Monthly Archives: May 2013

Two Sundays in Jiaxing

Some of you may think two is too many but really, it was not too bad!  Last week, we went to our baby’s birthday party which occurs somewhere between one and three months of age.  Our baby was 2 months old and belongs to our next door neighbours, Tina and Klos.

At the time of birth, many people give the parents red envelopes.  Tina told us later that the cash in the envelopes comes in mighty handy when you have to throw this kind of party:  100 attendees for lunch at a nice restaurant.  We counted 15 or 16 dishes so we imagine that the bill would have been around  $2000.  What goes around comes around, is how they look at it.  We had been at this restaurant before so had some idea of what to expect and were pleasantly surprised to find most dishes quite enjoyable.  No fish eyes this time but there was turtle soup–the last dish put on the table.  Everyone must have felt as full as we did because no one even tried it, but we were perplexed about how you go about eating it.   Floating in the middle of the broth was a whole soft shell turtle.  Hello!  Enough said, really.

(Ed. note: We were the only foreigners (read white people) at the party. You should have seen the looks stares we got when we first showed up. It was amazing. It was clear that people were thinking “Who the hell are these aliens?”)

Geoff has become Canadian grand-dad for little Aaron, whom he also gave his English name.  Twice this week, we took him out for a stroll in the neighbourhood after dinner, Geoff proudly pushing the carriage.  The looks we got were something else, even accustomed as we are to staring.  They couldn’t seem to figure out if the baby was ours or belonged to someone else.  Of course one look into the stroller would tell anyone that the baby was Chinese!  Our Mah Jong playing residents did a complete double take, looking at the baby, then at me, then directly at my tummy.  Too bad we don’t know enough Chinese to explain.

A hectic week passed at school, getting ready for the entrance exams for prospective student for next year. Things went off without a hitch and even the marking went quickly. The day was longer than anticipated, however, following a surprise 2 hour meeting with Chinese administration after the exam. When we were finally finished, we jumped on #28 bus and went downtown to Mei Wan Street to find a deck on the water and some cold beer. See below.

Saturday 4:30 - Catching a cool one before the evening crowd

Saturday 4:30 – Catching a cool one before the evening crowd

Saturday afternoon view from our table

Saturday afternoon view from our table

Today, I went with David to the homes of three of our students to have a parent visit.  This is something the Chinese do once a year, so I thought I would take part.  Again, quite interesting.  The first boy lives directly across from the school in a new high rise.  The entry was grimy and full of doors–a bit of a construction site.  As previously noted, when one buys an apartment here, one buys an empty shell and must install everything from plumbing to flooring to doors, hence, the load of doors in the foyer waiting for new buyers.  Their elevator looked a lot like ours inside, ie, disreputable.  However, the apartment inside was quite lovely, decorated in a mix of Chinese and Western style, with marble floors and an enclosed kitchen.  We were served tea (what else?) and lots of delicious fresh fruit.  After a pleasant conversation about their child and how he could improve his performance, we said good-bye and went on our way.

David told me that the parents own a factory about 40km out of town and that since our student was quite young, they had to leave him home alone while they spent long days and evenings managing the business.  Consequently, the boy is quite solitary and prefers computer games to reading.  Nonetheless, he is a very kind, gentle soul.  Imagine the kind of trouble a Canadian boy might get into left to his own devices!   David explained that this is a common story in China; the parents have to work so hard that the children can be neglected.   We have heard an expression that says, “Nothing works in China but the people, and they work very hard indeed.”  Many are now rich but at what cost?  The papers note that there is a growing divide between the rich and the poor that the government is trying to address, but it is difficult.

A family with twins was our next stop.  The father was working at his cell-phone shop in their home town, about a half hour away, so the mother made us tea and set out some fruit.  At one point, I was asked if I liked corn.  Yes, I answered.  Two ears of corn appeared and the girls began to strip the greens away.  “No, no, not for me, ” I said.  Sisi said, “This is my breakfast.”  Oh, I said, okay then.  Turns out what she meant to say was, “This is what I had for breakfast.”  It was ‘fruit corn”, very sweet and doesn’t need to be cooked.  Once it was peeled and handed to me, it was pretty difficult to turn it down, so I broke off a small portion of it.  Not bad, actually, but not what I want in the morning.

The girls told me that they are going to start an English language training program in Shanghai on Saturdays and got out the computer to show me the entrance test, on which both of them scored ‘beginner.’   We spent 20 minutes reviewing the first 10 questions, which were pretty difficult grammar problems.  A few of them were too complex to explain, so I understand why they scored low.  It might be a bit of a racket to extend the company’s business (No, in China?  Not possible) but I hope it helps their progress in our program.

Home again some two hours later, I changed clothes and met Geoff at Starbuck’s.  Our planning was poor so we had little choice but to go to RT Mart for some groceries.  RT Mart is busy all the time but the weekend is just crazy.  Still, we managed and took our week’s provisions home, then headed out for a long walk.  We found ourselves on Youyie St, not too far from the school, and bought fresh vegetables at a market, then passed by a hair salon where we found the usual slew of employees taking a break out front.  The dudes had excellent hair (see picture) and as soon as we smiled and got our camera out, they were more than happy to get into the picture. (Ed. note: They also wanted to get photos of themselves with the foreigners. We were there quite awhile as they kept getting in and out of the scene as their colleagues (big word in China) took their photos.)

All the young dudes  Carry the news  Boogaloo dudes  Carry the news  Mott the Hoople

All the young dudes
Carry the news
Boogaloo dudes
Carry the news
Mott the Hoople, 1972 (Click to go back in time)

We note that the male of the species here seem to express their individuality through  hair styles.  You can see their hair is quite wild while their clothes are bland.  The women, on the other hand, have more plain hair-dos but dress up at every occasion, even for grocery shopping.  No need to add to Geoff’s frequent descriptions of the stilettos, short skirts and sheer tops.  This morning as we left our building, a woman dressed to the 9s was leaving with a man so under-dressed that he probably shouldn’t have been leaving the house.  The women don’t seem to mind, that’s the interesting part.  “I look beautiful and my husband’s a slob but it’s okay because I look beautiful.”  So it seems to us.  TIC (This is China)

This outside a restaurant. It seems to me that not many of us in North America would choose a rooster for eating food, but TIC.

This outside a restaurant. It seems to me that not many of us in North America would choose a rooster for eating food, but TIC.

Here are a couple more photos of someone we saw on our walk.

Sunday stroll sight - this lovely woman cleaning a river eel.

Sunday stroll sight – this lovely woman cleaning a river eel.

Sunday stroll sight 2 - a bucket of clean river eels.

Sunday stroll sight 2 – a bucket of clean river eels.

Line, Line, Everywhere a Line*

Line, line, everywhere a line
Guidin’ all the people, breakin’ my mind
Stand here, don’t stand there, can’t you see the line?*

Anecdote 1

Wednesday I went in to Shanghai to get Terry’s birthday present (fyi 6 bags of the world’s best potato chips from Marks and Spencer – and they say I’m not a romantic!). Anyway, I get to the train station to come home and line up with at least 400 other people (there are 20 windows and each window has at least 20 people in it) and wait patiently for my turn. After 10 minutes or so, I have moved about halfway. It seems that in China, if you are buying tickets for three or four people all of you line up together and then when you get to the window you all talk to the cashier about where you are going and then one of you hands in all the id cards/passports and the money and when you get the change, you turn and distribute everything before moving out of the way. The other thing is that you get in line and then wait for others to join you so that the people behind you can wait a little longer. However, sometimes you get to the window and your pals haven’t joined you yet, so you let me go in front of you. Xie xie.

Anyway, as I was saying, there I was halfway to the window when a very attractive twenty-something young woman glides by. Sadly I didn’t get a photo, so close your eyes as you read this and imagine (how does one read with one’s eyes closed, Geoff?). She has on the mandatory 5″ stilettos, the short denim shorts, a black top which is sheer through the midriff  and the obligatory black hose. She effortlessly moves  to the front of the line with every male (and likely female) eye on her, steps in front of the guy at the front and buys her ticket. She then turns around, scans the crowd and gets her phone out. A minute goes by and her male partner shows up (nothing to note about him – at least I didn’t note anything beyond he was male). He gives her his id and she steps in front of the guy in the next line and buys his ticket. How does this keep happening – don’t these people know that they have somewhere to go too? Don’t they know I have to get back to Jiaxing?

But this isn’t about lining up – it is about fashion. You know how many young men wear their jeans slung low on their butts? Well this sexy, gorgeous woman is wearing these denim shorts low too – so low that the top two inches of her panty hose are showing above the waist band – complete with the reinforced vertical seam up the middle of them. In my humble opinion (I know I could just write IMHO but the elderly out there might not get it) she really crossed the line there.

Anecdote 2

Yesterday I am back at the office. I am in line to get my coffee, patiently waiting my turn. Now a couple of months ago one of my favourite baristas (we have even exchanged small gifts after traveling to far off lands) decided to let me and one other person wait so that she could make a lattte for a  woman who came in after us and placed her order before getting in line to pay.  Predictably, some would say, little Rita and I now have a terse, professional relationship. Yesterday the same woman came in. Now let me describe her. She visits Starbucks everyday on her way to work. She drives her Suzuki car right up to the door, rain or shine. She is quite attractive** and has very nice legs. She too wears the mandatory 5″ stilettos but she wears a dress everyday. This dress (no matter which one it is) covers her “area” with a good inch to spare. Normally she wears tights, but now it is summer and she is bare legged. I have no idea where she works, but if she came in to a bar on Friday night dressed like this, she would be the main attraction. I also have no idea how she could ever sit down without exposing type and colour of her “lingerie” . Since it appears that every day she is late for work (she is always standing there looking at her watch)  and she has to have her drink made before anyone else in there – GET UP EARLIER! (And don’t pay with a credit card which takes more time). Be all that as it may, now Yoyo (barista) and I will also have a a terse, professional relationship. After all, they keep allowing her to make the other patrons wait.

But this isn’t about lining up – it’s about cleanliness. After I got my latte yesterday and was walking back to my desk, I inadvertently spilled a fair amount on the floor in a continual line from the counter, through the “lobby” and to my chair. But did anyone get a mop to wipe it up? No, in typical Chinese fashion, they just left it there for people to step in and walk through, creating a dirty floor. Come on people, keep the place clean would you!

Breaking News!

I wrote all of the previous material while at home and I am now in the office. Yoyo is making my latte, there are three people at the counter waiting to order and pay and guess who walks in – straight to the coffee bar and orders her drink. I say to Yoyo, who looks properly chagrined after yesterday, “Why doesn’t she have to wait like everyone else?” She says “Yes, Geoff”. I watch and I see that little Miss Ina Hurry gets hers last. VICTORY is mine (at least today). But wait, as little Miss Ina Hurry gets into her car a friend walks up. How do I know they are friends? I know because they have a 5 minute conversation, despite the armoured car behind them laying on the horn and the guard getting out to yell at them! I guess she doesn’t have to get to work that quickly…

A Word of Warning

Finally, a word of warning about texting. Yesterday I texted our pal Charlie who works at Krabi and asked for a table on the window for 4. No problem. Now we have talked before about Charlie – he is the leader of the singing group and has shared with us the fact that he isn’t very happy working at Krabi. Just before our 6pm reservation I get two texts (13 LINES, (get it?)) from Charlie which indicate that he is negotiating with someone for a job elsewhere. However, these thirteen lines of text weren’t for me – they were for someone else. So be careful out there you texters!

*With thanks and apologies to The Five Man Electrical Band and their truly fabulous 1970 song. For a amusing visual interpretation (but only adequate vocal interpretation), check out this youtube.

** If I wasn’t married to and know quite a few other strikingly attractive women, I would have to surmise that all strikingly attractive women are of the opinion that the world and its inhabitants are there simply to serve them whenever they show up. But that’s not true of the women I know. Maybe its just strikingly attractive Chinese women? Or maybe it is just another couple of examples of the apparent Chinese belief that it IS all about them? Having said that, all the Chinese people we have actually met are VERY nice and don’t give off that sense. It just seems to be something we see when we are out and about.

Terry, Geoff, Charlie and the Gang

Terry, Geoff, Charlie (left) and the Gang

May 23

1618 –2nd Defenestration of Prague; beginning of 30 Years War. Four Catholic Lords Regents thrown out of window

1701 – After being convicted of piracy and of murdering William Moore, Captain William Kidd is hanged in London.

1813 – South American independence leader Simón Bolívar enters Mérida, leading the invasion of Venezuela, and is proclaimed El Libertador (“The Liberator”)

1867 – Jesse James-gang rob bank in Richmond Missouri (2 die, $4,000 taken)

1873 – Canada’s North West Mounted Police Force forms

1883 – Baseball game between one-armed & one-legged players

1903 – 1st automobile trip across US from SF to NY, ended April 1

1922 – “Abie’s Irish Rose” 1st of over 2,500 performances

1939 – Hitler proclaims he wants to move into Poland

1945 – German island of Helgoland in North Sea surrenders to British

1953 – WHIZ TV channel 18 in Zanesville, OH (NBC/ABC) begins broadcasting


1954 – Terry Donna Adolf born at St, Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster

2004 – St. Mary’s Hospital closes and torn down

Under "Deconstruction"

Under “Deconstruction”

Okay so maybe the last historical event has been loosely interpreted, but you get the idea. Now the question, is are the last two events related? Are all of these events connected? Are any of these events connected? Who will ever know? Who cares? There is one thing for sure, though.

Thanks to Ernie and Adeline, we can all wish
Terry a Happy 59th Birthday

Terry at 58 years, 50 weeks, 6 Days


Birthday Party and a Slow Saturday

Not sure, but maybe they are going out of business because they can't spell?

Not sure, but maybe they are going out of business because they can’t spell?

Friday night and we’re invited to the 21st birthday party of our friends, Vanessa and Mark’s son James. We’ve never met him but if they don’t mind, we don’t either, so off we go to Moon River street and seek out The Cowboy Bar.  It’s not hard to find, especially with a bartender out on the sidewalk  who spots us and asks us, “James’ birthday?”   In we go.  We are right on time according to our invite, but early for a young person’s party.  The parents’ friends are all there as well as James and his step-brother Simon who is BBQing out on the landing along the canal.  There’s just enough room for a table and 2 rectangular charcoal grills.  Simon has just started the briquets and about half the smoke is pouring into the bar.

The "briquets" were huge (yes HUGE) chunks of coal - not what we would consider briquets.

The “briquets” were huge (yes HUGE) chunks of coal – not what we would consider briquets.

Our hosts pour us glasses of red and white and we start making connections with the folks there, most of whom work in one of the two companies overseen by Jeremy, the ex-pat who started this whole relationship by striking up a conversation with us in Starbuck’s.  We’re having fun but the evening gets even better when the food starts coming off the grill.

I have a confession to make.  A month or so ago I said to Geoff that I wasn’t sure I would be able to face a steak again, given the relatively small amounts of meat we’ve eaten since we’ve been here.  I now know that I simply hadn’t been properly tempted.  First course, the best burger I can remember.  I ate all of mine, then a third of Geoff’s second one. (Ed. note: a third if a third is 50%) About this time, 3 Chinese Military men march into the bar.  None of the 4 bartenders so much as raise an eyebrow but everyone watches as the men in uniform head directly to the landing where the BBQ is in full swing.  Someone grabs a Chinese guest and sends him out to find out what the problem is and try to mollify.  After a few minutes, the military come back through, this time with smiles on their faces.  There has been a complaint about the smoke, but now that they know what is going on, all is well and we will be allowed to continue until all our food is cooked.  Good thing because there is so much more to come:  chicken wings, kebabs, pork loin , and then the  piece de resistance–beef tenderloin.  OMG, it was amazing, perfectly cooked, grill marks on the outside, nicely pink but not bleeding on the inside.  Fantastic!  My mouth is watering just describing it.  So, yeah, I’ll be eating steak again, and burgers and tenderloin and probably everything else I can get my hands on.

We’re not exactly party animals and while James had predicted 50 friends to join him, very few of them had arrived by the time we left.  Young people start later and stay later (like the Irish).   Apparently the party went on until 4:00am so no doubt we missed some good stories.

Saturday morning and we are literally in a cloud.  It’s going to rain off and on all day, but the particle meter says we are way down and the air feels fresh and clean.  Geoff and I meander over to Starbuck’s for breakfast.  (Fyi, at home, we went to Starbuck’s maybe once or twice a month.  Who knew that it would factor so greatly into our Chinese stay?)  I look out the window and see this old guy whom I had noticed on the bus the day before because he had started sketching me.  I waved to him, which he took as an invitation to come in.  He pulled up a chair and resumed the sketch.  See below for his results.  Any likeness?  He wouldn’t accept any money and said in a few English words, “for friendship.”  It was lovely.

The Artist

The Artist

The Subject

The Subject

Geoff headed home (perhaps he had a bit too much also?) (Ed. note: Who? Me? At a free bar?) and I decided to go to the hairdressers, which you can do on a whim in China because no matter when you arrive, they fit you in.  It’s great really.  So, I am not making this next part up.  I’ve got my hair wrapped in Saran while the colour takes and this little boy pushed up a stool beside me and says something to the effect of, “Move over, I want to play with this computer.” I mentioned in an earlier blog that in my salon, there’s a whole bank of computers for anyone’s use, I guess, and this little boy knows what he wants.  He refuses to play my game of hand signals so I refuse to move, which is great because now I’ve got a ring-side seat as I watch this kid.  He’s my hairdresser’s son and I think he’s around 5 but I hear another employee say ‘ba’ which is 8 so maybe.  He turns on the computer and begins to play a game in which he is part of the Chinese military and his task is to take out the Statue of Liberty!  Clearly America is the enemy.  All the buildings have American flags and when they are hit with a rocket, they go up in black smoke and a Chinese flag appears.  As the destruction continues, Chinese paratroopers drop down to finish off anyone left.  He destroys the place then jumps to a map of the US and selects another target, this one in the mid-west, where, as a sniper, he sneaks up on a US military base in the middle of snow covered nowhere and begins blasting again.  Make of this what you will.  I am not familiar with this kind of game so maybe the Americans create them with Chinese targets.  Seems like a way to shape beliefs at an early age.  Propaganda, anyone?  This is him, at work:

Focus, focus, focus

Focus, focus, focus

Hair done, I leave the shop and start walking the three or so blocks downtown.  Halfway along a bridge, I spot a pair of glitzy high heels abandoned, proof, in my world, that the wearer had finally had enough torment and ditched the buggers for good.

Good riddance!

Good riddance!

Next stop, Carrefour.  We have mentioned that ours is not a great example of this French chain and we rarely go there but I need cereal.  They join the list of our 2 other nearby grocery stores that do not carry it but I decide to take a good look around anyway and see if I can find a few other things.  All is going well until I browse through the fish department and spot the large live frogs in tanks, thankfully not something we spot anywhere else except our local veg market.  I hustle to the cashier and head into the Diamond Mall, which is pretty decent but there’s hardly anyone there so every shop has at least 3 employees in it who are dying of boredom and just waiting to dive on you if you should enter.  Then it is that I realize what it is that I am missing.  I need a girlfriend to shop with!  I miss Sheila, arguably the world’s best shopper, who would not hesitate to drag me in and make me try on everything I show any interest in, and BUY IT NOW.  By this time, she would have mastered bargaining and would have no problem getting great deals for me.  I miss you, Sheila!  I miss my buddy Jan, too, who once made me try on 37 bathing suits on the premise that she would try on an equal number once I was done and the two of us would know what so many suits looked like on.  When I tired out and said it was her turn to take over, she said, no, she didn’t like any of them and had decided that nothing in the shop would look good on her.  All women know that this was truly Machiavellian, but I still love you, Jan!  I feel a shop coming on, maybe early August.  I miss all my girlfriends, I miss my Book Club women, I miss my golfing buddies, I miss having a mom, I miss my sons.  Think I might be homesick?

Number 28 bus drops me a half block from home and what do I spot but another pair of abandoned heels.  I am righteous and right, which, I know, is really annoying.

Here’s a picture of a truly unfortunately-named shop in Diamond Mall; it had some really great looking canvas shoes which they won’t have in my size, which is another thing I miss.  Home in 7 weeks!

Enough said.

Enough said.

(Ed. note: Here are my geraniums. They are quite different in China. They heads only get a few petals on them and the plants grow quite slowly. I have deflowered them twice to give the plants time to grow and nothing seems to help. They gets lots of fertilizer, sunshine, warmth and water. They are healthy, but sad.)

Come on little guys - GROW!

Come on little guys – GROW!

Ah, so. Very much humidity! Meetings and Old Town

Here I sit on our deck, listening to firecrackers (what do you mean you need an occasion?), checking to see how far I can see through the low hanging clouds.  I now know when it is pollution and when clouds because I have a particle-in-the-air meter on my phone, thanks to Geoff, so now I sit in comfort on my deck and look at the near distance view, knowing the particles in the air are at a safe level.   I have grown quite fond of our view, thank you.  We are fortunate to have greenery in every direction and are far enough away from the main drag that traffic noise is not a concern.

Because of the rain, the humidity has broken and particles have been washed to the ground, so the air is fresh and clean and healthy  It feels quite damp, nonetheless, so it almost feels like the A/C should come on, just to help out with the moisture.  It will be a comfortable night tonight.

First, a brief update on a school-related meeting I attended last Saturday with prospective parents for next year.  My job was to be the face of the BC Program and answer questions.  Of course, no one was brave enough to actually ask me a question, so I sat gamely through Mr. Xu’s looooooooooonnnnnnnggg speech (WT- was he talking about?), and watched the crowd.   I was impressed at how well-behaved they were.  All eyes were on Mr. Xu, except for the woman in the front row who kept banging her head, first with her open palm, then with her knuckles (I feel your pain, madam).  Through the entire meeting she beat on herself.  After the first hour, I wanted to join her but decorum dictated on-going composure.  Not unusually, people continued to arrive up to 45 minutes after the meeting had started and our Miss Daisy caught every one, insisting that they sign in and take forms to sign up their children.   Mr. Xu’s phone rang only once during the meeting (a happy first).  On the ride home, David answered my unasked question:  “What on earth was he talking about for so long?”  The answer?  Everything that we have done in the program since its inception.  I do hope the parents were impressed and are excited to enroll their kids!  We will find out on May 25th when they come to write the entrance exam.

Our Miss Daisy and husband Xu Yang Shu

Our Miss Daisy and husband Xu Yang Shu

Wednesday afternoon, Daisy and her husband Xu Yang Shu, took us to Xitang, Old Town in Jiashan.  Very cool!  We were not too sure about what to expect; Daisy wasn’t telling, and Xu speaks no English, so we were quite surprised to find ourselves in a “living ancient village.”   Meaning:  10,000 people actually live and work here (Ed. note: Daisy actually told us 10,000 once and 40,000 once…).  Daisy told us that during Spring Festival 200,000 people per day visit Jiashan/Xitang and in all of Jiashan there are only 400,000 people. The density must be something. It is a maze of boardwalks along canals and narrow alleys leading to interior courtyards.  Funky, clean shops line the boardwalks and everywhere are small hotels with rooms to let.  We had dinner at a place serving local food, including a dish of pork and fine grain, wrapped in a lily leaf.  On the trip in, we had passed flooded fields of lily pads grown as a food crop so it was interesting to taste.

A man with great cheek bones serenaded us with his zither.

Quite the showman he was. See Video below.

Quite the showman he was. See Video below.

Perhaps in her younger days

Perhaps in her younger days

Pictures of Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise adorned the walls.  Apparently they filmed some scenes here.  Anyone know what movies?  The odour of stinky tofu assaulted our noses as we walked along the canal.  How outrageously noxious is the stench that permeates the immediate environment of this substance.  Some say it tastes great but we will leave it to braver souls to test.

Across one canal is the bar scene, every one with live entertainers, neon glaring and hustlers inviting us in.  On the top of an arched bridge was an empty but funky-looking jazz bar.  Later in the evening and on a weekend, it probably fills up.  Wouldn’t it be fun to hear a Chinese singing jazz in English?  It would definitely be fun to stay here one night and roam from bar to bar.  We are sorry that it is not closer as it would be a blast to be able to drop down on any given night.

Our next few weeks are busy at school.  We have to run the entrance exams and hope that we get full classes for next year’s grade 10s.  On Sunday, May 26th, we are joining in with the “Big school” to do family visits in their homes.  Should be very interesting, learning more about our students and about home life in rural  China.  After that, it is a relatively short run to the end.  First, though, we go to Beijing.  Stay tuned!

(Ed. notes: First, 3 Starbucks updates.

  1. Remember Sour Lady? Well it looks like her on again, off again relationship is off again. She is now coming in about half an hour before her beau – but she arrives in a taxi and he arrives in “their” car. I have discovered that they are French – and she would be the picture of a “haughty Frenchwoman”.
  2. Remember the breakup where the guy was caught with his “lover”? Well yesterday I watched another breakup – but this one was over the phone. A woman who is in here three or four times a week sat at a table on the phone for a looooong time (not as Long as Mr. Xu’s speech, but a looooong time). After about 7 minutes she was dabbing the tears from her eyes and after another 5-7 minutes she was into full fledged crying. When she finally hung up after about 20 minutes, she had the 1000 yard stare for another 5 minutes before getting into her nice red Lexus and departing. For those of you who have ever had a major fight with your partner over the phone (I admit it – I have) it was pretty obvious what was happening.
  3. Now I admit I was previously a party, unwittingly, to a similar event to this one. I watched a couple of women leave here yesterday and come back about 10 minutes later with a bag of KFC. They then sat down with their group of 9 (nine) and consumed their lunch. The had had some coffee before, but really, if you all want KFC, just go the 100 yards and have it there – then the rest of us aren’t subjected to the smell (not as bad as stinky tofu, but…

Watch for more from “As the Coffee Urns” (Get it – As the World Turns? Oh, never mind)

Now here are some of the photos Terry took of Xitang and a short video. See comments below about the video.)

We call this "Reflections 1"

We call this “Reflections 1”

We call this "Reflections 2"

We call this “Reflections 2”

Guess what - "Reflections 3"

Guess what – “Reflections 3”

Wrong - "Canal 1"

Wrong – “Canal 1”

"Junks at Rest"

“Junks at Rest”

"The Beetles"

“The Beetles”

"Down an Illy Alley"

“Down the illy alley”

"An Alley with No Name"

“An Alley with No Name”

No title - this is someone's home which sits on the edge of the canal.

No title – this is someone’s home which sits on the edge of the canal.

"As Dusk Turns to Evening"

“As Dusk Turns to Evening”

"Night Reflections 1"

“Night Reflections 1”

"Backstreet Shopping"

“Backstreet Shopping”

"Undercover Umbrella"

“Undercover Umbrella”

"Street of Bars"

“Street of Bars”

"Jazz Spoken Here"

“Jazz Spoken Here”

(Ed. note: About the video. My phone is great for photos and for movies during the day, but doesn’t respond well to night lights. This street, which Terry touched on, is a street of bars – one right next to the other, all with live entertainment. You will see that it is about the width of a tee box – for non-golfers that’s about 20 feet – and the music just overwhelms one. As you pass by one and their music begins to recede, you are into the next one. This happens in the last few seconds of the street scene. You can also see that it was a rainy Wednesday night (well, you can’t SEE that it was Wednesday but it was) and it was quite busy. We want to go back on a nice Friday evening to check it out. Also, it took us about 10 minutes to stroll the section we did – and that was just half of it. Here you go.)

Signs of Summer

Well summer is here – how do I know? I have started carrying a face cloth again all day to wipe the perspiration from my face, That’s how. Yesterday it got up to 30° and today at 9:00 it is already 22°. What else comes with summer? Well, fruit comes with summer. (nice segue) Yesterday we went down to our market where we get all of fruit and vegetables. You know how we tell you how cheap everything here is? Well, wait till I tell you about this.

My pal the fruit vendor

My pal the fruit vendor

This is my little friend at the market. Her stall is only fruit – they all have their specialty – fruit, vegetables, fish, pork, whatever. She always wants to give me free samples and yesterday it was grapes and cherries and we also chose a watermelon about the size of a volleyball or maybe a little smaller. In her hands are the  bags of grapes and cherries. When I gave her a twenty ($3.50)  to pay for it all she laughed, so I gave her a fifty and she laughed some more. After having a calculator, pencil and paper and couple more people involved, we found out it was 189 rmb – $31.50! Two of the three items were cheap, but the third was way over the top. We still aren’t sure which, since when we said “Tie gwyla” – too much, she just took everything back and put them back in the boxes. Not sure if I will be getting anymore free samples.

That's a strawberry in Terry's mouth!

That’s a strawberry in Terry’s mouth!

From there we were off to the strawberry guy who likes to smoke as he is serving you but is very friendly. We bought some of these on Friday. They are amazingly flavourful and juicy, just like the strawberries of our youth. The only problem is they are quite soft, and when you put them in a bag and carry them home in your backpack they tend to get squished. So we bought some more yesterday, but carried them home flat. These cost us 24rmb ($4.00).

Our final stop was to get some pineapple. You may have seen this done before, but we always get a kick out of it. It is quite fascinating to watch – there really is little waste and those sharp implements could carve you up pretty good if you slipped.

Okay enough of the market. The summer also brings out the housing market. (Ed. note: Huh?) Yesterday when we went to Starbucks, there were a number of display tents up. This one is advertising a new apartment complex which is being built/sold in our immediate vicinity. This is the “Realtor” and I took it as we were leaving. When we were approaching, she was spending all of her time looking into her mirror/phone adjusting her hair and examining her makeup. We then watched her from inside as she stood outside the tent, continuing her preening and as we left she was doing it again – but just as I took the photo she answered the phone. Terry had two comments – 1. “She isn’t all that attractive” and 2. “She looks like she’s ready for soliciting drinks in the bar”.

Want to buy?

Want to buy?

Summer time also encourages us to exercise – and who wouldn’t want to ride this around. Sadly, the picture doesn’t do the colourful tires justice – they are VERY fluorescent in colour.

Imagine these babies going around and around. Far out, man...

Imagine these babies going around and around. Far out, man…


And now for a couple of updates.

I am sure you are all familiar with the story of our heater installation this past December. Well this weekend, with the advent of summer, we thought we would turn it in to an air conditioner. TIC. When they installed it, they didn’t bother to do much with the hose that takes the condensation away – except to leave it open to drain on to the balcony. When I went out last night, I thought that the washing machine had leaked, there was so much water there. I sent an email to Mr. Zhao and he had Mr. Fixit from the school come this morning and make it right. The solution? Take a piece of hose, attach it to the built in hose and stick it out through the wall to drain into mid air. TIC

Draining the air conditioner

Draining the air conditioner

Finally for those of you who have been worried about Dino, you can relax. We spotted him with a whole school of new friends on Sunday (in the green circle). And for those of you who are skeptical about my ability to tell one goldfish from another, don’t you think I could recognize my own pet! Shame on you.

Dino and Friends

Dino and Friends

Noise Pollution

I realize that I don’t know enough about humidity.  For instance, can there be more than 100% humidity at any one time in one place?  I ask because I believe today is a case for it.  Between bouts of rain off and on all day, the air in Jiaxing stayed heavy with moisture that settled everywhere.  Every bit of marble or granite flooring, tiled bathroom walls, windows and sidewalks were constantly damp – (Ed. note: even our sheets when we went to bed).  Any surface that could incite condensation did so.  And still the sky remained grey and heavy.  Visibility was good only to the near distance.  Dreary is how they describe it.  Even now at 7:30pm, everything is wet. It’s going to be a sticky night.  Temp is expected to climb into the high 20s but feel like the mid 30s all weekend.

(Ed. note: Here is a short video of our day today. The dreariness is not really pollution – in fact the air quality index is 87 right now – anything below 100 is totally safe – it doesn’t get sketchy until you are over 200. Please listen in the background – you can hear the dog barking – which it does all day! As the video opens, it is on the balcony just above the green glass – in fact, if you stop the video as it starts, you can just see the damn thing on some kind of box on the right hand side of the balcony. Yesterday I asked someone to tell me how to say “I am going to kill your dog” (wo sha ni de gou)- but Terry said I can’t go over there…)

We have been here more than 8 months and still unknown noises disturb our sleep.  This week, about 4:00am, a new sound wakes us.  The first time I was convinced that someone was pushing a rickety cart through the complex; Geoff thought it was bats.  Last night, I thought maybe some kind of birds were talking to each other.  Geoff got up and taped it.  He thinks they are frogs.  Tonight as we were enjoying happy hour, it started up again.  It doesn’t actually sound like anything we recognize as frog but it does seem to come from the pond area, so maybe.  Does it make a difference?  Not really.  We are still woken up by the little perishers far too early and in time to hear the dog start up at around 5:30.  So this is city life?   As Geoff pointed out, at least the rooster is gone.

(Ed. note: There is really nothing to see, just listen and imagine this going on and on and on – and the camera didn’t really pick up the actual loudness of it very well.)

Now a few leftover photos from our trip to Guilin.

The first was taken in the lobby of our hotel – the five star (more a four star) Sheraton. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to try it.

Well, as long it is BAKED and not broiled...

Well, as long it is BAKED and not broiled…

Just after we got off the boat in Yangshao, there she was.

This young lady was quite lovely - she enjoyed having her picture taken - but what's with THAT outfit?

This young lady was quite lovely – she enjoyed having her picture taken – but what’s with THAT outfit?

Who knew – Torquay and Yangsho are one and the same.



Another Sunday in Jiaxing

Reflections of a Life

“Reflections on a Life” – Watt, 2013

Leaving Pudong Airport on the way to Guilin, I spot this little old lady and think that she is blog-worthy.   She is under 4′ tall,  I think, so short that I notice her, dressed in her drab Chairman Mao jacket and following behind her married child and his wife or her husband – I can’t tell which.  She strives to fit into the landscape, make herself unobtrusive, invisible.  Certainly, she says not a word, will be no problem, is glad to be included – or maybe not, maybe she wishes she had stayed home in her comfortable room, surrounded by neighbours and neighbourhood that she understands.  Here she is in Pudong Airport, probably bigger than anything she has ever imagined or can understand and patiently waits to be told what to do next.  What should she do next?  Stay in queue, wait to be summoned, approach the ticket takers.  Son or daughter takes care of all business, she shuffles along.  What stories could she tell?  She lived through Chairmen Mao’s reign, probably the Kuomintang as well.  Did she suffer during the Cultural Revolution?  Where is her husband?  What happened to her parents?  Did she have any siblings?  Can she fathom her grandchildren, tall and healthy?  How on earth are they possible?

The role of the elderly in China is not one that all of us would enjoy.  It is decidedly not about retirement, putting one’s feet up, maybe traveling the world.  No, it is more about bringing up grandkids, following your children with their children into the malls and markets, waiting to be asked to carry groceries or a child, cooking meals and cleaning house.   Sometimes you become a member of your child’s household and it is expected that you will do your part.  Above all, the babies come first.  The princes and princesses of the universe assume their place at the center of the family.

Lady in the parking lot at Dragon Bridge. (Ignore the bus seats in the foreground)

Lady in the Parking Lot Watt, 2013

Here is another  old woman who spent one season too many in the rice terraces.  Look in the distance in this picture and you will see her walking.  Yes, she is bent virtually in half.  She is not bending down; she cannot straighten up.  This is in a small Chinese village outside of Yangshou where we went to have a look at how the rural people live.

Is this a Parisian neighbourhood in Jiaxing - or a Chinese neighbourhood in Paris?

Is this a Parisian neighbourhood in Jiaxing – or a Chinese neighbourhood in Paris?

Back in Jiaxing, we head south on our first Sunday back to walk through a more affluent neighbourhood.   First we take the bus through Nanhu, a district that bounds the lake of the same name.  We come across this signpost advertising a new shopping area and apartment complex, get off the bus and walk.

This the second Arc de Triomphe we have seen in a week - and the third in our lifetimes.

This the second Arc de Triomphe I have seen in a week – and the third in my lifetime.

Now it’s not in the middle of a traffic circle but it is a life sized model of the real thing.  We said Paris, didn’t we?

Who needs to go all the way to Versailles and battle the crowds?

Who needs to go all the way to Versailles and battle the crowds?

We’re not 100% clear about the function of this miniature palace–perhaps its the clubhouse for the apartment complex?  We did notice a new bride and groom passing through it for photographs so maybe it has facilities for banquets.  In any case, not much expense was spared to replicate these French icons.

New York Version or Jiaxing Version?

Jiaxing Versaille

Jiaxing Version or New York Version?

New York Version

The French, of course, would never desecrate their buildings with such a crass objet d’art but if they did, you can be assured it would be spelled correctly!

We don’t have a great picture but we can tell you that surrounding this area was a vast amount of perfect patio space for  dining al fresco and drinking the perfect glass of cold beer or wine.  But nary a one in sight.  Even the 4 small tables outside Geoff’s Starbuck’s are gone.  When he asked, he was told the government won’t allow it. The Chinese can build great French or Italian knock-offs but they’ve got a long way to go to copy the lifestyle!  Missing a great thing!  Our mission is to find at least one place in Jiaxing where we can sit on a patio and drink a cold beer.  Really, that’s not asking too much, is it?

Transportation and Tacky Tourists

Transportation Issue 1. I would like to say that we are spending a quiet day ruminating on our time in China, but that would be a lie. This afternoon, apparently, the Chinese Air Force has decided to do some test flights over our apartment – or should I say JUST over our apartment. I thought one was going to land on us. They spent about an hour doing their flights which were every 1-2 minutes. It is quite noisy.

Transportation Issue 2.The last day we were in Guilin, we wandered through the central square. It was huge (Think floor of BC Place) and half of it was covered with these tents which were selling these e-bikes. They cost about $350.00 and require no driver’s  or vehicle license – just buy it, have the mechanic set it up for you and away you go. No helmet required. They go about 25 km. on a charge  if you use the headlight at night and 29 km. if you don’t use the headlight. I think I have seen one headlight on in the eight months we have been here. They do come in many pretty colours, though, don’t you think?

These scooters are very cool - they are actually called e-bikes and are silent assassins, since you don't hear them coming.

These scooters are very cool – they are  silent assassins, since you don’t hear them coming.

Transportation Issue 3. In most parts of the world, this would be called, oh, I don’t know – a MAP. Not at the Guilin Airport, though.

No words necessary

No words necessary

Transportation Issue 4. Now this. Terry and I have had a – let’s call it an intense debate this week about some of my actions lately. Terry contends that I am trying to change China – I contend that I am only dealing with people who directly interfere with me – the people around me at the concert who take away my enjoyment by talking (I turn and stare), the woman who steps on my right toe  while I’m in sandals and doesn’t apologize (my left foot responds automatically in defense of its sibling making “incidental” contact with her leg), the guy who tries to force his way past me and 1000 others in the lineup leaving the outdoor theatre (my arm reaches out and grabs him). (Ed. Note: Terry’s convinced I am going to get bopped in the nose before we are done here.) However, this morning I did enter into a discussion, which, to be perfectly honest, had nothing whatsoever to do with me.

We were down at Moon River and resting on a bench next to the parking lot. In front of us is a space with a sign that says “Buses”. This SUV shows up, a kid about ten gets out and goes to move the sign. The guard comes over and says “No, this area is for buses” (Yes, my Chinese is getting quite good). The driver, who turns out to be a woman, gets into a 5 minute conversation with him. She’s saying she paid 5rmb to park and by all that is holy she is going to park there. He says  no you’re not. Finally, she gets out of the car and goes to move the sign. What can I say – memories of Parkside Place come flooding back. I say “No – No Parking – for buses”. She says “I paid 5 rmb (in English)” “Go get your money back – this is for buses”. She says “Speak Chinese” (Ed. Note: honestly, that is exactly what she said) and then moves the sign out of the way and gets back in to the SVU to back in. However, she is not quick enough – I get up, go over and put the sign back. Now she sits there and I stand there – a Mexican standoff – or maybe a Canadian/Chinese standoff. Finally a few more people show up and some spots open up and she moves on. As the guard passes me by, he gives me the big thumbs up – but as the woman and her son pass me by, she won’t make eye contact. Don’t know why not…

"I paid 5rmb (80 cents) and I'm going to park - forget the lesson I am giving my 10 year old about following rules...

“I paid 5rmb (80 cents) and I’m going to park – forget the lesson I am giving my 10 year old about not having to follow  rules…

Okay, Tacky Tourist photo time. These are photos of photos we have had taken – and paid for. They are a bit blurry because of the reproduction, but you get the idea. The caption will explain. Enjoy

All aboard - don't know if I posted this before, but if we are posting Tacky Tourist Photos, this is No. 1

All aboard – don’t know if I posted this before, but if we are posting Tacky Tourist Photos, this is No. 1

The excitement was still flowing after our amazing ride down the 30 inch rapids just behind us.

The adrenaline was still flowing after our amazing ride down the white water rapids just behind us.

Radiant, don't you think?

Check out the size of that waist!

"It's off to work I go, I go..."

“It’s off to work I go, I go…”

On the edge of the Reflecting Pool in Reed Flute Cave.

On the edge of the Reflecting Pool in Reed Flute Cave.

Speechless - and they give you a key fob and a 1" square photo to insert into the key fob so you can always have this with you.

Speechless – and they give you a key fob and a 1″ square photo to insert into the key fob so you can always have this with you. We have no idea what the white globe is or why it is there…

For those who think these are fake backdrops and we were just in front of a green screen, trust me, I was really there. Although, now that I look again at Tacky Tourist Photo #6, I’m thinking that it might be a good representation of how I felt Sunday night/Monday morning…

Until next time.

Guilin Days 3 and 4 or My Ethnic Princess and Spot the Horses

My Ethnic Princess

My Ethnic Princess


A very important story was missed from the last blog!  Geoff got hit on during the tour boat within the city—and didn’t even know it.  Daniel and I were chuckling about it from the other side of the boat where we could see this short blonde woman leaning in and smiling up at Geoff, obviously trying to engage him in flirtatious conversation.  It was only when he said, “My wife and I are here together” that she turned immediately and walked away, and the penny dropped for Geoff.  “I just got hit on!” he said to me.  No kidding, Sherlock.   It made his day. (Ed. Note: I am just a naturally friendly, unsuspecting guy.)

So, the downside of our trip, briefly.  Both of us felt the effects of the Guilin water. Geoff was in such bad shape that he told me he wouldn’t be going to the rice terraces, really unfortunate as these were the main reason for coming to Guilin.  I agreed that he should stay in bed and I would be just fine going with our small (6 person) tour.  By the time I had breakfast and returned to the room, he was showered and dressed and still looking grey, but prepared to make the trip.

We set off with a new tour guide, a young protégé of Daniel’s named Jen, and got in a van with our fellow travellers.  The trip took 2.5 hours and the closer we got to the terraces, the slower we had to travel as the road was muddy in places from the previous rains.  Small landslides were frequent along the relatively narrow road.

Let your hair down, baby!

Let your hair down, baby!

Our first stop was at the Longji village where we saw the ethnic show, which demonstrated the cultural peculiarities of this group.  The women are the dominant ones in relationships and they never cut their hair, ever.  Their status in life is reflected in their hairstyles:  single women keep their hair coiled and covered with a tight black scarf; married women keep theirs in a style called the snail, coiled on top of the head; and married women with children sport the dragon, featuring a large knot above the forehead.  In courting rituals, the man gently touches his foot to her left foot and she returns by pinching his butt.  When Jen first told us this, I was sure she was saying the women paint the man’s butt, which might be a bit forward, I thought, but pinching was alright.

From there, onward we went up the mountain to Ping ‘An Village.  At this point, the mountain was almost completely socked in but we learned quickly that the weather would change in a few minutes, the skies clearing periodically allowing just enough time to take some amazing  shots of this amazing place.  The people live very much off the grid and the old way of life is apparent.

This woman was about 4 foot 6 inches tall and carried all sorts of things up the mountain in and on her basket.

This woman was about 4 foot 6 inches tall and carried all sorts of things up the mountain in and on her basket.

Old women acted as sherpas for the few white tourists who were staying in the one hotel.  What they could possibly have in their large suitcases for even a week on the mountain top was beyond me.  It wasn’t like they would be doing anything other than hike and photograph, and fine dining experiences were definitely not on the agenda, although the food was passably good in our café.  There is also a hostel in the village, recommended by Lonely Planet.

Our climb took us up up up, more than a thousand steps to two points from which we had spectacular views of the terraces.  Amazing, absolutely spectacular.  Even in poor shape and unable to eat, Geoff made it to the top, so we could enjoy this fantastic place together.  It rained cats and dogs, but we were patient and within 5 or 10 minutes, the clouds broke and we could take photos again.  Feathery clouds against the mountains with the terraces below – what a reward!

And I do love stairs!

And I do love stairs!

On the downhill trip, we stopped at a kiosk where I donned an ethnic costume.  For Y30, we got two pics in plastic coating, no doubt to preserve them from the rain.  That was when we decided we should take advantage of every tacky photo opportunity we encountered—why not?

These are shops built precariously all along the path up the mountain, selling drinks, trinkets, photo ops, etc.

These are shops built precariously all along the path up the mountain, selling drinks, trinkets, photo ops, etc.

Everything is brought up on the backs of someone. Here is a stack of ceiling tiles.

Everything is brought up on the backs of someone. Here are stacks of ceiling tiles.

But was it ever worth it.

The "white" are actually flooded rice terraces.

The “white” are actually flooded rice terraces.

Another view of the terraces.

Another view of the terraces – all built by hand over the last 600 years.

They use every space they can.

They use every space they can.

This cabin has been here for who knows how long.

This shelter has been here for who knows how long.

A Hill With a View

A Hill With a View

Flooding, Reed Flute Cave and Wandering

By this time we were pooped, figuratively and literally, so decided to have a low-key day.  Daniel sent his friend and student, Joe Hu (who) to take us to the Reed Flute Cave, the biggest in Guilin.  This place is crazy big.  According to Joe, if they cleared away the stalactites and stalagmites, the entire 7storey Sheraton Hotel would fit into the space.  Yet another example of what nature can do with a limestone base.

The cave in its natural state was interesting enough but the local government, in an effort to please tourists, installed lights and stone walkways, which were helpful.  However, the lighting really detracted from the place, much more so in pictures.  We were stunned to find all of ours in mad fluorescent colours.  They did not seem so garish when inside but apparently the camera picks up more than our eyes.   We took advantage of another tacky photo opportunity.

For some bizarre reason, way more colours show up in the photos than what you actually see.

For some bizarre reason, way more colors show up in the photos than what you actually see.

The rest of our last full day in Guilin was spent wandering the walkways along the rivers and streets, taking pictures of the Ozmanthus trees and the river. Now remember how we were so doubtful of Daniel’s claim about the height of the water? We had heavy rain on one day and one night. How heavy? We reprise the photo of the horses from Day 1 with a photo taken from exactly the same view point on Day 4.

Nice Horsie...

You see the posts just ahead of the first horse? Well, look below.

Swim, Flicka, swim!

Swim, Flicka, swim!     Also, check out the shrubs on the bank in the two photos.                                             And, officially, the rainy season starts TODAY!

We couldn’t imagine what the road to Ping ‘An village must have been like but Daniel told us that a detour was necessary and some groups got home late at night. We could well imagine, as the limestone so easily erodes, especially in heavy rains.

We had to conclude that our trip to Guilin was incredibly lucky.  First, we arrived in sunshine before the national holiday and crowds, and were able to walk around and take the river cruise within the city without a drop of rain interfering.  The sunshine followed us on the Li River cruise.  We got to see all the sites and take pictures galore.  Had we waited until the next day to cruise, our trip would have been shortened by nearly 2 hours as the river was running so fast, and the bamboo raft trip would have been cancelled.  The evening show we saw in Yangshou was also cancelled as the seats where we sitting (Row 27) were under water!  A day later and the trip to the terraces would have been taxing and somewhat dangerous, not to mention muddy, slippery and extremely time-consuming. Instead, we did it all and were able to explore the cave nearly by ourselves on our last day, not with a multitude of Chinese tourists, so we had lots of clear photo opportunities and were able to hear Joe when he spoke.

Not all of China is interesting but Guilin is fantastic—we highly recommend it as a place to see!

(Ed. note: some photos of things we saw on our walk:

"What was I thinking?" a. He's thinking about her b. She's thinking about him or c. Their thinking about the color they chose

“What was I thinking?”
a. He’s thinking about her
b. She’s thinking about him
c. Their thinking about the color they chose

The increibly beautiful walkway along the Li River, across the street from our hotel.

The incredibly beautiful walkway along the Li River, across the street from our hotel.

At the risk of offending, a common Chinese driving school technique. LOL

At the risk of offending, a common Chinese driving school technique. LOL

Last night we had dinner at a little Spanish restaurant by the hotel. We watched with amazement as

1. a car pulled up,

2. a young woman got out, moved a traffic pylon and a 2 x 3 foot sign that said “No Parking” in both Chinese and English and were centered in this spot

3. the man she was with parked the car and

4. she put the sign back between their car and the bus and

5. they walked away.

When we left, I put the sign right up against their car door and Terry put the pylon next to it.

A prime example of the "It is only me that matters" attitude we have come across far too frequently.

A prime example of the “It is only me that matters” attitude we have come across far too frequently.

One final unique experience from this morning to share. I went down for breakfast at 6:15 and Terry came down about 7:40. At about 8:15, I went back up to the room to shower and get ready to leave. As I approach the room door, I notice that Terry has, advertently (love that it isn’t a word) or inadvertently left the security latch open so that the door hasn’t actually closed. This is very strange because, if nothing else, Terry is paranoid about that kind of thing. When I go in, however, I realize that it’s open because she has packed everything up and taken it down to the front desk, which is fine – except that she has packed up my toiletries as well. I get my shirt off and start for the bathroom, when out of the corner of my eye, I notice that there are two double beds and when I left we had one king. Whoops, wrong room! Shirt back on and up two floors to our room, where the door is locked and our stuff is still there. To quote Rasputin from the early ‘80s – “Oh those crazy Canadians!”)