Picture this

I have been in a lot of staff rooms over the course of my career but never one like this.  I was there earlier this month along with three of my staff (Geoff doesn’t attend these sorts of things) (Ed. note: Hey – is that  SHOT?) for a grade 10 meeting with the parents.  They are new to our program so it was time to tell them more about it and our processes, expectations we have for their kids and hopes we have for working with them.

We were encouraged to arrive late so that most of the parents would be seated when we made our entrance (just a little different than how we do it at home!), then took our seats on the raised platform at the front of the room, behind a formal speakers’ table and microphones appropriately stationed.  My experience is that parents in BC don’t generally take pictures of the staff at these meetings, but they do in China!  The number of Iphones that came out was amazing!  Not sure what they will do with the photos.  Perhaps they write blogs.

We were fortunate to have been able to speak at the start of the meeting, so after the presentation by the grade 11’s, showing off their much-improved English skills, we said our bits and sat back to listen to the Chinese principal speak to the parents in Chinese for another half an hour.  What can I say–my mind wandered and I took in the room.

The windows are covered by heavy gold velvet drapes, topped with a scalloped valance, trimmed with golden cord. More ballroom than staff room, really.  The ceiling is a work of art and hard to describe.  A curved mid section is framed on all sides by sweeping, terraced white ceiling, inlaid in various parts with subdued lighting and interrupted by 3 curved cross pieces, inlaid with brass strips.  The center shape is like an oblong peace symbol painted red, sitting on glossy black struts. Like a theatre, the exposed ceiling underneath is painted a flat black.  Suspended from the struts is a disco ball and another of multi-coloured lights.

Just as I was thinking they could rent the place out for small weddings or birthdays, it came to me what is was for:  KTV!  Karaoke!  The Chinese are mad about it!  I certainly did not know this before we came but it is hard to miss here in Jiaxing.  In the city, you will find  signs advertising karaoke on the top floors of malls and numerous buildings and also many stand-alone places that have been built specifically for this trade.  Often these are the glitziest, biggest and brightest places around, lit up by flashing neon at night.  No, we have not gone but that is to save the rest of the place from our singing.   We got a taste of their love of karaoke at last year’s school New Year’s party where too many toasts were given and people, including me, got up to sing.  Enough said.  It won’t be my turn this year!

Check out this place. It is FULL of rooms where you can meet with old friends for good old fashioned Karaoke singalongs. Now, I have also heard that you can also make new friends in these places who will do more than just singalong with you. (Ed. note: Nudge, nudge, wink, wink) It is unlikely I will ever be able confirm this so I will leave it at that. However, for scale, we took this picture of Terry at the front door.

Say Hi to Terry - she is in the blue square.
Say Hi to Terry – she is in the blue square.

This week our teachers told us about Vivi, where you could get an honest to God hamburger, but you have to ask for the “Special Menu”. We have been to Vivi once for drinks so off we go. Two photos for you. One is self-explanatory – and no, Terry didn’t eat all of hers (Ed. note: no comment on Geoff. Also, the side order of fries were on his side of the table). 

Three patties, a german sausage, cheese, bacon, tomato and sauce. Dig in!
Three patties, a German sausage, cheese, bacon, lettuce tomato and sauce. What – no fries?

And the second – I am prepared to accept any bet, of any amount, from anyone that this server has NO idea who Harvey Milk was.

How that got to Jiaxing is WAY beyond me.
How that got to Jiaxing is WAY beyond me. “Everysody”? And why copy this shirt?

This week was also the week we got our pomelos from the school. 24 of them, in fact. I asked one of the kids about the school giving us fruit and she said that her mother says it is welfare for teachers! Out of the mouths of babes..

Life is a bed of Pomelos
Life is a bed of Pomelos

In the last blog we talked about meeting up with Andy and Cheryl, two expats from Australia, last night for dinner. We had a great time. Another friend recommended that we try out the middle-eastern restaurant on the 3rd floor of Walmart, (Ed. note: I know – Walmart?) so off we went. It was full and there was a lineup to get in, which is always a really good sign. The meal was fine – of the 8 dishes we ordered, we would certainly order at least four of them again (you must remember that the menu selections here are enormous so 4 of 8 is good). Anyway, we won’t bore you with what we had (mostly) but rather tell you what we didn’t have. I have absolutely no idea how to comment on any of these, so the caption just reinforces the title on the menu.

Hand Grasping Mutton
Hand Grasping Mutton
Spill His Cow Meat
Spill His Cow Meat

and of course

The Prairie Clutching Meat
The Prairie Clutching Meat

We did however have this dish – recommended by the waitress. Terry decided to shake the chicken’s foot – but in the end recoiled since she would have had to actually touch it to do so.

Shake a Paw, Jock
Shake a Paw, Jock, Lucy whatever…

From there it was off to the Foot Massage Parlor. We were greeted at the door and escorted upstairs by this charming man. I don’t think he was much over 5 feet tall, and as we stood waiting for the elevator he kept looking up at me and finally gestured “So tall”.

Good Hair, Dude
Good Hair, Dude

Andy and Cheryl go to this place a couple of times a week so they are well known. As a result, the staff were falling over themselves to look after us – fruit, tea, hot water whatever. $16 for one hour – foot, back, head, neck etc. It was really relaxing. Naturally we all had our own masseurs/masseuses. Cheryl, Andy and Terry had men who kept saying how beautiful Terry was and Geoff had a young woman. Geoff was not prepared to experience another man trying to prove how manly he was by getting his leg over his head, as happened in Shanghai with resulting back problems and attendant headaches.

Anyway it was great fun – listening to them giggle away as they yammered on in Chinese with looks at all of us. One of them thought Terry was 39 and they did not believe she is actually 59. According to Cheryl (and I’m not sure I trust her), none them had any difficulty in believing Geoff is 62.

Wave to the camera, Andy.
Wave to the camera, Andy.
Cheryl and friend.
Cheryl and friend.

And here is masseuse #110. The question is why is she so somber? Geoff’s feet were clean and he hadn’t kicked her as a result of being tickled. (Ed. note: The oil felt great.)

See below for the answer.
See below for the answer.

Went for a nice long walk this morning. Just outside one of the government buildings we approached this fellow from about 100 yards away. I assumed he was talking to his son/daughter telling them all the great things the government does for them. He was very animated in his dialogue. However, as we passed him, we saw what you see – no one is there. (Ed. note: No one unless you count the basketball a la Tom Hanks’ “Wilson” in Cast Away). He continued to jabber away as we walked another couple of hundred yards. Bizarre.

Listen to me when I'm talking to you, damn it!
Listen to me when I’m talking to you, damn it!

And finally, why did my masseuse look so somber?

You would too if  you wore these to work and your hours were 10 am to 11 pm. Even then, we did have some good laughs.
You would too if you wore these to work and your hours were 10 am to 11 pm. Even still, we did have some good laughs.

7 thoughts on “Picture this

  1. Hi guys…. Oh how I miss my cheapo foot massages !!! Just so you know, the cheapest cleanest place I can find in Poco is $40 for 50 minutes…..tea and one biscuit included. No heels. Enjoy !!!! Mary

  2. Terry and Geoff…that is the building that Michael and I found ourselves in as we wandered the streets of Jiaxing…the inside is remarkable, however, we left when we could not afford the prices for a couple of drinks…on another note, we just found out that the NEW Moody Middle will be a magnet school for the Arts…with a touch of French immersion as well…times ahead will be interesting…I am enjoying my Saturday morning catching up on your blogs and as usual, I am always entertained and fascinated with your journey…enjoy your weekend, Barb XO

  3. Since I am new at this and there are no fabulous scenery photos I have zeroed in on the chicken foot. I don’t blame Terry for not touching in – was she supposed to eat it? Where’s the shrimp fried rice?
    Cheers, Paddy

    1. Hi Paddy – yes – they eat tons of chicken feet – the Chinese like the tendons and cartilage to chew on. Finding chicken breasts, however, is a tricky thing since they don’t seem to sell them everywhere. We have chosen not to get into the feet thing. For fabulous scenery, look at previous blog postings. You can click on the Recent Posts at the top right of the page or on the left hand side go to the archives month by month since we started writing. You will have hours of enjoyment.

  4. I love the episode with the parents meeting and the description of the staff room. It perhaps tells a lot about how education and teachers are perceived in Chinese society. Thank you, Terry and Geoff.

  5. Happy trick-or-treating tomorrow with your students! I hope you’re going to have lots of fun and don’t forget to take some pictures!

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