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.
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. 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.
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!