and Gathering. It was a good choice. I especially liked the old lady. She made me think about the little things in life. In the movie she is very sick and finally she gets to leave the hospital and go live with her grandson. He asks her what she wants? What will make her comfortable?

This is a question I’d like to ask myself and maybe you can ask yourself the same thing. The lady asked for her crosswords, her daily newspaper, her slippers, nivea hand lotion and of course, to be able to see her garden, animals and home again.

I started thinking about a wonderful lady in my life who was recently very sick and then sadly passed away. I believe she also liked the little things in life and didn’t ever ask for much. A few things that she liked and I will always remember these, were to drink tea from her china cup. This cup was special to her. It was a good size for a nice cup of tea and had flowers painted on both sides. To her, a good cup of tea always came in this cup. Just like the lady in the film, she also needed her crosswords. She always said ‘Keeps the old brain in gear’ as she pointed to her head. She liked wearing blue. A navy blue skirt, with a baby blue blouse, finished off with a blue cardigan. And she loved her home. She knew where everything was kept, it was always neat and tidy, and it was always welcoming to a crying Siobhan in need of some wisdom and a bowl of the famous lentil soup. As long as she could see the square tower from her window, she was content. She loved St.Andrews. She was always so happy, and it was certainly because of these little necessities, as well as love and happiness, naturally.

It really doesn’t take much to make me happy. I notice even more when I am away from home, exactly what these little things are. So, just like the lady in the film, I have chosen a few things that make me happy:

1. Chocolate. In any form. It instantly brightens my day, and it really does make me happy.
2. My book. I have always loved reading, and I feel much happier when I am flying off to faraway lands through the eyes of the characters in my books. It keeps things exciting.
3. Big, wooly cardigans. Now that it is colder in Guangzhou I can wear what makes me comfortable. I recently bought a new, big, navy blue one and I think today I might get to wear it.
4. Hearing from friends and family. Letters, text messages, emails, phone calls, a surpirse visit in a dream. Any form of communication with these special people makes me happy.
5. My coconut hair conditioner. Everytime after I shower, I always look forward to spraying this in my hair. The smell is enough to make me smile.

I know there are probably plenty of other things, such as kisses, cups of camomile tea, glitter, my music, but I don’t want to sound too greedy. I think it’s about time I got out of my sick bed, coconut’d my hair, put on my new cardi and went and bought some chocolate. Then I can email you all and read my new Murakami book. Bliss.

quest success.

Just like Prince Lir- the hero in my book ‘The Last Unicorn’- I will never give up on a quest. Especially one that involves free films.

Friday arrived and the one twinkling star disappeared behind the swirling city smog. I’m no fool. I know a badly-drawn map when I see one. (Did I happen to mention that I had copied down the wrong address…anyway…moving swiftly on…!) This time we took a taxi. Taxi man is no fool. He delivered us to the entrance (it happened to be about 200 metres east of where we had stood the previous day) and off we fled with 5minutes to spare to gaze at the weird statues interrogating passersby as they entered Redtory, before the movie began.

Redtory is a really cool area. It just so happens that all the really cool, arty areas of Guangzhou are near impossible to find. Hidden gems. Redtory is made up of lots of big, old warehouses filled with random art exhibits and cafes. We finally found the warehouse with the film showing and drifted off to inner-city Rome.

‘My brother is an only child’ was the name of this coming of age film. It was actually about two brothers, so the only child part….maybe I missed that? Maybe it’s meant to be ironic? Maybe I need to pay more attention to films? It was an interesting film, but possibly it delved a little too much into violence and politics for my mind…I found myself being carried away more by my own thoughts than the movie’s.

After completing the quest, we found a delighful little restaurant with the KFC symbol. However it was not KFC. I like to call it Mrs.KFC. The symbol of the old KFC man, you know the one…Well, this one was of a lady. A happy lady. Inside, you get a little pink basket and you choose vegetables, noodles and meats from the fridge and then the owner cooks them for you. This suits me perfectly because I get exactly what I want.

Infact I liked it so much, I went back two days later. I also went back to the film festival. This time I watched two documentaries. The first was called ‘A school with a view.’ It was fabulous! So innovative and creative. It was about a small school in Italy with two of the most creatively, cool teachers. Both old guys with piercings and long hair. They wanted to create a school that was open to all cultures. They even had the kids protest with a huge rainbow banner saying ‘WE LOVE EVERYONE!’ The teachers had some amazing ideas, and were always dressing up as crazy wizards and making potions with the kids and even holding drama classes with the parents. Very inspiring.

The second documentary was hilarious. It was called ‘Blue Foccacia.’ It was set in a small town. A Mc Donalds opens in this small town, and the documentary focused on the townspeople’s views on this situation. The competition for local pizzerias and the peoples opinions on what they prefer. The comedy came in the form of the guy who owned the Mc Donalds. He thought he was super cool. He drove around in this yellow convertible and tried to win the heart of the leading lady. However, leading lady falls for fruit man. They drive off into the sunset, laughing in Mc Donalds man’s face. It was such a funny film, while at the same time focusing on something so serious as globalisation.

I rewarded myself with some chocolate ice-cream covered in colourful, chocolate candies, followed by some homemade veggie fatijas. Mission accomplished, quest success!

a jelly bean kind of week.

I love jelly beans. My fellow arty teacher reminded me of this love, leading to the end of my teaching week being a very delicious and fruity one. Lucky, or unlucky for me, my weekend begins on a wednesday night. Last wednesday the countdown to 8.30pm went much quicker thanks to the jelly beans. Now, after every class, I reward myself with one of each flavour. Individually they taste great. But great isn’t good enough. Together,….together, they taste marvellous!

This week I have been enjoying food alot. Not that I don’t usually enjoy food, but this week I seem to have retrieved some forgotten tastes. Specifically pumpkin cakes. They are so amazing. Little bits of squidgy pumpkin, fried and coated in shredded coconut, or sesame seeds. Wow. Jiaozi. All kinds of jiaozi. Japanese seaweed with pork, pork with sweetcorn, just pork, prawns, to mention a few.

I was terrified the first time someone bought them for me. It happened to be my first night in China, last year. As the waiter guy brought them to the table, I was shaking. What on earth are these slimy, see-through, gooey, wobbly shapes doing on my plate? Well, seriously, don’t EVER judge Chinese food by its look alone. They tasted bloody good. After the first taste I became obsessed. Everynight I would run to the canteen at 10pm, hair dripping wet (we were only given hot water from 7-9.30pm in our dorms….), pyjamas on. I would gobble down 10 jiaozi, sometimes 20, depending on how intense my cravings were.

Then there would be periods of time where I couldn’t look at another jiaozi. This usually happened after eating 20. I would be scarred for about 3days, then I would hop back on the jiaozi train. Oh, for those of you who don’t know, jiaozi are dumplings. I even got the chance to make some of my own. Twice infact. The first time was in my Chinese cooking class last year. They were delicious….because I just watched. Steamed ones, fried ones, other kinds of ones. Yummy. The second time I made them was in Cape Town. Let’s not discuss that one. I decided to boil them. It would work right? NO. It wouldn’t work. They came out of the pot, I put them on our plates, they wobbled around for about 10seconds and then…completely fell apart. Everything fell out and floated in the unknown, water-like substance on my plate. Next time, take note, leave it to the professionals.

So, anyway this post is supposed to be about my week. Not just food. Hmmm…OK so yes, last thursday I was so excited. I’d planned a full afternoon’s schedule of movies. There was an Italian film festival happening in the city, and it was free. Yay! I wrote down the address and off we went. Arriving at the metro station we looked around. Ghetto. Now, this festival was organised by the Italian embassy. I was imagining a classy, old-school cinema vibe. Determined to find it, we marched on, or rather I marched on dragging Dan behind me. Well, we searched and we searched. I asked a few people which way to go, and they all pointed in different directions.

That’s the thing with China. I speak in Chinese to them and they get this look on their face. I can tell they are thinking ‘oh my golly, she is speaking Chinese. But she isn’t Chinese…?! This is funny. I’m going to laugh. Oh no, what did she say? I wasn’t listening…OK well just smile, and point, and say byebye.’

I always walk away knowing that either they had absolutely no idea of what I was saying (my oral Chinese isn’t quite up to scratch) or they just chose to stare at me and laugh, completely oblivious to the fact that I am lost and need help.

After wandering around dusty construction yards, and wandering in and out of weird hotels, we decided to head back to the metro. I was, of course, gutted. What a disappointment. Oh, but I don’t give up that easily. I will just try again tomorrow, I told myself.

That night however, we pushed through the failure that was our day and decided to make another little mission. We whizzed in a taxi to the edge of the city. A big forest awaited. A guard, on call, mistaking us for someone else, directed us with very good English, yay, to our destination. We followed twisty paths and a beautiful, sparkling lake, as well as two giant hands- deliberately placed to welcome us. A giant building awaited. Inside we could hear chattering in anticipation for the second round of some sweet ‘honey’ music.

Like a king and queen, we took to our flowery, fabricated thrones and waited for the German folky entertainment. Bean bags covered the roof. Polka-dot ones, stripy ones, red ones. And umbrellas. Black umbrellas pinned to the roof. I sipped on my gin & tonic, la deee dahhh, and floated along through the melodic honey tunes. Eagerly waiting for the bicycle song that I had played about a gazillion times that day, I was very sad when they finished and hadn’t played it. However, mr. sound engineer man asked if we had any requests, leading to me getting a little private playing of the bicycle song. loveeeely. And some nice chats with the leading band man.

On this very night, we made some new friends. Even a fellow Scot :) The first other Scottish kid I have ever met in my life in China. We decided to depart the enchanting musical forest for a quick game of beer pong. Having no idea how to get there, it was, yet again, another mission. Mr. taxi man also had no clue. But of course we eventually arrived, luck was finally on our side. 13 factories. A little American bar in a back street in the centre of the city. Very welcoming and very American, and very friendly. We won. Of course. Because I was playing. Oh arrogance? Why…yes! I think I’m actually pretty good at beer pong. Is it a real sport? Because it might very well be the first sport I have ever won.

Then the night ended. The rainbow t.v tower, under the watchful eye of the mesmerising full moon, led us home. The sky was especially beautiful that night. The supposed ‘typhoon Megi’ was approaching, and lucky for us, she had blown away the pollution that reverberates around this city daily, leaving us with a clear sky. I even saw one twinkling, lonely star. It’s a good start Guangzhou.