I Told Him to Dye my Hair Purple and Green

Ever since I moved to Shanghai, I have been thinking about something “original” and out-of-the-box I could do.

During the orientation week of my exchange program, the coordinator explained us that sometimes student would do something different (lifestyle, clothing style) during their semester abroad, because they are not home anymore. A sort of transitioning phase that could easily become a vague souvenir in case it turns into a nightmare, or a great story to tell when you go back home.

This seemed to me like a pretty clever idea. As a Political Science student, I am soon going to have to do internships in an environment that does not tolerate extravagant appearance and distinctive signs. Besides, living in a huge city like Shanghai, I felt the need to stand out of the sometimes boring and redundant crowd.

So, as I was searching for some ideas, I looked at my roomie, who has the tips of her hair blue. I think it is pretty funny, young looking, and also easy to do and get rid of.

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I started thinking about what color I could do…and after hours of browsing photos, finally found this picture of a woman with purple and green hair. My wise roomies did not seem so enthusiastic about this project, but, oh well, it is just for once in my life right?

I went the same day to the hair salon near my place. I did not want to take too much time to think about it, and just do it.

It took four hours for the two men who were in charge to do it. They had to bleach my hair two times and then, it seemed like they had never done two colors at the same time, because they asked for the help of three other persons. After a loooong wait, I finally saw the result and was… puzzled? It was such a huge change, and actually not exactly what I asked for…

 The men took photos of my hair and the entire salon came to look at the result, which was pretty funny.

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There is a fluctuation of colors between these photos, depending on the lighting, if my hair is straight or not, and how much it faded away because of shampoos! 

After one week, I now really like it. I mostly like the reaction people can have when seeing it. Some are surprised, some seems chocked, some children want to touch it, some just laugh at it, or some wonders what is going on with my hair. 

Anyway, I am definitely glad I put some “Shanghai craziness” in my life!

 

 

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A lesson on Chinese Opera

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Today, my residence assistant planned a very original activity for us! We had a lecture about the art of Chinese Opera.

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After going to East Nanjing Road Station, in the center of the city, we walked a few minutes to arrive in this little hidden courtyard surrounded by locals’ apartments.

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We then got inside a small townhouse decorated in a trendy way and got to drink some warm creamy Vienna coffee while listening to the lecture.

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The woman who was doing the lecture was a Chinese Opera professor. She explained us that in Chinese Opera, there are only women on stage, who play both boys and girls. She was specialized in boys’ gestures.

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She asked her student to show us how a man who is getting married to a young lady would feel. All the feelings of excitement and joy were mostly expressed through the rapid motion of her fan, the smile on her face, and her sparkling eyes. It was a really powerful representation.

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The movements in Chinese Opera are really slow and graceful. Dancers have long elegant colorful costumes with very long sleeves they play with. They wear quite a lot of makeup and bear a very sophisticated hairdo and headdress.

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The lady invited us to go on stage to actually try to reproduce some scenes. It was far harder than what I expected. There are a lot of things to watch out for at the same time: the placement of your fingers, the position of your long sleeves, where you look at, body balance, face expression, and many others.

After the lesson, I talked to the organizers. They are actually part of an association which teaches people traditional Chinese art. The students then go to school and perform in front of autistic children. I found the initiative so sweet and smart!

I took their contact information. I hope I will be able to come back soon, take some lessons, and maybe perform in front of the children before I leave Shanghai!

Photo Sources: unusualhistoricals.blogpost.com, Beijing Chinese opera website

A Shanghainese St Patrick’s Day!

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Yesterday it was St Patrick’s Day, and, as a “New Yorker”, I knew it would not be possible for me to stay home. I searched on Shanghai’s popular websites for some events and was happy to see that some party goers were not planning on staying home either this night.

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After reading reviews and implementing a very strict system of research (there’s only one St Patrick’s day per year right?!), I decided to check the “oldest Irish pub of Shanghai” located near the French Concession.

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The Blarney Stone was a very hearty bar, with an impressing community of many international people. We met three American students who were spending their week in Shanghai and invited them at our table.

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We ordered some Irish traditional stews and Guinness. At first, I  was a bit disappointed that people were not wearing green at all, or that there was no Irish music playing on. However, the ambiance was still great, and it was really pleasurable to be able to grab a drink on the terrace outside.

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After, we decided to go down the street which was pretty lively for a Monday night. It is a very nice area with many original bars, and people dressing fancy.

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We chose to go to the “Revolution Cocktail bar”. We found out that although it was designed and decorated in a very Cuban fashion, it happened to belong to a French man!

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I loved that the bar was very small, with an intimate ambiance, enhanced by the colorful ceiling, the wooden beams and the profusion of framed vintage photos on the walls. The bartender was very nice and offered us to taste one of his Asian mojito!

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It was definitely a great St Patrick’s Day, and I am already planning on coming back to this little street soon 😉

P.S.: I started a tumblr photo challenge (posting photos everyday until I leave Shanghai). You might want to check it if you want to see more daily photos, as I don’t post everything since it would not be relevant in all articles! 🙂

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The Woman Who Lived on the Rooftop of my Gym

Today was the warmest day I had in China. The sun was up, people were enjoying drinks outside of the restaurants, children were playing at the square, students were working in the grass, and it really felt like a nice spring day.

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I noticed that even though it is around 75F outside, people are still wearing huge coats, thick jeans and winter boots. My Chinese roomie explained me that apparently it is quite obscene to get undressed that early in the year. She also told me about this diction that reminded the French one “En Avril, ne te decouvre pas d’un fil”, which means that you should not undress in April or you will get sick.

In the meantime, I wish I could go out in a little sundress.

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At the end of the day, I went to the gym to have a relieving run. While I was stretching, I noticed a strange noise coming from outside. When I looked, I saw a woman, sitting on the ground of the rooftop. She was playing harmonica, while reading through some papers. She had a tent with her.

I wonder how she arrived there, and why. 

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The Lives of Others

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Today my post is not going to be as flighty as usual. I would like to tell you about this particular anecdote that came to my mind while I was randomly talking to an acquaintance about my nightlife.

Not long ago, my friends and I were hanging out in a very fancy Shanghainese club. It was late, there was a great ambiance, the party was in full swing.

We met this group of international students who were in exchange at Fudan too. They were enjoying their night at a table where were standing a multitude of bottles and two creamy cakes.

It was a lot. I would say too much for the number of people they were.

What you need to know is that, in Shanghai, Western people always get free entrance to nightclubs. It is not rare at all to even get free drinks, a table, or bottles of champagne offered by the club. Some friends told me it is because international kids attracts local Chinese partygoers.

So, these people were enjoying all these goodies that they got for free. They did not even order those cakes at all (I mean, who would eat two American style cakes at 2 AM in a crowded club?).

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One of the student started to carry the huge cake around, but he was already pretty tipsy so it seemed like a harsh task for him. Not surprisingly, it ended up falling on a stranger’s suit and felt on the floor, not even started yet.

That could have been a pretty funny anecdote to tell others without what happened next. A Chinese cleaning lady appeared from nowhere and started to wipe the disaster. Her clothes were teared up, her hair was greasy and she seemed exhausted.

In China, I can see on a daily basis poor people liker her. They are street vendors. They are street cleaners. They play instruments or make bamboo baskets to subsist. Most of them don’t speak Mandarin or are illiterate. They are sometimes not homeless, having a family and a home, but live in extremely terrible conditions, in shanty town, with a few dollars per day.

As I watched this lady cleaning up this cake, that I know was probably from one of the many expensive Western bakeries in town, I thought, how many times in her life did she get to eat this? I don’t think I am wrong when I say hardly ever. And now, she is just putting in the trash an entire wasted cake.

I am not saying that the students were wrong for accepting the club gifts and enjoying their time.

I just wish sometimes people, who live everyday being confronted to high poverty, could appreciate and respect what they have, and what others don’t.

Photo sources: edition.cnn.com, mrwallpaper.com 

The mysterious graffitis

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Today, I went to a restaurant near my campus with my roomie. Even though “Snoodles” is mostly known for its noodles, I ordered some wonton dumplings (餛飩) as well as a hot dates juice.

The wontons looked like Chinese “Italian” pastas and were so great! It was filled with pork, and the sauce was made of little peanuts and red peppers. Unfortunately it was also extremely spicy. It was probably the spiciest meal I had here (and it had only one pepper on the menu…).

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So, after we ate, and because it was an awesome sunny day, I decided to take a digestive walk around my apartment.

I am leaving in a great residential area, with western restaurants on the main avenue, and many local Chinese ones a few blocks away. The sidewalks are large and verdant, and the students meet there when they want to talk around a hazelnut latte. There is a charming ambiance.

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While walking, I passed by this long wall right next to my university with many graffitis on it. In fact, I walk past it every single day. It is very artsy and colorful. I did not notice that many street art in Shanghai, so I like this passage. It reminds me of my city, New York, where graffitis were born.

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But, as I was wandering around, I discovered that this wall was not the only painted one. There are actually “secret” graffitis disseminated all over my street! You need to get off the main avenue and explore to find them, sometimes half hidden behind construction work, cars, or just in weird places.

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But the ones that interested me the most, were these childish series which, to me, seemed like they were made by the same artist. All of his/her murals are very colorful, with cute characters and scenery.  It looks like it just came off a child tale. It is basically the kind of drawings I love!

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Unfortunately, the artist did not sign! I would have loved to check out others of his/her work…

I think I am going to ask my Chinese teacher how to say “Who did this?” and ask the local stores and restaurant. This will be my little investigation of the week, and a great way to talk to locals 😉

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I have to solve this mystery!

The Jing’an Temple

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The Jing’an Temple is one of the most famous temple in Shanghai.

At first I was a little bit disappointed because when I got there, they were actually renovating the temple, so there were blue canvas sheets all over the buildings and noisy mechanical diggers right in the central court. The big picture did not seem that attractive…

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Although, the Jing’an temple is situated in one of the most materialistic part of the city, where are all the fancy boutiques and shops. I was pretty surprised about this contrast.

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Then I started looking at all the details around me.

The golden illuminations on the walls, the Chinese wooden artworks, and  the encryptions on the court floor. The pleasing smell of burning incenses, and the thick grey smoke coming from the hot coal. The light sun showing from behind the decorated roofs, and the small breeze passing through my hair.

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I watched the Buddhists burning incenses and praying toward the Buddha. People from all different backgrounds were there: adolescents, mothers with their child, businessmen, elderlies, fancy ladies, tourists…

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Some people were having fun and were laughing while trying to throw coins in the central tower.

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Then I wandered around.

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I took all the photos from outside the rooms in order not to importunate prayers.

I  finished with the Buddha. It is really huge, made of 5 tons of silver.

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Finally, I got back the central court and bought some incenses. I hold it with my two hands and looked toward the Jade Buddha.

As I have been calm and silent during all my visit, I started to make space in my mind.

It was suddenly like it was empty, or not at all. I had at the same time no thought, and all of the thoughts I have ever had, rushing through my head.

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I put my stick back into the coal, looked one last time around me, and left, my heart in peace.