This spectacular, warmish Winter New Year’s day in China, I ponder how fabulous that we are here on the other side of the world, living, working and enjoying ourselves. Many things have become common to us, like “Health and Safety” infractions. For example, on Friday in Jiaxing, I saw a man on top of a power pole that was probably 3-4 stories tall. He was laying on the arm, trying to thread a new electrical cable and while he may have been strapped on with a safety line, I certainly could not see it. The next day in Shanghai, we stopped to watch workers trim branches away from power lines. The bamboo ladder was leaning against the cables and after the man at the top had pruned a few branches, two fellows on the ground lifted the ladder with the man still at the top and moved it down a few feet. The ladder was probably 15′ high. Why stop to wait for him to come down–he just has to climb up again. And so it goes.
Another sight that has become common place are clothes lines anywhere, really–along boulevards, sidewalks, balconies, in front of shops–that hold, in addition to laundry, slices of meat and fish, plucked ducks or chickens and sausages. Many of these are ground level and it doesn’t appear that theft is much of a concern. And always, there are the “Shanghai Laundry” poles that extend from balconies everywhere. On a day like today, with the skies clear and the sun shining, they are full of blankets and quilts, getting refreshed with the sun. At our school, there are stainless pipes installed on outside decks for this very purpose and whenever it is sunny, the kids hang their quilts and other laundry.
Christmas in Jiaxing is a non-event. Yes, Walmart plays Christmas carols loudly, but only around their meager display of tacky ornaments and no one paid a lot of attention. Notice the decorations in the school store.
To be fair, they had also taped a few paper Santa heads to the door but you can see that there was not much enthusiasm for it. Contrast with Shanghai–the building wrap at our “local” Ritz-Carlton was at least 5 stories high.
The up-scale mall across from our hotel also did it up right with a fabulous light display,
and the lights hanging in the boulevard Sycamores all the way down Nanjing Road were magnificent. I didn’t get a night shot so the picture doesn’t show the multiple light effects emanating from each star but they were really terrific.
Generally, though, it was pretty easy to forget about Christmas and just enjoy showing Ken around the places we knew and some that were new to us. Among these were the Propaganda Museum, dedicated to the art posters of the last century, and The Shanghai Museum, which houses a magnificent collection of ancient bronze pottery and coins, ethnic clothing illustrating the richness and variety of Chinese culture, among other things. We were fortunate to be there for a display of Faberge eggs and other Romanov artifacts: magnificent! Strange that we would first see a Faberge egg in Shanghai but there you go.
While we were really impressed with the museum, I was less than thrilled with how they got you started. As we lined up to enter the museum but before the security gate, we noticed that to the right was a kiosk where you could rent an electronic museum guide. Had we not noticed this from the line, we would have had to come back through security to purchase the ticket then go back through security to another kiosk inside the museum where, once you sacrificed your passport, you could get a device in a wide variety of languages. We Canadians tend to protect our passports at all costs so it is a bit disconcerting when asked to leave it with a stranger behind a counter. Next, because it was very hot in the museum, I wanted to check my coat. I headed to–where else?–the coat check area, only to be told that I had to get a ticket from the security guard. Excuse me? Back and forth I went but eventually was ready to go.
It was wonderful having our friend Ken here to share this Christmas season with us and to keep us laughing through the weeks. I’m glad, though, that he is not with us again as we come home to our freezing cold apartment! Our heaters have been running for almost two hours but it will take a lot longer than that to warm up our space. Later this evening, we are going to a symphony, a gift from parents of one of our students. It will be interesting to see what Jiaxing has to offer in that department. We have been told that every year at this time, they bring in an international orchestra to mark the new year. Looking forward to it! Then tomorrow, sleep sleep sleep to catch up after our 5 days in the big city (and to get our industrial strength heater installed)!
Finally – taken December 28, 2012 Room 1902, Paramount Gallery Hotel, Shanghai, China. 85 kg or 187 pounds.