The Hunt Continues

On my way to view a property this evening I was engaged in what can only be described as a mix between business chit chat and idle small talk. We can’t have been more than 5 minutes in to the journey when I heard this.

“I had a couple this afternoon who were taking their time. They seem to think that they know best.”

I thought nothing of it until I was walking home. But then it struck me: How can anyone presume they know where we would feel comfortable living? Unfortunately for us, these stats from one agency alone may give some clue as to the answer.

A home is more than just four walls, a lick of paint and some re-furbished kitchen, so unfortunately the stubborn part of my character insists that we will be taking our time to find a place that we really can call a home.

The hunt continues…

Capturing Singapore


When away from home, I love to wander the streets of an unfamiliar city armed with nothing more than a camera. Over the last couple of years I’ve developed a rule of thumb when visiting a new city for the first time:

  • day 1: walk around until you can walk no more (no maps allowed)
  • day 2: take a map and walk to the places you missed on day 1
  • day 3: go back to places you want to explore in more detail

This approach has served me well, until that is I arrived in Singapore. I loved my time in Singapore and will actively look to come back. But one thing that continues to confound me is how uninspired I was when looking through the viewfinder; so uninspired that during the last week my camera spent most if the time locked in a hotel safe.

My struggle was made all the more evident when encountered with photography exhibitions at the National Museum, the ArtScience Museum, and a temporary exhibit at Chinatown Point. Singapore is, or at least was, a wonderful place to photograph. Why then did I feel so uninspired behind the camera?

Perhaps I felt just a little too comfortable.

Castle Stalker


Fan bingbing

Fan Bing Bing by mamattew

It’s been quite a while now since I was first introduced to the 成语 (chéngyǔ) idiom, 马不停蹄 (mǎbùtíngtí). It stuck instantly. Yet surprisingly I’ve never seen it used in context, until now.


Last week, Fan Bing Bing continued her relentless schedule at the Cannes Film Festival, showing the world her personal style, whilst also promoting her endorsement of L’Oreal and Chopard.
– Jing Daily, May 22, 2013

I’m still not sure I completely understand how the phrase is used as, whenever I try, I’m told it doesn’t sound natural. The best I’ve managed to arrive at is:

Zuìjìn wǒ mǎbùtíngtí dì chūchāi.
Recently I’ve been travelling for work non stop.

And the relevance of the photo? None at all. But it almost certainly kept you reading this far. I’d love to hear of any other examples of how 马不停蹄 is used in every day spoken Chinese. If you have any, the comments are all yours.


(negative prefix) / not / no
tíng to stop / to halt / to park (a car)
hoof / pig’s trotters
马不停蹄 mǎbùtíngtí unrelenting / without stopping to rest
de -ly / structural particle: used before a verb or adjective, linking it to preceding modifying adverbial adjunct

A Storage Mouse

Guinea Pigs at Pets Corner

Guinea Pigs at Pets Corner by Cyberslayer

We are forever being told that the best way to learn is to make mistakes, but it’s not often that we get to observe ourselves doing so. There have been a few times in my on/off attempts at learning Chinese when I’ve remembered things as a direct result of my mistakes.

I introduce you to 囤鼠, the storage mouse. I forget why, but I asked A. how to say guinea pig in Chinese. Without seeing the characters, I assumed that túnshǔ was 囤鼠 which translates literally as “storage mouse”.

Forgetting everything I knew about traditional household pets I assumed that the guinea pig was named 囤鼠 because it stored food in it’s cheeks. I was wrong on two counts:

  1. Guinea pigs don’t store food in their cheeks; that would be the hamster.
  2. The Chinese for guinea pig is 豚鼠, túnshǔ which sounds exactly the same as storage mouse, but is in fact a completely different character.

Realising my mistakes, I looked up the word for hamster. To my surprise, this really was a storage mouse; 仓鼠, cāngshǔ.

One week on, I can still remember the difference between a guinea pig, a hamster and a storage mouse. Learning from our own mistakes really is the best way to learn. If you are still struggling, the following vocabulary might help.

Chinese Pinyin English
shǔ rat / mouse
tún to store / hoard
tún suckling pig
cāng barn / granary / storehouse
豚鼠 túnshǔ guinea pig
囤鼠 túnshǔ storage mouse
仓鼠 cāngshǔ hamster

Requests for Skype Data

The chart below, shows the number of criminal requests received from a law enforcement agency and/or court seeking Skype customer data.

Skype Requests by Country

Requests for access to Skype account details by country

Country Requests for Information
United Kingdom 1,268
United States 1,154
China 6

Source: Microsoft, 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report

WeChat for Business

WeChat (微信, Wēixìn) has received increasing attention from the major tech blogs. As a consumer focussed mobile app with voice messages at the core of it’s product, it is heralded as what Facebook should have done with mobile. Recently, I’ve begun to see examples of it being used for business. Not everything we do has to be real-time and with many small business spanning multiple time zones this is becoming increasingly evident. WeChat seems to have cracked voice messaging and I wouldn’t be surprised to see its unofficial use for business conversations increase over the coming months.


Harbin, a city on ice

Ice & Snow World, Harbin, China

As our trip to Harbin (哈尔滨) drew to a close we debated what we thought of the city. Much of the city’s past is still a mystery to me. I’m still unsure What triggered the influx of Russian Jews to the city and even less clear about the trigger for their apparent departure. I suspect much of the debate may have been lost in translation – either that or I may just have been too cold to appreciate the finer social and political aspects of the region’s history. For me, the take away impression of the city was one of admiration.

St Sophia Square, Harbin, China

Snow, ice, wind, cold and yet the city continued to function as normal. I come from a city that grinds to a halt at the first sign of inclement weather. Leaves on the line or the wrong kind of snow and people start to worry. It doesn’t take much for people to be sent home from work, trains delayed and flights cancelled.

Ice on the road, Harbin, China

Our plane landed in Harbin and taxied over an ice covered apron. A taxi driver promptly took us into the city regularly exceeding 110km/hr on ice covered roads. But more impressive was the way people shuffled (try walking across an ice rink and you’ll know what I mean) around the city on ice covered streets as if it was perfectly normal. And why not? In Harbin this is normal. I can understand that we don’t invest quite as heavily in snow ploughs and ice clearing equipment in the UK, but it wasn’t infrastructure that kept Harbin moving. More than anything it was just the inevitability of having to deal with whatever the weather throws at you. It is this that I’ll remember about Harbin, this and the bitter cold.