Well well life is never dull in old China. We have had a good start to the school year – the 31 new grade 10s are great – bubbly, receptive and bright. It will be a good year with them. The grade 11s are back and seemingly hyped for their second year and our three new teachers are eager to teach and learn – besides being really nice guys! Took them to Krabi last night (where else) and had a great meal – 13 dishes (old favourites and new taste delights) and 9 large beer – all for $24 a person.
Today we had to go in to Shanghai – just a couple of small errands and then back home in time for dinner. HA! We had our train tickets for 8:45 It started at Starbucks, of all places. Got there just before 8 and had to wait since they don’t actually open until 8. Yoyo knew our orders and whipped them up – and then realized that she had not made them with non-fat milk so had to throw them out and start again. By now, it is pushing 8:10 but we get lucky and there is a cab just outside the door. WHEW. We get in and say “Jiaxing Nan Zhen” which means Jiaxing South Station. No problem he says and off we go. Now, granted we don’t travel much at 8 in the morning but did neither did we expect the amount of slow traffic we saw. I finally got the ticket out to show the driver that we had to be there for 8:45. “Oh okay” – and he immediately swerves into the scooter/bike lane and off we go! What a blast! Just like a PNE ride. I am sitting there with the Venti Latte gently being held between my feet as I get something out of my backpack. Suddenly, I have a small lake on the floor. I have to use the facecloth I carry to wipe my perspiration off my face to soak up my latte and squeeze it out the window several times to get it all off the floor. (Pub. note: the driver is studying Geoff’s hand through his rear-view each time it goes out the back window and squeezes fluid out of a wash cloth… what he must think is going on in the back seat!) However, we did get to the station in record time!
We are standing on the platform waiting for the train when a woman and daughter walk up and stand right in front of us. WHAT? I step in front of the woman – much to Terry’s horror. “She’s old” she says – I say “I’m older” No matter, I am pulled back. We get on the train. Now, some background info for you. When you buy tickets on Chinese trains, you get assigned a seat. Very civilized, right? Well, if the train is full, you can also buy standing ticket, so you stand for the duration of your trip. What often happens, though is the seat you bought is empty until it gets to your station and often “standees” will sit in it until you show up and then they will move or they have an aisle seat and want a window. This morning two young ladies get on just ahead of us and get to where their seats are, but there is a guy about 45 sitting in one. They show him their tickets but he just gives them a disrespectful, dismissive wave and turns back to the window. What can I do – I tap on his shoulder and gesture that he should move. He gives me the same dismissive wave – I am about to launch myself (remember, day not going real well so far) but one of the young women say it is okay and Terry pushes me down the aisle. (Publisher note: there was no pulling or shoving involved. I just like to limit Geoff’s ‘bad behaviour’ police work to his own time.)
We arrive in Shanghai. I won’t give you all the details, but when the guy who squeezed his 225 pound body into a seat on the subway that was made for someone half his size thus squeezing the space Terry and I had to share into just enough space for Terry, I stood up, then his wife told him to stand and offered me the space back. I just glared at him and remained standing. (Pub. note: I’m sure that worked!)
Did have some good stuff happen though – managed to buy 25 more pairs of bamboo underwear (most comfortable in the world) from our friend Links for various people in Canada, bought another pair of sunglasses and Terry got some necessary shopping in.
We then went for a long walk (1 1/2 hours) to our friends Greg and Chan to pick up some things we had left there over the summer. On our walk, we saw:
They weren’t home when we arrived, which was our fault as we had said we would be later, so we headed off by ourselves for lunch to the Blue Frog
and then to City Shop to stock up on cheese and a few other “western” items. Jumped in a cab and asked to go to ‘Hongqiao Zhen’ thinking we were saying, Hongqiao Railway Station. Suffice to to say that it was the longest trip to the station that we have had in over a year. We saw a great deal of new territory and breathed a lot of heavily polluted air, before the driver finally stopped and said we were there, at which point Geoff opened his phone and showed him a translation of train station, to which he said, “Ah, now I see.” Another 15 minutes and we arrived, with another 15 minutes to buy our tickets and get in line.Geoff decided that Terry should buy the tickets today, why I am not sure exactly except that periodically he feels that I am not pulling my share of the waiting-in-line jobs, but okay, I head to the line. He’s right with me and when I ask for Jiaxing, Geoff shows his phone with the train numbers.
All gone, says the woman, except there is room on one that leaves in 10 minutes but first class only. Okay! We pay an astronomical Y301 ($50) and get on the train.
Remember our earlier train story where we got off at Jiashan instead of Jiaxing? The train stopped in Jiashan again and as it pulled out of the station, the next stop was announced: “Tongzhen.” What? 30 miles we go, past Jiaxing, wondering all the while if there will be a train back or, failing that, a bus or a cab and how much will that cost? Apparently it is my fault because I should have noticed that the original ticket didn’t say Jiaxing on it. Really? I should know that? I’m just the novice ticket buyer! I thought I was pretty good that I could figure out which side of the station I should line up in. Clearly I can’t handle this much responsibility. (Ed. note: Jeez – a little defensive, I think – don’t you?)
I suppose it’s Murphy’s Law that dictates that these things only happen when ALL you want to do is get home, have a shower and get into your jammies. The only good news was that there was a cab available (although he was a smoker) but he did make good time without incident (although plenty of near misses).
So here we are in our jammies (or comfortable underwear), finally, bringing the longest short trip into Shanghai to an end. Thank gawd the wine was cold!
* saw this on a woman today who clearly has never read OUR blog!