Thursday, 14 March 2013


great  - this is the first time i've been able to get onto the blog since the international school.  i'm in my hotel room so hopefully i'll be able to post every day.

here's a big block of text, i've been writing each day and lifting from emails so i'm just going to post it all now, i'm heading off to the bookworm bookshop for a session, an international school this afternoon.

here goes -


nanjing station is unbelievably huge, biggest and newest i’ve seen.  Each carriage door is numbered and pulls up to a corresponding number on the platform, seats are numbered too so it’s all very orderly and works like clockwork   - smooth uneventful trip except for the guy next to me who crunched on sunflower seeds the whole trip. 
i've just booked in to the meridian in shanghai after three nights in nanjing. it's full on keeping track of trains, planes and me.

nanjing was good, the school was a lovely place full of good vibes and great students. i've managed to blog because of special school access, but gmail, internet and my blogsite are generally inaccessible. it's not overt but when you get down to it, communication
isn't too straightforward.
i'm in a school on monday so hopefully i'll be able to blog again, school staff have personal 'ban free' email and internet - i don't know how that works but i may be able to get onto it.
weather is really warm, i was expecting very cold so my clothes are a bit nqr.
i'm in an amazing 34th floor room in the middle of shanghai, my session in the lit festival is  tomorrow and i'm pretty sure i can walk there.  tried it out tonight but couldn't find it but i know the venues only a stone's throw away.

i got trapped in the gi-normous shanghai station on arrival on the fast train.  simply couldn't find an exit, no english speakers around, it took me an hour to find a way to the outside, multiple levels, elevators everywhere, not an 'exit' sign in sight.
i completely missed my pick up so had to cab it into town.  it's not an easy country to be in, but i'm really looking forward to beijing where i'll be with people i know.  

 i'm just back from my session at the shanghai literature
festival - it's been a strange stay, from  the beginning with my experience as
a prisoner of the hongxiao railway station, to the sudden change in the weather
from unexpectedly hot and sunny yesterday and today - i'd got up and dressed
planning to take my time and walk down to 'M on the Bund' where the festival is
taking place.  i stepped outside the front door after breakfast and was almost
blown away by a bitterly cold wind,  you can't get any idea from the 34th
floor what the weather is like so i had to do an about face and put on a couple
of layers, fill in some time and get a cab.
this little bird was in the courtyard at the shanghai international school, it's fascinating to see the totally
different birds,  not many of them but all new

these are students at the shanghai international school  - a great school full of energy, great librarians running a lively program

this festival has been strange because i've hardly had any contact with anyone
here so arrived at the building to see no signage, no sign of anyone, staff
not speaking english so no one to ask where i was.   Finally i saw a poster on
the wall near the lift, so i was directed up to the 6th floor. 
no one there either, and the room was full of rows of velvet chairs facing
the stage.
sigh . . .  i was feeling very displaced, over it altogether and taking some
comfort in the coffee i was given when bruno arrived. he was there to help and
everything started falling into place. i was very early but i'm glad i was - we 
re arranged the room and by the time the kids arrived it was sorted.
the session was fine, but it's a shame it's such a crummy day, i'm just back in
my room now to have another bath and chill out, the weather is just not
conducive to exploring, and i don't have time to find out where anything
is.   i have an international school somewhere out of town tomorrow, so i need
to get that sorted.

such a diversity of architectual detail from european to ultra modern chinese, always interesting and unexpected
this sad girl was working in a fashion shop - all the girls dressed
up like dolls, all looking similarly desplaced
i was in the cab sitting in front of a tv screen blaring out chinese ads and 
thinking of bill murray in lost in translation. i love that movie and coincidentally
it came on when i was spending my last night in nanjing.   i related to it so
much.  now if bill murray was here . . .     :0)

i did have time to use the vouchers i had for free lunch and champagne cocktail
at the restaurant in the M building is but i'm not much for eating on my own, 
unless i really am alone. then i love to spread out in the hotel, tv, drink, food,
bed -  just blobbing out, which is what i'm about to do now.

looking forward to getting to beijing and buddies, that'll be much more fun.
shanghai looks like a great city though, i'd love to be here some time with
someone to have a good look around.  apparently there's a boat you can
take from here to osaka,  worth checking out in future.

great powerlines on the way to the airport

landing in beijing
TUESDAY March 12, 2013the flight was fine although i was on tenterhooks on the way to the airport because
my e-ticket was the second of two pages, the first i'd thrown away because it was
my flights to nanjing.  then i realised the first line was missing with flight no etc.
and being china i had visions of not being allowed on the plane, or at least a bit
of drama.  all unwarranted fears of course, so 2 1/2 hours later i arrived in beijing
and there was a lovely big ANNE SPUDVILAS sign and driver waiting at the arrivals exit.
phew - that's always a good feeling.   then a long drive here, out into the sticks of
NE beijing -  a very very new hotel, sparse, and super modern. everything remote
control and pushbutton including
the outer blinds, the room service menu and hotel information is on an apple
phone - so i have to work it out.  drawers and cupboards are so streamlined
i've had to go searching for them.
the wardrobes i finally found behind a four panel glass screens with chinese
horses painted on them,  the sort of doors you push and they pop open, but
i almost broke my fingernails getting them open and there was no rail to
hang anything on.  just cupboard space and a shelf on one side, and the other
side i couldn't open at all.

so i rang reception, also querying my 'park' view from the 18th floor -  a lot of shabby houses and
buildings that look like sheds, and open space that is just dirt and rubble.  there
was a choice when i booked,  urban or park view.    so my query was met with
'yes, madam, that is the park view'       OMG  what must the urban view be like?

anyway, the girl who checked me in , named Cherish, came up to help me with
the cupboard.   oh that is just a painting she said, and when i opened it she
laughed and then pointed out the concealed cupboard on the opposite wall,
containing robes, slippers, safe etc.   so what the other cupboard was for i don't know.

she delivered a hard copy of the menu and told me where all the restaurants, gym and pool
are so i don't have to rely on the Iphone and left.

i wanted to photograph outside my window ( which as i write is disappearing more and
more into a fog of pollution and white smoke) but had to recharge the battery. so a search
for powerpoints - plenty. but would my recharger fit?   despite the fact that powerpoints here
are the same as home ?    NO

the other plugs did,  the computer, phone recharger etc.    i tried them all and finally
found that the one next to where i'd plugged in the laptop seemed to fit so i pushed it in


hey presto, the plastic cover for the whole row of plugs jumped off  and underneath, i'd
pushed the whole row of powerpoints in where they shouldn't be.    so Cherish was called
again - full of apologies, in the meantime i found somewhere to recharge the battery so i'm
going out tomorrow to explore what looks like a barren wasteland and they can come and
fix it.

no one from the writers week is checking in for two more days - i feel like i'm in some
kind of parallel universe.  thank god for bed, wine and tv  -  how pathetic is that??   at least
here i know the 798 arts precinct is only a 10 minute cab ride away, so i'm off there

talk about lost in translation!   ha ha,  i'm climbing into my comforting silk jim jams and
hanging out on the bed watching telly for a while, the air looks lethal out there.

it's really cold here, outside at least.  icy and sort of sleety.  but so thick with pollution i'll
take a photo as soon as the battery's recharged.

just had to get this down on paper while it's all happening.  i can cut and paste this onto
the blog - if i get a chance to do anything.  seems i can only get onto my blog at schools
where they have 'virtual proxy internet' - not limited by chinese controls over gmail,
facebook etc.

morning from my window
i've had a flood of emails from everyone,no one talking
about anything but the weather.   it sounds mad - but it's reassuring to know 
that similar runs of hot weather have happened before right back to the
1890's, although late feb rather than march. 

here it's thick with pollution and getting thicker every time i look up 
from the computer,  very cold outside, sort of sleety and like dense fog
at eventide even though it's only 3 p.m.

just been on a reconnoitre round the hotel, japanese restaurant on the ground floor,   european dining and business centre/cafe on floor 2, on 4th floor nice pool and fully equipped and very special gym with one floor mat and one fitball,  it's weird, about 12 treadmills, as many x trainers and all the other machines, but one mat and one fitball.
this hotel feels like it's here 5 years early, or in china 2 years.  all around are single level  buildings, some scrappy trees, a canal, and lots of cleared land.  i would imagine next year it'll all
be levelled and soon there'll be wall to wall hotels.  but right now i'm struggling with a super modern hotel here before it's time, nothing quite works, the restaurants, gym and pool
are empty and i can't wait for the rest of the writer's festival people to arrive in a couple of days.
i'll have a gym n swim in the morning, right now i'm chilling out in my new room - yes i've changed it already, there were weird cables hanging and swinging in front of my window and although the view is a bit  strange the swinging knotted cables made it  distinctly disturbin'.
'bull durham' is on HBO and that's about the only channel here i can watch.   roll on friday and the arrival of buddies.

WED  - a free day but i’ve spent the morning discussing my hotel bill – when they took my mastercard to register it for authorisation, not realising it was a debit card, they withdrew $2400 from my account. lucky i checked my account online – what a shock. now they’re attempting to get in back into my bank as quickly as possible, but can’t say when that will be.  lucky i had that amount in there to start with – god, i’m over this.   my plans to walk to 798 art precinct have turned into a lay day watching dvds and double checking my schedule for the coming nine days. 
i did have a swim, but the guys in the gym looked so fit, i chickened out of displaying my porky self in stretchy gym gear.   the pool is gorgeous, see pic.

the pool is lovely and empty  -  just the way i like it

i’ve made contact with my volunteer helper, he’ll meet me here in the morning to take me to my sessions at the bookworm bookshop.  it’s a great place, i visited there on my last trip.   a comfy haven for overseas visitors with big soft chairs, and a great little cafe attached to a great bookshop in the sanlitun district, right near a great multi story shopping heaven that i need to visit again.  Yashou – five floors of little stalls selling all kinds of clothes, silk, rip off stuff, just a fun place.

an interesting bridge from my window

also from my window

the shadow of my hotel

today - a fairly smoggy sky

very scary - my reflection in the mirror which is surrounded by a square fluoro lght

equally scary - smoke belching out of the top of a building  outside the window

today at the Bookwork bookshop

and at Beijing International School of Singapore

building on the way back to the hotel

and a very special hat, this man crossed the road in front of our cab

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