Monthly Archives: June 2013

It’s 4 a.m. and I Can’t Get Up

Well we made it to the Great Wall yesterday and walked for a good three hours. It was quite an experience walking on the Great Wall. We got there quite early (actually, very early) and surprisingly had it almost all to ourselves for the first hour or so. It started off with a cable car ride to the top.

Aahh I remember the good old days, when you froze just getting up the mountain!

Aahh I remember the good old days, when you froze just getting up the mountain!

Now many of you might be reticent to call this a cable car and instead refer to it as a two person chairlift, and to you I say “Picky, picky”.  It is, after all, The Great Wall. While there are places where it is a gradual climb or where the top of the wall – which is about 10 feet wide – is smooth, most of it is stairs and they are 4′, 8” or 12″ high. I don’t do well on stairs. Even at home I am huffing and puffing when I reach the top of our stairs. After the first set of 264 steps I decided that the best thing was to traverse back and forth, much like when one is riding a bike up a steep hill, or skiing down a steep slope. This made it much easier for me although I was constantly behind the very fit Terry! This was particularly upsetting in light of the sign which I saw as we started up the first set of steep stairs. seniorDo you think Terry was going to help the senior? Not bloody likely! Off she went.

I’m not exactly sure how far apart the towers on the wall are – likely varying distance, but they were always just a little too far for me. At each one there was a vendor selling pop, beer, chocolate, trinkets/souvenirs, etc. I skipped the first couple but then I needed a coke and bought one from this fellow. We chatted for a few minutes and he told me that he is 59 years old and walks 5 km through the forest from Mongolia to the wall every day to sell his stuff and eke out an existence. I know some of you might not believe him – but I did – he had no reason to lie to me since I was about to leave anyway. vendorAfter that I bought something from almost everyone I saw – chocolate, kleenex, or whatever else they might have. I can’t imagine being the age these people were and having to depend on the generosity of tourists for my existence.

Anyway, it seemed that as we walked, we went through different seasons. It was quite amazing, actually. It wasn’t cold, but after the storm that passed through Friday, there was even snow on part of it. These photos were taken from different places on the Wall.

Wall1Wall2Wall3Wall4

All right, I guess I better fess up. These photos are actually postcards purchased from a couple of the vendors. Why not include our photos? Well take a look below. This was OUR day on the wall. Yes we walked for three hours but in the rain and fog you were lucky to see 100 feet in the distance. We did, however, have the wall pretty much to ourselves.

Terry leaving me to struggle on up the stairs alone.

Terry leaving me to struggle on up the stairs alone.

Ahh, the view!

Ahh, the view!

A family of "traditional ha" wearers.

A family of “traditional hat” wearers.

These were the first 264 stairs - I know because I counted them!

These were the first 264 stairs – I know because I counted them!

See - we were really on The Great Wall.

See – we were really on The Great Wall.

And we did climb all those stairs – as I write this it is 27 hours after we got off the wall and my calves will not allow me to walk DOWN an escalator at the airport. Why the title? I got up this morning at 4 to – well you know, and I had to sit right back down again on the bed because my legs weren’t ready to hold me after all the abuse on “The Great Wall”. It was so miserable that when we finished we didn’t even go on to the Summer Palace, as that is all outside as well. Instead, we came back in to Beijing, where after a couple of hot showers, we decided to WALK the 3.4 kms to the Silk Market AND the 3.4 kms back. (I say “we” but in this case “we” should be spelled Terry). That may also be contributing to my aching calves. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining – or hot and humid as was forecast. Terry will be regaling you with the rest of our Beijing time soon, so stay tuned!

Beijing Impressions

When we rolled in last night, the pollution meter was registering 250, unhealthy for all living organisms.  The air felt gritty, my throat scratchy and my eyes itchy.  Oh-oh, I thought, this might not be good.  This morning, the sky was still overcast and dreary but the forecast was okay.  Headed over to the local Starbuck’s and when we came out, it had started to rain.  Just at the point I thought, “Where is an umbrella lady?” one appeared and Geoff bought two, without bargaining.  40 kuai for 2  6 kuai umbrellas.  A local then bought one from her for 15 kuai (about $3).  Geoff called her on the rip-off and demanded she give him 10 kuai.  Good luck.  You might as well ask for a bank roll.  No chance that was going to happen, but she did offer him a lovely plastic rain cape.  While she was helping someone else, he picked up another umbrella from her box and held it in his hand while demanding a refund.  She refused so we walked off with 3 crappy umbrellas.  She  had the last laugh, however, because when the skies opened up, Geoff’s umbrella leaked.

How heavy was the rain - check out the reflections of the cyclists in the "lake"

How heavy was the rain – check out the reflections of the cyclists in the “lake”

It rained heavily all morning.  We carried on to the Forbidden City, a 10 minute walk from our hotel, and joined the throngs trying to avoid the worst of the puddles.  We finally just waded through–we moved faster that way–and took on the new challenge of avoiding umbrella spokes in the eyes.  The good news was that fewer people were out, but This Is China and fewer still means lots!  Our photos will give you the flavour of the day.  For starters, a couple we met while in Guilin said that you really didn’t have to go in, just climb the pagoda at the north end of the property and you could see the whole thing.  The photo below gives you an idea of how much we would have seen from there today.

That's the pagoda in the distance - maybe half a mile away.

That’s the pagoda in the distance – maybe half a mile away.

What to say about The Forbidden City?  Built between 1406 and 1420 by one of the Ming emperors, it is a sprawling place of various sized halls and meeting rooms (Ed. note – 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2 (7,800,000 sq ft).).  Presumably there were also living quarters but we saw only part of one of these.  It stands in quite a vast area–800 meters square, I believe–divided by a series of massive gates that acted as defenses for the Emperor and his family (and concubines).  The Qing Dynasty followed the Ming and they too lived in the city.   If you remember the movie,  The Last Empire of the Sun, the Qing child-emperor was so frightened during his swearing-in ceremony that his father told him, portentously, not to worry, “it would be over soon.”  Sure enough, in 1911, the last of the Qing Emperors was conquered during a military uprising.  Sadly, the conquerors completely pillaged the palace and very few of the priceless artifacts remain.  Consequently, the place is largely empty, which gives one the sense that it is nothing more than a series of gates, empty rooms and halls., but it surely was much much more.

Hall of Purity

Hall of Purity

Hall of Mental Purity

Hall of Mental Purity (honestly)

Hall of Something of Other

Hall of Something of Other

(Ed. note: Our friends Dave and Joan Mickie lived in Europe for awhile and talked about the ABC tours – “Another Bloody Church”. This is the ABCEH tour “Another Bloody Chinese Empty Hall”)

We chose to visit an exhibit of clocks while we were there and before you laugh at the Chinese for their overly decorated froo-froo tastes, bear in mind that a number of the clocks in our pictures were actually made in England and France.  Admittedly, the Chinese did take clock-making to a new level of hideousness by making it into “entertainment” with moving characters, waterfalls and numerous animals and oddities running amok on the clock bases.  Apparently there wasn’t a lot to do in the Forbidden City.

Looks like one of Santa's reindeer to me

Looks like one of Santa’s reindeer to me

3 Guys sitting around, chewing the fat...

3 Guys sitting around, chewing the fat…

Half Dragon - Half Turtle

Half Dragon – Half Turtle

Umbrella, umbrellas - theirs probably don't leak though!

Umbrella, umbrellas – theirs probably don’t leak though!

Wisely, visitors are directed to enter the City at the south gate and exit by the North, so the last thing one sees is the beautiful but small garden.  As Geoff pointed out, there is a veritable dearth of greenery in the whole vast complex.  Outside of the garden, there was nothing growing, not even in pots.  I like to think that there were plants when Emperors lived there, but some pragmatist decided that cement blocks were easier to keep up.

(Ed. note: Just how big is this place? To give you an idea, on the right is the map of the Forbidden City. The yellow square is the courtyard in the photo. From where I took the picture on the left to the opposite corner is  400-500 yards. Maybe this gives you a small idea.)

it is big.

It is BIG.

Once we exited, our plan was to skirt our way back around the City and visit Tiananmen Square but then after 25 minutes of walking, we decided to catch a cab and go to Houtai, a bar and restaurant area built around the shores of 3 small lakes.  Because it was still very wet and raining off and on, the place was nearly deserted.  We found a spot to have lunch, which we thoroughly enjoyed along with 2 cold pi jiou (beer).  These were the most expensive we have had in China–38 kuai each!!!  Just over $6–outrageous!  They cost as much as our entire lunch of chicken skewers, fried egg rice, green grassy stuff and a Beijing specialty, ground beef in a bun.  Yummy!  Geoff didn’t like it because the buns were seemingly whole wheat.  Sigh.  Some things will never change. (Ed. note: NO FAIR!! I loved the greens (honestly) which Terry called grass!!)

greens

(Ed.note: After lunch we wandered for a while and then took a forty minute “rickshaw” ride – the guy pulled us on a bike, not by running. Bit of a rip-off I thought.  Anyway, after the ride we, walked for awhile and saw some of the sights.

One of these guys was yelling "No photo, no photo" as the woman turned and walked away. Terry defiantly took it anyway.

One of these guys was yelling “No photo, no photo” as the woman turned and walked away. Terry defiantly took it anyway. She is becoming a bit of a bad ass – thanks Kim!

Terry really wanted her picture take with this guy.

Note the similar right hand extension.

Note the similar right hand extension.

Next came a bar which has not only ripped off a bad tv show, but couldn’t even spell it correctly. Look closely.

Sex an da city?

Sex an da city?

Mal, you would be in agreement and in heaven, I assume.

For Mal

Not sure what the song of blessing is, or the well gift and don’t even want to speculate on the special casserole porridge – but they got desserts and beer so how bad can it be?

Just before we reached Tiananmen Square we came up some stairs from the underground passageway. This poor girl could hardly get up the last two stairs. As Terry said, when she started out this morning, she was sure wearing these was a good idea. Maybe not so much. Her boyfriend was in running shoes.)

"I love the look - it's th feel that kills"

“I love the look – it’s the feel that kills”

Finally, Tiananmen Square.  Many of you may remember, as I did, the fellow who stood in front of the tanks bearing down on a student demonstration in the square.  You will remember incorrectly, as I did, the event did not happen in the square but on Chang An Avenue somewhere along the way to the square where the protest was happening.  The square itself is not very imposing–it’s just a square, a giant 800 square meter square with a monument to “The People” in its centre.  They have done some nice things with plants which I was interested in so Geoff chose the moment to ham it up with some Chinese girls having their pictures taken.ham(Ed. note: Again NO FAIR – they both wanted their picture taken with who they thought was George Clooney!)

Tomorrow, we go to The Great Wall and The Summer Palace.

Getting from there to here

Today – A short dissertation on travel in China. (1 picture, lots of words)

Well here we are in Beijing – who’d a thunk it? Yesterday in Jiaxing it was quite warm and muggy. When you get on a bus in Jiaxing you never know if it will have air conditioning or not or whether or not the driver just doesn’t turn it on since they all have fans just above their head which keep them quite comfortable. We had just over an hour to get to the train and the bus takes 40 minutes but, due to my penchant for perspiring I suggested to Terry we take a cab. Now the cab normally takes about 25 minutes, but today, no, he takes about 12. So instead of having just a few minutes to wait before we board, we have an hour. (TIC). Our train arrives on time and away we go. We arrive in Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station at 1:46 and have a 25 minute walk to the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Terminal 2 to check in for a 2:55 flight. So we hustle on over. Surprisingly, there is no one in line to check in for the flight so that goes very quickly and off we go to the gate.

Shanghai Hongqiao Airport is quite large (in fact you need to take the subway from Terminal 1 to 2 it is so large.) Anyway, we get to the gate and decide that we likely won’t like any meal they are serving so we get some McDonalds to hold us (yes, that’s how bad the food on China airlines can be). At 2:30 I say that I’m not sure we will be leaving since we haven’t started boarding. True enough! After a couple of delays (one for “mechanical difficulties” and one for “unusually heavy air traffic” – how does that happen? aren’t all air flights scheduled a long time in advance?), we finally board at 4:00. No problem – one hour late is no big deal. Now, I did see at one point all the luggage being offloaded from our plane, but I guess I missed it when they put it back on.  So there we are on the plane and it is about 1/3 full. Now, remember, when we got to the gate, it was still scheduled for a 2:55 departure. When Terry and I boarded, we were among the last of the people to get on from seating area. However, people keep ambling in – 4:10, 4:15 still loading. I say to Terry “Where are these people coming from – if the plane had been on time they would have missed it.” 4:20, 4:25 – more people. Finally, at 4:30 they close the doors and we pull away from the gate and taxi out.

I don’t know what it is called, but we get to the “pre-take-off place” before you get to the runway and stop. The cool thing is that on they have a camera showing the runway from the bottom of the plane, so we can see any action below us. We continue to sit. Finally, at 5:15 we pull on to  the runway and take off. Now, the pilot was great. You know how you usually turn that corner on to the runway and then sit? No sir. He made that turn and away we went – and that camera was still on – stayed on until about 10 minutes after take off. Lorna, you would have loved it!!

The Flight – I want to apologize to all 8 flight attendants for being on the plane. Clearly we (and I include all of the passengers) were interrupting their day – and they all made that quite clear. When the plane was still only 1/3 full, Terry had the audacity to ask for a blanket since the air conditioning was blasting full force. After a sketchy look, one went away and came back a few minutes later to tell us that they were all gone. And then, miraculously, one showed up! And as we watched around us, a bunch more showed up! Amazing. Another amazing thing – when they bring the drink cart around you get orange juice which looks and tastes just like water! Amazing.

We finally arrive in Beijing which is the largest airport in Asia, according to our guide John. I wouldn’t disagree. It went forever and we were only in Terminal 3. Took us 20 minutes to get from the gate to the baggage area, and then another 25 minutes to get to the parking lot.

When we arrived at the hotel (it was built in 1919 and was the first hotel in Beijing), we were met by a lovely young lady named Cindy who helped me with my Chinese and us with getting settled in our very lovely suite. There are two buildings which make up the hotel. We are staying in Building 7. Go figure. Sadly, the air conditioning didn’t work very well which made for a long night for Terry,

And thus endeth our journey.

The lovely Cindy

The lovely Cindy. Quite a splashy lobby!

 

I Go Outside The Box

As many (maybe even most) of you know, one week ago I sent the following email to 100* of the 104 the Canadian Senators (not the hockey ones, the “real” ones):

Good morning.

I am a 62 year old Canadian who has been a voter in every municipal, provincial and federal election since I was able to vote. I cannot honestly say I have a considered opinion of the value of our Senate, but I will say that if you have any respect for the people of Canada, you will either call for or support the removal of Senator Duffy from his position. His continued denial of any wrongdoing should be an embarrassment to the senators who believe in our system of government and our country.

Thank you.

So far I have received 4 responses and I thought I would share them with you.

I am with you, sir.
Thanks for your concern.
Dennis Patterson
Senator for Nunavut

(Senator Patterson, a Conservative Affiliated Senator was the first to respond – did so within minutes, leading me to believe, naively, that I would get an overwhelming response.)

Dear Mr. Watt, Senator Duffy’s case is now before the RCMP. I am as disgusted as you about this whole affair.
I want to assure you that if he is charged he will be suspended and if he is convicted he will be  thrown out of the Senate. I thank you for your interest in this matter. Senator David Tkachuk

(Senator Tkachuk is also a Conservative Affiliated Senator.)

Dear Geoff,

Thank you for sending me your thoughts.

Like most Canadians I too am very disappointed in the unacceptable behavior of some Senators with regard to improper expenses. There is no excuse for this type of behaviour.

With regard to my situation, the  Senate rules are clear, however I do respect that some Senators have more complicated situations than I do with regard to their residency. There is, however,  ample opportunity to get clarification should someone not understand the rules.

We are privileged to have the opportunity to serve our country. I take my Senate obligations very seriously and can assure you that I do everything possible to be frugal with public funds.

Again, thank you for writing.

Yours sincerely,

NGR
Sen. Nancy Greene Raine

(Senator Raine is also a Conservative Affiliated Senator. I put her response down as, let’s say, interesting.)

Dear Mr. Watt,

Thank you for your e-mail.

On January 6, 2012, I was honoured to accept Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s invitation to serve the country as a Conservative member of the Senate, and to fully support the Government of Canada’s efforts to reform the Senate.

As a proud Senator of Manitoba, I am very disappointed by the conduct of some of my colleagues whose actions may have impacted the reputation of the Senate, and there should be consequences for their misuse of public funds.

In the wake of these events, I look forward to establishing greater transparency.  I believe that we must provide Canadian taxpayers with the accountability they deserve and the Senate has started this process by adopting 11 new rules to increase accountability.

The Conservative government’s efforts to support Senate reform include term limits and the appointment of Senators elected in the provinces.  I look forward to the Supreme Court of Canada’s opinion on what can be done through legislation to reform the Senate.

As a Senator from Manitoba, I have the privilege to work with the government on issues that truly affect Canadians.  I will continue to emphasize the importance of agriculture to the Canadian economy and to advocate for women in rural communities.  I am also undertaking new research to explore the importance of agriculture in developing nations and the leadership role Canada can play to support sustainable food systems.

As Senator, my priorities are to serve Manitobans and all Canadians to the best of my ability.  I will continue to support the Government of Canada’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

Above all, I will perform my duties with the utmost respect for Canadian taxpayers.

Sincerely,

JoAnne Buth
Senator

(Senator Buth is also a Conservative Affiliated Senator. Her comments certainly seem to be leading us in a positive direction.)

Some interesting points:

  • Terry maintains I have found a new raison d’être
  • All of the responses come from Conservative Affiliated Senators. Do Liberals not care or are they just too busy?
  • Senator Duffy asked the Prime Minister to appoint him as an Independent and not as a Conservative.
  • *3 senators don’t have email access and 1 address wouldn’t work. 6 or so have their email go directly to a secretary. Shouldn’t all of these people be responsible to the people paying their salaries?
  • While getting their email addresses, I had a chance to look at their published bios. These people are senators? Jacques Demers – a hockey coach; Larry Campbell – a coroner; Gerald Comeau – university professor with a special interest in gardening (really?); Ann Cools – degrees in Social Sciences, Sociology and Psychology Major (so what?).
  • I could go on but what’s the point. Granted, there do appear to be people who seem to have some qualifications, but a downhill skier? At least she responded.

Now, as they say in Thailand, something Same Same but Different.

This is an email sent to Prime Minister Harper by a friend of Rich and Nancy’s and the response he received.

Dear Hon. Prime Minister:

I listened with considerable sadness and disgust to your address to caucus on May, 21, 2013. To be frank, I am appalled at both your remarks and refusal to face questions from reporters. This refusal to ‘face the music’ can only be described as cowardly.

I find the ‘ I am not happy’ comment to be a remarkable understatement. Is unhappiness / disappointment the best you can do and say when all that you have stood for (in terms of the: accountability, transparency and integrity of government mantra you so solemnly promised Canadians back in 2005) lies in tatters?

You invite ‘people who want to use public office for their own benefit’ to leave the room and your government. Sir, this is not leadership. Scoundrels do not abdicate; they must be forcefully removed. You announced the new, post-Sponsorship standard back in 2005 and you are charged to act decisively when that standard is broken. ‘Inviting’ crooks and scoundrels to leave, voluntarily, their high positions is hardly the sort of leadership Canadians expect from the Office of the Prime Minister.

I am extremely disappointed to acknowledge that during your term as Prime Minister, everything from the integrity of the PM’s Office to decorum in the House of Commons and Senate have substantially declined in the minds of Canadians. And, you say you are ‘unhappy and disappointed with this state of affairs!! Where are your feelings of responsibility, disgust, moral indignation, and sense of betrayal by those you appointed? And, speaking of these appointments – all the way from your Chief of Staff, to Senators, and even the murderous pilot who flew your aircraft – what does this incredible array of problematic appointments reveal about your judgement?

You, Sir, more than anyone else are responsible for the present cesspool of controversy, sleazy payouts and subterfuge that seems never to end in Ottawa. Your refusal to act decisively created the present, moral quagmire and I implore you, therefore, to reset your moral compass, apologize for what has occurred under your watch and, finally, ensure that those who abuse their office are not just temporally removed from The PC Caucus but terminated from both government and its bureaucracy.

A very disgusted constituent,
name, address and phone number removed by Geoff

Response

From: Prime Minister/Premier Minister <PM@pm.gc.ca>
To: name removed by Geoff

Please know that your e-mail message has been received in the Prime Minister’s Office and that your comments have been noted.  Our office always welcomes hearing from correspondents and being made aware of their views.

Thank you for writing.

Destruction and Growth

First an apology to our neighbours upstairs. It is not them who are doing the renovations. Rather, it is the people on floor 11 (we are on 9) and one apartment over who are ripping the apartment up. Yesterday Terry and I were talking about the fact that the renos were being done at a very civilized time – not until the afternoon. Well, today I got my comeuppance – they started at 7:30. I’m pretty sure Tina next door with the new baby was ecstatic! Yesterday they all went to the in-laws in the afternoon so Aaron could sleep.  Anyway, as I left for the office, I thought I would get some photos of Chinese construction, so here they are. (Ed. note: This is reminding me of our renos a couple of years ago. Ahhhh, good times!)

Breaking up is hard to do. First you have to break through the tile, and then the sub-floor (more on the sub-floor later).

Breaking up is hard to do. First you have to break through the tile, and then the sub-floor (more on the sub-floor later).

One all the floors are done, you have a big pile of stuff to get rid of. (See the other day's blog for a photo of the disposal method).

Once all the floors are done, you have a big pile of stuff to get rid of. (See the other day’s blog for a photo of the disposal method).

You have to get rid of interior brick walls (3 walls gone and a door way enlarged here.) In Damages, Glenn Close was told that those old brick walls were a great design feature in her New York apaartment. These brick walls, however are only about 10 years old, so not much a design feature, I guess.

You have to get rid of interior brick walls (3 walls gone and a door way enlarged here.) In Damages, Glenn Close was told that those old brick walls were a great design feature in her New York apartment. These brick walls, however are only about 10 years old, so not much a design feature, I guess.

This is the living space. All these walls are concrete - hard to hang photos. The tile floor is still in place, but I ma guessing not for long.

This is the living space. All these walls are concrete – hard to hang photos. The tile floor is still in place (covered in dust), but I am guessing not for long.

Okay, about that sub-floor. Under the 1/2" tile is 2" (yes two inches) of - wait for it - ashphalt and then the concrete floor. Why ashphalt? Why 2"? Why not? (Ed. note: Sorry about the poor photo quality).

Okay, about that sub-floor. Under the 1/2″ tile is 2″ (yes two inches) of – wait for it – asphalt and THEN the concrete floor. Why asphalt? Why 2″? Why not? (Ed. note: Sorry about the poor photo quality. Tough to get the perspective correct).

Then I was off to the office – but I thought I would get some shots of how some people keep their yards.

A couple of weeks ago two workers dug up a mound of earth which separated our path from the roadway. Since then I have seen people show up with bags and planters to remove the excess. "Borrowed Earth"  for sure. Not exactly sure though what is going to happen with the area they de-mounded.

A couple of weeks ago two workers dug up a mound of earth which separated our path (right of the post) from the roadway. Since then I have seen people show up with bags and planters to remove the excess (left of the post). “Borrowed Earth” for sure. Not exactly sure though what is going to happen with the area they de-mounded.

Some people plant corn on one side of their path and leave the other side fallow.

Some people plant corn on one side of their path and leave the other side fallow.

Some people pour concrete over the entire thing - and then add an outdoor sink (for watering what?).

Some people pour concrete over the entire thing – and then add an outdoor sink (for watering what?).

Some people have nice, well maintained vegetable gardens.

Some people have nice, well maintained vegetable gardens.

And finally, some people just have nicely maintained gardens. Enjoy.

And finally, some people just have nicely maintained gardens. Enjoy.

A Sunday in Shanghai

Yes, Shanghai! Every once in awhile, we are struck by the fact that we live in China and go periodically to hang out in Shanghai!  Really, fantastic is the only way to describe it.

I’ll confess right from the start that I was somewhat hungover and tired when we headed out for our walking tour, discovered over breakfast in the latest edition of Time Out Shanghai, the what-to-do, where-to-eat magazine that has given me so much good advice to date.  Off we headed to explore the architecture created by Ludlo Hudec in the 1930s when Shanghai was at its (first) height.  I felt better  upon finding the Grand Theatre and Park Hotel, close to each other and each a wonder of Art Deco styling.  The magazine sweetened the walk by running a contest for readers:  do the walk and answer some questions by reading various displays, plaques and construction signs and be entered to win a glorious weekend at the Pudong Shangri-La.  Oh yeah, baby!  Let’s do it!

Shanghai Weddings

We schlepped through a number of neighbourhoods, getting lost once and trying to answer the question of the wrong building, but it was fun!  Nearly at the end, we happened upon a “renovated” neighbourhood near a canal and set up as a pedestrian mall–a rarity in Shanghai and a blessing.  Apparently all the brides in Shanghai go there for their wedding photos, many of which we will post for you here.  And why wouldn’t they?  If you can get a spot on the bridge over the canal, the backdrop is Pudong, with arguably the most interesting architecture anywhere.

The Pudong Skyline

The Pudong Skyline

I hereby dedicate this portion of the blog to my dear friend Lynne and her husband Martin, whose son is getting married in September.  It’s too bad Jelena already has her dress as I’m sure she would be inspired by these designs:

Bride Number 1

Bride Number 1

She is happy because her shoes aren't on...

She is happy because her shoes aren’t on…

A Flowing Veil

A Flowing Veil

A Beautiful Bride

A Beautiful Bride

If you are going to look up, why bend over?

Not a good pose.

Very elegant

Very elegant, except perhaps for the rental shoes.  Didn’t have his size…

Very coy

Very coy and natural, don’t you think?

Jump for joy! Just wait, pal.

Jump for joy! Just wait, pal.

if you look your best on your wedding day...

Geoff’s comment:  if you look your best on your wedding day…

This lovely woman even let Geoff have his picture taken with her.

This lovely bride even let Geoff have his picture taken with her.

Now for the final three. These are award winning photographs. Which one would you choose to publish in the Shanghai Weddings magazine?

The groom had no iea where to put his hand - honestly.

Gangnam style meets working girl?  The groom had no idea where to put his hand – honestly.

The groom picked his bride up and spun around three times - she was less than happy when he put her down.

The groom picked his bride up and spun around three times – she was less than happy when he put her down.

And finally,

"We are not amused."

“We are not amused.”

1 Order of “Baloney” with Pancakes and a side of OJ Please

Well here it is, another hot, humid Monday afternoon in Jiaxing at 3:30. Normally at his time I am just waking up from my 1/2 hour power nap. Sadly, not today. Apparently the people above us are doing some renovations. Now, as you may know almost all building in China are concrete. This means that when you do renos, you have to break down the concrete. Can you say 2 and 1/2 hours of jack hammering? I don’t know exactly what they are doing, but I don’t think there can be a wall left standing. I sure hope they got strata approval for this. LOL!

This how they dispose of destruction detrimus - via bags!

This how they dispose of destruction detrimus – via bags!

Some photos I have been accumulating for awhile.

Tommy the Turtle

Tommy the Turtle

Terry mentioned the turtle soup we had a couple of weeks ago at Aaron’s birthday party. Here it is.

The Road to Nowhere

The Road to Nowhere

I saw this road awhile ago. It runs right into the bridge and stops. Why it is there I don’t know since it just ends.

I was off to the office this morning and followed Grandma, Grampa and the little one. I am not exactly sure what this might mean – I hope it is not literal, though.

This is why I need to go to school.

This is why I need to go to school.

As in all major cities, Jiaxing has underground wiring for many of their services (they also have a massive amount of aboveground wiring, but that’s a different topic). I have posted other pictures of how the residents get their scooters up steps, but I am wondering if there is a big hole somewhere. The photo on the left is how they are supposed to be used, the photo on the right, not so much.

Anyone missing a couple of CATV covers?

Anyone missing a couple of CATV covers?

We have shown you pictures of other workers’ residences. These are all over China (at least the parts of China we have seen). We are told that these numbers are for, let’s say, companionship – but that “no one ever calls them”. My question is how do they get them on the sides of the buildings – especially the ones so  far up?

For a good time call...

For a good time call…

This is the Beijiao River which flows quite near our house – we can see the traffic on it from our balcony. It has constant barge traffic on it so I was quite surprised today to see the green algae on it. It reminds me of the water in front of #1.  (Ed note:  these residences are  miserable homes to migrant workers coming in to work the construction trade.  They live on the construction site so their living spaces must constantly be covered in dust and grime, and the sounds of hammers and machinery, not to mention the neighbours, must be wearing.  The walls are plywood, no insulation so the units will be cold in winter and hot in summer.  They share a meager cooking and cleaning facility.  Today’s paper reported that construction workers are one of the few groups who actually sign contracts, as construction is considered a dangerous job (no kidding), and the contract offers some protection in case of accident.  I have to wonder if this life is really better than what they left in the country…and I seriously wonder who the owners expect to buy their apartments.  The laws of supply and demand do not seem to apply to this faction.  There is simply a glut of apartments in our city, and still they build.)

The River

The Beijiao River

Lastly for Jiaxing (moving in to Shanghai next, folks) is the Boloni (baloney – get it?) Lifestyle Museum. Now, I didn’t go in so I am left to wonder just how old the furnishings in there might be…

Museum or Store?

Museum or Store?

Okay, so on to Shanghai. We were in this past weekend to see friends, have dinner, do some shopping, and sight see. On Sunday morning we went to Mr. Pancake House for breakfast. Think IHOP only WAY better – except for the service. We have been twice now – once with Ken in January and now. So count it as 5 meals – 6 if you count the fact that Terry had to send hers back yesterday because it was cold. At no time were there ever two meals served at the same time. Terry’s came first yesterday (waffles, ham and eggs), she sent it back and she STILL got it before mine (pancakes, home fries, sausage and eggs) came. The meals are good, though – when they finally arrive, and check out how the straw stands up in the whipped OJ.

Now that is freshly whipped!

Now that is freshly whipped!

Unfortunately I couldn’t get a great photo of Mr. Pancake. We aren’t exactly sure what he is. That is a huge dollop of butter on his head – but is that a nose and goatee or a moustache and goatee or ???

Mr. Pancake

Mr. Pancake

On Friday night we went out to dinner to a Thai restaurant in an upscale mall on Nanjing Road. Now Nanjing Road is like Robson Street or Bloor Street in Mayor Ford’s city (LOL), but take a look at how busy it was on a Friday night at 8 0’clock (stores open until 10).

Mall Shot #1

Mall Shot #1

Mall Shot #2

Mall Shot #2

Mall Shot #3

Mall Shot #3

Finally, where do you hang your laundry to get that fresh outdoor scent? The electrical wires?

Ah Fresh!

Ahhhh Fresh!

Coming soon –

Weddings in Shanghai, A Special Report!