Monthly Archives: November 2013

Inspection Over!

Phew! What a mad hectic process! Actually, it is nothing of the sort. If one is prepared with all the documents in place and confident that things are going well, it’s really not too onerous. I was ready.

The inspectors arrived in Jiaxing on Friday night, following 2 previous school visits at Wenzhou and Tongxiang (near-by). I went to greet them with George Zhao, our Chinese VP, neighbour and friend. The inspectors had been to an early celebratory dinner with the previous school and had apparently been into the Bijiou (lethal white alcohol mascarading as white wine). Well, at least ONE of them might have imbibed a little. We got them settled and took them across the street for a foot massage but did not stay. As much as I love foot massages, it had been a long week. They had the weekend to write their reports (and possibly go on a shopping excursion to Shanghai although I can’t say for sure), and then came to my school on Monday morning.

Geoff and I had the school ready, with beautiful coloured posters made of pictures we had taken of them in activities and clubs. Geoff did a great job creating collages of Hallowe’en activities and our inaugural Terry Fox run and the place looked great!

Our First Annual

Our First Annual

The inspectors were impressed and made mention of it right out of the gate. It was uphill from there. Our teachers were nervous but passed the inspection with flying colours.  They were particularly impressed with Andrei and Oliver and what they are contributing as first year teachers:  solid classroom environment, well-planned lessons, extra-curricular involvement.  They have started a boys’ basketball team and are excited about the opportunity for teaching the kids about team-work and the game.

Jiaxing Jaguars

Jiaxing Jaguars

The kids don’t really know how to play a full game, having never had that experience, so the first event will be wipe out but they should have fun!  Mr. Zhao is completely involved, setting up gym time and helping to get uniforms ordered.  The principal, Mr. Xu (pronounced Shoe, with an upward inflection) insisted that the mascot name include both a J and a G, for Jiaxing Gao Ji, Jaixing Senior High.  Imagine.  Who knew it was even possible?  They came up with Jaguar and Jaguar it is!

Monday evening dinner at the Sunshine Hotel. Good food and not too much to drink, in spite of the obligatory toasts. Everyone happy. But the best part was the next day when the inspector told Mr. Xu that our foundations were firmly in place and we were already an exemplary school, doing well and destined for greatness. Inspectors don’t actually say those sorts of things but you get the picture. It went very well and we are good to go for another year.

Meanwhile, I have been going mad with my computer, which I believe I tainted with viruses, trying to upload programs to run videos. Never mind, it’s a long story but suffice to say it had become ridiculously slow, even for Chinese standards. We uploaded all my files to Dropbox and had a private techie come in to ‘clean’ it. Today, I can’t connect to my printer and our student information system is likewise lost in space. A school techie came down in the afternoon and tried several times to get the printer to work and upload TESS without much luck, so tomorrow the private guy will give it a shot. Much to my delight, I discovered that our school techie actually has quite a bit of English, although he is too shy to use much of it. I tend to forget the language difference and speak anyway and lo and behold, there he was talking and reading the messages. I had him! Lots of fun but not much difference with my machine.

So, winter is upon us. Today started out brisk but by mid-afternoon, a wind blew up that was COLD! I took the bus and resented the temperature as I hustled the short block home. But what did I discover? Geoff had begun the winterizing of our apartment. He has Ken’s our guest bedroom windows covered (first with plastic and THEN with cardboard) and the two of us sealed the bathroom window which is over-sized, single paned and only slightly less windy when closed than open. It took us about a fifth of the time it took us last year and already the place feels warmer. Let it come! Tomorrow it’s time for the long underwear!

It will be toasty warm for you, Ken!

It will be toasty warm for you, Ken!

This morning, I was just behind a student who arrived in a Maserati sports model.  Boy, it sounded great!  I followed him up the stairs but couldn’t keep up (he was late and in a hurry).  Geoff sleuthed it out.  Sure enough, he was one of ours but he didn’t even know the name of the car.  We have another kid who arrives in chauffeur-driven Bentley so definitely no shortage of money here.  You would never know it, judging by the school facility, or the kids.

Dribs, Drabs and Congrats

(Ed. note: Today’s blog is green in honour of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup victory. Congratulations to all you Watermelon Heads out there.)

As you have likely deduced, given the time between blogs, it has been a quiet week around Jiaxing. Not really much out of the ordinary. Terry’s inspection was this week – I shall let her tell you all about it. Even my week was almost incident free. But there were a couple of developments on the Ms Sourpuss (remember her?) front.

When we were in Shanghai 10 days ago, we were just leaving Starbucks at the Ritz-Carlton on Nanjing Road and who should we run into but Ms Sourpuss and her fella (and another woman). Her fella waved and said hi, as he always does and Ms S. had no other choice but to say hi as well. It would have been obviously very rude for her not to have done. Anyway, Monday morning and in to Starbucks she comes – and lo and behold it was as if Shanghai never happened – totally avoided eye contact and ignored me. It is to laugh. But the next morning when she came in I was in line and right in front of her. As I turned to go to the pickup counter our eyes met – and after I said Hi – she did too! PROGRESS! And to those of you who are wondering, it does appear that she is back with her guy – the poor bugger.

Also last week the “Boa/Feather” chandelier in Ken’s the guest room finally gave up the ghost and we asked Mr. Zhao if he could get it replaced with some kind of light that will enable Terry to see her clothes in the morning. He said he would come with a worker to see if it could be fixed. The last time they came, the worker managed to get 3 of the 9 small bulbs to work. I did not hold a lot of hope for success. Anyway, first he removed the two transformers from the light and went out and got one to replace them. No dice. Next step – check if there is electricity flowing through the lines.

Here is a photo of a very common instrument used in the electricity field,

Non-contact voltage tester with buzzer and led

Non-contact voltage tester with buzzer and LED

and here is the information which accompanies this item on the internet.

Note the country of origin

Note the country of origin

This item represents many items we have looked for in China. It is made here but, apparently, not available for purchase, since the following is how the worker tested the power to the chandelier.

Table lamp

Table lamp

  1. Turn a table lamp on.
  2. Unplug it and take it into the other bedroom.
  3. Climb up on to the two tables which serve as your ladder.
  4. Hold the exposed wires from the ceiling to the male ends of the lamp’s plug.
  5. Have Geoff (and he is standing well back at this point) turn on the chandelier light switch.
  6. Voilà – see that the table lamp does in fact come to life.
  7. You have now ascertained that the chandelier does indeed need replacing.

The next day Mr. Zhao sends the worker back with a replacement light. Now, Terry had said she would be happy with just a pole lamp and not to worry about an overhead one. No sirree Bob – no pole lamp for our principal.(Ed. note: Or accompanying dance for Geoff, either)

Left: Night View Right: Day View

Left: Night View
Right: Day View

It’s like getting dressed in the Army and Navy Department Store dressing room – and we STILL have the chandelier to look at.

I want to apologize to my Mom. She always told me that if would just eat more vegetables, I would get big and strong. It has taken until now, 62, living in China and eating vegetables on a regular, daily basis to see exactly what would have happened if I had listened to her 50 – 55 years ago. We have a small sink on our balcony next to the washing machine for hand washing.

The tap was dripping so I gave it a little extra push and, with my new found strength, snapped the steel lever right off! At least it isn't leaking anymore.

The tap was dripping so I gave it a little extra push and, with my new-found, vegetable induced strength, snapped the steel lever right off! At least it isn’t leaking anymore.

On my way home today I came across this bus driver. He must have been pretty damn tired. A little explanation: the inset at the top is a photo of  his feet up on the yellow bar which protects him from the riffraff. The rest of him is “stretched out” on the seat.

"Zzzzzzz......"

“Zzzzzzz……” (Ed. note: Note the jacket covering his eyes)

The other thing that happened was that after I took a couple of pictures and started to walk away, one of the drivers from one of the other three #97 buses lined up came across the street – likely to stop me from taking any more.

Question: When you are out and about in Canada, is it now a common occurrence to see women (I’d say it is 99.9% women who do this here) taking their photograph on their phone? It is very common and we have grown used to it – even if we don’t get it. The other day though, while I was at the office, I watched a youngish (20 something) woman making a movie of herself. Why oh why!

Now I like to think of myself as politically correct and up on all the latest terminology but I really did enjoy this comedy bit from George Carlin done a few years ago.

BTW, I must say that compared with Rob Ford, Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Terry McLeod, political life in China is pretty dull!

And finally, thanks to Mal for sending us this – watch and enjoy.

The Shoe Blog

This time you get two photos for the price of one. The first is one Terry took of three of the members of the Jiaxing BCOSP Inaugural Boy’s Basketball Team’s feet.

Very Colourful, Boys.

Very Colourful, Boys

And for every colourful shoe we see,

Very Black and White, Ms.

Very Black and White, Ms.

Sights of Shanghai

(Ed. note: There are no Ed. notes since Ed. wrote this and doesn’t want to comment on his own work)

(Ed. note: Well, I guess that was an Ed. note – as is this… so I guess there are Ed. notes after all)

We were in Shanghai this weekend – first trip in this fall other than dentist, doctor, traveling. (Having said that, the initial purpose was to have Terry’s knee examined. She has had some difficulty with it, but thankfully it is just minor tendonitis.) As usual, we had a great time. While we were in Lhasa, we met a couple from New Zealand who teach at an international school in Shanghai so we met them for dinner at Ginger on Saturday evening. Nice to meet new people and have a good meal and drink good wine!

Before we get there, though check out this girl’s nails. She was on the train with us. The bows are three dimensional and VERY glittery.

These are NOT paste ons! -------  Riiiiight!

These are NOT paste ons! ——- Riiiiight!

Anyway, once again we had some wonderfully amusing experiences. We caught a cab to go somewhere and while we were stopped at a light we saw this fellow. Carefully check out his “rear view mirror”.

“开车?等到商业吗?” or "Drive? Wait till the commercial will ya?"

“开车?等到商业吗?” or “You want me to drive? Wait till the commercial will ya?”

Yes, it is a tv of some kind or other. Unbelievable.

Which car is going in which direction?

Love the traffic at our favourite corner - Huashan and Nanjing Road.

Love the traffic at our favourite corner – Huashan and Nanjing Road.

We came upon this accident on our long walk Sunday morning. We assume the truck backed into the bike rider with some force, given the state of the rear tire. The rider seemed to be okay – she was sitting up in the middle of the crowd. The interesting thing was the crowd of people in the middle of the street. It is like people have never seen an accident as it happens every time we see an accident (not often). They always seem to gather around “the victim”.

Check out that tire - and the pedestrian crowd.

Check out that tire – and the pedestrian crowd.

And finally this one. It takes some explanation. We often walk from our hotel to the French Concession area which has some fantastic restaurants. We take the very elaborate pedestrian walkway over Yan’An Road. If you look carefully you will see that there are 6 lanes going west. As we passed overhead, we hear, even for Shanghai, an awful lot of honking going on. As we looked down, the car in Lane 1 was waiting to make a left turn – quite a normal thing, don’t you think. However, Lane 1 is actually designed to go straight through while Lanes 2 and 3 are left turn lanes. Then, Lanes 4 and 5 go straight through and 6 is right turn. However, going in the opposite direction Lanes 1 and 2 go left, 3, 4 and 5 go straight and 6 goes right. Sporadically this occurs in Shanghai. How is one to know? Bizarre!

Lane 1 - straight through Lane 2 - left turn Lane 3 - left turn

Lane 1 – straight through
Lane 2 – left turn
Lane 3 – left turn

This photo is also a very common occurrence in Shanghai. I don’t know if it is because

  1. Chinese women carry purses which weigh 40 pounds or
  2. Young Chinese men are thrilled to have a young Chinese woman who has perhaps rejected an older rich Chinese man, so they will carry her purse no matter what or
  3. Chinese men like carrying purses so they find someone whose purse they can carry.
Can I carry your purse, please, please, please!

Can I carry your purse, please, please, please!

On our Sunday walk, we came upon this sculpture – a testament to modern China.

A tribute to modern day China - Caucasian man and Asian woman

The sculpture is called “Asian woman, Caucasian man: Face the Future Together”

Okay, we made that up, but it seems like it could be.

We stopped at Marks and Spencers for something for something to eat (and drink). We were there for 30 minutes and the entire time she was texting and the guy with her (his head his on her right and lolling against the chair) was sound asleep. Why else would you go to a restaurant?

"You sleep, Darling- I'll text."

“You sleep, Darling- I’ll just text.”

We have shown you photos of how the parents keep their kids contained before. This little guy’s parents were setting up their “stalls” – small tables in the subway hallways to sell their wares. The stuff comes out, he goes in.

Boy in a Box

Boy in a Box

We come across many blind Chinese Er-hu (Chinese two-string fiddle) players in our travels. Terry tells me that the blind have an incredibly developed sense of hearing. This guy was HIGHLY developed, since about 30 seconds after I dropped a 5 RMB note (85 cents) into his bucket from the great height of about 3 inches, he reached in and pulled it out. Blind, my ass!

"5 RMB? You take my picture and leave me a crummy 5RMB?"

“5 RMB? You take my picture and leave me a crummy 5RMB?”

How many WorkSafe regulations is the Paramount Hotel breaking here – laying down bedsheets on the carpets after they have been cleaned?

No, the weren't painting so they aren't drop sheets.

No, the weren’t painting so they aren’t drop sheets.

This is NOT the shoe of this blog. This is the shoe of Links (yes, Links – who can say), our friend who sells us our underwear. Her husband, a soldier in the Chinese army, does not approve of her choice of shoe – not good for her foot he says. However, although they were married in January of 2013 and the “wedding party” won’t actually occur until July 2014 and since she has only seen him twice since the marriage, I guess she can get away with wearing them. She puts them on at 10 am and takes them off at 10 pm and maintains that they are very comfortable the entire time. I would like to believe her, but…

12 hours - no problem.

12 hours – no problem.

Throughout Shanghai, you see many, many sculptures. Musicians, boys with pigeons on their arms, families in parks and all sorts of people lined up for the bus.

This is a series of statues of people waiting for the bus - can you spot the fraud?

This is a series of statues of people waiting for the bus – very cool, don’t you think?

This is the “line up” just to get ON the elevator to take them upstairs to the restaurant – God knows what it would be like once you got up there.

It MUST be a great restaurant

It MUST be a great restaurant

The Shoe

This woman was doing her grocery shopping. Despite the pixellation, I am sure that you can see that she could blind a snake with either the heel or the point of these babies.

Watch it buddy - I'll drive a stake through your heart.

Watch it buddy – I’ll drive a stake shoe through your heart.

School Days

TIC

So, I’m teaching poetry to the grade 10s.  How hard could it be, right? First, I establish that they indeed use rhyme and rhythm in Chinese poetry, next, I ask them to write 3 rhyming words for 3 words.  We come to a full stop. Problem is they don’t know enough vocabulary to easily recall a word that might rhyme.  So I do one word with the class, working through the alphabet finding rhymes. Half the words I have to explain their meaning. And so it goes.  I skirt rhythm and move on to similes.  It’s the “almost right” ones that are the most difficult to explain.  Again, I back up the truck and arrive this morning with what I think is a very simple poem of similes.  Wrong.  After considerable explanation, they begin to figure it out.  And only 6 more figures of speech to go!

Yesterday, Violet, one of our grade 10s, came in to my office with a get-out-of-jail free card from the school doctor.  She has pink eye and has to go home for 3 days. She has pink eye.  Why, then, is she wearing a mouth and nose mask?  These things are inexplicable to me.

Violet started the year as Eland.  I was so impressed that this young girl had picked as her English name, a form of the name of Tiger’s ex who handed him his butt when she found out he was screwing around with gawd knows how many  tawdry women.  Do you think for one minute that Elin whacked out the back window of his Escalade with a golf club because she wanted to help him escape the vehicle?  Please. I can assure you, she was restrained. But I digress.  About a week into the year, Eland joined our plant family of grade 10 girls and became Violet.  We also have Jasmine, Ivy, Daisy, Lavender, Iris and Cherry. I can’t wait to read the inevitable saccharine-laced poems that are bound to be forthcoming.

Finally, a few pictures.  I never fail to be amused by this wonderful juxtaposition of images between this safety poster extolling the virtues of cleaning up after one’s self and the paint drippings below it.

What's a little wet paint on an electrical box, anyway.

What’s a little wet paint on an electrical box, anyway.

Here’s one of two of our teachers bundled up against the cold.  But it’s not cold yet!  Wait till the temperature really drops.

C'mon Andrei - man up!

C’mon Andrei – man up!

I had my hair cut the other day at my local establishment.  It’s located on the main drag but is set back a little from it in kind of a strip mall.  As I approach the shop, I see that outside in the parking lot is a crew of guys replacing the cushions and coverings of the seats from the salon.  I imagine the arrangements go something like this:

Wei! (Hello, as yelled into a cell phone, always at top volume.)

Wei! We need to replace the cushions on our chairs in the hair salon.  Do you think you could do the job?

How many chairs are there?

Oh, maybe about 45 or 50.

No problem.  I will come right now and have a look.

But I don’t want to close the shop while the chairs are fixed.

No problem.  We do it in the parking lot! We can start tomorrow. Is that soon enough?

How long will it take?

One afternoon, not longer.

Sounds good!

This is what it looked like.  The chairs were rolled out to the lot, had their seats removed, foam replaced and fabric recovered, then rolled back into the shop, replacing the ones that had to be done.  I’d love to know how long the whole thing took but I’m willing to bet it was just the afternoon.  The Chinese can get anything done in short order…except of course, if you really really need it to happen. Can you imagine how long it would take in BC? And could the shop be kept open while it happened? I think not. TIC!

No parking today

No parking today

Getting there,,,

Getting there…

Whistle while you work...

Whistle while you work…

Remnants of Xiamen

This guy was selling toy airplanes, hare dryers, razors and many other things on the flight to Xiamen

This guy was selling toy airplanes, hair dryers, razors, airline colour scarves and many other things on the flight to Xiamen

Now I don't want to say that leg room was at a premium, but I am sitting totally naturally here. Thank God it was only 1 hour and 20 minutes

Now I don’t want to say that leg room was at a premium, but I am sitting totally naturally here. Thank God it was only 1 hour and 20 minutes

We were in a 5 star hotel - but that means nothing in China. Like the finishing?

We were in a 5 star hotel – but that means nothing in China. Like the finishing?

And how about the space between the balcony door and the frame? You could have used the draft to blow out  Roman Candle.

And how about the space between the balcony door and the frame? You could have used the draft to blow out a Roman Candle.

jjj

What can be said – really.

The Shoe

Ladies, in your opinion, a little sorry she wore these today?

But they look good!

But they look good – and she was walking, not just standing still.

Xiamen, Fujian – Part 2

We left you the other day with Geoff demonstrating his Canada Cares persona, pushing the loads of sand up the huge hills of Gulang Yu. From there it was up to Sunlight Rock – the highest point on the island from where, on a clear day, you could likely see Taiwan. However, it is likely that Taiwan has not been visible since, oh, 1934 or so. There are three hundred steps plus a number of gentle inclines to get from the entrance to the park to the top. There were some older people climbing, but it was generally a 62 and under crowd. Remember how we told you there were no cars etc. on the island? Well once you get halfway up to the peak, there are a number of small concessions which serve hot dogs, water and pop. Now, the first step is to get that stuff from the ferry dock to the park entrance on the carts like these which carried the sand – which is all uphill.

Looks a little saggy in the middle

It’s the getting started…

And this is how they make their way to the concession storage hut. More backbreaking work.

The strain on his face is a little obvious.

The strain on his face is a little obvious. Have you ever lifted just ONE of those cases of water? Let alone two AND two cases of large bottles of soda.

Once they get here, they turn around and effectively just drop them. Pity the guy who gets there first, as he has to squat. down.

Once they get here, they turn around and effectively just drop them. Pity the guy who gets there first, as he has to squat down.

I don't think this was originally designed to store water and pop!

I don’t think this was originally designed to store water and pop!

At this point we were pretty much exactly half way up the stairs, if not the the total altitude we climbed – 156 steps down, 144 to go.

Terry approaching step 220.

Terry approaching step 220.

Well, I guess we have been to Xiamen

Well, I guess we have been to Xiamen

Our destination - just have to defeat the throngs!

Our destination – we just have to defeat the throngs!

Perhaps this should have been titled “Getting Up The Last Twelve Stairs at Sunlight Rock is No Mean Feat!” (Ed. note: The abrupt ending was caused by the videographer being jostled and only seeing the ground below him.)

Once you get to the top, the view is quite spectacular.

(Ed. note: Is this just another example of that gratuitous Italy/China comparison thing? Get over it!)

The photo is good - the subject is beautiful.

The photo is good – the subject is beautiful.

From the top we began the descent and meander back to the ferry. Our first stop, however was for lunch at The Silly Girl Cafe and Hotel, a very funky spot. Geoff enjoyed a really good spaghetti and meat sauce lunch and Terry indulged in chicken with chilies – or was that chilies with chicken?

Now I'm not saying there were too many chilies on that plate, but I do think that maybe they matched the grains of rice one for one.

Now I’m not saying there were too many chilies on that plate, but I do think that maybe they matched the grains of rice one for one.

If I had known that all that sand had been to make this kid a sand box, I’m not sure I would have helped!

Hey kid, that's MY sand.

Hey kid, that’s MY sand.

As previously mentioned, the island is car-free. It is a tourist destination/trap. It is hilly. It was 80 degrees F. (Ed. note: Well noted, Wendy!) Why would these two choose to wear A) the boots with the brass toes, and B) a black velvet dress and high black boots?

They may not be steel toed but...

They may not be steel toed but…

That's her fella 10 paces ahead. The purple umbrella is fetching, though, isn't it.

That’s her fella 10 paces ahead. The purple umbrella is fetching, though, isn’t it.

We spent a great deal of time, energy and walking trying to find the puppet museum and the
Huangrong Yuantang Mansion. Sadly, we eventually found them. First, the tickets were 118 RMB each ($40. for the two). This is because not only do you get a (10 minute) puppet show, you get to see (and/or buy) puppets from the past and present.

The puppets costumes were incredibly detailed.

Their faces were quite grotesque – not something you might want little children to see.

Their faces where also quite grotesque - not something you might want little children to see.

Their costumes were incredibly detailed, however.

But Geoff’s favourite was this finger puppet. (Ed. note: Terry found it quite disturbing)

Demented Donald Duck

Demented Donald Duck

You also get to go in to the 100 year old fully restored mansion across the lane and see all sorts of interesting artifacts, all described in great detail in Chinese. Now, when the Chinese tour that comes in after you and leaves before you – and they can read the information, you must wonder about the quality of the museum/mansion. Having said that, I found these two photographs quite interesting. The first is self-explanatory and the second was one in a series which depicted the state of the mansion after it had been deserted for a while and before it was restored.

Check out the nationality of the guard.

Check out the nationality of the guard.

I was quite taken with a forlorn sense of loss this portrayed

I was quite overwhelmed with a forlorn sense of loss in this photograph.

We have saved the very best for last, however. Right after the (10 minute) puppet show, many of the audience (maybe 25 people) raced upstairs to get good seats for the next performance. We looked at some puppets and then followed, assuming another puppet show. Please ignore the beep beep in the middle of the 30 second video. Fortuitously, the battery was going.

Now three points:

  1. I apologize for the poor quality of the video, but it matched the quality of the performance.
  2. After waiting for about 15 minutes for it to start, we had to wait for another 15 minutes before some Chinese folks left so we too could make a graceful, mid-performance exit.
  3. Although you can’t really hear much of the singer, Terry thought that if she was the best of the four then Oh Lord, how bad must the other three be!
  4. AND WE PAID FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE – WASTRELS, SQUANDERERS, THAT’S WHO WE ARE!

Wedding Mania

Once again we were witness to the trials and tribulations of Chinese brides. You may remember the photos from Shanghai. Gulang Yu is also a favoured destination, apparently. Now we have not described the ride over from Xiamen to Gulang Yu, but trust me, it is a feat to survive. Geoff felt you could very well have read about our drowning due to the overcrowded ferry and the ten minute crossing. One would think that the brides would carry their gowns etc across and get changed there. Think again, grasshopper. They arrive on the island in all their splendour and regalia. Here are some examples:

A lovely couple - the trick was to get the passersby to stop long enough to get the photo taken

A lovely couple – the trick was to get the passersby to stop long enough to get the photo taken

They were having a great deal of fun - the photographer was trying to do some "arty" things.

They were having a great deal of fun – the photographer was trying to do some “arty” things. Do you think the groom might be a tad underdressed. though?

Even I wouldn't want to cross her

Even I wouldn’t want to cross her…

...which is maybe why he was wearing this ...uh...tie?

…which is maybe why he was wearing this …uh…tie?

I trust this photo on a rock won't lead to a rocky relationship. LOL

I trust this photo on a rock won’t lead to a “rocky” relationship. LOL

And under that beautiful gown is a woman with wonderful common sense - and pink flip flops!

And under that beautiful gown is a woman with wonderful common sense – and pink flip flops!

Hey - a guy can look demure too, can't he?

Hey – a guy can look demure too, can’t he?

This young woman had a great sense of humour. She smiled, laughed and flashed us the big V as she ran toward us, barefoot and carrying the killer heels.

This young woman had a great sense of humour. She smiled, laughed and flashed us the big V as she ran toward us, barefoot and carrying the killer heels. (Hey, there’s those flip flops again.)

And finally in Wedding Mania there was this beautiful bride in her lovely gown. Pay no attention to the guy in the southern US chain gang suit.

For a different angle of her gown, see the photo after The Shoe - forgot to put it in.

For a different angle of her gown, see the photo after The Shoe – forgot to put it in.

The Shoe

The amazing thing about this woman was the speed at which, at the end of the day, she was motoring. They must have been extensions of her legs.

I could not have moved in running shoes as fast as she was going.

I could not have moved in running shoes as fast as she was going.

Now either

  1. “I feel badly, but it’s not my fault I have packed on a little beef since the wedding” or
  2. “This wasn’t my gown, but damn it, I want my picture taken in red”

    There are no words

    There are no words… (Ed. note: except maybe “Like the fraying?”)

Food Street and Fish Alley

We still have lots to share with you from our weekend in Xiamen, but we (Ed. note: Okay, I) thought we would share our Saturday night and Sunday morning with you. According to the lonely planet China Travel Guide “Xiamen is a port city and is known for its seafood, especially oysters and shrimp.” The guide lists four places to try for dinner – and Lucky City Seafood House Inc. is one of them.  We showed up at 6:18 and got our number – 1059, the one on the board was 1031. It must be good, we thought, given these two pieces of information. We finally got upstairs (3rd floor) after about 40 minutes. The place holds about 298 Chinese people and two white folks – we certainly got the looks – no, stares! The menu was a book – a BIG book with lots of pictures and English too! Now, if you are ever in Xiamen and want either abalone, bird’s nest stuff or the ever-desired shark fin soup, fried shark fin with vegetables, grilled shark fin etc. etc., then this is the place for you. There must be 10 pages devoted to shark fin alone. We had chrysanthemum salad, roasted vegetables, clams in white wine sauce, crispy whitebait and fried noodles, Fujian style. (Ed. note: Note the significant lack of MEAT! What is becoming of the Ed.?)

Anyway, it was totally acceptable, if not great or even up to a standard which should make it “listable” in a travel guide. To be fair, the bill only totalled about $40 – with one beer.

Sunday morning we decided that none of the fried food on the hotel buffet was anything we wanted, so off we went to Starbucks for latte and muffins. From there we decided to go for a walk and wound up on a small side street about 1 1/2 blocks from our hotel – and about 1/4 of the way to Lucky City Seafood House Inc. “Food Street” is about two city blocks long. There are 15 foot wide stalls all the way up each side plus all the way up the middle. It is truly a feast of the senses. Once you are at the end of Food Street, you make either a sharp left or a sharp right. I don’t know what we would have found if we went right, but going left put us in to “Fish Alley”. It went on for at 5 – 6 city blocks, again with 15 foot wide stalls all the way along on both sides.

The first twenty-two photos of this Smilebox are examples of what we COULD have had the night before for probably 1/4 of the cost and 2x the taste! We could have also enjoyed many of the offerings for breakfast – if we hadn’t already been to Starbucks! Sigh, if only we had known. Enjoy.

(Ed. note: I recommend that once you start it, you click on the four little arrows in the bottom left of the Smilebox once it starts to play.)

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Xiamen, Fujian Province – Part 1

Here we are, 5:00pm Saturday night in Xiamen, a seaport south of us an hour and a half away by plane.  After a very busy Fall and no trips to Shanghai (other than to the dentist, which doesn’t count), we are treating ourselves to a weekend away and we chose Xiamen predominantly for the semi-tropical climate and the intriguing details found in the Lonely Planet.

Look at the BIG map and then the LITTLE map.

Look at the BIG map and then the LITTLE map.

Our hotel is in a brilliant location, just a block off Zhongshan Lu, a pedestrian shopping street and home to all kinds of street food. Deciding instead to take a seat in a Taiwanese restaurant, hoping for a spicy repast, we had passable hot pot/hot plate meals but too much fun ordering.  The waitress knew just a few words of English so if we asked her any question about the menu, she said, “You want, yes or no?”  Talk about pressure.  “Is this spicy?”  “You want, yes or no?”  Definitely not a place to linger over details.

Choose one: A) Terry has become so adept at using chopsticks, she doesn't have to pay attention or B) she is waiting for the server (who really was quite nice) to kick us out?

Choose one: A) Terry has become so adept at using chopsticks, she doesn’t have to pay attention or B) she is waiting for the server (who really was quite nice) to kick us out?

We were thrilled to be walking around after dinner without jackets or sweaters, reminding ourselves it was November!  Today, the temperature rose up near the 80s.  We took plenty of time to wander the small island of Gulang Yu, a short ferry ride across the South China Sea.

Xiamen and Gulang Yu have the least number of English-speakers anywhere we have visited in China, and it really makes a difference to how you do business.  In Guilin and Tibet we had guides and in Beijing and Shanghai, we ask the concierge or people on the street.  We tried the concierge here last night and didn’t get very far.  (Ed. note: She kept saying “It is okay for you to go by yourself.” When we said, “Where do we get the ferry?” her response “Ferry?”) She did say that there was a tourist office on the 2nd floor, so up we went and began asking questions.  “Wait a moment” (a standard phrase in China).  In a few minutes, (Ed. note: Wait for it…) the concierge arrived from downstairs!

Welcome to Gulang You

Welcome to Gulang Yu

Gulang Yu is now a tourist attraction but over a century ago, it was the home of foreigners and their accompanying consulates made wealthy on Chinese trade .  Sadly, all the amazing French colonial villas and mansions fell into disrepair following the reign of Mao and no one now can really afford their upkeep.  Here are some of the highlights.

Mansion #1 of a many- It must have been magnificent in its day.

Mansion #1 of a many- It must have been magnificent in its day.

We were amazed that the Red Guard hadn't razed all of them.

We were amazed that the Red Guard hadn’t razed all of them.

If is Saturday, it must be laundry day. Many - but certainly not all, have been turned into apartments.

If is Saturday, it must be laundry day. Many – but certainly not all, have been turned into apartments.

Many of the buildings are literally crumbling, with Banyan trees spreading their tentacles everywhere.

The grow on walls...

They grow on walls…

...through walls...

…through walls…

...over fences and....

…over fences and….

...across lost staircases.

…across lost staircases.

It was reminiscent of Italy in many ways, with the climbing alley-ways and terra cotta roofs.

The difference between Italy and China? The Ubiquitous white pvc drainage pipes.

The difference between Italy and China? The ubiquitous white pvc drainage pipes.

These connecting staircases were all over the place. Just like...

These connecting staircases were all over the place. Just like…

...you guessed it, Italy.

…you guessed it, Italy.

(Ed. note: Okay, enough of the gratuitous China/Italy comparisons. Move on, already.)

There are some specific sites and we planned on seeing all of them, but it was so easy and fun to wander aimlessly that we missed a few.  There are no cars on the island, so it’s either walk or take guided tours in elongated golf carts.

Let's play a little game: Spot the tour, spot the tourist.

Let’s play a little game: Spot the tour, spot the tourist.

Next, how Geoff amuses himself while Terry views the sites.  Strangers throughout the land have pictures of him in albums (Ed. note: MANY lands! Twice yesterday a “subject” didn’t even know until after the picture was taken. I am the new Kesler.)  Fortunately, Chinese tourists enjoy these shenanigans.

Geoff and his new friends. They travelled 13 hours by train from Guangzhou.

Geoff and his new friends. They travelled 13 hours by train from Guangzhou. Check out the map above. Xiamen is closer to Guangzhou than it is to Shanghai. Must have been a milk run!

Because there are no cars or trucks on the island, everything must be carted in or carried  by hand.  I was busy taking pictures and had lost site of Geoff when I heard “Hai! Hai!” behind me and turned to see these guys coming down the hill, yelling at everyone to get out of their way.

This guy is actually going down hill - a slope of maybe 4-5 degrees - and moving!

This guy is actually going down hill – a slope of maybe 4-5 degrees – and moving! About 75 yards ahead of him he makes a u-turn and starts going up.

Notice the rope across the puller's back to make it a "little" (Ed. note: edian in Chinese!) easier to pull.

Notice the rope across the puller’s back to make it a “little” (Ed. note: edian in Chinese!) easier to pull.

Now we are going up a slope of maybe 45 degrees - okay, maybe only 5-7 degrees, but it felt like 45. Check out those taut buttocks, ladies!

Now we are going up a slope of maybe 45 degrees – okay, maybe only 5-7 degrees, but it felt like 45. Check out those taut buttocks ladies!

When I got to the bottom, they had pulled around the corner and over to the side and were preparing to start the next leg of their journey–uphill.  Tough, tough work!  I spotted Geoff just as he decided to give the guy a hand.  One of these days, I am going to have to get him out of a rice paddy or off an island to health care!  His heart was pumping pretty well at the top but he made it, and he was copiously thanked for his help. (Ed. note: both by the workers and the passers-by! I CANNOT imagine doing this all day, everyday!)

The Shoe

There were many possibilities to show you today. In the next blog, we will describe the “trip to the top”. However, you will have noticed that the roadwork is all brick – old and new and there are a lot of hills and stairs.  And, it was 80 C!

The young lady wearing these was delightful.

The young lady wearing these was delightful.

We noticed her fairly early on and subsequently chatted with her and her friends. On the way down, she was sitting with them and I asked if I could take a photo of her shoes. “Very beautiful shoes” She said “Yes very beautiful but it is hard for me, but I try”. As I said, delightful!

Upcoming – Staircase to Heaven, Wedding Mania and We Paid for This!

Oh, Oh, Forgot to Give this a Title

When you think you have run out of things to write, say or show about China, just go for a walk. (Ed. note: That’s what I did today, but before I tell you all about that let me express my stunned reaction to you. Either you don’t carefully read what we write or you have come to accept what we see as no big deal. I am referring, of course, to the last word in the first sentence of the last posting and the fact that no one reacted or commented. I could not believe it.)

Anyway today. It started with me watching a woman retrace her steps. She was doing it as I passed by on my way to the ATM – about 75 yards away. She was still doing it when I came back about five minutes later. What do I mean by retracing her steps, you ask. Well, she was walking backwards about 50 paces and then turning around and walking back backwards. Now this may just be exercise, but even in China it stands out as just plain weird.

From there it was on to the office. Apparently Terry has concerns that I am spending too much time at the office and also that since returning to Jiaxing, I have given up my long, daily walks. As a result she got in touch with them and asked that they start playing Christmas carols all day, every day. One can only listen to The Twelve Days of Christmas so many times over the space of four hours, so I was forced into leaving and going for a walk. Could be a long two months!

Many of you have visited exclusive golf courses in the US, particularly in and around Palm Springs – this would fit right in, don’t you think.

The Grand Entrance

The Grand Entrance

Welcome to the brand new Jiaxing Doubletree by Hilton

Well, fit right in if they got rid of the four huge rusty pipes coming out of the canal.

Well, it would fit right in if they got rid of the four huge rusty pipes coming out of the canal.

Once over the bridge, you are properly welcomed.

The lobby is huge, complete with a well-stocked and well-appointed bar. The only thing missing is – people.

Booze, booze and not a throat to quench.

Booze, booze and not a throat to quench.

Hey – maybe they are all downstairs in one of the two restaurants.

Uh, nope.

Uh, nope.

Oh well, I was was too busy to talk anyway. I wandered through the construction site next door – yes right through the site. No hard hat, no work boats, no safety vest, no problem.

Drop 'em in, move 'em out...

Drop ’em in, move ’em out…

This fellow seemed a little disconcerted by my presence – but most likely because I took his photo than anything else. And, if he’s not wearing a hard hat, why should I?

These guys were busy on the next construction site.

Look up Rusty, Look Wayyy up.

“Look up Rusty, look waaayyy up. See the nice men unattached on the scaffolding, Jerome?” “Hope they don’t fall, Friendly.”

Across the bridge I walked. This is frequently seen in Jiaxing and throughout China. Just because you are on a sidewalk leading to the downtown core, doesn’t necessarily mean it will get you there.

My question - what happened to the blind guide?

My question – what happened to the blind guide? I guess they know better than to take this bridge.

One of the nice things about walking in our neighbourhood is that because our buildings are so tall, you can always see them and get your bearings from them.

Well ALMOST see them. This was taken from just under 1 km away. Little smoggy today.

Well ALMOST see them. This was taken from just under 1 km away. Little smoggy today.

I had this left over from a trip we took to rural France awhile ago, so I thought I would throw it in.

No wait, this was today in Jiaxing.

No wait, this was today in Jiaxing.

And just after I took that one, I came across this. I’m no arborist, but I can’t imagine that this is good for the roots.

They were digging up the blocks of the sidewalk for some reason. Oh well, if the trees die, they will just bring in new ones. Maybe that's the idea.

Two guys were digging up the blocks of the sidewalk for some reason. Oh well, if the trees die, they will just bring in new ones. Maybe that’s the idea.

Finally, if this guy gets wherever he is going without losing that load, I would be stunned.

With a wing and a prayer...

With a wing and a prayer…

The Shoe

Sorry folks, running low on shoe photos. This was taken across the train station so it is a little pixellated, but you get the idea.

These heels were absolutely no thicker than a pencil.

These heels were absolutely no thicker than a pencil.

Talent runs amok

Random Thoughts and Photos

Went for Korean dinner after our Chinese lesson tonight. Had a good dinner after we decided to have the hot pot with beef instead of the one with dog…

This van has been parked outside our apartment complex …

So what if it has a flat tire

Sorry, can’t move it – it has a flat tire.

…since we got here – in September 2012!

Went across to Sherrie and Tim’s (Ed. note: Sherrie cooks too well and Tim drinks too much like Geoff) last Saturday – our new friends who are originally from South Carolina and and live in our complex. What wonderfully gracious people. We learned a new game – Blockus. Sadly, it is like all the other games we play, Terry wins, I lose. When we first had them over, they indicated that our elevators were in great shape compared to theirs. We found it hard to believe – until we went over…

Part of a floor is better than no floor, I guess.

Part of a floor is better than no floor, I guess.

Apparently it gets torn up a little more every time someone drags in a load of bricks and all they do is lay a new floor down, making it higher and higher and harder to get something into the elevator. Plus in building 8 they like to use the elevator walls as notepads to write phone numbers on.  Tim also told me that he has met the fellow who owns the 26th, 27th and 28th floors of the building next door (Ed. note: apparently there is a s&*^load of money in China) and that compared to the rest of rural China, Jiaxing looks and is quite prosperous. We were a little gob-smacked, at that, as the o/p and Lynne like to say .

Local Artists

You never know when you are going to come across talent. These are photos of my cousin Val’s thrown bowls. Val started with a couple of hosta leaves from her garden and created these incredible pieces of art. I have offered to be her West Coast distributor, so let me know if you want one. (Ed. note: After I get mine, of course.) I expect people on the West Coast to step up and show those people in Winnipeg how to appreciate talent! (Ed. note: Recently Winnipeggers were treated to the hugely successful “One Night Stand Art Show and Sale”. Don’t lose your opportunity to keep Val potting or throwing or whatever these damn artistes call it, and out of Lake Havasu!)

Val's Hosta Bowl

Val’s Hosta Bowl #1

Another one of Val's Hosta Bowls

Val’s Hosta Bowl #2

Next on the list is Mal and his incredible wood carving. The house is crafted from a piece of cottonwood bark and is about 17″ – 18″ high. The windows are actually clear with “glass” in them. I have added the yellow “lights” just for effect. (Hope that is okay, Mal). (Ed. note: As his Prairie Distributor, please send me your orders.  After I get mine,  I will let you know the associated costs). I expect all you Prairie People  to step up and show those people on the Wet Coast how to appreciate talent! (Ed. note: Don’t lose your opportunity to keep Mal carving or chiseling whatever these damn artistes call it, and out of Hemet!)

Mal's Hand Carving

Mal’s House

Finally who can deny the talent of the lovely photographer Terry. (Ed. note: We already have orders…) (Ed. note: Don’t lose your opportunity to keep Terry photographing or picture-taking or whatever these damn artistes call it, and out of Canada!)

And then there was lake Turquoise

And then there was Lake Turquoise…

(Ed. note: I want to be more productive (and richer), so please send me examples of your talents and I will display them, ensuring an change in your financial position.)

Enigmatic, Schizophrenic or Just Plain Inscrutable?

(Ed. note: To Our Dear and Faithful Readers: There is growing creative tension between the owner/publisher (henceforth referred to as “o/p”) and the lowly editor (henceforth referred to as “e”) of The Jiaxing Express. The o/p feels that the editor is: A) not doing his best work, and B) is beginning to repeat himself. As to A, this may be the case – maintaining the high standard set by the o/p is a challenge, particularly given the o/p does not have the time to contribute as frequently as the e and is able to create real drama in her writings. As to B, the e feels that either:

  1. Some of the incidents bear repeating, or
  2. Some of our esteemed readers may have missed the original recitations due to hair washing, oil changing or a myriad of other events which take up their daily lives, or
  3. Our lives have settled into a mundaneness (a word?) which needs to be shared as well, or
  4. E is now too old to remember what has been written about and what hasn’t, or
  5. All of the above

As a result, our offerings may be a little less frequent in the coming months, as we rededicate the e to composing a higher standard of  communications.)

China Post

We have mentioned China Post in the past, but today I had to mail a letter all the way to Shanghai. I could have hand delivered the damn thing faster. First, you MUST wait for about 90 seconds while the postal “worker” finishes playing the game on his phone.  Then, (as you know the addressing of the envelope is reversed in China but what you don’t know is that) you MUST have your return address on it and in Chinese (luckily I had it on my phone). Then you MUST wait for 10 minutes while the postal “worker”  types (hunt and peck method) the address it is going to and the return address into the computer and produces a bar coded “stamp” and affixes it to the envelope. Then you MUST wait another 3-4 minutes while he weighs the envelope and figures out the amount you MUST pay ($1.10) and then writes by hand something which looks suspiciously like my home address on the receipt portion of the bar coded “stamp”. So, to sum up, if you plan on mailing a letter in China, you MUST allow yourself 15 minutes. BTW I was darn glad I was first in line and not third!

Halloween in Jiaxing

Second Annual Halloween celebration at the BC Program of Jiaxing Senior High School. Now I don’t know where some of these kids get their costumes, but for a group of people who had no idea Halloween even existed until we got here and explained it to them, they really get into it!

From Vampires to Southern Belles...

From Vampires to Southern Belles…

Terry reliving her hippie days...

Terry reliving her hippie days…

Macey, Charlotte and Geoff in their House Sets. It was the official public appearance of Geoff's newest wardrobe addition.

Macey, Charlotte and Geoff in their House Sets. It was the first public appearance of Geoff’s newest wardrobe addition.

Parking

Once again, I share with you the Chinese penchant for parking where they want. The other morning we came out of our complex and here was this guy (Ed. note: I have been told by a strong feminist that the word “guy” is asexual). She/he had parked on a corner, half in a crosswalk, pointing the wrong direction overnight. How do I know it was overnight? His – or her – car was covered in dew.

Cool - that is our apartment just above the blue bar!

Cool – that is our apartment just above the blue bar! Terry is convinced these people come home pissed as newts and park in the first empty space they can sort of navigate into. Could very well be!

Japanese Food – Smokin’ Hot!

We have been craving some sushi, so we asked around and one of the “boys” (new teachers) said that they had tried this place and it wasn’t too bad. The “grill master” was quite artistic in how he arranged and cooked the food. On a scale of one to ten, overall it was a solid 6.5. It certainly wasn’t up to Katsu’s standard in Port Coquitlam, but maybe for China…

This was the best fish we have had in China, though, so that counts for something.

This was the best fish we have had in China, though, so that counts for something.

I’m going to guess that you can figure out that not all (read any) restaurants in Jiaxing are smoke free. (Ed. note: Except for Starbucks

Hey, no matches to take home though. This was at each place setting at the cooking bar.

This was at each place setting at the “cooking bar”. What, no matches to take home?

So there we were, had a mediocre dinner, and just settling in to watch the first episode of The Game of Thrones, (Ed. note: Judgment reserved until we see a couple more episodes. Reviews say it’s great, but from what we saw…) when, what to our wondering ears should occur outside our window but 5 minutes of (Ed. note: you only get a few seconds):

Please note: the big white blotches at the end of the video are the lack of the surrounding plastic coating, which is a result of the fireworks.

Saturday Morning Stroll

We went for a stroll this morning to get some chores done. One of them was to get one of Terry’s t-shirts altered/mended/changed. This woman was delighted to help us out. As Terry noted, the sewing machine had to be a treadle since there is no electricity on the street.

She giggled and smiled all through the mending.

She giggled and smiled all through the mending.

Also this morning we passed by the mall. Now there are many many restaurants at the mall and every morning tens of these carts show up. They take away the food waste from the night before. Usually these buckets are full, I’m not sure why these ones are empty.

It is a real treat to see these as I walk to Starbucks each morning.

It is a real treat to see these uncovered waste buckets as I walk to Starbucks each morning.

These guys were way cool. They wanted to stare at us as we went by, but tried to do it surreptitiously. I gave them the chance to stare and smile.

Dudes - Cool Hair!

Dudes – Cool Hair!

Examples of This Posting’s Title

People in China:

Push their way to the front of the line to buy their ticket – and then patiently line up 15 minutes before the gate to the train platform even opens to get on a train that has RESERVED seating.

Drivers will cut in and out of traffic and cut off anyone who is even minutely behind them but they demonstrate absolutely no road rage.

People on the street will stare at you with great suspicion as if you do not even belong in their country and then smile and laugh when you say nie hao.

Every bus has a recorded “Bing Bing” and then it announces the next stop but frequently the recording gets stuck in a loop and repeats itself over and over and over which drives Terry and I crazy when we are on the bus but no one, including the driver, ever seem to notice.

Fireworks go off at any time – the other morning we were joyously awakened at 5:38 but the kids at school have no idea what firecrackers are.

Our Saturday Stroll Continued- or The Shoe Boot

Normally, I don’t really comment on The Shoe photo and let it do the talking. However, we were walking along (it is now about 12:15) and there are three or four wagons selling noodles, hotdogs etc. – lunch things. This is our conversation:

Terry – What are you taking photos of?

Geoff – The boots

Terry – What boots? (Geoff simultaneously brings the photo up on the phone) OH, THOSE BOOTS!

Remember this is basically Saturday morning - not Friday night! The white shoe in the corner is what her friend was wearing. More sensible, but far less interesting!

Remember this is basically Saturday morning – not Friday night! The white shoe in the corner is what her friend was wearing. More sensible, but far less..uh.. interesting!