It seems very hard to believe, but all being well, tomorrow week I will be on the plane on my way to Hong Kong and the first leg of my study tour to China. I am suddenly overcome by the realisation that I have so much to organise in that short time.
Had my very last Chinese lesson yesterday - am feeling utterly hopeless and incompetent - attempting to learn Mandarin has definitely been a lesson in humility! Many apparently ridiculous and silly phrases in my textbook, such as 'Which sister is the prettier? The older sister or the younger sister?' sparked interesting conversations with my teacher, Lian, about cultural differences. She wasn't sure why I was laughing and asked me what I would say if I was asked which of my daughters were the prettier - some interesting discussion about the differences between Australian and Chinese parenting styles ensued. Lian explained that in China parents would compare their childrens'srelative good looks and intelligence very bluntly - and in front of them! Clearly I do not belong to the 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' school of parenting!
A more useful phrase for me perhaps is 'Zhe ge shi shenme cai'? or in other words, 'What is this that I am eating?'
At the wonderful White Rabbit exhibition opening party last week I met an old friend I haven't seen since art school days. She has lived in Beijing and shared some of her local knowledge - also the colloquial response to the 'How are you / Ni Hao?' question. 'Ma ma hu hu' (literally 'horse horse tiger tiger) 'means 'So so' . How good is that?
My most favourite work in the 'Decade of the Rabbit' exhibition at White Rabbit is by Gao Rong, a hyper-real representation of a street doorway, which is all made of sewn fabric. It reminded me of Do Ho Suh's beautiful silky transparent replicas of his New York apartment seen at the MCA some years ago but is more 'gritty' and real.