Wednesday, March 7, 2012


As you may know, Tiger Father moved his family recently. Actually picked them up, one by one, and carried them to our new abode. We've gone from our semi-modern, semi-swish apartment complex in the suburb of San Li Tun (which literally means Three Something Something) to what real estate agents might fancifully call a drab-looking, grey and brown, Soviet-style government-run gulag nearby.

In fact, the apartments are quite nice on the inside and are a throw back to the old days, when westerners had to live in one of a handful of government-run "diplomatic compounds".

And this is no orginary gulag. It's the same one I lived in during my first stay in Beijing, in the 1990s. Back then, I was in building five. But now I've moved to building two, which is exactly the same, only it's over here. Thus it has taken me 13 years to move 200 metres, which my wife will tell you is not bad for me.

Of all the things in our new flat this is what I thought billions of people on the world wide web needed to see the most.

This is the view from my shower. It's a water heater. Oh we
have mains hot water, but every flat also has one of these
because for one week each year the hot water is switched
off for cleaning, or maintenance, or government regulation.
The reason was explained to me, but I didn't really get it.
Sometimes in China it really doesn't pay to understand
why. As the saying goes, benign acceptance saves angst.

The point is, I'm not such a fan of domestic hot water engineering. I don't marvel at the compactness, or how it works, or even the 1970s sci-fi style guage-with-no-numbers at the top. This is a Xiao Ya (Little Duck) brand of water heater and what I love is the ducks.

For a comparison, this is the famous logo of Chinese appliance giant Haier, which appears on all of its washing machines, dryers, fridges, et cetera ...

This is the logo on our fridge, along with a couple of
Peking opera magnets, which were really there, and
not just put there for the photo to emphasise that we
are in China. So, too, was the magnetic egg cookbook,
but that's less exotic.

Take a closer look at these guys, who are
instantly recognisable in most of China.
Smiling, happy, healthy lads who are clearly
the best of friends, if only because the Chinese
one wants the Aryan one's ice-cream.
Sure, they're hanging out in their undies, but
as any male will tell you, this is a sure-fire
recipe for happiness.

And here are the ducks. "Whey-hey!" they say to me
every morning. And what a great way to start a day it is.
Someone - perhaps the boss' mum - was paid good money
to come up with them as the faces of Xiao Ya Inc. I've
studied them every morning for a month now, and am
convinced they are the crappest mascots in history. The
one on the left looks like he's pushing 100. Observe the
wrinkled legs, the gaping, seemingly parched mouth.
His friend just looks pissed off and can't be bothered to raise
a smile. Actually, they've both got a weary, glazed looked
about the eyes. I think they've been drinking. Xiao Ya Inc's
cute little duck mascots have just had a big session
 on the booze, and probably a drunken argument. The
yellow one only reluctantly agreed to do the shoot in the
end, but refused to pretend he was enjoying it,
as shown by his cynical scowl.
"Yeah whatever - here's my wave. Screw you guys."
They're the grumpy old men of the cutesy mascot
world. I love them.

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