Now, where was I? Oh yes, Terry’s inspection. I will let her tell you about that.
I was hoping for a good night’s rest the night before our big inspection but the mother of all thunder storms kept me awake for a good portion of the night. Sometimes it sounded as though the lightening must be directly overhead and later as though it was circling our apartment, coming in from different directions. Zeus was clearly PO’d about something!
The inspection was just short of 4 months since our first one, so most of the pieces were in place but nonetheless, there were last minute details that needed attention and people to organize. It feels good to say that everything went off swimmingly: the files were all in order and the teachers’ lessons and students’ conversations pleased the inspectors. Our kids may not write very well but they are fairly conversant and enjoy talking with foreigners. They understand that the teaching style of Canadians is quite different from that of the Chinese and they are happy for it. They impressed our inspectors with how well they could speak. It was nice to hear a different perspective because we tend to worry most about those kids at the bottom of the class and neglect to think about our successes with the majority of our students. We were told that we have everything in place for a first class school and should look ahead to continued growth and success. Number one indicator is the good relationship we have developed with the Chinese administration; second, the absolute commitment of the Chinese to support our efforts and remove all obstacles to success. We are very pleased and proud of the work we have done and the partnership we have developed. Onward and upward!
(Ed note: Don’t let Terry fool you – her efforts toward achieving success where HIGHLY lauded by the inspectors!)
Mr. Zhao had very kindly arranged for the school driver to take me into Shanghai after our celebratory banquet on Friday night, and Daisy had graciously agreed to accompany me (in case something happened and I needed to speak with the driver) so I arrived around 9:30pm, pleased but exhausted. Geoff arrived a half our later with our guests, Barb and Mike, and I got my second wind and was able to share my good news and excitement of the inspection. Once I told them my story, they tried in vain to describe the Szechuan meal they had had–hot to the point of numbing the mouth, but none of them could describe the actual taste. That they hadn’t eaten all of the prawns or the beef tells me that it was perhaps a wee bit too hot. Geoff had planned to take them to Simply Thai but two too many martinis on the 52nd floor of the Ritz Carleton put an end to that.
(Ed Note: We had been told by our pal Steve that Morton’s of Chicago served 2 for 1 martinis with free steak sliders every weekday from 5 to 7 – so where do you think we went to? You got that right – but we didn’t arrive until about 5:05 – it was already full, there was a waiting list of 3 and an hour wait – so we did go to the Ritz – much to Barb’s self-imposed embarrassment. She was dressed in jeans, running shoes and advertising Moody Middle via her sweatshirt. (But, I don’t think it helped that I made sure I had a sports jacket on 🙂 ). Mike and I assured her that the colour of our money was what mattered.
Witness the next table: three thirtyish people, two women and one man. The man (also dressed in jeans) curled up with the overstuffed pillow and slept for at least half an hour and slept so soundly that when the women wanted to leave, they had to shake him awake! In the hour we were there, they didn’t order a single thing. We, however, had two martinis each – and Barb was set to order another round, when Micheal reminded her that they were $20 a pop. We asked the fabulous Kelly, maker of the most extraordinary Red Pepper Martini, where to go for spicy food and she recommended the Sichuan Li restaurant. Terry was right – it was indescribable. Remember we told you that “Western medium” is 3 peppers and”Thai medium” is 10 peppers – well, this had to be 15 peppers hot. The problem was also that they brought the hot things first, with no other dishes to sort of balance them off. The duck rolls, noodles, rice and eggplant made valiant efforts, as did the beer but all to no avail. It didn’t really burn all of your mouth and throat, but we weren’t looking forward to Saturday morning, I can assure you.)
Saturday we began a whirlwind tour of Shanghai: after breakfast, we walked to the Shanghai Museum and spent a few delightful hours, then on to Yu Yuan Gardens and the House of Crap. We continued on through the back alleys or hutongs, making sure Barb and Michael caught as many sights, sounds and tastes of the city as possible in one afternoon. Our path took us to the Fabric Market where I picked up some jeans and capris at Jimmy’s and our visitors wandered around, marveling at the number of different tailors to choose from. From there we took a cab into the French Concession in search of an English bookstore. Michael found the guide book he was looking for and then it was back to the hotel for a wee rest before dinner at a new Thai restaurant called ChiangMai Thai. This place puts Simply Thai to shame. For the first time, we were able to control the pace of dining by ordering one glorious dish at a time, allowing us to savour each of the flavours separately. The seafood salad was so much like what we had in Chiang Mei we were in awe. Same same for the ground beef and basil, green curry, spicy green beans, prawns and squid. The only downside was that we were forced to drink more wine as we waited for courses. (Bad, Terry! Bad!) (Ed. note – C’mon Terry, it was only 4 bottles of white shared among the four of us!) After dinner, we took a cab back to the hotel, then headed to the Rat Tar Art Bar, a block away. This is a pretty funky set-up, with lots crazy painted couches and black ink drawings of rats on the walls, open space and quiet seating areas but virtually no people. The bartender told us that the joint gets jumping in the good weather but on this rainy night, only a few people were sipping the martinis. (Bad, Terry, Bad!) After Michael left some DNA on a plate glass door and Geoff absconded with chrome martini spears, it was time to go. (Ed. note – C’mon Terry, it was only 2.)
Needless to say, Sunday was off to a slower start. After breakfast in the hotel, we headed on foot down Nanjing Road. Not a very nice day, lightly raining and cool. I managed to make the best of it and bought a cheap and cheerful jacket for Spring and a few new light coloured Ts while Michael went to get his glasses fixed (see plate glass window, above). We kept to Nanjing until the Knock-off mall where Geoff and I bought some funky glasses and Barb finally found some Chinese-themed stickers for her students. She didn’t want things she could get in Canada so pounced when she spotted Pleasant Goat, pandas and Chinese flags. By this time we were all flagging so headed to a noodle house for a HUGE bowl of hot beef and noodles to restore our tired selves. Our last stop was People’s Square to see the parents and agents advertising their 20-30something children to other parents in the hope of making a match. The rain put a damper on the activities so it wasn’t nearly as crowded as usual but it was enough for Mike and Barb to get the flavour of the place. We took the subway back to the hotel where we picked up our bags and bade good-bye to our friends. It was so wonderful that they came to see us in Jiaxing and allowed us to show them a little of Shanghai. They are off to Guilin where we are planning to go soon, so we look forward to their reports before the end of the week.
(Ed. note: In a recent blog I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t find any martini glasses. Well Barb and Mike did and presented them to us this morning. Mike said he hoped they would remind us of the weekend. I told him that I would always remember this weekend – it was the one where I became a recovering alcoholic!)