Not a Top 10 List: My 7 Favourite Posts

The bag of fudge is not in this picture.


It’s a funny thing about going home again after a relatively long absence (a year and a half this time), even if it’s only for three weeks: Everything is just so normal and calm and sane and utterly non-extraordinary that I really don’t have much to say about it.

It’s just home, you know?

And sure, while we were up in the Comox Valley last weekend, camping at a music festival for five days, living in a slightly leaky tent with a stack of library books and a borrowed banjo and freezing my ass off in the early morning chill with fallen dew soaking my sandals, I had a ton of time to scribble notes about reverse culture shock and my own self-exile and sense of geographical aimlessness and the wonder of really big trees and whatnot on the empty brown paper bag that once contained very good home made organic peanut butter and chocolate fudge from the festival fudge purveyors (it was a small bag- please don’t imagine that I had managed to polish off a kilo slab of fudge in just a day or two).

Those scrawled, fudge-smeared notes will probably turn into another blog post as soon as I can wrap my head around them.

As the inimitable Fiona said to me when I recently moaned about my lack of writing inspiration, just because no one is trying to sell you dried abalone in the street doesn’t mean there’s nothing worth saying. After all, just because Vancouver Island is pleasant and ordinary and totally familiar to me doesn’t mean it isn’t of interest to others who have never been here.


But that is for another post.


This post is a cushy little list post prompted by Unbravegirl, who nominated me to contribute to a little project that’s been working its way around the intarwebs recently.

Basically, Tripbase, is running the 7 Links Project which asks bloggers to publish a list of seven of their favorite posts and then to nominate 5 other bloggers that they enjoy reading to do the same. It’ll probably end up being the same dozen or so bloggers nominating each other, back and forth, with a ton of back-patting and whatnot but hey, I like self reflective lists.  They’re much easier to tackle than concepts of home and settlement and family.

I’m still waiting for my trophy though. Unbravegirl definitely owes me a trophy for my nomination. I will, of course, accept belated trophies in the form of, say, nachos or margaritas if the standard golden cups are out of stock in suburban Wuxi.

Given that this particular blog is barely a year and a half old, I fear that a Best-of retrospective isn’t exactly called for just yet.  After six or so years of blogging rather anonymously about Turkey (and a bit of China) on Livejournal, I moved over here to my own hosted site last April. Only about 5 people (excluding my immediate family) ever read that Livejournal blog, which is a bit of a pity as I had a lot of really good posts, way back when.

However, that blog spans a whole 6 years of intensive almost-daily writing and I can’t be bothered to delve into the archives for a Best Of list so I’ll stick to this site. If you’re curious about what I wrote during most of the past decade over there on LJ, I archived a rough and rather arbitrary Favourites list back in 2006 or so. Looking at that list now, I’m not really sure why I chose those posts specifically. Maybe I was drunk or insane.

Today, I am neither drunk nor insane but I have had three large mugs of strong coffee, a huge mug of tea and four capsules full of detoxifying dried nori powder this morning so any bizarre choices can be attributed to their influence.


My Seven Links


1. My Most Beautiful Post

Notes on Going Home Again This one was a difficult choice as, well, I’m not really a beautiful post kinda gal. I’m far more likely to post pictures of doomed chickens, flayed pigs, old mops than of anything objectively lovely. Writing-wise, I’m also far more likely to focus on, well, those doomed chickens and flayed pigs as well as grim skylines and apathy and ennui. I’m not a blogger of beautiful things. I am here to disturb your sleep and make you question your life choices and swear off chicken forever.

I did, however, recently post a relatively beautiful post! The words were maybe not so beautiful (more ennui, etc) but the photos were. This was my post about coming home. And my homeland is a very lovely place.


I mean, look- it’s so pretty!


2. My Most Popular Post

Three-way tie: Best Little Whorehouse in Cairo/ Blind Massage Parlors/Genocidal Tourism in Cambodia This category requires a few caveats. You see, my top post and its nearly-tied runner up top post are both posts that, although the most widely read by far, are the least commented on of all my posts. Ever.

In fact, my top post has no comments at all.  It’s also my most searched for post on Google. You want to find me? Google some variation of ‘whorehouse’ and ‘Cairo’ and you’ll find me.  Also, ‘brothel’ or ‘whores’ will do fine. But no one has ever left a comment. Ever. Maybe they were expecting a directory, or at least a contact number for some decent Cairean floozies, and were sorely disappointed by what they found.

My second most popular post (losing by barely 20 views) was a brief little thing about blind massage houses in Shanghai. It has comments… but they are suspiciously spammy comments that got through before I installed Akismet. I left them up so the post wouldn’t look so lonely and neglected.

However, if we want to talk about popularity in relation to an actually engaged readership, this one would qualify even though it comes in third. I didn’t think it would be so popular because it’s brutal and sad and depressing and I intentionally made the photos too big for the interface just so they’d be over the top in shock value.  I was still pretty overwhelmed by our trip to Cambodia and hadn’t had a chance to let the emotional impact to fade yet.


Not exactly a pretty post


3. My Most Controversial Post

Zoned for Crappy Pastries  I don’t actually do controversy. I want everyone to get along and be happy and am very reluctant to say anything that might be seen as a criticism of anyone. I did, however, diss Chinese bakeries. Or rather, a series of bakeries that kept going out of business on one specific street corner in Shanghai. Seriously, these were foul.  I actually like Chinese pastries but these… these were astonishing in their awfulness.

However, my one and only angry comment came from someone who accused me of hating on all Asian pastries, alluding to my inevitable Western preference for fatty, sweet pastries corrupting my ability to appreciate the subtleties of crappy, oily, stale hunks of dough covered in shrimp fluff. Sigh.


I mean, seriously- could this be anything but crappy?


4. My Most Helpful Post

How Much Would You Pay To Be Bit By A Rabid Monkey?  This was not actually meant to be a helpful post. However, it seems that I’ve been a catalyst in reminding a lot of people to get their rabies booster shots on time as well as helping parents explain to their children why monkeys are not actually cute little things and are actually vicious assholes. I think the close up shots of the 14-odd needles I had jammed into my arm may have acted as a convincing deterrent.


The monkey that bit me


5. A Post Whose Success Surprised Me

On Teaching English in a Chinese University in the Middle of a Quiet Burnout  In the past few months, this blog has mutated from an initial ongoing list of simple Interesting-Things-About-Shanghai to a series of anecdotes about How I Spent My Weekend to a barrage of slightly overly-personal introspective meditations on work, on place, on settledness.

That last theme led to the ongoing interview series, which had absolutely nothing to do with Shanghai whatsoever (which made the blog title even more impractical than ever).

This particular post came up in the middle of the interview series, when I was swamped by work and not really able to articulate for myself what was going on. It was a bit of a low patch, slightly ditch-like, accompanied by grim grey skylines and total exhaustion. I thought it was just a big old self-indulgent moan that would be politely ignored.  It got a ton of comments (by this blog’s standards, anyway) and one of the highest numbers of views of any post in its first few days.


The Kids are alright


6. A Post That Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved

The Expo Trilogy (Death By Exposure, Axis of Awesome, Stan!) Back in June of 2010, when this blog was just a brand new baby, I did a 3-part series about the Shanghai Expo.

At that time, everyone in Shanghai was writing about it- writing about the fancy pavilions with their fancy displays and five hour queues. Doug and I took an alternate path and decided to visit Despot. Rhyming with Expo. Get it? We visited all the subjectively worst countries- the Axis of Evil, the dictatorships, the corrupt Stans– the works!

And… no one read them.

So I’m putting them up here because I’m really quite proud of them and don’t want them to disappear into blog obscurity.


Look! North Korea!


Also, in runner-up position, I want to throw in a shout out to my compilation of awesome places to eat in Myanmar. Seriously, that country was a brilliant place to get fat if you so desired.


7. The Post that I Am Most Proud Of

On Traveling and on Staying Put I think this was my first long, personal post after a few months of relatively impersonal Shanghai-centric observational posts.

It was also the first post to get a flood of views and a barrage of very thoughtful, moving comments (as opposed to “Buy our penis enlarger ggbbddfnbdn!”).

We had been traveling intensively for a few weeks in Myanmar and I had a lot of very strong feelings about how I was traveling and why I was traveling all bursting to the surface. I didn’t know how to process it and was being all moody and cranky. We were in Hsipaw, up by the Chinese border, pouring rain, muddy, tired. Doug suggested I blog about it. I was hesitant to move into more personal writing on the blog. I feared being too exposed. I feared pouring it all out there and hearing just the dull thud of my intense feelings falling on deaf ears. But no. Almost immediately I got responses. I had touched a nerve. I love touching nerves.


Fried and soaked in Hsipaw- the End of Rope post


My Nominations:

Fiona from Life on Nanchang lu, Megan of Bangkok Reality Smackdown, Philip from the Philiad, Camden from The Brink of Something Else and Kate from Driving Like a Maniac


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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog’s title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.