May 20th: Ayi and Rum

An ayi*: a lady who comes to your house to tidy, clean, shop, cook, order water, pay bills… Pretty much any domestic chore.  So thanks to Valerie (downstairs neighbour) we’ve appointed an ayi to visit three afternoons a week.   The challenge for us is that she doesn’t speak a word of English, and our Mandarin has yet to sufficiently evolve beyond introducing ourselves and counting to 100.   Not quite sure how we’d cope without Google Translate.  Her first visit was Friday – a little overwhelmed by the number of tasks we’d set aside for her , she nevertheless did a pretty good job.   And apologies for using “she” and “her” – our ayi does have a name, but not in English!

(*The literal translation of “ayi” is ”Auntie”.  The one-child policy in China is apparently resulting in words like Auntie and Uncle becoming less useful, so in typical Chinese style they’re being reclaimed for other uses.)

Hot Rum and Cold Lychee MartiniA week of sun and boiling hot temperatures inevitably gave way to rain and a far more temperate feel on Saturday.  It doesn’t take long for 20 degrees to feel almost chilly (sorry for anyone in the UK currently reading this – the temperatures back home have been more like February than May), so a medicinal lunch-time hot rum was called for at a small bar in Tianzifang.

Later in the afternoon we visited a beer festival in the pouring rain (had to be wet to give it that authentic British feel) joined by Tim, Sarah and JB.  Plenty of beers to choose from; plenty to try and leave well alone.  Despite the weather, a great time was had by all, followed by a takeaway Thai meal (courtesy of Sherpas home delivery) back at Tim and Sarah’s.

I loved Bronwen’s observation that standing around the beer festival, chatting, we could hear countless other separate conversations taking place; the difference being here at the beer festival – for the first time in ages – we could actually understand them.**

As the antithesis of the safe, saccharine music emanating from most of the ex-pat-style bars in Shanghai, “Pairs” certainly managed to awaken the post-Sunday-lunch audience.  A bloke playing drums and a lass on guitar;  a fantastic racket from two people who seemed genuinely bemused to have anybody in the audience at all.  We’d gone along to The Melting Pot music venue following a lazy, late lunch to see The Noise Revival Orchestra, an 8-piece band from Austin (Texas).  Always a bit strange to watch bands in the daytime (festivals apart) but a great way to round-off a top weekend.

**I mean because most people there were speaking English.  Not because we’d magically learned to speak Mandarin over a few pints.

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