Monthly Archives: March 2014

Our Grand Tour of China

(Ed. note: This week’s Jiaxing Express is a Guest Post by Martin and Lynne, who are visiting us as part of their Grand Tour of China.)

(Ed. note: Last June we ran Contest #2 for travel stories. The original winner has not yet given any indication of their desire to collect their prize so we have decided to arbitrarily give the First Place Prize to Lynne Cregg-Guinan whose story of her panties going around and around on the airport carousel provided us with gales of laughter. Congratulations Lynne and since you are here you can collect it.)

It’s Wednesday and we are off on our Oriental Odyssey. Delivered in short order to YVR, we go straight up to China Eastern Airlines check-in (12 desks open – take note Air Canada!). Two minutes later, we are heading to Security. Wednesday morning seems to be a good travelling time, because that was smooth sailing too. Duty free in hand, a twenty minute wait at the gate, and we are called. Everybody is on in less than 10 minutes (again, please note Air Canada!). A brand new plane, reasonable leg-space, individual entertainment screens, two drinks and three meals, some dubious English in the inflight magazine; twelve hours passes relatively quickly. On arrival at Shanghai Pudong, we haven’t the seat belts off when everybody is moving – never been off a plane so quick! Twenty minutes on the walkways (a BIG airport!), straight through Customs and into Baggage Claim. The good run we are having continues when our luggage is Piece Number One and Piece Number Three on the carousel. What luck! What ease! What could possibly go wrong at this stage?

Out we go to be met by a sea of dark hair, where a tall white guy with grey hair should be sticking out like a sore thumb – right? Nooo – no sign of Geoff (Terry is to join us the next day). Where could he be? Did we really agree to meet at Pudong? Or the hotel? Had he been arrested for some nefarious deed (such as the Jiaxing Express?)? Did we tell him the wrong date? The guy is always on time for Chrissakes!

Thirty minutes of shoe watching later, all is relief as Geoff appears, looking a little flushed. Much back slapping and hugging, followed by a raised eyebrow. “OK”, he says, “I went to the wrong terminal! No one ever arrives into this terminal (nobody but the Cregg-Guinans that is)”.

Where the hell are they?

Where the hell are they?

(Ed. note: Hey isn’t there SOME responsibility on the travellers to let the meeting party the terminal they are arriving at?  When I arrived at Terminal 2, there was no listing of the Cregg-Guinan’s flight on the arrivals board but what the heck – TIC. Anyway, after an hour of waiting I finally asked someone and they informed me that the China Eastern Flight had landed at Terminal 1 and I took off like either the tortois or the hare – you figure which one.)

On to Shanghai by taxi – they only go faster here by blowing the horn louder! Lane changes are accomplished by getting two feet ahead of the guy beside you and yanking the steering wheel. Arriving safely, we check into a lovely room with a shower you could fit twelve in. A quick rinse followed by a beautiful meal in a place called, appropriately, Lynn’s.

(Ed. note: L and M were a little shocked to open the closet door and see this.)

In case of attack...

In case of attack…

Next day, up early for a huge breakfast, including Wonton soup, bacon and sausage, yogurt and copious amounts of coffee and pastries. Then to the Rip Off Mall – er, Replica Mall. Instead of waiting for G&T’s friend Links, Geoff and Martin go to the Secret Secret Room, where we are soon bedecked in new watches. All is happiness until we meet Links, whose facial expression when we tell her the prices we paid is something to behold. C’est la vie. (“No comment” – Lynne) (Ed. note: Links’ comment: “Don’t buy anything here without talking to me first! I am mad at you!”). Upstairs then to the glasses shop where Lynne orders one pair of Chanel long distance glasses with transition lenses and a pair of prescription sunglasses. Cost around $220 each. Gorgeous though. They will be ready for pick up on Saturday if we wish to.

An afternoon spent exploring, followed by a trip to the South Bund Soft Material Spinning Market, where Lynne orders two pairs of wool pants, a pair of summer capris and a skirt – to be ready 48 hours later. This is greatly facilitated by the fact that she has brought the originals that she really likes for them to copy. Then back to the hotel to meet Terry. More hugging and kissing, followed by large amounts of wine, and a great meal in a restaurant called Lapis Thai. By now we have this pedestrian thing down pat – crosswalks mean nothing, nor do one way streets.

On Day Three, take the ingredients of Day Two and repeat. Over to Pudong, only to see all the tall buildings we wanted to see disappear into the clouds.

Left - Shanghai World Financial Centre 101 floors; Right, Shanghai Tower 121 floors when completed this year.

Left – Shanghai World Financial Centre 101 floors; Right, Shanghai Tower 121 floors when completed this year.

Nature kicks in, and we head to the Financial Centre Building (it looks like a bottle opener), where we all sample the Pudong Pudenda Purifier – a device that warms the seat and cleans you front and back when you are finished!

I never bben so clean!

I never been so clean!

Left: The newlyweds @ 13 years; Right: the newlyweds @34 years

Left: The newlyweds @ 13 years; Right: the newlyweds @34 years

After all those beer, here’s the toilet at TGIFriday’s:

When you sit down you are a height to really enjoy the STRONGLY scented balls in the urinal.

When you sit down you are a height to REALLY enjoy the STRONGLY scented balls in the urinal.

So, off to the Tacky Tourist Tunnel under the river, where, to compensate for the innate properties of tunnels – that there are no views – they have installed a Whistler style rail gondola, and enough crazy lighting to obviate the need for LSD on any given day. (not recommended for people prone to seizures!! ). Then, along the Bund with about one million Chinese on weekend family outings.

Lynne and Terry at the flower wall on the Bund

Lynne and Terry at the flower wall on the Bund

(Ed. note: For dinner it was off to Lost Heaven. Now those of you who have lived in Shanghai know how wonderful this restaurant WAS. The last two times we have been there have been very disappointing. The food has been bland, and the service too “more wine, sir” pushy. It was such that Terry and Geoff will not soon return and Lynne and Martin said if they lived in Shanghai they too would avoid it Perhaps they are resting on their laurels. Lapis Thai, on the other hand was fantastic!)

On Sunday, we walked to through the French Quarter and Peoples’ Square. The latter is quite remarkable due to the Sunday activity there. Parents of grown children write out the credentials of their offspring on a piece of paper with a contact # and sometimes a photo and pin it on either an overturned umbrella or on a wall behind them. Other parents and singles prowl through and read all the papers and write down the contact info of those interesting to them. Lots of apparent matchmakers are present too. Must see if this would work in Blue Mountain Park when we get home!

Shopping

After an excellent lunch of dumplings and other delicacies Geoff and Lynne go and collect the clothing (all fit perfectly). Terry and Martin do a bit of grocery shopping to take back with us. We then say goodbye to Shanghai and head to Jiaxing on a bullet train. The railway station in Shanghai is something to behold and is the size of an airport terminal and very new.

However, we have no idea what this means – seen by Lynne on the wall in the women’s water closet.

Yes, it does say "Troubleshooting in"

Yes, it does say “Troubleshooting in”

By happy happenstance, we have to buy business class tickets, which puts us in a carriage that is as close to flying first class as you can get while actually on the ground!

Aaahhh, comfortable seats after long days of walking.

Aaahhh, comfortable seats after long days of walking.

And here we sit, blogging while our hosts are at work. A few days here, then off to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army and to dust the Emperor’s Tomb (the first emperor). We are there for three days, whence G&T will return home, and we go on to Beijing, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Stay posted!

The Shoe Blog

Geoff spotted these while Lynne and Martin were looking all over FreshMart Grocery store for Chinese beer – to no avail. They had to settle for German Pilsner.

Very cute - and the shoes are great too! LOL

Very cute – and the shoes are great too! LOL

Tales to Amaze and Delight You…Well, Entertain You Anyway

(Ed. note: It has come to our attention that with the somewhat sporadic postings lately, some of you thought we might have been on the missing Malaysian Airlines plane. Fear not, we are still here. We assume there is wide spread Chinese media coverage, but not reading or understanding much Chinese, we don’t know for sure.)

(Ed. note: Before the telling of the first vignette, a little information for you. The Chinese administration are incredibly supportive of both Terry and the program. They start each weekly meeting with “What problems do you have that we can help solve?” We really are very fortunate to be working with them.)

Terry has been experiencing an increasing degree of difficulties and frustration with her computer at work in the last little while. She has had the district techie in, he has replaced the original and then replaced the replacement, he has wiped it clean and started over etc. etc. However, it finally bubbled over the top on Wednesday afternoon. Here is her email to Mr. Zhao, the vice-principal of the Chinese school and her administrative partner on that side: (Ed. note: I don’t agree with some who thought it was a bit of a “hissy fit”.)

Hi Mr. Zhao.  I used my “wiped” computer successfully for 20 minutes this morning before it crashed.  I am so frustrated and fed up with time and work lost and not being able to count on my computer to do my job.  Daisy called the techie again, and again he came and took my machine away.  He has left me another computer which, of course, does not have the programs I use, so more time wasted downloading programs to access my files.  The computer is in Chinese which adds to my frustration.

I don’t know what I have to do to get a computer that works but I MUST HAVE A COMPUTER THAT WORKS.  I also don’t understand why the computer is not returned to the factory and replaced with another–it is brand new and it doesn’t work. Is that not considered defective?  Why are we wasting my time and the techie’s time?  This has been going on for weeks.

Surely neither Principal Xu or you or any of the adminstrators would be expected to work this way.   Please tell me what I have to do to get a new computer. 

Here is Mr. Zhao’s reply on Thursday morning:

Hi, Ms Watt. I am sincerely sorry to hear that another crash occurred on your computer, and the crash got you into a lot of trouble in your work. I am consulting with IT teachers, the techie and Principal Xu about it, and I will do what I can to solve this problem.

We decided to buy a new Apple computer for you, which maybe is better than what you used. I hope that it will help your work in the future. As you know, we have to place an order with some company for a new Apple computer, so there are a few days before the new computer arrives. I will ask them to send it to us as soon as possible.

Very Sorry to you for the computer crash.

George

Here is Friday’s delivery:

Terry's New MacBook Pro

Terry’s New MacBook Pro (Terry is very very happy!  Way more than she had hoped for–so pleased)

I was in Shanghai the other day for something or other and could not resist taking this photo of this lady. She was focused on something…

Deep in thought at the Shanghai-Hongqiao Train Station

Deep in thought at the Shanghai-Hongqiao Train Station – her shoes just weren’t going to make the Shoe Blog, though.

On Thursday afternoon, (this is Sunday afternoon) I heard some jack hammering outside our apartment. After two and a half days of hand digging, this is what we have:

This hole, all hand dug is now the height of the men working in it.

This hole, all hand dug, is now the height of the men working in it.

Terry surveys the fill while one of the workers sharpens his digging tool - of course, there are no safety glasses.

Terry surveys the fill that came out while one of the workers sharpens his digging tool – of course, there are no safety glasses.

With the beautiful spring weather we are having, Friday afternoon brought a couple of HUGE trucks (and one smaller one) to the display area at the mall. They unloaded a couple or three hundred scooters and waited for the customers to arrive – which they did. I am going to say that over the two days they sold 75 – 80% of them. They come in all sizes, colours and price ranges.

Did you want a lovely pastel or a matte red for your $466.00?

Did you want a lovely pastel pink or a matte red for your $465.00?

Or perhaps a leopard skin, cow print or Union Jack for only $557.00? No license (or helmet) required, just give me the cash and you can drive away today.

Or perhaps a leopard skin, cow print or Union Jack for only $557.00? No license (or helmet) required, just give me the cash and you can drive away today.

This little guy was a hoot. He was in the seat in front of us yesterday as we went across town to have dinner and a foot massage with Cheryl and Andy. For a good 15 minutes he could not take his eyes off me. He never drank from the bottle just sucked on the nipple, and if his mom got his attention for a second, he was right back staring at me. His mom kept trying to get him to stop, but to absolutely no avail.

"I'm not afraid of it, Mom - but what the hell is it?"

“I’m not afraid of it, Mom – but what the hell is it?”

After dinner we went to Cheryl and Andy’s local foot massage place where they are both very well known as a result of their frequent visits. For us, it was our second time there. We booked a 110 minute massage which covers feet, legs, and back. I had #126 – they don’t use names. Now, I need to be in the right space for a foot massage because I am very ticklish and I wasn’t in that space last night. After trying twice, she gave up and started working on almost every other part of my body – I say almost because there were six other people in the room (Terry, Cheryl, Andy and the three other “masseuses” – I don’t think they get actual training). She came VERY close to my entire body and then asked if I would like my ears done. I think she was looking for something to do since she couldn’t do my feet.

"Got my miner's light on, I'm goin' in"

“Got my miner’s light on, I’m goin’ in”

Now ear cleaning is quite common in China – you usually get it done when you get a shampoo and hair cut. However, Terry refuses to have it done, particularly since she once saw an employee using a Q-Tip on a customer with one hand while she (the employee) was reading her phone held in her other. Anyway, #126 shows up with a kit. She has Q-Tips, little metal scrapers, a skewer about 8 inches long with a brush on the end and her miner’s head light. It was quite the experience, I must say. Fortunately, I clean my own ears frequently so there was very little stuff to remove.

The Shoe Blog

Aaaahhhh Spring. With the better weather out come the more colorful shoes. This young woman was also at the train station when Terry and I came back last week. As Terry said, though, they may be nice looking shoes, but you notice she is sitting down.” (Ed. note: on some kind of electrical box and i didn’t notice but her friend, who also had high heels was standing next to her.)

The platform is about 2" high and her toes don't go anywhere near the front of these. They are quite nice though - a small checkerboard pattern.

The platform is about 2″ high and her toes don’t go anywhere near the front of these. They are quite nice though – note the small checkerboard pattern which you can just see at the heel.

“You are beautiful, I love you”, “You are so thin”

Well, we have spent a couple of days in Shanghai. Terry had her 5 year medical thingy to deal with. While we were there we experienced our usual TIC moments. These are in no particular order.

1. We are in the doctor’s office today, which is quite the place. The “practice” has four or five suites around Shanghai and caters to expats. It is always an experience to visit. Today there was a young fellow who had injured his leg and was on crutches. He came out from his appointment with the doctor to the receptionist. The conversation with her went like this:

  • Young fellow: “When can I get in to see the specialist?”
  • Receptionist: “Well, she is all booked up for the next three or four days.”
  • Young fellow: “Well then, when is the first time I can get in to see her?”
  • Receptionist: “Tomorrow morning at 10:30”

2. While Terry was at the doctor’s offices, I had a couple of hours to kill so, as usual, I just wandered the streets. Also, as usual, I got quite a few looks – how is my outfit unusual? My question is why no one looked at the fellow on the right, which, really, is at least a little unusual for downtown Shanghai.

Terry thinks the guy on the right is doing the Sons of Anarchy thing.

Terry thinks the guy on the left is doing the Sons of Anarchy thing.

3. These people were preparing lunches for the workers in the area – but they were not pleased to have their photos taken.

The left side is the kitchen and the right side is the area where the dishes are prepared for delivery.

The left side is the kitchen and the right side is the area where the dishes are prepared for delivery.

4. This fellow, apparently made some kind of illegal left turn and was stopped, in the crosswalk, by the police officer. The police officer then told him to get out of the car – leaving it in the crosswalk, and to come across the street where he could write him the ticket. Who needs a crosswalk, anyway.

"Just leave it here."

“Just leave it here.”

5. One thing about Shanghai is that there are very few one way streets – but this is one of them. Although, it seems that the scooters don’t really care – and trust me, they are going the wrong way on a one way street.

One way, shmone way.

One way, shmone way.

6. Our friend, Links of the bamboo underwear, has a brother, Chen, who is our prescription eye-glass source.  I got Geoff to take this shot of the back room of his shop, which is really just one of several “secret” back rooms where one is invited as a special customer.  I took a secret shot to try to capture his height, which didn’t really do it.  Geoff bluntly asked him to stand and he was more than happy to oblige.  I dubbed him “The Gnome” for obvious reasons.

Terry and her Gnome

I’m thinking his hair and my chin–it’s a match!

7.  And now for the title of this blog.  These are a few things that one does not hear in Vancouver:  an elderly woman on the subway was staring at me.  As I was getting off, I helped her move her baby stroller which she was using to carry her bags, and she said, “You’re beautiful–I love you!”  Okay.  Interesting.  Out on the sidewalk,  a group of 4 young people asked me if I would take their picture, which is often the beginning of a con.  But the one fellow handed me his phone so I snapped a picture and headed on my way.  One of the girls called,” Hey, you’re thin! Where are you from?” as if a thin woman was unheard of in China.  In fact, the vast majority of people in China are thin.  Could it be that I was Caucasian and thin?  I’m still thinking about this weird comment. Personal boundaries are scarce here, hence the loud talking, the staring, the comments, the pyjamas on the street.    TIC!

The Shoe Blog

These are somewhat typical of many Chinese women’s shoes. They are dead flat, no arch support, thin soles but as Terry says “Ugly as hell”.

They are beige, so they work with any outfit!

They are beige, so they work with any outfit!

Sorry Folks

Apparently I have caused mucho confusion. The “Rolling Stones in Shanghai Update #2” was just a one liner saying that the “The Rolling Stones in Shanghai” post had been reposted after Terry added her comments. There is no real “Rolling Stones in Shanghai Update #2” which a few of you have commented on that you can’t access. So, if you want to read about our concert experience just go to jiaxingexpress.com and you will see it – “The Rolling Stones in Shanghai” just under “Rolling Stones in Shanghai Update #2” – which doesn’t really say anything. Clear as mud??

Rolling Stones in Shanghai

(Ed. note: In the midst of the unpacking of the wine last week, I got a text from Shelley asking if it had been delivered. I told her yes and to look for the blog that afternoon. Later I got this email from her:

“Earlier today when I received the confirmation from you that you received the wine and you noted I could read about it in your blog, my colleague (Chinese) said “ Ah, I think he will mention the packaging.  It can be difficult.”

Thanks for the information!

You were our first delivery so far outside of Shanghai…perhaps we should get company branded hammers and send them out with the deliveries!  (Ed note 2: YES!!) 

Do you have a fireplace?  You could use the wood to keep warm… you did mention it was cold!” End Ed. notes)

Now, on to The Rolling Stones! Well the Stones have come and gone. We told you we would provide a review of a bunch or 70 year olds jumping around. But before we get to the concert, one of the great things in China is that you get drivers to take you places so that you can drink wine and have appies on the drive in to Shanghai to dinner before the concert – which is exactly what we did.  (Ed. note: Thanks to Tim and Sherrie!) When we got to the arena, we discovered that we had perfect seats. My seat was on the aisle and the aisle was in the exact centre of the stage – and we were in row 11. They couldn’t have been any better.

We figure we were about 50 yards from the top of the "tongue' where Mick, Keith and Ronnie were frequently performing from.

We figure we were about 50 yards from the top of the “tongue’ where Mick, Keith and Ronnie were frequently performing.

The crowd was quite interesting. Apparently the Stones are multi-generational and multi-cultural.  Having said that, it is pretty clear that there were not many others there at my age. Some observations:

  1. our generation of Chinese did not grow up with the same interest in rock music that we did (Ed. note: Related to Mao’s influence, perhaps?)
  2. there are not a lot of expats (Ed. note: the audience was likely 70% non-Asian) of senior years living in Shanghai.  Terry disagrees, saying there are lots of older male ex-pats in Shanghai, just not many female ex-pats, and perhaps not so many of either at the concert.
  3. younger concert goers in 2014 – Asian and Non-Asian – feel the need to frequently leave the arena to get something else, effectively missing – oh, I don’t know, but maybe 30% of the concert. Maybe that is because they can only get one glass of wine at a time, beer sales are cut off at about 5 minutes before the concert begins and marijuana is not available – at least there was certainly no familiar and comforting fragrance in the air.
  4. however, even I had to leave briefly (missed all of Ruby Tuesday) to get something to drink. I bought a large juice – 30 yuan but all I had was a 50 yuan note. The guy was very flustered because, I guess, they were closing the till and he couldn’t give the correct change, so he gave me 15 yuan – and a bag of potato chips. Go figure.
  5. You would think, that after 50+ years Jagger would know the names of the band. He introduced Charlie Watts as Charlie Wood – Richards had to correct him.

Now, have you ever been to a rock concert that started on time? Well neither have we. The Stones came on at 8:30 – exactly 30 minutes late and left at 10:35 . 19 classics later but with no intermission. I am pretty sure that I could not have moved as much or as “gyrationally” as Jagger did last night. It was really an amazing concert – even if they didn’t do Brown Sugar (Ed. note: See below) or Wild Horses. Were they rocking? Well, we never sat from the opening note and even I was dancing – well, dancing as much as I can dance. Terry, Sherrie and Tim were really going at it though – as were the other 15 000 or so at the sold out Mercedes Benz Arena.

Set List

  1. Street Fighting Man  (by request) (Ed. note: Apparently the last time they were in China they sang Honky Tonky Woman and Brown Sugar – which they have since been banned from singing here)
  2. Miss You  (followed by band introductions)
  3. Slipping Away  (with Mick Taylor) (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  4. Happy  (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  5. Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor) a fabulous 10 minute duet with Jagger on the harmonica
  6. Encore:
  7. You Can’t Always Get What You Want  (with the Dulwich International Singers) – must have been an an amazing thing for these twenty twenty-something singers to be on the stage with them.
  8. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – an emotional and energy draining 15 minutes

Terry’s view:  I read an interview with Keith Richards in my March Timeout Shanghai. When asked if there were reluctance from the rest of the band to tour, he said, “We only do this when there’s an obvious desire or need.  Mick’ll call me and say, ‘Isn’t it about time we did something?’ and I’ll say, “I’ve been waiting for this call, how does Charlie feel?’…I actually do wait for Mick Jagger to say, ‘I feel like rocking’ and then it’s, ‘Okay mate, I’m right behind ya’ and that’s the way we do it, y’know?”

Watching the show, it was clear how much the band counts on Jagger to show the way.  Thanks to the giant screens that allow patrons to see any show much better than the first time I saw the Stones back in the last century, we were able to watch the band members follow Jagger around the stage with their eyes, waiting for him to cue them.  Once, it seemed like they lost the rhythm as Jagger did his thing, but were able to pick it up again a some seconds later. A funny moment came when he and his female vocalist met at the front of the ‘tongue.’  She was obviously not understanding his subtle direction to cross behind him and change positions, so he did a chest bounce off her bountiful bosom, giving her the smallest of smiles, before pulling her past him.  The surprise on her face was real but she didn’t miss a beat and the two just kept on singing and dancing.

What a great show!  Our seats really were terrific, as Geoff said, and it was so much fun dancing and singing to the oldies.  ‘Satisfaction’ was a blast, with everyone stabbing their fingers in the air along with Mick. He might be older but he’s still got the moves like Jagger!

It took me 50 minutes in line to get these puppies!

It took me 50 minutes in line to get these puppies!

The Shoe Blog

Well, as I have mentioned , the shoe photos are few and far between these days. Instead, I have a little video of something I observed today at the office. This is one of those things you just know is going to happen in China but you don’t know when.

For the first 20 minutes she just used the table – but eventually she used the plastic bag. They chew the sugar cane and then get rid of the pulp…TIC

Wine(ing) in China

We have spoken whoops, written before about wine in China. The yellow wine (which is really more gasoline coloured , and flavoured, than yellow) is not at all to our liking and baiju – well, enough said about the 53% stuff. Initially, we discovered that Walmart, although they do sell wine, is almost exclusively Great Wall wine. Truly, they should just build a great wall around the winery and keep it inside. There is also Chengdu wine but never having sampled it, I will not comment. Auchon and RT Mart, two other grocery stores, have a limited supply of decent wines but it is heavy to carry all that white wine home on a daily basis.  (Ed. note: having said that, Tim introduced me to Shearer’s Shed, a rather pleasant and perky little Shiraz from Australia for only 80 yuan.)

We then moved on to ASC which is a very large corporation which delivered wine all the way to Jiaxing from Shanghai. They put the cases on the bus and then they were picked up locally and delivered. Unfortunately, the delivery person only spoke Chinese when he phoned to tell me he couldn’t find our apartment and I had no idea what he was saying. We never missed a delivery, but it was always interesting trying to make connections. Additionally, they only would take orders online via a PC and not a Mac (What??) so I always had to order from Terry’s computer at school. Quite inconvenient.

Next we moved on to Freeman. We discovered him at a “Farmer’s Market” outside the Ritz Carlton Hotel. He and his wife Susan were running the business and doing fairly well. He delivered all the way out here as well, but charged 100 yuan ($16.00). However, at times it was difficult to get in touch with him – didn’t answer email, phone or text. This was usually when we were desperate for white wine and would cause us great consternation.

For a year and a half this is how our wine was delivered - except the cases were taped shut. it didn't matter if it came on the bus and commercially delivered or personally by Susan or Freeman. Just a couple of boxes.

For a year and a half this is how our wine was delivered – except the cases were taped shut. It didn’t matter if it came on the bus and was commercially delivered or personally delivered by Susan or Freeman. Just a couple of boxes.

And so we come to our latest supplier – Roque Fine Wines aka Rob and Shelley from Vancouver. Shelley and I met through our pal Ken. Rob and Shelley and their two young sons moved to Shanghai last August to start up a wine import business and finally last month got all the paper work done and started doing business. Since we are almost out of white again, we thought it was time to support our expat friends and ordered two cases (Ed. note: 1 of each colour) to be delivered today. Shelley informed me on Tuesday that she would let me know whether the delivery would be am or pm so that I wouldn’t have to sit around home all day waiting.

Now for the last year and a half whenever we were having something delivered from Shanghai, be it wine or anything else, it has never been earlier than 2:00 so I figured I could go off to Starbucks for coffee at 8:15 and have lots of time. At 9:05 I get a text from our neighbour Tina that a courier has delivered a package and it is in her apartment. I ask if it two cases of wine. Yes it is and I can get it later when I come home. Great, now I can relax, enjoy a second cup of coffee and read my book.

At 11:00 I get a phone call and hand the phone to one of my barista ladies to answer. It is a delivery service saying that they will be delivering one case of wine to my house later today and I need to be home and be by my phone. “What?” I think – Tina told me there were two cases there all ready. What is going on? So I leave my coffee and hoof it back home.

When I get home, I knock on Tina’s door and when the door is opened this is what I see.

What the hell is this? It takes Tina's father-in-law and I to lift and carry it!

What the h%^@? It takes Tina’s father-in-law and I to lift and carry it!

Now, I know that Roque Fine Wines is new to China, but really all this – for two cases of wine – there is enough lumber and bubble wrap here to build a Chinese house, for God’s sake. I know security is important, but come on. Anyway, let me move on.

We live in an apartment – I don’t whoops, didn’t ever need a lot of tools. I have a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, some twist ties, a little electric drill and kitchen knives. None of these were able to get this open. Suddenly I recall that in a cupboard on the balcony the owners had left a hammer. Ah Ha!

I get the hammer and think okay – no problem just knock the slats on the “back side” (top as you look at it) off and voila – access to the container. Oh no – the wood simply shatters. After about fifteen minutes, I get one slat off and am able to work one case out. I then try to slide the other one over but there is too much bubble wrap above and below it to allow that to work easily and I continue to issue words of frustration. You who know how I perspire can only imagine how I was. I can’t see what I am doing without my glasses – but they are covered in perspiration and I am constantly taking them off, wiping them and me off and putting them back on only to repeat in another 15 seconds. Oh yes, the air was somewhat blue.

Finally I get the second case out and this is what I am left with.

And this doesn't show the chunks and splinters which went flying all over the living room.

And this doesn’t show the chunks and splinters which went flying all over the living room. If you look closely at the slat that is broken off you will see 5 nails sticking up. I kept waiting to step on them or put my hand on one. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

Really, should it be that hard to open a case of wine?

Really, should it be that hard to open a case of wine? I was drenched in sweat, but, unfortunately, my selfie doesn’t show it.

Was it all worth it? Only time will tell – but Shelley let’s talk about an alternate form of wrapping next time. Cheers.

We have rolled out the red...uh... table runner to welcome our new friends.

We have rolled out the red…uh…table runner to welcome our new friends.

The Shoe Blog

As I mentioned, shoe shots are tough right now – most everyone is just in stiletto-heeled knee/thigh high black boots – yawn yawn, so here is a photo of about half of the scarves (there are 28 here) Terry has bought since we got here.

These are the light weight ones - the heavier ones are folded and in a drawer...

These are the light weight ones – the heavier ones are folded and in a drawer…

Random Musings (and Photos) by Terry and Geoff

Here it is a rather blah Sunday (Terry’s note:  this might have something to do with Geoff’s state of health after entertaining last night.  It was actually a beautiful sunny day in Jiaxing) in the thriving (?) metropolis of Jiaxing. As usual, we had morning coffee at Starbucks and then went to Metro to do some grocery shopping – always an experience. Friday night we went to a restaurant whose big claim to fame is goat – 1/4, 1/2 or a whole goat. Now, one would think that if you were all about goat, you would have goat, but not in China. “No, no goat – you have lamb”. We did find out what clutching meat is though – it is like a lamb pot roast and quite delicious, despite its name. (Terry’s note:  If Geoff wants to believe this is NOT organ meat, I am not going to fight it, but really–clutching meat?  I’ll pass.)

Clutching Meat - how it got that name who knows.

Last week a new friend – Ross, from Kelowna, kindly let us stay at his apartment in Shanghai for the weekend. He is in apartment 2003 – as you can plainly see from the felt marker on the wall next to his door.

"Don't worry about numbers on the door, I'll just write it here on the wall."

“Don’t worry about numbers on the door, I’ll just write it here on the wall.”

Okay – in Metro: Whole milk, skim milk, soy milk, goat milk, breast milk even, but…

Peanut Milk - what the hell is peanut milk? Milk for bowls of peanuts or milk from peanuts? Who knew?

Peanut Milk – what the hell is peanut milk? Milk for bowls of peanuts or milk from peanuts? Who knew? And just what is “Healthy and delicious to you one day a good mood?”

Apparently this guy was just too something or other to continue.

Yes, that IS a motorcycle they are sliding in to the luggage compartment.

Yes, that IS a motorcycle they are sliding in to the luggage compartment.

Actually, it’s a scooter which is much lighter.  I (Terry) think the bus was taking workers to a site somewhere and the guy wanted his bike with him.  They only go 20km on a charge so of course the bike has to go in the luggage compartment.  TIC.

This is how things are weighed by the vendors outside the markets. Very old school.

One might describe this as a rather "toothy" smile, mightn't one.

One might describe this as a rather “toothy” smile, mightn’t one.

We have talked about sleeping…

Left: Sound asleep at 1 pm on the bus with Mom and a peering dad overseeing; Right Sound asleep at 12 noon in a bench in the mall with tons of people passing by.

Left: Sound asleep at 1 pm on the bus with Mom and a peering Dad overseeing; Right: Sound asleep at 12 noon in a bench in the mall with tons of people passing by.

Further to my hospital comments, some loyal readers focused solely on the state of the washroom/janitor closet, which is totally understandable, but I thought I should also comment on the plus side.  First of all, the service was prompt.  We checked in at reception and were escorted to Floor 2 very quickly after paying for my record booklet (all written in Chinese).  The hospital we went to is not very busy–I suspect it will get that way once the area it is in gets more built up–so I was able to by-pass the number system and go right in.  The number system is very like the system employed by some bakeries or other busy establishments in BC that insist you take a number and wait to be called for your turn.  In the hospital, same same, except you register at the desk and then are given a number, which generally shows up on a reader board.  We have seen this system used in the passport office, the Canadian Embassy, Hospital #1, and banks.  Bakeries have not yet twigged to it but it is certainly a good idea for any large business in a country this populated.  In the hospital, the corridors and waiting areas are very large and spacious so there is lots of room for the many metal chairs for waiting patients.  Once you have seen the doc, you go directly to the lab area, followed by the dispensary.  Both services are provided quickly.  Quite impressive.  This is the public system.

Our health insurance is private and the place we go is amazing.  While many of the docs are Chinese, they all have great English and are all educated in North America.  I went to a specialist whose degree was from Harvard, for example.  You can book an appointment on line, cancel or change it by calling a 24 hour hotline, and get in to see your doctor or specialist in a very short time.  The GP I see makes special arrangements for me via email because she knows I come in from Jiaxing.   All very nice as are the facilities.  I have been to Shanghai Center (home of the Ritz Carleton), Gleneagles, housed in Tomorrow Square in “The Pencil” (one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in Shanghai) and in Jin Mao tower, located in Pudong, right next to the World Financial Center.  The Jin Mao is a fantastic structure, build in a series of 9-floor sections with each one defined by a pagoda-like cap.   I learned that the word for 9 is jio (Jo), which sounds like the word for longevity, which is a wish for everyone, hence the significance of the design.  In all our pictures of Pudong, this was the one that Judith, Geoff’s sister, admired the most.  All of this is to say that the private health care system does very very well in China, possibly due to all the ex-pats whose cushy health care plans pays for it.  What can I say? I like it very much.

The Shoe Blog

Recently we have hit a dry spell with The Shoe Blog. It could be the winter months or a fear of arrest. Either way we are reduced to showing slippers in our apartment. I will endeavor to get some more interesting photos in the next while.

Pathetic!

Pathetic!