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to visit more countries around the world... I've done enough of China right now!
IF YOU'RE ASKING ME FOR A COUCH: PLEASE START WITH READING THE COUCH INFORMATION SECTION CAREFULLY AND IN FULL!
IF YOU ASK ME TO CONTACT YOU / LOOK YOU UP / USE IN ANY WAY WECHAT OR FACEBOOK, YOU DIDN'T BOTHER READING MY PROFILE AND/OR YOU SENT ME A GENERIC COPY-PASTE MESSAGE.
Short story of my life is that I'm born in Singapore and stayed there for 2/3rds of my life, and then the remaining 1/3rd (and counting) here in Shanghai.
I moved to Shanghai for my studies in Sep 2003. I started as an undergrad student at Shanghai Conservatory of Music, majoring in traditional Chinese instrument performance.
In Sep 2008, I gained admission to Fudan University's English-taught Masters programme, majoring in Chinese Language & Culture. During my years at Fudan (and for a couple of years after) I was the vice-president and heavily involved in the activities of the university's Chinese orchestra.
Before I came to Shanghai, my only trips out of Singapore were to Malaysia, Japan and North Korea. I've since then travelled extensively in mainland China,
both in the well-known as well as the off-the-beaten-path nooks and crannies of China, sometimes solo. I've been privileged to see a China that I believe many international students and expats in China don't. I used to be a TripAdvisor Destination Expert for Shanghai and a few other places, as well as a moderator on the Lonely a Planet ThornTree forum.
--end of official CV blurb, start of ramblings--
Well, below are some thoughts that I jot down here from time to time which kinda describe me. Reading them might be helpful if you intend to surf with me (especially), or host, or just meet up.
* I usually like to spend time with my hosts and surfers when in the house. However there're just times when I'm hosting when I may be busy with my own stuff, or just need some time out. So, I try to be an interactive host, but at the same time please don't whine if I'm not entertaining enough.
* I consider common courtesy to read a potential host's profile before writing a personal, non-generic CouchRequest - yes, even when it's last-minute. If you don't agree with this, then be warned that you will probably not fancy my answer to you! Sorry but I prefer not to host or meet those who're interested where they're sleeping for free, rather than the person who's providing them with the privilege of doing so. If you think I'm close-minded and unfriendly as a result of this then it's just as well that we do not meet.
* I'm pretty bad at recognizing faces, so it's probably better to tell me what you're wearing when we are trying to meet up, or recognize me before I attempt to recognize you, haha! Please don't be offended if I don't recognize you again even if we've already met sometime in the past.
Why I’m on Couchsurfing
HOW I PARTICIPATE IN COUCHSURFING
I currently rent a room in a 3-room apartment at Wujiaochang near Fudan University. For couch information, please refer to the "My Home" section.
Due to the nature of my job (which makes up most of my travel), I have to travel very light ie only carry-on luggage. Thus I will not have blankets, sheets or a sleeping bag.
I usually don't bring a towel, but if my host would really prefer that I bring one, I'm happy to buy one and leave it for the next surfer.
The good thing about having so little is that I won't be messing up your place! :)
Other than hosting and surfing
I'm usually happy to meet up for a chat/tea/meal/stroll in my neighbourhood if I'm in Shanghai -- sorry, I usually prefer not to go downtown. :) I can work with meal budgets of generally 10-50 RMB/pax, with a preference for around 20-30 RMB/pax for a meal. It makes me uncomfortable to eat with someone who's on such a shoestring budget that you cannot afford 10 RMB for a meal. On the other hand, I cannot afford to be spending more than 50 RMB on a regular meal, most of the time.
I don't usually go for gatherings as I don't function well in "mass group" kind of gatherings, I prefer to meet in groups of 2 to 6 people.
CouchSurfing is NOT a dating/"hook-up" site and I DO NOT appreciate any CSers thinking otherwise.
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- Daniel Burnham (M, Chicago, USA) (Reverse host!)
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- Mehul Tanna (M, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
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No.1 on the list is travel, of course! I'm quite a history/culture bum, and love going to museums -- though not the ones that look like someone's dusty, abandoned storeroom. However I've also learnt from experience that going to museums where I can't understand the exhibit captions (due to language barriers) can be quite disappointing, and that art museums are mostly wasted on me. So, now I try to avoid art museums, and to make sure that a museum has captions or audio guides in a language that I can understand, before visiting.
Scenery is also a plus with me, but I'm not very athletic and hate climbing! But for a good view I can always consider. ;) I was about halfway up the Dom in Koln when I thought to myself "why did I think this is a good idea?!" ROFL!
Food, glorious food! I love sampling local food wherever I travel, and always try to look up the local specialties and recommended eating spots. My favourite ingredients (cooked in any way) are potatoes and cheese; I stay clear of coriander (cilantro) and celery, and avoid bell peppers as much as possible. No insects in my diet either... eeks! :( As for fruits, I love durian -- in any form as long as it's not rotten!
Unfortunately I can't cook (unless you mean stuff that you just add hot water to ie instant noodles) -- but I can help with cutting, chopping and cleaning if you don't mind that I'm quite a klutz.
Scrabble and other board/card games are a hit with me! So if you're an avid fellow gamer, please look me up! I'm especially keen to play Scrabble somewhat competitively, as it's difficult to find comparable players in mainland China. Another one of my favourite games, which we can play together on my iPad, is Ticket to Ride.
Over the past couple of years or so, I also realised I'm quite a fanatic about sunset photos. Apart from those photographers who travel with a tripod and SLR(s), I think I'm the only one among my friends who plan their holiday schedules around sunset times!
When travelling, I also like to take some time to write and send postcards, to myself and a few close friends. I'm pretty fanatical about getting them posted in the city which they're from, so sometimes when I can't find stamps or a mailbox they end up waiting months for me to visit that city again and bring them back there to be posted. Those whom I write too usually find copious essays squashed into the available writing space.
Oh, I also like collecting Hard Rock Café T-shirts. In fact, they're almost the only new clothes I've bought in some time. My favourite is one that I bought in Macau, not really a T-shirt but a more girlie top. Another obsolete souvenir is the one from Mexico City, I almost went to refund it but refunds were, strangely, not permitted at this particular outlet. A year later, I found that it had closed, so it was lucky I didn't refund it!
Music is another of my passions. For more details, please refer to the Music section below. I also really love going to sing karaoke so if you'd like to go for a session (it's a very Chinese/Asian thing, good culture experience!) please drop me a line!
Chatting with friends and reading in English are also good ways to spend my time. However please note that I do NOT enjoy discussions/questions about my Chinese name, my work (most of the time) and religion/politics/Tibet (really not interested, nothing to do with the Chinese government).
Music, Movies, and Books
I play a wide variety of traditional Chinese music instruments, mostly plucked-string. I enjoy listening to Chinese orchestral and instrumental music -- Western classical music tends to put me to sleep, unfortunately. I also write rearrangements, the best effort so far is this one: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTg4ODI0Mjc2.html
I also love musicals and my favourites are Miss Saigon, Evita and Les Miserables. Since I live in Asia, I've only been able to see a few musicals live, namely Miss Saigon (Singapore), Forbidden City (Singapore), Phantom of the Opera (Shanghai), Starlight Express (Hong Kong), Lion King (Sydney) and the latest addition is Evita (the "revival" version, Austin). Now I'm really really waiting to see Les Miserables!
As a spin-off, I also really enjoy listening to the fantastic voice of Sarah Brightman. Favourites among her songs include La Pasione and A Question of Honour. I've been to her concerts twice, both in Shanghai.
I also like some Chinese pop songs, though perhaps a bit outdated - I mostly stopped listening by 2009. I like going to karaoke, if you're interested we could always try to get enough people to go together.
On the other hand, I know almost nothing about "mainstream" music and can't tell any difference between reggae/rock/electronic/house/trance/dance/blues/whatever. I can recognise jazz music when I hear it, I think... what an achievement! So be warned, no point trying to discuss any kind of "mainstream" pop culture or artistes with me, I really can't be bothered with them.
Reading for leisure/enjoyment will definitely be in English. I do understand Chinese, but I read much easier and faster in English.
I enjoy Harry Potter be it in print or on screen -- as long as it's in English. I also liked George Orwell's Animal Farm, and would be keen to read Iris Chang's Rape of Nanking.
The only Chinese books I'll pick up of my own accord are travel guidebooks -- I especially enjoy the ones by Taiwan (especially the Mook series) and Hong Kong publishers.
However, I do sometimes make exceptions to the "no Chinese" rule. I enjoy the novels of Lu Xun, and Bai Xianyong's anthology Taipei People. I've read these with English-Chinese translation.
On a more recent note, nowadays most of my reading tends to be CouchSurfing profiles (of potential hosts/surfers, so please, make sure you have a substantial profile to interest me!), Wikitravel, FlyerTalk and Wikipedia articles.
I tend to go for films that have some travel, historical or musical background, or those in the kids/family genre. I don't enjoy scary/ghost movies at all. Here're some of my favourites:
- Les Miserables (2012 version)
- The Soong Sisters (Chinese language)
- Up in the Air
- Harry Potter series
- Ice Age series
- Happy Feet series
- Home Run (watched this Singaporean adaption of the famous Iranian film 4 times in the cinema!)
- Amadeus (watched countless times onboard planes)
- Letters to Juliet
Others movies that I currently like, but which might not make it to my lasting list of favourites, are: Paddington, Woman in Gold, American Dreams in China (Chinese language), The Royal Tailor (Korean language), The Hundred-Foot Journey, Guten Tag Ramon (German/Spanish languages), Frau Ella (German language)
Most mainstream Hollywood movies don't seem to interest me. If you're interested in stuff like Inception, Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Transformers, Avatar etc (wow, I even had to think quite a bit to come up with this list of examples) we're not going to find much in common to talk about, at least for movies.
Travel and food programmes are definitely my cup of tea, especially food-cum-travel programmes by Taiwan and Hong Kong TV.
As for drama serials, I like anything produced in Hong Kong. I also like certain Taiwan idol dramas (eg MVP Lover) and some mainland Chinese drama serials, mainly the period dramas. In English, the only ones I've watched are The L Word, The Tudors, The Reign and The White Queen; for Korean ones, I've only watched Dae Jang Geum. I don't watch Japanese ones at all.
One Amazing Thing I’ve Done
- Apr 2002: 3-week fully-paid-for trip to North Korea
- May 2008: riding a camel and an ostrich on the same day, at Shapotou (northwest China)
- Sep 2010: spending almost 2 full days at Guadalajara airport because of missing luggage
- Dec 2010: 90 hours, 8 flights, 5 airlines, 1 RTW... and the same repeated 1 week later with more airlines and flights in the equation!
- May 2011: spending my birthday in 3 different cities: Tokyo, Shanghai and Shaoxing
- Aug 2011: eating a local Korean delicacy which arrived at our table still moving in the wok, then seeing more live ones cooked in the traditional way... see it for yourself and it's definitely Fear Factor-worthy :P
- Jun 2012: sent off to fly to the Philippines with a couple of hours' notice, without knowing where exactly nor how long for, and without knowing anything about the plane tickets!
- Dec 2012: getting a visa run to Taipei for almost no money at all, thanks to mileage and a VDB compensation on the flight back
- Feb 2013: being recognised (in a good way) by an American Airlines flight attendant on a flight, a few months after I originally met her on another American Airlines flight
- Mar 2013: getting stamped by exactly the same immigration officer in Frankfurt enroute to/back from Portugal
- May 2013: enjoying the rooftop of the Milan Duomo
- May 2013: going for a daytrip with a CSer whom I later found out shares my birthday
- Sep 2013: sunset on Halong Bay, Vietnam
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Teach, Learn, Share
I'm extremely well-travelled in mainland China, especially in Shanghai and the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, so you won't go wrong asking me to help with your travel plans and logistics!
I can also help with travelling in Korea (especially Seoul), Taiwan (especially Taipei) and Japan (Kansai and Hokkaido).
It would be nice to improve any of the languages that I'm a Beginner in, especially French and Korean pronunciation and vocabulary, as well as making decent sentences.
I majored in Chinese instrumental music for my basic degree and I was the vice president of the Fudan University Chinese Orchestra during 2009-2012. Our practices are on Tue afternoons, sectionals on various weekday nights and if you're really interested and can sit quietly for at least an hour, it may be possible to visit. Practices are only during the school semesters, typically Sep-Dec and Mar-Jun.
Otherwise, with a working Internet connection, I can show you online videos of our performances, including one of my rearrangements.
I can also play piano (Trinity performance certificate) and a bit of cello and double bass.
If you're wondering about getting yourself a decent Chinese name, I also like helping with that. :) I try to give names that sound "normal" and have some kind of relation in meaning and sound to your original name, not just simply translating your original name or slapping you with a Chinese name that has nothing to do with you. So, be prepared to tell me more about your original name if you want a good Chinese one!
Countries I’ve Visited
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam
Countries I’ve Lived In