Monthly Archives: December 2013

Allright, already…

I am getting the impression that you all would have been on the Chinese guy’s side…

Anyway, prior to the Sunday debacle, we spent Saturday evening enjoying the sights and sounds of Nanjing Road East and the Bund. These entertainers seem to just spontaneously start up. Here you go… (Ed. note: The video was taken on my phone, over the heads of the audience(s). Please forgive the shakiness and occasional blurriness.)

A man and his zither

A man and his zither

Historic Laszlo Hudec-designed Art Deco cinema in People’s Square

Known to foreigners as ‘the best cinema of the Far East’, the Grand Cinema was frequented by Shanghai’s glitterati in its 1930s heyday. A Laszlo Hudec work, it was completed in 1933 and was the height of technological innovation – each seat had a translation system installed so that the Chinese audience could enjoy the foreign-language films through individual earpieces.

The Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre

Another Art Deco building

Another Art Deco Building – Plaza 353

The Chinese love their neon

The Neon Lights

The Neon Lights

Ala New York’s Times Square

Some incredible scenes were shown on this "sign"

Some incredible scenes were shown on this “sign”

The Swatch Art peace Hotel on the Bund

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel on the Bund


Another well lit building, next door to the Swatch Art Peace Hotel

Across the street from the above two stands Chairman Mao watching over all his children

Chairman Mao by night

Chairman Mao by night

And across the Huangpu River from Mao is Pudong – not an area he would have likely approved of.

Pudong at night

Pudong at night

And finally, before anyone else goes there, a Horse’s Ass.
Horse's Ass

The Shoe Blog

This was a matched set – the shoes and the pants. You can just see some sparkles up near her knees – but her entire pants were sparkles.

Her boyfriend's drab shoes enhanced hers all the more

Her boyfriend’s drab shoes enhanced hers all the more

Chinese Road Rage, Up Close and Personal

Our friend Lawrence, who was here last year as a principal of a BC Off-shore school in Shanghai, refused to ride in taxis and buses because of the erratic–sometimes insane–driving we had witnessed.  Lawrence’s insistence on safety-first led to a few funny sidebars, like the time we saw him and Helen about a block away from Lost Heaven where we were all meeting for dinner, but didn’t see them at the table for close to half an hour later.  He had taken a wrong turn and ended up circling several blocks before he found his way.  Better this than getting in to a cab with a mad man.

We have been in cabs when it certainly felt dangerous but last Sunday on our way from Shanghai to the train station in Hongciao, the danger we felt came from a driver in a new Camry.  Our cabbie did nothing unusual, as far as we could tell.  He did what we have seen cabbies and other Chinese drivers do a hundred times:  they merge by driving into the other lane.  They always make sure their front tires are about even with the other car’s front bumper, then pull in.  In every case up to this point, the other drive backs off to let the newcomer in.  It was so common as to seem like a rule to us.  No need to shoulder check, wait for space, signal; just gradually pull over into the next lane in front of the current driver who is supposed to back off and make space for you.  We have commented many times at the seeming lack of road rage that these maneuvers cause. But, apparently, it is not a rule.  This particular driver took umbrage with our driver and gave chase.  He stayed with us for about 10 minutes, pulling alongside then cutting the cabbie off so he had to brake or be driven into the cement abutment on the outside edge of the elevated highway.  Yes, that is correct–elevated highway.  Personally, I have no desire to die in a car accident and I especially do not wish to go out crammed into a cement abutment, suspended or worse over cars below.  On Sunday, it seemed a strong probability.  When he wasn’t trying to cut us off, he kept beside us, trapping us behind another moving vehicle.  Sometimes he would pull away into the far lane.  When our driver tried to get out, he would swerve back at us.  Cars in three lanes were honking at him but it made no difference.   Sadly, our car lacked enough power to make a getaway.  Each time our driver tried for the opening, I was hopeful we would lose him, but he just didn’t have the juice to get ahead of a new Camry.   When we turned off the main road to enter the station, the Camry slowed down and followed, but now he was biding his time, just waiting for our car to stop.  I knew we were in trouble when Geoff said to me, “It’s not our driver he has to worry about.  It’s me.”

As soon as our cab stopped, the Camry pulled in front of us, stopped and the driver jumped out and ran to our cab.  He yanked open the front door.  Before he could pull our driver out, Geoff jumped out of the back seat and flew into his face.  Meanwhile, our cabbie handed me the change and got the hell out of Dodge! Wise man!  The scene that transpired was not pretty but at least no blood was shed.  A loud verbal exchange–English to Chinese, Chinese to English–and much pushing and pulling followed, all of which caught the attention of on-lookers, some of whom gave the Chinese guy the thumbs up.  Geoff was unaware but I found it quite worrisome.  Can you say ‘outnumbered?’  The driver wouldn’t let us move on and began to behave just like he was still behind the wheel, standing in front of Geoff and trying to cut him off.   The yelling eventually caught the attention of a  policeman who made the three of us stop.

Try to imagine the scene:  Hongqiao is huge, about the size of 3 football fields.  It is a major hub, with about 20 fast-train tracks and hundreds of people arriving and leaving every hour.  Almost all of them are Chinese and almost none of them understand English.  So here’s a short, stalky Chinese guy into it with this tall white guy, both parties yelling  about the injustices that have been done to them to a Chinese cop who doesn’t understand English, in a sea of Chinese, none of whom look prone to siding with the foreigners.  Am I worried?  Oh yeah.  But one of us has to remain calm.

I ask for an English-speaking cop and finally, out comes a female police officer.  I try to tell our story but the whole time, the other driver is raving.  Geoff isn’t exactly quiet either.  The officer says we all have to go inside, into the police office.  Okay but the little guy keeps up the rant the whole way, which does nothing to calm Geoff down.  We still have to put our bags on the scanner so we can enter the building, then  as we pick them up, a woman who apparently witnessed the physical nature of the scene outside, began yelling, “This is China!  This is China!” drawing more angry crowds.  “How ironic,” I thought, as the tune to Alice’s Restaurant began running through my head,  “That’s what we say!  TIC!”  The cop stopped to listen to this woman and others, all witnesses on behalf of the mad driver.  Finally, I say to the policewoman in a low but firm voice, “Can we get out of here?  Take us into the office.  This isn’t safe.” Thankfully. she agreed.

Long story short, we weren’t arrested and neither was the driver of the Camry.  We were told that the police would review video of the roadway and if the driver and the cabbie were at fault, they would be in trouble and have to pay fines.  No one wanted to have an international incident, I’m sure.  Geoff had to apologize to the driver, which he did, and admitted he was wrong.  Much to my surprise, the driver was trying to stop Geoff from leaving because he had broken the guy’s cell phone.  I guess I missed that part.  Geoff gave him some money and we all left peaceably, but I was nervous until I saw that there were no crowds holding pitch forks in the grand hall.  We managed to quickly buy our tickets and board a train to Jiaxing within the hour.  Good gawd, what an end to an otherwise fun weekend.  Mercifully, all’s well that end’s well but the subway is looking a lot better.  Lawrence, I see your point!

Shanghai Lights

(Ed. note: Lots of great stories and photos to share over the next couple of blogs!)

We were in Shanghai for the weekend. I should have known – Friday the 13th. Started off with the usual crazed taxi cab ride to the train station. It seems Jiaxing has two types of cabbies – crazed and “we’ll get there when we get there”. This was followed by the usual crush of people pushing to get on to the train – even though the seats are reserved, there seems to be a real need to push ahead of anyone in a line. The fellow who tried, unsuccessfully, to get ahead of Terry was successful in getting ahead of me. Sadly, I think he may have some bruises on the back of his legs, since I was unable to control the suitcase I was carrying due to the jostling I was receiving from behind. (Ed note:  Terry is much kinder than I am.)

We were commenting the other day how, on the Jiaxing buses, people only get on through the front door and off through the back – they never try to get off through the front. On the train there is an announcement at every stop to please get on through the rear door of each car and off through the front door. People always have large packages, suitcases etc. so it only makes sense. However, there are always people who get on at the front and then have to fight their way down the 24 – 30″ wide aisle against the tide of people (including us) coming the other way. It was not my finest hour as I was not in a “cooperative, step to the side and let someone get by” mood.

The taxi setup at the train is very cool. They have a long (200 yards or so) walking lane about 30″ wide with railings on each side all the down. This puts everyone into a single line, first-come basis to get a cab. Very civilized. Fortunately, there were no incidents, other than a guy who dropped two 40 pound sacks of rice over the rail at the 75 yard mark and then had to walk back to the 200 yard mark to get into the lane.  It was a safe bet that no one in the taxi lane was going to cart off his rice, although that might have been interesting!

Friday night we met the boys at Mekong River for a very nice Vietnamese dinner (Thanks to Harvey and Cinec Canada). After dinner,  we waited for a cab and when one stopped to let someone out, we jumped in. We told him where we wanted to go and he waved his hand and shook his head no. We told him again, same reaction. Remember my mood on the train? Well, it had changed to a “I’m not getting out and the longer you sit here, the less time you have to make money tonight” mood. Finally after about 5 minutes he reached over, flicked on his meter and away we went – and in a very direct route, too! Victory was ours.

Saturday morning Terry was off to a Pro-D event and I was on my own – sometimes a dangerous thing in Shanghai. Not this weekend, though. I was very well behaved. Sat at Starbucks, marked some assignments and then went back to the hotel to meet a woman who was delivering some food we ordered from one of the vendors at the Farmer’s Market at the Ritz Carlton. Imagine free delivery to your hotel for $40 worth of food.

Terry got back around three and we were off to wander. First, we wandered through the new Jing’An Kerry Centre. The anchor tenant is the Shangri-La Hotel. One of the shops was offering champagne and Ferrero Roche chocolates as you entered. Kate Spade has a store. Get the idea? Boss is coming. Pick up the latest Valentino design. Now this is right across the street from Reel Centre where you can get Stella McCartney or Alexander MacQueen, Gucci, Coach etc. etc. I guess someone is buying, but there wasn’t anyone carrying any bags when we were there and if you couldn’t have fired a shotgun without hitting anyone, you could have fired a cannon. This is from their website:

Sadly, we don't fit the criteria

Sadly, we don’t fit the criteria

From there we were off to Nanjing Road to see the Christmas sights and lights. Just before  dark, we had dinner at the Sichuan restaurant where Barb, Michael and I ate in the spring. It wasn’t as hot as that time, but there were flavours and heat we hadn’t experienced before.  Black pepper pods still on the twig numbs the entire mouth, including the tongue.  After dinner we wandered down to the Bund to get some night photos of Pudong (Ed. note: Future blog)

I know you are tired of hearing about the “approaches” on Nanjing, but these two were priceless.

  1. Terry is about 20 feet to my right taking some photos and I see two attractive women approaching and one peels off to come toward me. “Hi – where are you from?” I keep walking. “Hey, where are you going?” she says. I say “To meet my wife and point to Terry” She looks at Terry, gives me a big smile, nods her head and off she goes.
  2. We stopped to watch some street performers (Ed. note: See next blog for video) and Terry has moved down, again the mad photographer at work. A guy comes up to me, shows me the ever present cards of beautiful women. “You want sex massage? You come with me – 1 minute away” “No thanks,” I say. “No, you come, we go” “No thanks” “Why not – why you no want sex massage” “I am waiting for my wife” “Where – where wife?”  Just then, Terry has left the crowd and is walking toward us – 10 feet away “There’s my wife” and just like that he says “You want shopping – bags, watches?” Very funny – very quick.

From there it was back to the hotel. On the way we saw many Christmas displays. The first one, however, is from two weeks ago when we were in during the day. Hope you enjoy them.

These are the skinniest Santas anywhere.

These are the skinniest Santas anywhere.

The Longines Tree at the end of the pedestrian mall would have been even better if all the ights on it were actually lit.

The Longines Tree at the end of the pedestrian mall would have been even better if all the lights on it were actually lit.  Lots of smokers in China.

Ciros' Centre

Ciros’ Plaza (Terry’s Ed note:  I share their love of neon!)

Ciro's Tree - tried to photoshop out the iPhone but what the hell.

Ciro’s Tree – tried to photoshop out the iPhone ad across the street but what the heck.

Outside a mall of music stores.

Outside a mall of music stores.

Westlake Centre has a Year of the Horse (2014) theme going. There were about 15 of these painted horses. Remind you of bears or whales?

Westgate Centre has a Year of the Horse (2014) theme going. There were about 15 of these painted horses. Remind you of bears or whales?

More of Westgate's theme

More of Westgate’s theme

The understated Gucci store

The understated Gucci store (outside the 5th floor)

The Westlake Centre's outside tree.

The Plaza 66’s outside tree.

The Westgate Centre's Inside tree.

The Plaza 66’s inside tree.

Outside the new Jing'an Kerry Centre

Outside the new Jing’an Kerry Centre

The Reel Centre Gingko Tree

The Reel Centre Gingko Christmas Tree – Shangri-La Hotel in the background at the top

Jing'An Centre Tree

Jing’An Centre Tree; nice juxtaposition to the Buddhist temple lions.

Jing'An Centre Decorated Wall

Jing’An Centre Decorated Wall

They are not trying to be subtle!! Bling Bling Holidays

Why rest on subtlety?  Bling Bling Holidays

This year’s winner, however is Bulgari.

The Billboard across the street

The Bulgari Billboard across the street

The Snake during the day

The Snake during the day (Ed note:  Terry was studying this display and said, “This should be a necklace,” looked around and there was the billboard across the street.  Bulgari has  a whole line of snake things–necklace, bracelet, rings.  A bit too much for me but definitely statement jewelry.  Next year is year of the horse.  Hmmmm.)

And finally,

The Snake at night

The Bulgari Snake at night.   What a fabulous display!  This is exquisite.  Last year they had 2 Mini automobiles suspended on this same pole.

Jiaxing Traffic Safety

Most of you, well the majority, well some, well a few, have commented to us about the smog we had last week around here. It was something. Even our little Chinese teacher Kathy said she had never seen anything like it. And she, like Terry, is never driven to hyperbole. Anyway, here is a little story told to us by Geoff* (Ed. note: Principal’s name changed to protect the innocent), the principal of a school in Shanghai.

One of his secondary students, who at 5 would have been described as precocious, but now, likely is described in other ways, was riding in the car to school. On the radio, it was announced that schools would not be doing morning exercises (Ed. note: A daily occurrence in all schools) outside due to the smog alert. For whatever reason the school decided to go ahead with the exercises and directed all students outside. Our “hero” was not going to take this flagrant disregard for the law lightly. He immediately got his (Ed. note: likely forbidden) cell phone out and phoned the police to inform them that the principal of the Chinese school was breaking the law. The police immediately showed up at the school. (Ed. note: Now we know what the police in China actually do – they enforce smog alert adherence). Apparently this caused some embarrassment and difficulty but was all sorted out among the authorities. Then it was the informant’s turn to be dealt with. I don’t know the result, but after school the student went to see Geoff*:

  • Student: “Did you hear what happened?”
  • Geoff: “Yes, but tell your side”….
  • Geoff: “I see. So did it work out for you?”
  • Student: “No”
  • Geoff: ” Did Mr Zhong*(Ed. note: Chinese principal, name changed)  know you before?”
  • Student: “No”
  • Geoff: “Well, he knows you now!”

Today I was standing at the westbound bus stop along with a woman who was old enough to be my mother (90+). She waited patiently for about ten minutes and then the eastbound bus came by and she tried to flag it down. When it didn’t stop, she spat out a huge &*^% and off she went – heading east. I’m curious what she would have done if the westbound bus had shown up first.

We have mentioned the lack of stop signs in Jiaxing. As I was waiting for the bus (now remember, I am on a street important enough to have a bus line run down it) a large, fully loaded dump truck comes down the street. 50 yards from the corner, he lays on the horn but doesn’t bother to slow down. The cross street he is approaching is a four lane major arterial route. He roars through and a good three seconds later a bus goes through the intersection. I don’t know if the bus driver heard the horn and slowed down, but I doubt it – I think it was just dumb luck the truck driver didn’t kill a bunch of people.

This is my unplanned until just now segue into a posting a wrote a few days ago but hadn’t posted yet.

A little while ago, I wrote about our weekend in Shanghai and then left the office. Little did I know that the Jiaxing Traffic Safety Council had been hard at work. They had set up a display with about fifteen agents/officers who were busy handing out pamphlets to visitors. They had numerous poster boards on display showing how to make right and left turns etc. They also had this poster which shows that I AM RIGHT! Traffic must yield to pedestrians. (Ed. note: So there Terry!)

I don't know what the characters say, but I know that traffic must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

I don’t know what the characters say, but I know that traffic must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Interestingly, Terry and I were talking the other day about the scary concept of the big blue dump trucks, the heavy loads of mud they carry around, the state of their brakes and the overall safety of the vehicles. The concept of safety checks does not seem to exist. We are pretty sure these would not be allowed to travel from the Upper Levels down into West Vancouver.

How often do trucks lose their axles in BC?

How often do trucks lose their axles in BC?

Once upon a time I was Tommy the Tanker...

Once upon a time I was Tommy the Tanker…

The next few photos are very graphic. I am assuming that the Safety Council believes that showing these images will have some kind of impact on the drivers. Having said that, I am not sure that having these displayed from 10am to noon on a Monday morning at the mall is the best use of them. (Ed. Note:  I have made some adjustments to them to make them less “compelling”.)

I am guessing the deceased was on the motorcycle.

I am guessing the deceased was on the motorcycle.

Good thing there was a mattress handy.

Good thing there was a mattress handy.

Tailgating can cause death - even in China

Tailgating can cause death – even in China

Well back to school – today is our first Open House. Should be interesting.

The Shoe Blog

It is hard to keep finding

  1. Cool yet different shoes/boots
  2. People willing to have their feet photographed by a foreigner

but we will persevere.

Terry and I saw these on Sunday afternoon. The two young girls giggled away the whole time while Terry was reassuring them that “It’s ok – he’s not a perv.” Thanks Terry.

The texture across the back made these very cool. Too bad they don't come in Terry's size.

The texture across the back made these very cool. Too bad they don’t come in Terry’s size.



Down to the local

Saturday was a busy day for Terry and Geoff. First they spent some quality time with Rich and Nancy and then they had to go to the office where Terry wrote her weekly blog, then it was off to Walmart to buy a pot for heating milk for Terry’s new organic oatmeal and they found the perfect little pot and discovered that on the box it was actually called “Milk Heating Pot” (Ed. note: Honest!), then it was off to Rainbow Department store in a futile search for Revlon lipstick, then off to school for the annual 2 hour Jiaxing Gaoji Music and Dance Festival, via Happy City where we saw just how honest the local residents are. Phew, I’m exhausted just remembering.

No real security precautions to keep the dish from being stolen.

No real security precautions to keep the dish from being stolen.

Note also the gap between the bottom of the door and the ground. God knows what crawls through the opening.

After the two hour extravaganza, it was home for a rest before dinner.

Do you think the sod is from a sod farm?

Do you think the sod is from a sod farm?

On the way we passed these two gardeners laying “fresh” sod. Reminds me of planting trees in January of ’73 in Toronto as part of a Winter Works program for he unemployed. We had to use a jack hammer to get through the first foot of frozen earth. The soil here is less than perfect, replete with scraps of paper and cardboard (see red circle) which just gets covered over. It will be interesting to see it in the spring.

We had asked Mr Zhao where we could get a good dinner, Hunan (spicy) style and after consulting  someone else he came back with a map and an address which wasn’t too far from us. After a glass of wine at home to fortify us for the oncoming adventure we set off. 10 minutes on the bus brought us to Youyi Street (Ed. note: Friendship Street, home to restaurants of all different types) Now I said that we had a map and an address – but the address was in Chinese. Using our rapidly developing Chinese and astute observation skills, we quickly discovered #428. It didn’t, however really look like a restaurant – more like a shop of some kind. We showed the paper to the fellow there and he indicated, yes we were in the right place and to go upstairs. We were a tad suspect, but what the hell – up we went.

At the top of the stairs we found a room with 4 tables and chairs for 14, and two other small rooms for a total of another 14 people. The ambience was . . . local.

Our Dining Room

Our Dining Room

From left to right above: The fellow in the red was the owner – he is getting rice from a big pot to serve us – but others just helped themselves; there is no no-smoking rooms at the local; I don’t know what the waste basket in the middle of the room is for (Ed. note: and likely don’t want to know); and beyond Olly you can just see Grandma out for dinner in her house set. We had a great meal – 6 large beer, a beef dish, 2 pork dishes, an eggplant dish, a greens dish of some kind and a fantastic (yes, I said fantastic) spicy fried cabbage dish all for 172 rmb (less than $30) – I think. When he brought the bill, he gave me an order pad with a total of 172 rmb on it and a piece of paper with 180rmb. I gave him 200 and he gave me 20 back and then launched into a monologue which had everyone else laughing and me confused. Then he took out his wallet and phone  and pointed to the table. I took out some money and he just laughed and I took my leave.

As I said, there are a total of 6 tables and 28 chairs (also 2 small stools). This is the kitchen – all of it.

It is the space under the stairs - an open grill in a wooden building.

The “kitchen”, such as it is, is the space under the wooden stairs – an open grill in a wooden building.

This morning we awoke to a smoggy Sunday. This is the view out of the same window.

Left: Not today Right: today

Left: Not today
Right: today

The Shoe Blog

This offering isn’t just about shoes, but rather a complete ensemble. This woman was in Starbucks yesterday. So often I have used the phrase “There are no words” but in this case…

The frizzy hair ALMOST matches the outfit.

The frizzy hair ALMOST matches the outfit.

(Ed. note: I apologize for the darkness on the left. I tried to lighten it up, but I hope you get the idea.  24 hours later, Terry is still shaking her head.  And she’s taking pictures of herself!  Yikes!)

TIC 2…or is it 3 or 4?

Saturday morning in Geoff’s office.  I’ve taken over the computer while he makes his daily observations and chats up the barristas who all know his name and how he likes his coffee.  Four of our grade 10 students sit at the corner table doing homework–yes, they are studious but in class not nearly as obviously.  There, shyness takes over, followed by a reluctance to speak for fear of making errors.  We are gradually breaking them down, encouraging them, cheering those who dare answers, whether right or wrong.  This is how you learn, we tell them, and they are slowly coming around.

Kathy - Our fun-loving Chinese Teacher

Kathy – Our fun-loving Chinese Teacher

I learn a fair amount from them, too.  For instance, all Chinese words are of one syllable.  Who knew?  I now understand why it is so difficult for the students to recognize syllables.  They don’t have them!  I know why it is so difficult for Geoff and I  to learn Chinese.  It’s bloody difficult, is why!  It’s not only that tones change the meaning, it’s that many words don’t seem like words at all.  It is really hard to tell where one starts and the other leaves off.  Before I came here, spoken Chinese always seemed to me to be sounds that I couldn’t capture clearly enough to guess at how they might be spelled or what they might look like.  I now feel the same, but more so. There are also duplicates by the 100s, depending on how or when you use them.  At lessons, we try not to let this push us off the edge and refuse to learn more than one or two variations.

"You speak Chinese very well!"

“Ni de ying yu fei chang bang” = “You speak Chinese very well!”

Back to school life:  when entering marks or doing anything else with a class list, it strikes me that when I’m less than a third of the way down, I’m always more than half way past the middle of the alphabet, referring to the order of last names.  TIC!  There are more names starting with X, Y or Z than I would have thought possible; only a paltry few start with B, C or G.  It’s a little surprising, when we think how many Chows or Chans we see in the BC school system.  The fact is that Chow is most likely a Westernization of  Zhou, just as Lee is really Li in China. The only Chan we have is Korean.

Get that Rebound!

Get that Rebound!

We finally got a basketball team off the ground, thanks to Andrei and Oliver who are coaching.  Our first game was last Thursday.  We have become part of a inter-school league, drawing teams from Shanghai, Suzhou, Wusong and Jiaxing.  It’s a great opportunity for our boys as they are wildly keen about bball but have only rudimentary instruction or coaching.  Their ‘techniques’ are developed mostly on the outdoor courts playing 3 on 3 or 5 on 5, which is to say, they are half way skilled but don’t know much about playing as a team.  Anyway, our first game was against Nanmo, where one of our teachers from last year is now, and is coaching.  The grade 11 kids were very happy to see him!  Our guys played well and although they lost, felt very good about themselves.  One of our players is Sammy, a tall grade 10 who gets lots of court time but has not yet become a team player.  He took a couple of falls, as is expected in this game.  No big deal.  Imagine my surprise then, when Daisy told me in the morning that he was in the hospital.  Some seconds passed before I remembered:  TIC!  I fall down, go boom, and now I’m a little stiff.  Better go to hospital!  Nothing makes me crazier.  Cowboy up, for gawd’s sake!  I told the coaches to school him in the ways of the human body after a hard work-out and to feel proud of aches, pains and bruises.  No whining and no missing school the next day!

After the game, as Geoff and I left the school we saw that the pizza order for the Nanmo boys was at the gate.  They faced an hour and a half bus ride so had chosen to get take-away rather than stay for the school’s hospitality.  Geoff directed the pizza delivery boy to the bus inside our grounds where the players and coaches were loading and we headed on our way.  When I saw Mr. Zhao the next morning, he told me that he didn’t get home for another half hour because the teacher argued for 20 minutes with the guy about the price of pizza !  Are you kidding me?  20 minutes?  In that time, they could have eaten in the cafeteria!.  Lesson:  don’t have grade 11 students place your pizza order.

In a few minutes we will be making our way to Jiaxing Gaoji for the annual Arts Festival taking place in the freezing gym.  I have a down vest in my backpack which will be necessary.  It’s a nice but really polluted day (many face masks in sight) and I’d rather be out doing something else, but it will be fun to see our kids singing and dancing.  Coffee done, we’re on our way.


This post is in memory of Blockbuster Video, the now defunct company which provided all of us with hours of tense, comedic, dramatic entertainment (Ed. note: Who could ever forget the eminently forgettable 147 minutes of Paris, Texas which, thankfully, was only available at the theatres for a short time, but lived on as a video you could sleep to) throughout the 1980s,  1990s and into the 21st century. Although it is gone, it is not forgotten (at least for now) (Ed. note: Blockbuster that is – not Paris Texas)

Our first video presentation is a small budget production which took one day to film and four days to edit (mostly due to infected software). Please understand that:

  1. The central character is the same one throughout – from Part Two through Part Four,
  2. If I can watch it real life, it should be fine for all of you, and
  3. Tim refers to “baloney sandwiches”

(Ed. note: Terry was a little confused – she didn’t realize the bird in Part Two was the one we ate).

Video two was also shot in one day on a minimum budget. Most of it is self explanatory but regarding the final scene, I had 12 10″ x 15″ documents copied in full colour, both sides, laminated twice – before and after being cut to size, for the magnificent sum of $15.00.

The Shoe Blog : This Issue – From The Sublime to The Ridiculous

Remember these?

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 interesting!

Well, they ladies here wear these as well:

Hello Kitty

Every thirty-something woman should have a pair of  Hello Kitty Hi Tops

Never a Dull Moment – or – TIC*

More on our weekend…

A Rope Tow is a Rope Tow

When we go into Shanghai, we take the highway. We came across this bus being towed along at 70 kph- I sure as heck hope they don’t have to stop suddenly.

Look carefully now - that's a long cloth strap such as is used to strap down materials on flatbed trucks

Look carefully now – that’s a long cloth strap such as is used to strap down materials on flatbed trucks

Is that Polish or Polish?

After Terry’s cleansing experience we headed off down Nanjing Lu to do our shopping. First up were a couple of older (Ed. note: It’s never possible to give an accurate age estimation – somewhere between 50 and 80, I’m guessing) gentlemen wanting to shine our shoes. Weakly I submit and 45 seconds and 20RMB later I have shiny new shoes (Ed. note: A great deal – last year I got to pay 100rmb!). The second gentleman wants to shine Terry’s – shine her suede boots. She generously allowed him to wipe them with some kind of cloth and a little liquid. He too wanted 20RMB, but she steadfastly refused – giving him only 10 since there was no polish involved.

You Want Sex Massage?

A block later Terry wanders in to a store to get water – I wait on the sidewalk and get offered a sex massage – it is 11:15 in the morning for God’s sake. Now, admittedly, the photos of the beautiful girls on the business cards he was offering  made it enticing, but with the price of 200rmb for a full hour I wondered if the girls in the photos were actually the girls plying their trade. Plus, if they were one and the same, I am confident that at my age an hour was not an appropriate amount of time.

Is that Polish or Polish? (Part 2)

Once I got rid of him, the fellow who had polished wiped Terry’s boots showed up again – with a different partner. The new guy wanted desperately to polish my shoes – guess he figured the first guy had done a pretty crummy job. Anyway, I kept saying no and trying to back away so he couldn’t put any of the cream on he was trying to apply. I finally lost and he got some on and then wanted 10RMB to take it off. This guy is half my size. I didn’t pay anything. Then both of them spend five minutes (Ed. note: Terry couldn’t find the water, I guess) demanding to know how much I paid the first guy. It was as if they believed they were getting ripped off by him. Hmmm.

Shanghai Tower

While waiting (still) I noticed the still under construction Shanghai Tower (on the right). Now for most of you this isn’t a big deal, but for those who have been/lived here in the past year, take a look at the two. The tower on the left is the  Shanghai World Financial Center, also known as the Bottle Opener. We showed photos of it a year ago. The floor over the opening is Floor 100. You figure how tall the Shanghai Tower is (Ed. note: Upon its completion in 2014, the building will stand approximately 632 metres (2,073 ft) high and will have 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft).)  There is no perspective issue here – they are literally across the street from one another.

The Shanghai Tower will be the second highest building in the world when it is finished behind the Burj Kalifa in Dubai.

The Shanghai Tower will be the second highest building in the world when it is finished behind the Burj Kalifa in Dubai.

My Bike is Valuable, Damn It!

Hey, it may be coverd in rust and the seat is all taped up, but I need it to get to where I’m going.

Look carefully at the front tire - it is locked!

Look carefully at the front tire – it is locked!

You aren't getting my bike!

You aren’t getting my bike!

We have always felt very safe no matter where we have been in China, but I guess the theft of of old, decrepit rusty bikes is rampant…

Parking, Parking 50 cents…

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived 2 blocks from the PNE and one summer Bobby Wick and I decided to offer parking on some unused land across McGill Street from the racetrack. We made very little money, but it was another example of trying to get people to pay for parking when they don’t want to. 

In China – forget it. People just park where they want – here, there are two rows of five cars parked  – hope the guys on the inside don’t want to get out any time soon.

Parking at the market

Parking at the market (Ed. note: See Terry with her purple backpack and the water she finally got)

(Ed. note: The fellow below lives in our building and has decided to start parking here every night. I do hope that is his wife’s silver car he is blocking. I admit that this doesn’t actually fit in to our weekend, but it is another example of parking in China).

Sorry for the blurriness - I was laughing as I took it.

Sorry for the blurriness – I was laughing as I took it.

A study in familial elegance

A study in familial elegance

On Sunday I was waiting for Terry as she did some  shopping (more Doc Marten shoes) (Ed. note: sensing a theme of how I spend most of my time “with” Terry?). I watched these two very elegant ladies chat away for about 15 minutes, thinking how typical it is of Chinese mothers and daughters to spend Sundays together. Apparently they were both enjoying the conversation since there were lots of smiles. All of a sudden the younger woman takes a 100rmb note out of purse and gives it to her. The woman thanks her and continues chatting away. The younger woman now tries to wander away, taking out he phone and chatting. The other follows. Finally a husband and real daughter show up and the younger woman leaves with them – clearly relieved. I don’t know what the older one’s “story” was, but she sure worked the younger one.

Terry’s a Bad Ass and Hey – I’m Hungry

Last year when Bruce and Kim were living in Shanghai, Kim was at first a little, let us say, tremulous in getting from one side of the street to the other. I seem to recall that that lasted until mid October, until she became a self-proclaimed Bad Ass and walked when she wanted to! (Ed. note: You go girl – still a bad ass?) Well Terry has now become a Bad Ass in a different aspect of Chinese daily life – lining up. We have described in some detail the Chinese penchant for just going to the front of the line and butting in. Yesterday at the train station, she not only pulled two men back from trying to butt in on one side of the line, she directed ME to stop the guy on the other side if he tried it! (Ed. note: He was in fact, just waiting for his girlfriend to buy the tickets)

On our way home in the taxi I spotted this woman on the back of the scooter eating her lunch – with chopsticks. What more can I say?

At least it wasn't soup

At least it wasn’t soup

Minor Observations and Irritants

I keep meaning to mention these and always forget – until today. One of the most frustrating things we have come across here is the kitchen sink. If the bottom isn’t actually sloped away from the drain, it is no more than dead flat. When you try to rinse out any little bits of things they just float around the outside and don’t want to swirl down the drain. A seemingly insignificant thing but frustrating none the less.

Also, for a population that wants to protect every square inch of their skin from the harmful effects of the sun, in both summer and winter, why is it they RARELY wear sunglasses – no matter how brilliant the sun may be?

Finally, we have noticed WAAAAYYYYY more caucasians in both Jiaxing and Shanghai lately. Watch out China we are taking over!

The Shoe Blog

Here are two for you.

Look carefully at the soles

Look carefully at the soles

More White and Black

More White and Black

The ones on the left are the new style in Shanghai. You take a very elegant boot designed for fashion and put a 1/2″ hiking sole on it. The boot below is from Starbucks one day – quilted white plastic. Very fetching.

* TIC – This is China

Terry Visits the… uh… “Dentist”

In  to Shanghai this weekend to pick up some prescription glasses (like we don’t have enough) and a few new pairs of Jimmy’s cords for Geoff, but first, a trip to the dentist for Terry.

(Ed. note: Sadly, no pictures to accompany the following.) We go to Parkway Health for any medical concerns–a good company with most doctors trained in the west and fully fluent in English, so of course I had no compunction about seeing a dentist there.  Geoff booked me an appointment on-line.  I had had my annual check-up in July and was pretty definite about only wanting a cleaning.  So here’s how it went, once I was in the chair.

What is the problem with your teeth today?

No problem, I just want them cleaned.

Just cleaned, okay, okay.  You don’t want me to take an ex-ray?

No, I had that done 4 months ago.  Just clean.

Okay, okay.  First I take a picture, then after cleaning, I will show you.

Sounds good.

There may be some bleeding and some pain.


Not to worry, it will go away in a day or so. In order to clean the best, I have to touch the tooth below the gum.

With what?


What will you touch my teeth with, water? laser?  metal tool?

Maybe water.

My teeth are pretty sensitive.  Please be careful.

Okay okay, don’t worry.  We will start with water.  Bleeding will stop after a little while.  First, we put these goggles on you.  Second, we put a mask over your face because of water splashing.

Okay (I guess.  I’m already sweating and sitting in the direct sunlight isn’t helping.  The mask turns out to be paper with a giant mouth cut out.  It’s probably a good thing that I can’t see what it is he is doing.)

He begins to use the high powered water jet.  Within 5 or so seconds, he blasts a nerve and I involuntarily jerk. After several more times, he stops and asks the assistant for topical anesthetic.  He applies it and starts again.  A few more jerks.  He stops and switches to the metal tool, the thought of which in itself is ominous but in his hands, develops a certain macabre tone.  The topical helps, although he has to reapply a few more times and I manage to get through it.

When they take the paper mask off, it’s a bit sodden on the upper edges around my forehead.  The goggles have not only steamed up but the water has actually started condensing and there are a few rivulets down the lenses.  Now the up-sell starts.

You have a cavity.

First they crank the chair so far up that my body is in about a 45 degree angle and I can no longer make out what is on the computer screen.  I tell him I can’t see the images.

Yes, perhaps you can’t see because I take these pictures with this plastic sleeve over the camera.  If I take it off, you would see better.  But if you look here (you’re kidding, right?) you will see you have a cavity.  You want me to take an ex-ray?

No.  No thank you.  (If you think I would let you do anything more to my teeth at any time, now or in the future, you have another think coming!)

Okay okay.

Phew!  I have lived through it and am a pound or two lighter from all the sweating but okay, okay, I can get out of there.  But first the bill.

Consultation:  450RMB/73.26 US dollars.  Remember how it went?  What is your problem?  No problem, just clean.  End of consultation.

Charge for procedure: 700RMB/$113.96.  Now, it seems to me that when I had a full check-up, ex-rays and cleaning in July, it cost me $178, and that included flossing, polishing and fluoride treatment.  He was reassuring in the end, however, when he told me my teeth cleaned up nicely.

Seriously, I think he was a rookie but, no matter.  That will be the last time I sit in a dentist chair in China!