Monthly Archives: January 2013

Spring in Jiaxing — Holiday time!

Forsythia in our complex - January 29th

Forsythia in our complex – January 29th

It feels like spring has sprung here in Jiaxing.  The temperature today reached 20C, balmy and clear; the same is forecast for tomorrow.  Gets colder on Saturday again, which is really the more typical weather for this time of year.  We are loving every minute of it, de-layering and spending more time outside.

We spent last weekend in Shanghai as we were starved for English conversation and went out to dinner with our friends, Kim and Bruce.  They took us to a fabulous Indian restaurant at Cool Docks–we will definitely go back.  As spicy as you want it and lots of selection.  Yum yum!

We spent Sunday wandering the hutongs or alleyways.  Here, we saw the locals preparing for Spring Festival.  The vendors had an incredible array of delicacies, from the smoked duck and geese to the drying fish, as shown in the picture.  This fish is really more like a long, overweight, silvery-white eel–not sure what it is called.

Is he SMOKING the fish or smoking THE FISH?

Is he SMOKING the fish or smoking THE FISH?

The vendor watched me taking pictures, as I was waiting for Geoff to have some keys cut, and remained inscrutable for the 10 or 15 minutes it took, all the time talking to customers and keeping one eye on me.  This kind of scene is so common in Shanghai, laundry and geese sharing the same clothes-line, racks of fish drying in the sun, fresh geese available in an open bin, no ice in sight.Geese It is fascinating to wander these alleys and see how the locals live.  The fruit and vegetables are so fresh and beautiful, but they are taken for granted–just an everyday expectation.  Haggling is part of the culture but we are so happy to pay the price they ask that we don’t bother–it is still half of what we pay at home.

What do you mean - not sanitary?

What do you mean – not sanitary?

Have to include this sign that we saw in the subway for a college:  Creative Responsibility Tomorrow.  We guess they want to get right on it, but not right now.  Chinglish gone awry.
Creativity

Spring officially starts on Feb. 4th this year, according to the lunar calendar, and New Year’s Eve is Feb 9th.  We have seen all the bustle around Jiaxing as businesses and citizens begin to “sweep out the old” so that good luck can come to begin the year auspiciously.  It is not unlike spring cleaning at home, undertaking those big once-a-year jobs to freshen up the house and dung out some of the unnecessary accumulation of the year.  The fireworks have begun also, without any particular rhyme or reason.   Periodically, someone just gets the urge to light off a bunch of crackers, it seems, and the noise reverberates at any time of the day or night.  In the spirit of buying something new, I have purchased a pair of red slippers with a Chinese design on them and am feeling quite festive.

We were told that our holidays could begin on Jan 31st once we had our report cards done, but today, we finished their compilation and David told us there was no need for us to come in as he would give them to the students tomorrow, so we are officially on vacation.  We have often been surprised with changes to our schedule and have often had to wait for any schedule in the first place – today I finally heard an explanation that made some sense:  some schools may try to keep their students for extra days of study which are not sanctioned by Beijing, and in that way, do better on the government exams.  Because they don’t want this information out, they keep the actual holidays vague.  The local government makes the call, so I am sure our school has nothing to do with it.

We are off to Thailand on Friday for a 3 week stay, one week in each of Bangkok, Chiang Mei and Hua Hin; 9 rounds of golf and lots of sight-seeing, shopping and terrific food!  We can’t wait!  We’ve been told where there is a mall that has 3 floors dedicated to golf so will be buying clothes, shoes and possibly a cheap set of clubs.  We didn’t bring ours, nor did I bring my golf clothes–what the heck was I thinking? (Ed. note: Perhaps they have a Loudmouth Golf store!)  We have several days before our first round so it shouldn’t pose a problem.  Presumably this mall caters to tourists so I will be able to find things in North American or European sizes.  If not, I will be wearing my running shoes on the course.  What we are looking forward to the most, however, are the sun’s warming rays.  How poetic–it will be stinking hot but I am so looking forward to it!  Sunscreen, here I come!

We will continue our blog from Thailand, with lots of pics and descriptions of golf courses, foods and the sights.  Expect elephants, floating markets, cooking classes, temples and whatever else we discover!

Selections from Starbucks (Like I Go Anywhere Else)

First of all a brief rant. You know, after I retired and spent most of the year at the golf course, I could tell when school was out for the summer, since all the juniors started showing up, and to be honest it didn’t really bother me. However, now that I spend my mornings in the confined space of Starbucks, I am not pleased that school appears to be out for Spring Festival, since all the mothers are now bringing their kids to play at Starbucks while the dutifully ignore them as they run around screaming. Thank God we are off to Thailand on Friday. Okay, that’s over. Now on to some interesting photos.

New Table and Chairs

New Table and Chairs

Here is one of the four new tables and accompanying chairs just delivered to Starbucks. The delivery guy is quite upset that the manager is upset. I don’t blame him. After all, is it his fault all the tops got scratched when they took them out of the van, tuned the tops upside down on the bricks and screwed the legs in? Did she expect them to put a blanket or something down? C’mon. Well now, tables are going back – and the chairs too even as I write. Wait – the chairs are coming back in! Too much fun!

Okay then, here is one more photo from Starbucks – where, in China, you can get cucumber flavoured potato chips, stinky tofu and garlic coffee. Well maybe not garlic coffee, but it sure looks like a garlic bulb to me. What a pour.
Garlic Coffee
Friday night we went into Shanghai and had dinner at Mekong River, a Vietnamese restaurant. It was hen hao, very good. One of the dishes was absolutely fabulous. It was green beans with black beans, peanuts and chili peppers – 19 in total, I counted them.Beans
This is the bottom half of posters which display a very virile male with tousled hair in the top half. Not exactly sure what “Moving Rubber” is, though.Moving Rubber

Our next photo comes from our walk through Shanghai on the way to the Fabric Market. I can only assume that even the elderly in China are set to Time Out once in a while.

Up against the wall

Terry was quite taken this time with the fact that even the Buddhists have, apparently, inculcated some capitalism into their fund raising efforts. Each of three sides of the historical Jing’an Temple has retail stores in it. The top of the store is the Temple.

Temple

And finally, do you remember Pomelo Head. Sure you do. Well, meet her twin, but larger, sister Lettuce Head.

Pomelo Head

Warning: This Post is X-Rated

catThere were three events this week, which need to be aired out, but please don’t let your children read this.

#1. On Monday of this week I was sitting in Starbucks, working on some Photoshop posters for the children at school and Principal Xu. As usual, as people walk by the window and stare, I nod and smile and they return the same. This young fellow did the same, and then came in and got his coffee and came over. Now, the place is basically deserted in the morning, but he asks if he can sit down with me. What can I say? I move my coat, backpack and headphones from the chair opposite and down he sits. We chat for awhile – he apparently spent 4 years in Nanaimo (should have been my first clue, right – who spends 4 years in Nanaimo) at the University of Vancouver Island, formerly Malaspina College. Anyway, now he works for a bank in Hongzhou (60 miles away) and is town to help a new business with venture capital, but they are busy and he needs to wait. After some more chit chat, I tell him that I have to go – to get the posters to the printer. He asks me if he can help me – we could spend the day together. I politely decline and disappear as fast as possible. Starbuck’s Jennifer, anyone?

#2. Yesterday (Friday) was the first day of the exams at Terry’s school. She would be through at 11:45, we would catch the 12:oo bus to the train station and catch the 1:13 train into Shanghai for the weekend. Good plan, right? Wrong. Two of her students chose to use, let’s say, not strictly kosher methods to pass the exam. The rest is up to her to share. Anyway, this means that I have to get a taxi, get to the school, wait for her, David and Mr. Zhao to deal with it, get the taxi to wait and then rush to the train station, with the only taxi driver in China who obeys all the red lights and speed zones. (As an aside, we come up to a red light at a left turn lane. We patiently wait behind the van in front through the change of light – he is still sitting there, despite the mild honking of our taxi and Geoff’s increasing frustration. As we finally pass, he is on the phone. Now, it is good that he isn’t talking and driving, but maybe sitting in the left turn lane to chat is not the best option.) Anyway, by the time we get to the station, I have downed two grande lattes and need the facilities. I rush in to the washroom and STOP DEAD. Here, standing at the urinal, is an adult male. He has undone his belt, button and zipper and lowered his pants halfway down his thighs (thankfully most, but not all, of his derriere is still covered) in order to relieve himself. Now my experience is that most men just undo their zipper, but I guess this guy had either a) some searching to do or b) the zipper opening wasn’t large enough. I don’t know which since I chose the opposite wall of urinals and he was, in fairness, just redressing.

#3. Now I want to share a story with you which comes from an impeccable source, but, thank God, hasn’t actually happened to me. Often times in public areas, such as workout gyms, basketball courts, hockey rinks, golf courses etc. the locker rooms, if they don’t have individual shower stalls, have large open rooms where men face the wall and shower themselves, with a modicum of either modesty or decency. Apparently not in China. Here they stand facing the middle of the room with everything fully exposed and no attempt to hide anything. Now if you are in early to mid 20s, this might be okay, but apparently it goes right through the ages. Nothing more interesting than a wizened up 50 year old, I say. Along the same line, in some places they have a chair facing a mirror where you can use the hair dryer, apply the body lotion etc. etc. It is not unusual for the men to use the hair dryer to dry ALL the hair on their body or apply the lotion to ALL parts of their body while sitting at the chair, fully naked, admiring themselves. As our own “Deep Throat” articulated, “There is no way in hell I would ever sit on that chair!”

Our next post will be less explicit and more family oriented.

Sunday in Jiaxing

There are literally hundred of these stands with literally thousands of bikes all over Jiaxing.

There are literally hundred of these stands with literally thousands of bikes all over Jiaxing.

We have found the reason we must get a citizen’s card so that we can rent bicycles from the many public stands set up around the city:  the Jiaxing Greenway.  On Sunday we walked about 4 blocks south from our home to the Grand Canal, THE grand canal that was built hundreds of years ago, from Beijing to Shanghai and many places along the way, to provide both transportation and irrigation.  What we found is it is to Jiaxing what the sea-wall is to Vancouver.  It is a similar sort of path that follows the canal, beautifully landscaped and passing periodically through parks designed for meditation and relaxation, play and exercise.  Studying the posted maps, we realized that this path forms a big loop around the city, starts less than a block from our home on the north and runs all the way south to Nanhu, then back around through the area we discovered on Saturday.  We passed fishermen with rods and giant nets, a Buddhist monastery, another Buddhist garden and prayer site and an exercise park.  The walkways and parks are lined with wonderful evergreen deciduous trees that are plentiful here.  What a difference it makes to have green in January!

You can fish by pole from the river bank...

You can fish by pole from the river bank…

...or you can fish from your boat or....

…or you can fish from your boat or….

...you can fish by standing on the bank and pull one bejesus big net up.

…you can fish by standing on the bank and pull one bejesus big net up.

You can exercise while going for a walk on the Greenway or ...

You can exercise while going for a walk on the Greenway or …

...you can contemplate swimming across the confluence of these canals (not allowed or recommended) or...

…you can contemplate swimming across the confluence of these canals (not allowed or recommended) or…

... or you can be like this guy and just hang around. (The guy bent over just above him walked from the other side of the building and then bent over to chat. Tied off - what's that?)

… or you can be like this guy and just hang around. (The guy bent over just above him walked from the other side of the building and then bent over to chat. Tied off – what’s that?)

You can visit  Rock Buddhist Temple in Jiaxing or...

You can visit the famous Rock Buddhist Temple in Jiaxing or…

...meditate in the garden attached to the Rock Temple.

…meditate in the garden attached to the Rock Temple.

After more than an hour, we turned off into town and came across another farmers market tucked into a broad open building, wandered through, then stopped at a little bakery for a bite to eat and a rest.  Another block and we were on the main drag, just one bridge short of downtown.  It was great to realize we will be able to jump on the bikes, head off onto the trail and traverse the city without having to ride on the main streets.   Makes me think about what else we may be missing.  Jiaxing is getting more interesting all the time–and more good news, Krabi Thai will be back for New Year’s!  Not that we will be here but we certainly will be back, once we return from our vacation.

(Ed. notes: 1. Unbelievably, Terry has left out the single most memorable experience on our walk. After having the bite to eat, we came out of the bakery and almost immediately our sense of smell was assaulted, pillaged, run rough-shod over, destroyed, plundered and every other destructive verb you can think of by the stench of stinky tofu. We have smelled this disgusting thing before, but never to the same extent as on Sunday. It stayed with us for a good block or block and a half of our walk. We cannot imagine eating anything that smelled so foul and tried to think of something we eat in Canada, of any ethnicity, that has such an awful smell and couldn’t. Has anyone out there eaten anything on a regular basis that is difficult to get down due to the smell? We would be interested in hearing. It is unfortunate that the odour cannot be sent over the internet – you too should be subjected to this.

2. We have randomly sent off post cards since arriving here to a few (not many so don’t feel slighted) people. Some were sent in October/November and some at the beginning of January. If you got one, would you mind letting us know (via email) – we are interested in how long it takes, or even if they get out of the country.)

Wasn’t that a party!

Saturday night and our presence was required at the school cafeteria for the annual Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year) dinner at 5:18 precisely.  Why this time?  Many, many traditions occur because the sounds of some words are similar to other words, which have a positive meaning.  So for example, the word for fish–yu–sounds the same as the word for ‘more’ so you eat fish at festival times because it brings you abundance.  I don’t know all the words or sounds for 5:18, which might actually be the words for 17:18 as China operates on a 24 hour clock, but suffice to say that the time is auspicious and has a meaning close to “this is darned lucky and we are all going to have wealth come in our direction!”  Hard to argue with that, so off we go for 5:18.

The standard cafeteria tables with attached benches had all been removed for this party and replaced with round tables, the better to be served dapan or communal style, something we are all familiar with.  Once it began, the food kept on coming and we were hard-pressed to keep up, much less make much of a dent in it.  Some of the taste treats included dumplings, hairy crab, shrimp, fish, many kinds of vegetables, tofu, pork, nuts, bean soup and custard.  About the only things missing were eggs and quantities of beef.   Fruit, as always, is dessert.  Each dish has some significance for Chinese New Year, so it is important to at least try everything, which we did.  The really fun part, however, had to do with the drinking!

We’ve been here since August and only learned a few days ago that clinking glasses during a toast requires one to “Gambay!” or bottoms up, and toasting is a big part of Chinese culture.  If you don’t clink, you can simply have a modest sip and make it home in a reasonable state. This we are told after several clinks.  Needless to say, we had a little bit of a glow on by the end of the evening.  Which was nothing compared to a good number of the school staff who were, shall we say, blitzed?  Not that I can count myself out, as it seemingly took Mr Zhao no time whatsoever to convince me to go with him to the front to sing (Ed. note: Belt Out) Auld Lang Syne, the words to which I temporarily forgot.    Oops!  I only remembered the next day that his plan was also that I would sing a verse, then he would sing a verse.  I sang the same verse several times, Geoff tells me.  I can’t tell you how strange it was singing that song on Jan. 19th!

Terry and George belt out Auld Lang Syne. Look at that concentration - especially since she only remembered two lines!

Terry and George belt out Auld Lang Syne. Look at that concentration – especially since she only remembered two lines!

I also won a prize.  My name was drawn early in the evening and I had to answer a skill testing question.  Mr Zhao said, “As you know, we had the Sports Festival and the Arts Festival and this spring, maybe we will have a Reading Festival.  Can you name 3 festivals that the school has?”  Be darned if I couldn’t!  My gift was a juicer.  Brought it back to the table where Daisy looked at me knowingly and said, “You can use it if you have any left-over apples!”

If the party started at 5:18 precisely, it ended almost exactly 3 hours later.  Suddenly, it was over, people got up, put on their coats and left.  We had to say good-bye to Principal Xu and pose for a few pictures, then David, Mr. Zhao and Geoff and I all headed off in the direction of home, Chun Xiao Yuan.

Terry and Posse Gangnam Style! V-P George Zhao, Wes Schmitt, Terry, Principal. Xu, Puneet Buttar and V-P Mr. Li (FYI This was taken at the end of the evening and Mr. Xu doesn't look nearly as "feeling good" as he was!

Terry and Posse Gangnam Style! V-P George Zhao, Wes Schmitt, Terry, Principal. Xu, Puneet Buttar and V-P Mr. Li (FYI This was taken at the end of the evening and Mr. Xu doesn’t look nearly as “feeling good” as he was!

(Ed. note: In response to our toast to Principal Xu, he responded that we were #2 Canadians behind Dr. Norman Bethune, which is a very high compliment. He is very revered by all Chinese. (Really – Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China published his essay entitled In Memory of Norman Bethune)

More fun facts about Chinese New Year or Spring Festival:

  • Spring Festival is really in winter and it is cold.
  • The Dragon dance that we are familiar with comes from the legend of Nian or Year who was a fierce monster who appeared at the end of every year and ate a large number of village children.   One year, an old fellow shot off some fireworks and realized that Nian was frightened by both the loud sounds and the colour red.  Since then, fireworks and red are used generously.
  • one of the traditions of Spring Festival is that elders give children under 18 red paper pockets with some money in them.  The red colour will protect the children and the money is a wish for their safety in the new year.
  • The Chinese eat a big meal at this time not only because hunger breeds discontent but also because sharing a meal with relations means you will keep their friendship through the next year and bring good luck to them.  It there is much food, no one will be hungry and even the gods will have some, and be appeased.
  • The tradition of staying up until 12:00 is part of Chinese tradition.  It is called sousui and has two meaning–stay up and prolong life.
  • everyone in China wants to wear new clothes at New Year’s to be rid of evil spirits, drive away bad luck and bring in good luck.  The festival is very much about sweeping away the bad and bringing in the new.  Therefore, there is much to-do about cleaning the house, decorating with red banners and sayings, shopping, welcoming guests and gifting.  Many people get their haircut at this time but don’t buy shoes because shoe sounds like xie, which means bad luck!

We won’t be in China for New Year’s but are told that the fireworks rarely stop, day or night.  Already we see the shops full of displays of food suitable for gifts–tins of crackers and cookies; gift-wrapped baskets of fruit, eggs, or baking; boxed and bottled wine and liquor.  New clothes are on display along with the signs for sale and discount.   Our students tell me that the most important part of Chinese New Year is family and reunion.  Sounds very much like home, doesn’t it?   Happy Chinese New Year, Feb. 9th, 2013, the year of the snake!

Italy or Jiaxing?

(Ed. note: Lots of photos today. By tomorrow, there will be even more at our Flickr site! They are well worth the visit – Terry took all of them).

First, a weather report.  This past weekend, it was beautiful–sunny, clear skies and warm–10 C on Saturday and 14 on Sunday.  Forsythia is in bloom in our complex, and this afternoon, gardenias near the front entrance had taken off.  Pretty amazing for January, considering that today, an icy wind is blowing down from the north and it is back to being ccccccold. In the meantime, though, we were able to get out and walk and see parts of Jiaxing that were new to us.

Earlier last week, Geoff had walked back from Metro and written about the store and the sights near-by.  This time, both of us went, camera in hand.  See the pictures of  topiary women dancing–in person, they seem so lively!  I can’t wait till spring when this creation is in summer greens.ladies

Next, we came upon a construction site.  The pictures illustrate how many things are done in China.  You can see that the walls on this building were complete; then, holes were punched through to create walkways from one building to the next.hole  So often, we see buildings where the approach seems more afterthought than planned construction.  Things such as outlets and hoses for air conditioners, holes punched to install pipes for balcony drainage, parts cut off to make something fit.  Some of the newer buildings have boxes built to hold and hide external A/C units, which makes a big difference to the final appearance of the complex.  Anyway, across the street from this particular building is Phase One and is it nice!  Possibly in Padua in Northern Italy we saw these identical free-standing columns with the winged lion on top.  Pillars, arches, fountains and statuary made me think this was a replica of a place we had been before.columns  Then I noticed the statue in the parking area:  a man on horseback wearing a tri-corn hat–isn’t that American?  And wait, further down the beautifully landscaped path along the waterway, was that a…windmill?  Yes, indeed it was.windmill  Appropos of nothing, there it was, clearly an afterthought or someone’s whim, made out of wood when all else was stone and plaster.  No matter, this was a beautiful complex, gorgeous, in fact.

Directly across the bordering canal, we were struck by the contrasting vision of peasants ( the correct term?) eking a living from the soil, as we have seen all over the city.  Notice the complex in the background:  27 buildings, approximately 2800 apartments.  This may be one of the largest we have noticed in Jiaxing but it is by no means unusual.  In the foreground, small crops tended by hand. (see inset)Farming  Farther along the roadway, we saw the remnants of homes in the traditional Chinese style, with curved slate tiles and steps down into the water, at one time very elegant and now disintegrating.  Laundry in the yards and hanging from makeshift racks told us that people live there still.laundry  Farther along, we took pictures of these happy-looking folks sunning themselves in their yard

    .hi  “We are so spoiled,” was all I could think to say. (Ed. Note: My favourite is the drop in the ramp up to the bridge deck as shown by the 6″ drop.)bridge

    At many points on our Saturday walk, we were struck by contrasts.  We passed rusted, disused-looking dredging equipment and boats parked in front of a new building which might have been a school (stay in the playground, children!);barge we walked by recycling yards where people were pulling nails from old boards or raking plastic bottles into piles higher, by far, than themselves.  Peering over fences, we spotted old mannequins and children’s rides, dumped and left to the imagination.

    I want a ride, Mommy...

    I want a ride, Mommy…

      Farther along, a mediation garden, similar to Yu Yuan Garden in Shanghai, with a tea house, pagoda, water feature and garden:  beautiful, calming and relaxing.  No one charging admission, just an open door offering a respite from the noise of the traffic. gardenBetween this garden and the canal, we noticed the Jiaxing Greenway signs.  More on this to come.

Oh, the Things I’ve Seen..

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This has not been the best week for Geoff. Monday, as I am sure you know, I dropped the big water thingy and spilled all the water on the floor. Tuesday was very cold and after walking for 45 minutes to the closest branch of the bank I needed to go to was told I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. (Long, irrelevant story). Wednesday no more Krabi – what more can I say. And today – well today I went out with out any camera or phone – and the things I saw.

First think of a bus stop – the kind where buses are able to pull out of traffic so as not to block the oncoming cars. Now, imagine that a small yellow VW beetle has decided to park diagonally in the bus stop for at least 20 minutes – I know because that was how long I waited for the bus to come. How long it had been there before I got there is anyone’s guess. There was one man there who was beside himself with this. He talked non stop about it, both to those present and on his cell phone  – giving the tires kicks, slapping the hood etc. the entire time. He was some upset. Sorry – no photo.

Next came the banner people. Last week I posted the picture of the Jiaxing Christmas 2013 banners. Well, today they were putting up new ones. They didn’t take the other ones down, mind you. They just covered them over with ones from a local department store. I would imagine that when they need the Christmas ones again, they will just uncover them. Perhaps a photo tomorrow.

I think that China believes it is important to keep the citizenry informed of news around the world. That is why they put small television screens on all forms of public transit (buses, subways, even taxis). On the bus it is usually above the aisle facing the 27 seats just as you get on. This is commendable – however when there is just one speaker and it is beside the driver and he is the only one who can likely hear it, what’s the point? Maybe a photo some other time.

Exciting day today – a brand new set of 4 (yes 4) 4′ x 5′ Ramen Noodle ads (and yes they are all exactly the same) at every bus stop on my twenty minute ride to Metro grocery store. Photos on Saturday.

Now, Metro. Metro is the newest addition to our grocery shopping experiences. It is, as I said 20 minutes away by bus, followed by about a 10 minute walk. Think of a combination Costco, Walmart, London Drugs, Shop Easy. They do have the largest selection of international foods of any place we have been in Jiaxing and Tina from next door likes to go there because there aren’t as many people as there are at RT Mart (and that was certainly true today). I was able to buy Worcestershire sauce, grated parmesan in a shaker, garlic tabasco sauce, Port (although not sure the quality at 80 yuan). I even bought dish towels that are actually larger than a dinner plate! I could have even bought Montreal Steak Spice, but are we really going to go through a Costco sized container? So we now go to Metro for international (pasta, canned tomatoes, western spices), the market for vegetables and fruit, RT Mart for meat, Auchon for ice cream cones and Walmart for dried goods. Whew, am I ever busy. Photos – who knows – many stores don’t like it when I take out the phone/camera. The really good thing about going to Metro, I think, is that because it is a fairly long run, they have actual heat on the bus – both ways.

On the way home – how to describe it. There were some beautiful new apartments and condos – they border on the Wuqiao Port Canal and looked quite expensive. However just on the other side of the canal, derelict comes to mind. If gentrification is ever needed in Jiaxing, it is there, in the area just south of the Christian Conjugal Church. Definitely photos to come – and soon!

NO PARKING

NO PARKING

Finally – some GOOD NEWS. You may or may not know – depending on where you live, that parking in condo/apartment developments is often a problem. It has been known to even get mild mannered Terry upset at times. (No, you say! Yes, I say). Anyway, take a look at this poor pathetic little effort we have in front of our building. It has been severely abused over time.

Now, our building is accessible from two sides. The “second side” has three paved paths for walking on so that you don’t get your feet all muddied up. However, as everywhere else in China, people will park where ever they damn well please – including on these three paths. Well, not any more Batman! I love the way things are dealt with here. These showed up on Monday or Tuesday. Perhaps I will bring a couple back with me …

The walking paths -  Before and After - When they say no parking, they mean NO PARKING!

The walking paths – Before and After – When they say no parking, they mean NO PARKING!

(Ed. note: Saturday night could be big – a big dinner party for all staff at the school, with games, prizes, sing-a-longs, and who knows what else. Watch for Terry’s blog on Sunday, complete with pictures. (I promise).)

Oh No!

Krabi Thai is no more!  We headed over this evening craving their unbelievable mussels and possibly their green curry hot pot, walked in and discovered that the restaurant was in the middle of a makeover.  The floor was ripped up, the kitchen gone, a new wall where there was not one before.  Looked like new tables among the mess but hard to say.  We have no idea if they are remodeling or are permanently gone.  What happened to the floor show?  What will happen to our Filipino friends, singing into the kitchen utensils?  We were completely saddened and disheartened, but still hungry.   So, says Geoff, let’s go up to the 4th flour and eat there.

Well, it looked like a great place, very nice entry and a plethora of staff to greet us.  One fellow led us down a maze of corridors, all looking unpopulated.  Eventually we arrived at a small room where he opened the door and showed us massage loungers.  Ooops!  Wrong place!  We turned on our heals and beat a hasty retreat.

As it happened, a new Chinese restaurant had announced its opening just last night with a huge fireworks display that we could see clearly from our deck.  So we set off again, this time to Jiang Nan Spring No. 2.

First impressions:  nice job!  Great work on the multi-layered ceilings and display cabinets; nice looking tables, decor and kitchen.  Second impression:  smokers at the first table which we were seated beside.  We move over.  Okay, now order.  Up we went to look at the samples and pictures, ordered eggplant, fried new potatoes (squished flat and salted), plus a bean and beef dish.  The verdict:  ho hum.  didn’t like the eggplant at all, which was overcooked and served in a bowl with a green vegetable of some sort, possibly spinach, seriously overcooked, which had leached a surfeit of green juices into the serving bowl.  Geoff summed up:  it tastes green.  Enough said.  Potatoes were yummy and the beans were good but the beef scant and no particular flavourings to set either off.   One large beer to split and the bill was Y72, about $12, opening special.  Will we be back?  No.  Instead we will be doing a special dance every night to lure Krabi back to its renovated space.

Age Old Questions

Good morning all and a Happy Monday to you too. Today we are taking a philosophical outlook in our attempt to answer some of life’s mysteries – some answers to age old questions, if you will.

First up – Which came first – the chicken or the egg? We aren’t sure, but at RT Mart on Saturday this wonderful women would only sell us 21 eggs in a bag – despite all our attempts to get only 6.

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Next – Is there such a thing as a free lunch? Well, on Friday night at Auchon Food Mart all the people standing in the cold holding out their hands to this woman who was talking a mile a minute about something (shades of the barkers at the PNE) seemed to think so.

Combined

Our next mystery – Does Christmas only come once a year? Well, we think so – and apparently the people of Jiaxing wish to start celebrating it early. Look carefully at the date at the top of the banner – and we don’t recall seeing these before – they are just outside Starbucks – likely we would have noticed.

Christmas

Our fourth question – Is cleanliness next to Godliness? The Chinese, not necessarily known for their strong Christian religious beliefs, do think that it is important to empty the canals around Jiaxing, pick out all the refuse which has settled to the bottom of the water, but on the top of 12 inches of boot sucking mud and then pressure blast the mud for some reason.

Canal

And finally, Do full 5 gallon water bottles bounce when they are dropped from a height of three feet and hit a marble floor? I can say, with much certainty, that the answer is NO. And thus began my Monday morning…

Water

Fantastic

Terry took all of these photos in the Shanghai Museum when we were there with Ken over Christmas. This first set were of articles which date back to the Iron Age.

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Look very closely at the next one. It the same on the back and sides (it was about 4″ thick) as the front – all individually carve Buddhas. An amazing amount and piece of work.

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Chinese hieroglyphics anyone?

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Statue

This is an example of ethnic dress in China – a striking resemblance to some North and South American Aboriginal dress.

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Finally, this just blew Terry away. It is a jacket (and there are pants as well) made out of salmon. Amazing. I’m going to take the photo to the Fabric market the next time we go…

Salmon jacket

For more photos from the museum, check out our Flickr site. (Click on Geoff’s Photostream, then Sets)