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.

3 thoughts on “Two Sundays in Jiaxing

  1. lois marsden

    Our daughter lives In France, where one has to put in their own kitchen and supposedly take it with them when they leave the house. Weird…She moved into a house without a counter top, some cupboards missing etc …not the landlord’s concern. Great insight into daily life in China.

  2. joan

    Wow! I like the part about the money given at birth, buy not so much the party!
    I like the hairdos on the dudes, especially Geoff’s.

  3. Ken Haycock

    Geoff, the clothes are bland? That turquoise outfit? Big hair, gay or fey? You I could figure out…


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