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.
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.
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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.)
(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.)