It’s time I broke the silence…

And why?

Because some things are worth sharing no matter how busy I am (and how lazy I am to get on the computer when I have free time):

1) Subsequent to years spent in the ad industry in Vienna, I have witnessed my fair share of photo shoots – from highly complex ones with models and photographers with true artistry to those who could offer a more reasonable price from across the border (Hungary) but still did a very clean job. When recently at work we needed some original model photography for an artwork insert (one that goes between a double-wall mug), I suggested we do use some of the beautiful ladies from the office. My colleague found a photo studio that showed some great examples of vintage Shanghai (1930’s) – the look we were going for – and off we were! We booked the studio about two days before the shoot. The scheduled time for 3 ‘models’ was 3 hours.  In my world, this was just not possible. A photo shoot with 1 model normally takes a full day. You have to worry about light settings, hair, makeup, clothing, etc… I was still in shock over the time when they said they would use different photographers to save time…again, not my world. Normally, one photographer’s style affects the result and so we would have 3 different styles which is not what we wanted. This was all sounding very suspicious, but my what-I-thought-already-pretty-Chinese-adapted-jaw finally dropped, when they said they would deliver the digital photography in already photoshoped quality the next morning at 10am! My world: one or two days of work depending on the number of photographs needed to retouch.  I wrote my boss a note saying I was going to be there to supervise, but that he shouldn’t expect any results by the next day.  Impossible is nothing, Possible is everything. I arrived at the studio to see a Chinese production line run and managed with the utmost efficiency (putting our Austrian studios to shame). A line of mirrors with a line of girls in front sitting on chairs behind which another line of girls would perform make-up and hair miracles within minutes. The wardrobe, shoes, jewelry – all within grasp. Poof – you were a shanghainese woman from the 20’s. Poof you were a bride, poof you were a pregnant hot chick, poof you were a cowgirl (these were only the examples I saw during 2 hours). In and out the ladies moved from makeup chair to studio (where, mind you, the client was not allowed, as to allow for full efficiency!) and back again for their second costume change. We started at 3pm and finished by 6pm. My jaw officially on the ground. The next morning, with a slight delay, the CD was delivered – with photography that looked too perfect and glammed up in my view, but absolutely served the purpose for our project. The whole thing cost Eur 40/model. Need I say more?

2) Everyone likes trees. So the Shanghai government offers city dwellers, companies with CSR programs, team-building groups, etc etc the opportunity to plant trees in the outer districts of the city for free. All the trees, plants, bushes are provided by the government. Or you can pay Eur3/tree and have it planted for you. My company opted to do it as a company outing this past Saturday morning. We took a 40-minute bus ride (probably killing trees with our exhaust along the way) to a new road only to find many others groups of all ages gathered to plant trees. In true Chinese style, we left the bus and everyone just picked up the first shovels they saw and shouted ‘let’s start!’ The trees and bushes to be planted were spaced out along the road so you could somewhat identify where the tree was supposed to be planted – I say ‘somewhat.’  (I did notice areas of softer earth, which I later found out were pre-dug by the government workers the day before!) Without a word of instruction, everyone started planting away. The government workers just stood on and watched (probably wondering why the hell we were doing this and causing them extra work, as they would probably have to replant them after we are gone). Connie and I managed to get our first tree planted when I asked the wife of my American supervisor, Ramela, if she had done this before. Yes, many times. Did you get instruction? In answer to this, she proceeds to tell me about the way they were told to plant trees when she did in the US – right down to 3 kinds of fertilizer, etc. It was at this point, I looked at the tree I just planted in what was more rock debris than soil – I looked at the plastic bag and wire I had dug out of the ground in the process – and I asked her if my tree would grow. “Sure,” she said, “This is China. It’ll survive.”

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