Question and Observations

Last week Mystery Solved about the song on the street cleaning truck.  Today a new question:  why is it that the cleaner only plays his song at 5:30am and not at 7:00am when I am walking to work?  Truly evil, I think.

In most places in Canada, we have evolved to the point of recognizing animal suffering and do our best to avoid it.  However, in shops like Walmart and at Moon River Street Market (something like Granville Island but without the fabulous groceries), I notice that China is not in the same place.  Walmart still sells baby turtles and little goldfish in small containers.  Often I look away when I see parents buying these animals for their very small children, knowing that no matter what the care, the animals will not thrive.  Larger animals for sale on Moon River Street break my heart, crammed as they are in small cages and pens, obviously unhappy (Ed. note: ever seen a St. Bernard in a cage?)   We see some dogs at large and wonder if they are strays or just allowed to run free.  We know that a good number of neighbours have dogs as we see them being walked, and hear one particular (%&*#!@+) creature barking every single night!  A few cats also prowl around but it is hard to tell if they are pets or feral.   Not nearly the number of animals as in our neighbourhood at home, though.

One day when we were out exploring, we met a group of school kids waiting at the bus stop.  On the back of their school uniforms, written in large black letters was “Yiddishui.”  Interesting name for a school, we thought.  Jewish?  Here in China?  It turns out that in fact, Yiddishui is the name of a clothing company!  Maybe the school got a deal, who knows, but the name on the back was at least triple the size of the school logo on the front of the jackets.  Well I remember, years ago, when a Nike swoosh had to be removed from the floor of the gym because it displayed a politically incorrect (contrary to school board policy) connection to the company.  The fact that our basketball team all got free shoes from Nike could be overlooked as long as the swoosh was on their feet and not on the floor.  After this first meeting, we have begun to notice kids all over wearing Yiddishui jackets and pants.  Amazing!

Last night as we were meandering about the neighbourhood, we stopped to look at one of the many canals that crisscross the city, providing irrigation.  This particular canal had been dammed for some reason and what was fascinating was that an elderly couple was busy planting a crop of winter greens on the exposed soil.   As we watched, the woman looked up and noticed us, stood and waved, then gestured to her husband who was scooping water into a bucket to bring up the new plants.  They both smiled and waved, then carried on with their work.  We have noticed this every where.  Last Sunday on our walk, we stopped to look over a wall into a large empty lot, almost a whole block, actually.  The ground was not completely given over to new planting but a good amount of it was: it appears that people take advantage of “free” ground at every opportunity and plant crops that will grow fast and provide them with nourishing food.  Once the next new development takes over, no doubt the gardeners will find a new plot somewhere else.  When we ride the fast train from Jiaxing to Shanghai and look out the window, everywhere we see these kinds of plantings.  Some of the areas look as though they are part of a larger truck farm, growing vegetables and rice (we think) in every available space.  Other areas resemble co-op gardens in the boulevards we see in Vancouver, where small plots are gardened by locals. We are convinced that these gardens feed their owners and probably provide a little extra cash if they sell their surplus on the streets or to markets.

All over Jiaxing, building never stops, even though there are already many buildings that seem largely empty.  Most apartment blocks are built with plans for retail on the lower floor, but in many many places, these retail spaces remain vacant, except for storage for building supplies and sometimes for builders.  I asked a friend why it is that they keep building when apparently there are already more apartments than they can fill.  “Because someone makes money, ” he said, “and it keeps the GDP moving up.”  “But somebody must be losing money,” says I.  “Yes,” said he, “but not the government.”  I don’t understand exactly how that could be but I believe that incentives might be involved because building seems to be a major occupation.

(Ed. note: One begins to lose one’s memory when one writes as much as one does. However, I think we told you all that we bought a new mattress on the weekend. (A King since Terry was being kept awake by you know who.) It is absolutely fabulous and for the princely sum of $600. We had it delivered the same afternoon, but since we didn’t have a frame for it, we just put it on the floor for a few days. On Tuesday, Mr. Zhao, Mr. Li and David came over to see what we would need in terms of a frame. After much discussion (little of which involved yours truly, we it was decided that David and I should go off to the wood shop where we might find what we wanted. Okay, now we are at the wood shop. After MUCH MORE discussion between David and the shop owner/craftsman it was decide that the one he had in stock would suffice. Now, in Canada one’s bed frame, the slats, if it has slats, run across the frame. Not so in China, apparently. They run vertically to the mattress. Anyway the owner/craftsman cum deliveryman agreed to follow us home with it on the back of his electric cart/delivery van. It cost us 400 yuan ($66 delivered.) Take a look at the craftsmanship on this puppy. David and the owner/craftsman/deliveryman/mover carried it up the 9 flights of stairs.

Our new bed “frame”

(Ed. Note 2: For those who were concerned, our wine was delivered (still waiting for the experts’ picks, though) and I bought Photoshop off Ebay!)

We have begun to experience Fall weather.  It is very chilly in the morning, a chill that comes into our offices and classrooms, largely because there is no easy way to close it out.  It is much colder now, too, in our apartment.  We have heaters in our bedrooms but they throw no heat into the main living area, and our little radiator is not quite able to keep up.  Thank gawd we bought a nice area rug for where we sit.  I will be looking at heavy fleece wear this weekend. But still, no rain. The days are generally bright and sunny.

My day at work ended so happily:  I received a care package from home that contained a requested game of Scrabble.  Today I invited a group of kids to come and play during a self-study block.  5 boys joined me in my office (where I can control the heat) and we played for almost an hour and a half.  It was so much fun teaching them and watching them figure it out, then try out letter combinations to see if they would pass my scrutiny.  Talk about competitive, I had to invoke a no violence rule!   What a great way to end the day.
(Ed. note: Terry is getting a new toy next Saturday (Nov. 17.) Watch this space for exciting details!)

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