Monthly Archives: December 2012

Shanghai with Ken (Part 1)

It is interesting being in Shanghai with Ken – and seeing it for the first time for a second time. The two of us came in Thursday so that he could get his first batch of clothes from the fabric market and see if he wanted to order more while he is here. In fact, he was very pleased. For less than his allotted duty free amount he got 2 suits, 2 pairs of cords, a tuxedo, an overcoat and two pairs of jeans. (Granted, it isn’t a lot less than his duty free amount, but still…). I don’t know how they make any money, but then again here is a picture of Judy’s on Saturday when we went to pick them up.

Perhaps it is volume - and Ken is in the change room behind the mirror.

Perhaps it is volume – and Ken is in the change room behind the mirror.

Thursday evening Ken and I went out for a lovely 12th anniversary dinner to Tasty’s. It is a nice restaurant on the fifth floor of a 10 floor shopping mall across from People’s Square. Now I mention this because we had difficulty finding it and finally asked one of the salespeople, who asked a second salesperson, who asked a third salesperson, who asked a fourth salesperson who walked us about twenty-five feet to the short hall where it was. Unbelievable that no one knew it was there – and it was the size of a White Spot not some little 15 seat bistro. By the way, it wasn’t Ken and my 12th anniversary (we’ve known each other for over 30 years), but Terry and my 12th wedding anniversary, but sadly she was still in Jiaxing.

Friday, while we waited for Terry to come to the big city, we wandered off to the Jiuguang Department Store next door to us. It is very – and I mean VERY expensive. This is where I saw a $400 golf shirt and we looked at various things which were generally twice as expensive as they would be in a chic shop on Robson. (That has a nice sound  – chic shop). Amazingly, however, being the bargain hunter I am, I found a cool pair of shoes marked down 50% from 1288y to only 644y or $107.33 so I bought them.

Jiuguang Department Store - all lit up for Christmas

Jiuguang Department Store – all lit up for Christmas

We then continued on down Nanjing Road to the knock-off market, where we bought the identical carry-on suitcases – but from different shops. Ken’s price started at 2750y and after some very serious bargaining got all the way down to 800y – well done, Ken. Mine started at 1500y and got all the way down to 550y. Well done Geoff! We then headed back to the hotel to meet up with Terry.

Friday evening we went to the Ritz-Carlton, one of the few places outwardly decorated for Christmas, for a pre-dinner drink.  Terry had wine, Ken – a dry martini and I had a Smoky Martini. Now other than the Vesper Martini (from Casino Royale) I have limited experience with martinis – but not with whisky. This was made with Russian Vodka, Single Malt Whisky and Vermouth. It was FANTASTIC! I have searched all other the net for a recipe for us to try but only come up with gin based and not the addition of vermouth. The closest I can come is 50 ml of gin (substitute very cold Russian vodka), 10 ml Laphroaig (MUST be smoky but not overpowering – thus Laphroaig) and a splash of vermouth. I will be looking to buy all these ingredients in the very near future and experimenting to get the perfect ratios – I will let you know. Please feel free to try on your own and let me know how they work out. From there it was off to Simply Thai for another wonderful dinner.

Ritz-Carlton Portman - All wrapped up for Christmas

Ritz-Carlton Portman – All wrapped up for Christmas

Signage

Some signs we have seen in our travels.

Please read Rule #1 carefully.

Please read Rule #1 carefully.

At the entrance to the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall

At the entrance to the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall

This is the Guiding map, instead of just a map or even a guide.

This is the Guiding map, instead of just a map or even a guide.

As opposed to your weak electricity, I guess.

As opposed to your weak electricity, I guess.

I'm not sure - but there was a picture of a magnet just below the expression so ....

I’m not sure – but there was a picture of a magnet just below the expression so ….

Hmmmm.....

Hmmmm…..

 

Merry Christmas and the very best to all our followers.

Christmas in Jiaxing

Christmas 2012 started in fine form this morning.  I was up by 7:00 and reading my email message from son Sam when I noted that he said he would be on-line for awhile.  Since I have not talked to him since we arrived, I immediately went to Skype and connected!  He looks good and sounds good!  We had a good long conversation and I got filled in on what he has been up to and his Christmas plans.  It was wonderful to see him!  Just as I was hanging up, a call came in from my brother, Dave, who is in southern Ontario (Guelph area?) with his wife, Deb, staying for Christmas with their daughter and husband and their two grandchildren.  I have never met the grandchildren so that was fun.  Two boys, 9 and 11, very bright and delightful.  Dave has effectively retired and he and Deb will be heading back to Orlando area after working the last two years in Rochester, New York, to begin retired life.  He looked pretty relaxed, I have to say!  A great way to start our Christmas!

We have only the one day for Christmas holiday here in Jiaxing and most places where BC educators work.  Christmas is a non-starter in China, so we were grateful for even the one day.  Yesterday, we had a Christmas party for our kids which lasted the whole morning.  They knew next to nothing about Christmas so everything we mentioned came as news.  So interesting but also frustrating.  I tried in the previous weeks to organize a Secret Santa and discovered that the concept of secret is not really understood.  Each student came up to the front desk where I had them draw a name, which I dutifully wrote down and admonished them to remember for whom they were to buy.  By the time they got back to their desks, invariably they had told the entire class.  So much for secret.  So then I told them to bring a wrapped gift for anyone in the class but not to put a name on it, and we would have a different kind of gift exchange.  Outcome?  Half the kids brought gifts, one of them prepackaged from the store and the others unwrapped; three girls had brought gifts but already given them to selected classmates; and the rest had not brought anything.  We worked through it and realized how much pre-work was really necessary to get them to understand.  Next year, if we are here, we will not make the same mistake!  Still, it was lots of fun and I think the kids learned something about North American Christmas and Christmas Eve.  When I told them I would not be back for my usual Monday evening study block, they understood when I told them it was an important day for us.

(Ed. note: How did I get someone so beautiful?)

(Ed. note: How did I get someone so beautiful?)

So today, Ken and Geoff and I enjoyed not rushing to get ready and made our leisurely way to Starbuck’s around 10:30.  After a coffee and nosh, Geoff shook hands with all the employees (aka his good friends in Jiaxing) and wished them all a Merry Christmas, then we headed over to the local cinema to see if they had any English, subtitle or otherwise, films playing.  Only the latest Jackie Chan movie, I’m afraid, and none of us was keen to see it, so off we went, downtown.  At the Diamond Mall, we stopped to take a few pictures (see above), then went down the block and sat down for shoe shines, where Geoff paid more than the price of a new pair of shoes for two shines!  Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!  Whatever.

Probably smiling because she knew she was about to rip off the white people.

Probably smiling because she knew she was about to rip off the white people.

We showed Ken around town and took in the various sights that we have come to accept as normal:  sausage hanging to dry on balconies, buses pulling into oncoming traffic, people of all ages staring at us, and something new:  people staring at my feet.  Perhaps they look a little larger than normal in my Doc Martens?  We looped through Moon River Street, a Granville Island-like place but in turn-of-the-(last)century buildings, on a canal.  Very picturesque.  Back home to enjoy a glass of wine before heading to Krabi Thai for our Christmas dinner.

Terry and Ken at Christmas Dinner

Terry and Ken at Christmas Dinner

Our friends, The Entertainers

Our friends, The Entertainers

Yesterday, we took Ken to South Lake, aka Nanhu, and visited the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall, a museum dedicated to the history of communism in China. (Ed. note: See Ken’s Review)  I may have mentioned that Jiaxing and West Lake is the sight of the signing of the Communist Manifesto.  The museum is interesting but a word to the wise:  do NOT go in the winter time.  It is a massive place and totally unheated, which was not enjoyable on this very cold day!  Still we persevered.  Fortunately, we were able to rent interpretive headsets to tell us what the many manuscripts were about.  Far too much written work on display but enough pictures, murals, paintings and artifacts to maintain interest.  We decided against the boat trip across the lake to see the original junk the founding fathers gathered upon, as well as a pagoda temple, which Geoff and I had seen earlier.  We finished our day with a tour of some Chinese-style markets.  Geoff gave his decorated Santa hat to an admiring young woman in the check-out lane, and then we came home to warm up.

Gifts and crowded shopping malls are two things we are not missing at all this Christmas (Ed. note: Because A). We aren’t at home to have to endure them and B) they don’t exist here).  But we are missing family and friends just a little a LOT.  Merry Christmas, everyone, for yours is yet to come!

Thursday Dec. 20

Well, what a couple of days for the Watts. For the first three months we have been here, our monthly utility bill has been in the $12 – $15.00 range. We don’t actually get a bill – we just have money in a bank account and the “State Grid” takes out what they want each month. On Dec. 1st I checked it and there was just over $50.00 there – no worries. Last night, however, there is a knock at the door and a woman from the State Grid is there with a bill for us for $90. She asks if we have a Chinese friend to phone, so we call Mr. Zhao. They talk for almost 5 minutes. Apparently we have used quite a bit more electricity in the past little while in our feeble attempts to keep warm. So now I sit in the dark writing this. (Just kidding – deposited a whack o’ cash this morning so we should be okay). It is interesting – we have two heaters which provide the warmth in the living area, but if we turn on the washing machine, we have to turn one of them off or the breaker blows. So laundry is done only during the day when Geoff is home, since he can handle the cold. (More body fat).

As we have said, our pal Ken is coming on Friday – managed to get out of Vancouver despite the weather you are having. We are going to Shanghai this weekend and the plan is to return there from the 27th until the 1st. BUT the Chinese government is  – let’s say fluid  – that’s as good an “f” word as any – with their plans. The New Year’s holiday was going to be the 30th, 31st and 1st which was great. Today however, they changed it. Mr. Zhao told Terry that it would now be the 1st, 2nd and 3rd – which really messed up our plans. BUT the school is great and agreed to honor the original agreement and so now we (well, Terry) will have from the 29th to 4th off – very generous of them, for sure.

We are both feeling a great deal better – thank you for all your kind wishes. Today I provide you with some more images, taken on my walk to RT Mart for groceries today.

It is not uncommon (as opposed to "it is common") to see dogs riding around on scooters with their owners.

It is not uncommon (as opposed to “it is common”) to see dogs riding around on scooters with their owners.

One of the many canals that wind their way through Jiaxing.

One of the many canals that wind their way through Jiaxing.

I'm not sure, but they may have meant "Christmas in the Castle" - a turkey dinner for $35.00

I’m not sure, but they may have meant “Christmas in the Castle” – a turkey dinner for $35.00

I have yet to go by these two (and I walk this way frequently) when they are NOT playing this checkers like game. (Rain, sun or cold - any time of the day I go by.)

I have yet to go by these two (and I walk this way frequently) when they are NOT playing this checkers like game. (Rain, sun or cold – any time of the day I go by.)

These are fluorescent tubes. What is unusual is that the structure is brand new, just being built today. There are is no ballast or cases - just wired together.

These are fluorescent tubes. What is unusual is that the structure is brand new, just being built today. There are no ballasts or cases – just wired together.

Why they didn't take this tree down when they built the mall is beyond me. It sits over an entry to the underground parking lot, by the way.

Why they didn’t take this tree down when they built the mall is beyond me. It sits over an entry to the underground parking lot, by the way. (A rarely used one, I suspect.)

There are two sets of these heavy plastic strips at the RT Mart (Save-On) - they may be designed to keep the cold out, but all they really do is make it difficult to get in and out. All the cashiers wear heavy winter coats.

There are two sets of these heavy plastic strips as you enter the RT Mart (Save-On) (second one just inside on the right) – they may be designed to keep the cold out, but all they really do is make it difficult to get in and out. All the cashiers wear heavy winter coats.

Mmmm Chicken Wings, chicken feet and chicken drumsticks - help yourself.

Mmmm Chicken Wings, chicken feet and chicken drumsticks – the bulk food section in RT Mart.

Well that’s it – the next post will be from Shanghai after a drink or two. Today is the end of my no wine during the week trial – perhaps I will do it again in January. FYI to the doubters, I had two beer during the week once when we were out to dinner to celebrate Terry’s inspection. I am quite proud of myself!

Reflections

When I chose the title for this blog, I immediately thought of this. I urge you to check it out.

You may have noticed that the frequency of postings has diminished over the past couple of weeks. This is due to a couple of issues. First Terry and Geoff have been suffering bad colds for awhile now – so bad that they had to cancel a dinner party and their Christmas Open House, which disappointed a lot of people, we can tell you. The Open House particularly had become the hottest ticket in Jiaxing, since it was the first time “A Canadian Tradition Comes to Jiaxing” had been hosted. The invited guests have been very gracious and have articulated both their concern for our health and their excitement about the rescheduled event in January.

About our colds. Once Geoff gets one he is in trouble. He has had pneumonia twice and if he gets a cold it settles into his chest and he is good for 5 or 6 weeks of hacking away. Terry, on the other hand has a different cause. We have mentioned, I’m sure, that there is no central heating in the apartment or the school. Terry’s office has a heater so when she is there she can be quite comfortable. Not so in the classrooms. There is no heat and the Chinese have a thing about fresh air – they love it. So each morning the windows are opened. This works well in September when it is warm – not so well in December. She will often have four layers of clothing, plus her winter coat on while teaching. The kids get a heavy winter jacket as part of their uniform and they wear it all through the day in class. It is very odd. Apparently we are in the south of China as schools in the north of China have central heating (although we seem to remember other teachers who were in Beijing not having heating…). This love for fresh air is seen all over town. There is a printer I go to to get things printed (had a door-sized, full colour Christmas poster run off for $8.00). The shop is a bit of a tunnel – about 15 feet by 50 feet. They keep the front door and the window at the back open and all wear winter coats and gloves. Go figure.

After staying in the apartment all weekend, we both trundled off to school this morning. Geoff lasted for a couple of hours, long enough for Daisy to come in to Terry’s office and suggest the reason he is unwell is because, get this folks, he has lost too much weight and he needs to eat more and get his strength back. He is too thin in the face. LOL. Mr Zhao also came to see how Terry was and then took her down to the school infirmary to get her some Chinese herbal medicine. She too came home early. Mr. Zhao is ready to take both of us to the hospital.

Anyway, the second reason we haven’t written as much is that we have settled into our daily life and our adventures have become a little less frequent. Daily life in China for a couple of older folks is much the same as it would be at home – go to work, come home, have dinner, play a little cards, watch a little TV and go to bed. BUT this Friday our dear friend Ken arrives and we will have enough adventures with him to last until we leave for Thailand in February.

One last item. We were at a tea shop awhile ago – I think Terry wrote about it. We bought some Jasmine tea. Here is how you make it. (click the arrows to make it full screen).

Little Jiaxing

In case you think Jiaxing lacks any cultural sophistication, I will have you know that in recent weeks, city workers have busily installed rental bikes in stands throughout the city, just like one finds in Paris, Montreal and Vancouver (if Gregor has found a way around the helmet laws).  In our neighbourhood alone, there are two stations within a few blocks of our place.   Of course you know what this means:  come Springtime, we can drop in a yuan, jump on a bike and head off in new directions!  As long as we stay off the roads during rush hour, I’m sure we’ll be safe.

Christmas in China is really a non-event.  Last Saturday was our first feeling of Christmas at Greg and Chan’s place.  We went for a wine tasting but because they had a decorated tree, it instantly felt like the season had begun.  Today at school, the kids and I started to decorate  our wing, so that will make a bit of a difference.  It is quite cold so we certainly know it is winter but beyond that, no real sign of Christmas.  No lights on balconies (except ours) or on the streets; no constant carols in the malls, no Salvation Army Santas on the sidewalks.  A few shops carry some cheesy decorations and a few others put some of them up but for the most part, Christmas doesn’t exist.  Some of you who are buried in the mob scenes in the malls are probably thinking this doesn’t sound half bad.  I was a little maudlin a few weeks ago, thinking of Christmas and missing family and friends but now teaching the kids about it and hosting a few gatherings of our own, it seems just fine.  Plus, our friend Ken arrives next weekend and will be here through New Years, so we will have lots of fun.

As strange as it seems, my mind is already on 2013.  We are through our first inspection, which went very well, and are moving into the next phase of school development, building a library, pushing the kids to take things more seriously and trying to find ways to get them to take more initiative.  It certainly is a challenge for them to learn a new language and we are constantly trying to find the right balance of pressure and fun to keep them working.  But it is fun and the kids are great.  We learn a lot about this country from them, and certainly a lot about what they have been taught and believe about China and the world.   Life has settled into a bit of a routine that we still thoroughly enjoy.

Living in a foreign land is a great experience and in China, the adventure really never stops.  Just this afternoon in a supermarket, the women on both sides of us in the check-out lane felt compelled to look at and touch the things we were buying, as if to understand us better.  They kept picking up packages and looking at them as if they had never seen them before and then looked at us.  Gawd knows what was going through their minds.  They were, and in Jiaxing most people seem to be, very interested in the phenomena of white people.  We are often called upon to greet babies and children, as if somehow saying hello will impart the ability to speak English.  Most of the time, we are happy to oblige as it seems to give everyone great pleasure…and it is pretty hard to resist a chubby Chinese baby in ridiculously cute clothing, looking absolutely adorable!

 

 

A Few More Images

I’m just doing some tidying up and thought I would share a few more photos of our world. However, before I do that I have a short vignette to relate. We were in Shanghai this weekend – at a wine tasting event (well, Terry tasted, I drank). It was very good, I must say. Anyway, yesterday we were off to the Fabric Market to pick up some more clothes. (Even Terry thinks she needs to slow down a little.) As usual, we were taking the subway. The subway system is very good. However, the people – ahhh that’s is another story. The cars all stop at a specific point every time because there is a space in the railing along the track where the doors open.PlanNow common sense says that if the car is full and there are people getting off, you wait until they are off and then get on – and usually this works. There are even lines on the ground to help you (see diagram). However, some people are just STUPID. They want to push their way on before people get off. Also, apparently some Chinese people abhor an empty space, so if you are standing on either side of the red lines waiting, they feel they need to fill that space in. Yesterday a mother and daughter tried to do just that. As they moved forward, however, I stuck my left arm straight out and across the space. I have never seen anyone stop so suddenly – it was like a cartoon. They took one look at me – I was considerably bigger than anyone else in the vicinity – and moved to the back of the far side. It was hilarious. I have also been known to bull my way through anyone trying to get on while I am getting off – and I do so in all innocence.

Anyway, on to the pictures.

Want to buy a chair? I have seen this a couple of times around Jiaxing. He pulls it by hand - honestly.

Want to buy a chair? I have seen this a couple of times around Jiaxing. He pulls it by hand – honestly.

I love this guy. He is the flashing walk sign - but somehow or other he has "fallen down", so it looks like he is running downhill.

I love this guy. He is the flashing walk sign – but somehow or other he has “fallen down”, so it looks like he is running downhill.

These were out on a bridge railing this morning. I have no idea why - does anyone have a suggestion?

These were out on a bridge railing this morning. I have no idea why – does anyone have a suggestion?

Who needs United Van Lines or U-Haul? Just put your worldly possessions on the back of a mini truck and away you go.

Who needs United Van Lines or U-Haul? Just put your worldly possessions on the back of a mini truck and away you go.

Did you say you needed kelp for your recipe? Who knew it came in so many different - uh - flavours?

Did you say you needed kelp for your recipe? Who knew it came in so many different – uh – flavours?

Protection from the wind. When you are making breakfast on the street, you need to keep those cold morning winds off your griddle.

Protection from the wind. When you are making breakfast on the street, you need to keep those cold morning winds off your griddle.

This is for Richard G. This is on the fifth floor of our building. There are three air conditioning units and a hot water tank here. Terry refuses to walk anywhere near where they might come tumbling down.

This is for Richard G. This is on the fifth floor of our building. There are three air conditioning units and a hot water tank here. Terry refuses to walk anywhere near where they might come tumbling down.

Images of our world

Today I provide you with some images and attached comments of our world.

Starbucks

Each day I start with a visit to Starbucks. This is my chair and…

and this is my view from my chair.

These oranges are on a tree in our complex. It is Dec. 6th.

These oranges are on a tree in our complex. It is Dec. 6th.

This couple was collecting the recyclable oil bottles yesterday. Unfortunately, it was VERY windy and they were having a tough time keeping them on the cart. The two big bags are filled with bottles as well.

This couple was collecting the recyclable oil bottles yesterday. Unfortunately, it was VERY windy and they were having a tough time keeping them on the cart. The two big bags are filled with bottles as well.

This is our garbage truck and sanitation engineer. Really.

This is our garbage truck and sanitation engineer. He picks up daily. Really.

This is the fresh meat counter at RT Mart on Sunday. If you look closely between the two women on the right, you can see the meat. It is all out - you just point at it and the butchers either hack up what you want or bag the amount. The turn over is fast - (just look at the number of people). They were NOT happy that I took this picture. I thought it would be good advertising to show how busy they were...

This is the fresh meat counter at RT Mart on Sunday. If you look closely between the two women on the right, you can see the meat. It is all out – you just point at it and the butchers either hack up what you want or bag the amount. The turn over is fast – (just look at the number of people). They were NOT happy that I took this picture. I thought it would be good advertising to show how busy they were…

This is a Hairy Crab. It is a delicacy in China. It is quite small - perhaps a tablespoon of actual meat in it - despite a lot of work to get it out.

This is a Hairy Crab. It is a delicacy in China. It is quite small – perhaps a tablespoon of actual meat in it – despite a lot of work to get it out.

You know the expression "in a pig's ear"? Well, this was my first. It was actually very tasty.

You know the expression “in a pig’s ear”? Well, this was my first. It was actually very tasty.

This meat was hanging outside the window of one of the construction workers’ units. I guess it means they don’t have refrigerators.

Is it for people on welfare - or only for people on welfare?

Is it FOR people on welfare – or only for people ON welfare?

Picking up the kids at school - just like Moody Middle, but without the buses.

Picking up the kids at school – just like Moody Middle, but without the buses.

Doesn't everybody put a blanket on their car, cover it with purses and then start selling?

Doesn’t everybody put a blanket on their car, cover it with purses and then start selling?

This little guy was just too cute for words.

This little guy was just too cute for words.

Now, I realize that I am a traditionalist but I think even the most avant garde among you would have trouble with a BLACK Christmas tree!! (And no, they don't have Black Friday here).

Finally, I realize that I am a traditionalist but I think even the most avant garde among you would have trouble with a BLACK Christmas tree!! (And no, they don’t have Black Friday here).

Apple season arrives

I do enjoy Geoff’s posts, just not sure who these old people are.

In honour of Jiaxing Senior High School’s 15th Anniversary, we received today boxes of fruit. Yes, each of us received a box of apples–beautiful, colourful, crisp, tasty, juicy apples numbering 72 per box. I happen to love apples when they are good, won’t eat them at all if they are soft, woody or tasteless, so fortunately, I will enjoy these. But can I eat 72 before they lose their crispness? That’s a lot of apples, even if one a day does wonders, and although Geoff has discovered the joys of non-animal, non- white foods, he will be hard-pressed to eat even one layer of his box. So, once again we will be looking for opportunities to re-gift. We can’t give them to students because the two other teachers also received a box each and they are going to leave most of them in the classrooms for the students to eat. Our Mah Jong players are out of sight for the winter so they’re no good. Tina and her mom next door can count on some and perhaps Tina’s friends when they come to a dinner and poker night in a week. We will still be left with a boatload of apples.

These are the third gifts of fruit we’ve received from the school this year. It really is a lovely gesture and most everyone else will have family locally with whom to share. We did ask Daisy earlier to let the powers that be know that we can’t eat more than one box of anything (exception: Purdy’s chocolates). I guess she forgot but I bet she remembered as soon as she saw the apple truck pull up!

I have had a busy few weeks. With preparation for the inspection last Monday, then the actual inspection and attendant meetings, lunches and dinners, plus the follow-up now, things have been hectic. I’m developing a list of 100 books for young adults to start our BC Program library and having to vet each one for sex, drugs and riotous behaviour. It takes time. Add to that the Chinese school principal has demands of his own and wants us to do a month-long focus on vocabulary. David and I sat down to put that plan together this afternoon and will send it off to Mr. Xu to show him we have taken his suggestion/edict. Had a long conversation with John Simpson, my BC rep, to follow up on the inspection and what further steps need to be taken, then discussed ideas with the teachers. All this while Janet Steffanhagen writes disparagingly about off-shore programs.

Looking forward to another nice day tomorrow, with more clear blue skies and sunny but cold weather. For some reason a husband and wife team seemed to be outside our building today working on the air conditioners. Go figure.

Adventure at home

The old man patiently waited for his wife. She had been out all day, toiling at her place of work but had told the old man to be ready, that when she came home they would go to the market for supplies. He was excited. When the old woman came in, she put some of her belongings on the table and changed out of her work attire. Knowing that they would be purchasing some bulky items, the old man wisely grabbed the cart they used, leaving his daily back pack at home and off they went. They were successful in their search for various kinds of paper products and returned home, eager to dine on their food stuffs. As they approached the door to their humble abode, the old woman looked perplexed as she rummaged through her bag. The old man looked at her, with some growing apprehension.

“I don’t have my keys” she said.

“Neither do I” he lamented “What shall we do?”

“I will call my supervisor from work, Mr. Zhao” the old woman replied. Just the night before, Mr. Zhao had told the old couple that if they ever had a problem, they were to call him – and here, less than 24 hours later they needed him. Mr Zhao soon arrived with a man who looked at the lock and told them that it was no problem – it would be open in less than 10 minutes. They were very relieved.

(Mr. Zhao explained to the old couple that he had asked at his work if there was any one there who could open the lock. When he was told no, he phoned the government. They keep a list of people who can be sent out to do different tasks if needed. The old couple assume this could be anything from plumbing to electrical work to opening doors.)

They were not so so relieved 30 minutes later, when the man still did not have it open. In every attempt, the man had been unsuccessful and did not appear to be pleased. Finally, the man changed his approach. He looked at the door and seeing a spyhole at eye level, he carefully began to unscrew it. Eventually it came out and the man put a long piece of wire through the hole, reached down with it and unhooked the handle from the inside, opening the door. The old couple were relieved – after a fashion. They knew that no one could ever break through the door via the lock – but what if someone had a coat hanger on them?

The old couple thanked the man, paid him 70 yuan ($12.00) for his hour’s work and, after their dinner, settled in for an evening of cards.

(Ed. note: For some reason, WordPress is arbitrarily putting in links to commercial products. This is NOT our doing and I will try to figure out how to block it. Please ignore this and thank you for your patience.)

The culprit

The culprit