Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Art of Consumption, Round 2 or How to Get Free Food and Beer

(Ed. note: Technically speaking, this was the A of C, R 1 since it preceded by 2 days the one I wrote about yesterday, but what the hell.)

Saturday night I headed off to a restaurant I have discovered on Food Street which serves good, cheap, spicy food along with good, cheap, cold, cold beer. However, as I walked down the street I saw an outside grill set up and they were cooking oysters and crayfish. I didn’t get past it.

The Best Table in the House

A romantic table for one on the window. Well it was on the outside of the window of the restaurant.

A romantic table for one on the window. Well, it was on the outside of the window of the restaurant, not too far from the air conditioning unit. This how all smallish restaurants (and some large ones too) bring you your “china” – shrink-wrapped in saran wrap to show it is sterile.

The Kitchen

Chefs in the Kitchen. She couldn't stop looking at me and laughing and he wouldn't look or laugh.

Chefs in the Kitchen. She couldn’t stop looking at me and laughing and he wouldn’t look or laugh.

The Prep Kitchen

Just before I took the picture, she got rid of her cigarette.

Just before I took the picture, she got rid of her cigarette.

The First Course

The spicy, cumin flavoured crayfish were fantastic ...

The spicy, cumin flavoured crayfish were fantastic … Not only spicy hot, but piping hot.

The Best Eating Utensils

They give you two sets of these in order to eat the first course. Here's the problem: By the time you realize you need to change them or take them off, they are VERY slippery and difficult to remove.

They give you two sets of these gloves in order to eat the first course. Here are the problems: 1. They don’t provide a lot of protection from the hotness of the shells and 2. By the time you realize you need to change them or take them off, they are VERY slippery and difficult to remove.

Second Course

As good as the crayfish were, these were better.

As good as the crayfish were, these were better.

A Growing Business

As best as I can figure out, this is what is going on. There is an established restaurant in this spot on my right with many inside tables, pictures of dishes on the wall etc. The grill gets set up outside by a couple of  “temporary chefs” when shellfish is in season. I think this because at various times in the evening a chef in real whites comes out and seems to give these two some directions. Also, as more people want to eat outside, the man goes to the truck, brings out stands, table tops and stools and sets them up. You can order stuff from inside or out. Much like the sidewalk cafes we experienced in Bangkok.

Need more tables and chairs?

Need more tables and chairs?

Now, about the title of this posting. After I had finished the crayfish and oysters (and 3 large beer) I saw them bring out some more shellfish which seemed larger and somehow different than what I had, so I put in an order, they cooked it and brought it over. Lo and behold it was the same thing. (Ed. note: Turns out that when you cook shellfish, they get smaller, unlike, say souffles, which get bigger. Ah, the world of cookery – one learns something every day.) I had talked a little bit to the people at the table next to me earlier – 4 men and a women in their 20’s. We had had the obligatory toast to China, Canada and whatever else they said and they had invited me to join them. I didn’t but when I saw it was the same thing, I gave the crayfish dish to them and proceeded to finish my beer. Just as I called for the bill, one of them said “Oh sir, you can go now, my friend has paid your bill.” So, free food and 3 (so far) free beer. How good is that!

I thank them profusely, leave and start wandering down the street. I pass a another table of 10 or so  20 somethings and one says “Hello” and I say “Hello” and he grabs my arm, a full beer off the loaded table and we Gambei! Again, I offer my thanks and I leave.

(Ed. note: Pretty sure none of the above happened to the Shanghai Party Girls!!! So there!)

On a different note: I was coming back from the train station the other day and passed a residential complex. There are 20 – 30 very nice looking 30 story apartment towers and a similar number of 4 – 5 story condos. I would think it is about 50% completed and occupied, with the 50% incomplete section still surrounded by HUGE plywood or concrete fences (it is difficult to tell as they are painted). The gates to the completed section welcome you to the Chianti Aristocratic Family ResidencesThe walls around the incomplete section advertise the Chianti Royal GardensBut here’s the thing. The slogan on all of the walls says:

The Quality of Life is So Different in France*

The Shoe Blog 

For all you who say I have a female foot/shoe fetish, I say – this is why!

Who puts yellow rubber soles on men's brown leather saddle shoes?

Who puts yellow rubber soles on men’s brown leather saddle shoes?

* For those who have forgotten their geography, Chianti is in ITALY!

 

Terry’s Asian Birthday

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Surprise! For all I knew, Geoff and I were flying to Hong Kong for an extended weekend to celebrate my big 60th birthday. We were to leave from school at around noon with the school driver to take us to Hongqiao airport, bag all packed, sans nightie, sans passport. The first surprise came when Geoff allowed me to get into the car, then said, “I have a surprise for you. I am not going with you.” What? I was not feeling great about this new development but okay, trust me, he says. He handed me a packet of envelopes with instructions on the top about when to open the first one.   He closed the door, waved good-bye and the adventure began.

Second surprise: I was not going to Hongqiao Airport. I figured it out as we drove past the exit and on. I sent him a text. “This feels very weird.” And then: “Do I have a passport?” “No,” he texts back. A few minutes later, he texts, “Trust me.” Okay.

At 2:00 pm, I opened the first envelope and read the instructions. Printed underneath some pictures that detailed where I was supposed to wait in Pudong Airport. Yes, that’s right, in Pudong.   The pictures placed me in front of the International Arrivals gate no later than 2:30. Brilliantly, I deduced that I was meeting someone from Vancouver, flight arriving at 2:35.   But who would it be? As it turned out, I had an hour to wait. Each time people came through, I stared at faces. After the first 40 minutes, I began to think that strangers were people I knew.

I began to consider who it might be: Probably a girl friend, since I gravely miss my girlfriends here. Could it be Ria? No, she’s been to China and has newly moved to Pentiction. What about Karen? Doubtful. She has not expressed any interest and was concerned about the WCs. Nancy? No, her husband has some medical issues at the moment. Lynne? She was just here so no way. What about Jan? Most likely. She is my oldest friend. On the other hand, maybe it would be my brother and his wife or my aunt and uncle. But why would Geoff not be with me? No it had to be a girlfriend, most likely Jan.

Surprise number three: “Terry, Watt,” I hear from behind me and turn. There are 5 of my best friends! NO WAY! I roared and then stood still in total shock. It took me a moment to unfurl the “Welcome to Shanghai” banner Geoff had made for me, then walk to them and hug and shriek at each of them. Surprise doesn’t begin to cut it—shock is much closer. I was gobsmacked entirely.

Geoff had hired a driver and a 6 seat van to take us all to the hotel. “All aboard!” Mr. Janca (Ed. note: Okay, let me straighten out some people here. I am sure you have all travelled via air and when you get off the plane there are drivers holding up signs with the names of arriving passengers on them.  In the effort to keep Terry from knowing what was going on, I  could hardly have the name “Watt, Therrien, Rollins, MacPhail, Cregg-Guinan or Waldie” being held up could I? So, I took a letter from each the ladies names in alphabetical order: Jan, kAren, lyNne, nanCy, riA. Thus Janca. I explained this in my instructions to the visitors, but they all continue to call the driver Mr. Janca – these are the women their husbands are dealing with, folks) was awesome and did what he was told, quite happily. Geoff had thoughtfully installed 6 champagne glasses and 2 ice cold bottles of champers, which we immediately cracked open and drank. By the time we got to the hotel, everyone was over the jet lag and I was whirling like a top. First stop, the 12th floor to check in. Sorry, no passport. Now I know that this is not to be trifled with in China. The hotel MUST make a copy of your passport and visa and have it on file, repeat customers included. It took a few calls but eventually Geoff was able to send the copies to Peter the manager and he was satisfied. The hot h’ors d’oevres arrived within a few minutes of being installed in the room, along with flowers, ice buckets and ice. On the bar were a dozen bottles of white wine and 6 large beer were cooling in the fridge! Let the games begin!

After several drinks and appies, I opened the envelope. Included were subway cards, a train ticket home, a certificate for foot massages for all, a new charge card for me with which to purchase 2 dinners at places already reserved, a whack-o-cash and an itinerary for some of the activities. Geoff had thought of everything! (Ed. note: I fall on bended knees to beg the forgiveness of any of the 5 husbands – any husband really, involved in this.  I just had too much time on my hands.)

The Art of Consumption

Aaaahhhh. Consumption and Chinese generosity – can there be a better combination? Not in my world.

A week or so ago, Mr. Zhao told Terry that some local people and some “foreigners” would like to meet with the staff and chat about the program and then take us out to dinner. Turned out that it was last night and I was “forced” in to standing in for Terry, since she is still Shanghai Partying!

There were six people all together. The most senior man was Mr. Choi, the regional head of the United Front Work Department, an agency under the command of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Its main function is to manage relations with the non-Communist Party elite, including individuals and organizations holding social, commercial, or academic influence, or who represent important interest groups, both inside and outside China. (Ed. note: There are, I believe, 8 of these regional districts in China. It occurs to me halfway through the evening, this is a big guy – what’s a kid who grew up in Ranch Park doing here.)

Along with Mr. Choi was his deputy, who apologized profusely for not having his business card, Mr. Gong and Mr. Cheng, Mr. Cheng’s wife Tulip (Ed. note: When she introduces herself, she says to me “Like the flower” “Beautiful” I say “Exactly” she says and laughs. Tulip and Peter are the “foreigners” because, even though they are Chinese, born and raised in Jiaxing, they now live in Richmond. Go figure.) and Tulip’s best friend.

We get the traditional welcome from Mr. Choi and then the purpose of the get together is explained. Mr. Gong (Alex) and Mr. Cheng (Peter) have an engineering business and an educational consulting business. The latter is being developed to support Chinese kids as they go overseas to go to school. They want to get to know us and offer their services to us. Now, I am not sure at this point if they are agents (Ed. note: companies (often sketchy at best) who charge families to find university placements for Chinese students), although the fact that they are sanctioned by our principal Mr. Xu and Mr. Choi leads me to think maybe not. We talk about what problems – language, cultural differences etc. they will face. Anyway, after we chat in the meeting room, we give them a tour of our facility and then it is off to dinner – the six of them, Mr. Xu, Mr. Zhou, Andre, Neil, Olly and myself. At the restaurant we are joined by Mr. Li from the company and a young lady who is the company’s office manager – making a Company of 14. (Ed. note: The part of Bilbo is played by yours truly.)

Chinese customs are interesting things. The tradition is respect authority, age and relationships, but in what appears to be a floating order. When we get to the restaurant the teachers, as guests, get the couches first. As more people arrive, depending on their seniority, the Chinese get up and offer their seats to them. However, if you are junior, find your own chair. Finally, it is time to move to the table.

“Geoffoo, you want pegio (beer) or baijou (52% Chinese liquor)?” I ask for beer and then they bring it and the baijou. We have explained the toasting process before – so I start with getting up to toast Mr. Choi and thank him for having us. I note that all the Chinese people are watching this interaction with great interest since I have a glass of baijou (maybe 3 oz.) in my hand to do this. Tulip keeps saying “Geoffoo, it is hot (strong), just a little”  “Geoffoo, it is hot, just a little”  “Geoffoo, it is hot , just a little”. Hey, I have the reputation of the western world on the line. Gambei! Bottoms up go Mr. Choi and I – and let me tell you it may have been the first, but it was not the last. I have learned though: for every Baijou I Gambeied, I Gambeied a white wine glass of pegio! Plus, I had to do my part and TERRY’S part too.

I have never felt more welcomed than I did last night. Alex, Peter and Tulip – our new friends – as well as Mr. Choi, Mr. Xu and Mr. Zhao made certain the four of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Between the food, the refreshments and the conversation we had a wonderful time. Alex showed me photos of his private area off his office – spectacular view, spectacular granite bar, spectacular pool table, spectacular couches – and told me I was welcome to visit anytime. Spectacular!

Peter and Tulip are wonderfully friendly and live in Richmond. I know we will develop a relationship with them once we are home.

You may notice that there are no related photos accompanying this posting. I took a photo of Mr. Zhao making a toast and at the same time Olly was making a video. It was the perfect display of Chinese generosity. Tulip, who was sitting in a place of honour next to Mr. Choi was out of her seat like a shot. Xi Jinping, president of China is making a  significant and very public attempt to reduce corruption and inappropriate use of taxpayer’s money (Ed. note: Hey, Stephen Harper, Christy Clark et al are you listening?). Tulip wanted us to know that if we took the photos, could we please be sure that they were kept for personal use only. We both deleted them and assured them they were gone – I think they were very relieved, although I am pretty sure that the meal was being paid for by Alex and Peter and not the government. As it is elsewhere, it is the perception that counts, not the reality. (Ed. note: Come to think of it, perhaps the concern would be that Alex and Peter WERE buying an expensive meal for Mr. Choi et al. Hmmm – I will have to reflect. Man, am I naive!!)

The Shoe Blog

This pair was at the Jiaxing South Train Station Sunday morning, waiting to go to Shanghai for a day of walking and shopping.

I do wonder how they felt 8 hours later...

I do wonder how they felt 8 hours later…

Turning 60 and Saturday at the Mall

Terry turned 60 yesterday and 5 of her girlfriends flew over to surprise her  (she thought we were going to Hong Kong to celebrate it). They are spending the weekend gallivanting around Shanghai – she may let you in one what they did later. Thus I am left to my own devices. What can a man who speaks no Chinese do all weekend? Well, he can spend 4 and 1/2 hours Saturday morning observing what happens at Jiang Nan Mall. However, before I get to today, a brief recollection of yesterday.

I have been trying to cut down on my wine consumption (Ed. note: Terry thinks a glass whoops, a bottle a day is over doing it. Who knew?) Anyway, in my effort to behave, I have temporarily stopped ordering cases at a time, on the premise that if it isn’t in the house, I can’t drink it. (Ed. note: it’s okay, Rob and Shelley, Terry doesn’t follow the same thought pattern and will be ordering when she finishes what is here.)


While the cat is away, however… Yesterday I dropped in to WalMart, which sells a perfectly drinkable Australian Cabernet Sauvignon for only $15.00. I picked up two bottles and took them to this cashier, which is where you pay for your liquor. She was chatting with a fellow employee and motioned that no, I should take them to the front of the store as she was, apparently, too busy. When I went to take this photo, her friend ran away. She, though, was unperturbed. (Ed. note: I have always wanted to use that word in a sentence. Actually I wanted to use nonplussed, but there is confusion on the internet as to its meaning.)

"I am far too busy"

“I am far too busy”

Anyway, on to today.

Those aren't Macdonalds or Starbucks bags she's carrying.

Those aren’t Macdonalds or Starbucks bags she’s carrying.

Let’s start with this young lady. I saw her leaving with her shopping bags at about 10:1o. Now, I have a pretty good idea what opens when – before 10:00 Starbucks, MacDonalds and WalMart. Suffice it to say that she must have dressed for her shopping at Walmart.

 

Let’s move on to this pair. I dub them Grandma and Grandma’s friend. When I say   to Terry – “Hey why don’t you wear something like that?” she will respond “Age appropriate Geoff, age appropriate.” Now you can’t see Grandma’s face, since she is hidden behind the kid’s face. Trust me, despite the good looking legs, she’s not long before she too is celebrating 60. The other thing is, she and her friend were in Starbucks with their husbands for a good hour and that kid was NEVER out of her arms.

"Age appropriate, Grandma , age appropriate"

“Age appropriate, Grandma , age appropriate – and what’s with those shoes?”

I don't know who would buy this outfit, let alone wear it in public - and again, what's with those shoes?

I don’t know who would buy this outfit, let alone wear it in public – and again, what’s with those shoes?

Moving on, these are a couple more. Remember, this is Saturday morning at Starbucks – all happening before 11:00.

Great look for a Saturday EVENING dinner party. Or, maybe she is going to be out all day.

Great look for a Saturday EVENING dinner party. Well, maybe she IS GOING to be out all day. She did smile at me every time she went by, though – and that was 4 or 5 times. Hmmm…

Her friend, though, may need a little help in accessorizing.

To be fair, it is a Paul Frank hat - or at least a Chinese Paul Frank hat...

To be fair, it is a Paul Frank hat – or at least a Chinese Paul Frank hat…

This woman came in, wandered around on her phone for 5 minutes – and then left. Are those daisies on her skirt?

She really should have a different colour phone...

If she is looking to be “colour” matched maybe she should have a different colour purse and phone…

When this woman came in, it was easy to see that she was wearing two dresses, as the purple one had buttons below the waist. I guess if you get tired with one outfit during the day you can switch up.

Dress upon dress

Dress upon dress – this is not an uncommon thing to see in China.

Could someone more fashion conscious let me know – is it okay to mix flouncy sleeves on a cream blouse with an orange purse, mint green skirt and bright turquoise shoes (Sorry – the brightness didn’t come out too well)? I didn’t think so.

Fashion faux pas?

Fashion faux pas?

Let’s talk about cars and a scooter, another way to give you the opportunity to give your head a shake in China.

Yesterday a HUGE truck pulled up into the display/parking area at the mall. It was fully loaded with something that was under tarps and it just sat there for a long time, taking up space. This morning it was gone, replaced with this. This is the weekend to sell Minivans in Jiaxing, apparently. They set up the building, the stage, the HUGE speakers blasting out rap and start selling.

Step right up folks. Buy a car, get a TV set, a bicycle or a toaster oven (really.)

Step right up folks. Buy a car, get a TV set, a bicycle or a toaster oven (really – they were all piled up at the side of the tent waiting to go.)

I’m thinking this guy missed the lesson on parallel parking. He must think that empty spot is a place for him to angle through and leave himself partially on the crosswalk so the step down isn’t so far. In the background, can you count the number of #97 buses lined up? Do you see four? By the way, this is a two way street. How about the guy  just behind the guy.

You mean keep it on the road?

You mean keep it on the road?

I think this guy may have been going for a candy apple green (good colour for an Infiniti don’t you think) but forgot to tell them to make it really shiny. And how about that black grill and symbol…

When I come home, I may get a new paint job on my Infiniti.

When I come home, I may get a new paint job on MY Infiniti…

Finally, I saw these two coming out of WalMart, carrying this purple glass flower arrangement thing and heading to the scooter parking. No I thought. Yes, indeed. Safe to drive with this, I’m sure.

After I took a couple of photos they saw me and let me know in no uncertain terms that I was to stop! But too late...Ha ha!

After I took a couple of photos they saw me and let me know in no uncertain terms that I was to stop! But too late…Ha ha! Can you see the helmet – no need to wear THAT, of course…

The Shoe Blog

Today an entire package. You get: The nice looking outfit, the backwards coat to stop dust and wind from affecting your outfit and your body temperature, plus the purse and scooter lock sitting in the well. And, no helmet to mess up her hair!

It is a good thing feet don't actually do anything on a scooter, other than provide balance when you stop. On the other hand, today I saw a woman in 4" heels pedalling a bicycle. Try THAT you crazy Canadian women!

It is a good thing feet don’t actually do anything on a scooter, other than provide balance when you stop. On the other hand, today I saw a woman in 4″ heels pedalling a bicycle. Try THAT you crazy Canadian women!

Speak Beautiful Sentences

(Ed. note: Long ago in a faraway land called Burnaby, I used to take kids on what were called field trips or field experiences. They were to a variety of places, with a variety of purposes with a variety of successes. On Tuesday morning this week I witnessed what appeared to be the beginning of a local field experience. Three large SUVs holding a total of 12 – 15 passengers were clearly waiting for the last couple of people to show up and then, I suppose, they would be off. I don’t know where they were going, but I would bet anywhere where 12 – 15 KTV girls, all appropriately dressed, go would be a success. …Ah, Chinese field experiences – so different from Burnaby ones…)

We have some photos and the odd little tidbit for you today.

This is a substitute photo. It was taken by Tim at a meal in January. We would have taken one just like it if the chicken head on the chicken we had Sunday evening would have been in as good shape as this one was.

"Sorry, its my last one"

“Sorry, its my last one”

We were leaving our complex the other day and these two guys were just sitting in a bag – we think their feet are likely tied since they were making no effort to leave the bag.

If it sits like a duck ...

If it sits like a duck …

Now, I’m no marketing genius, but I think that if your goal is to sell the diamond, maybe having the claw dead centre isn’t the best image you want to project.

Maybe focus a little more on the rock...

Maybe focus a little more on the rock…

Just another contented patron after their strong (?) Starbucks’ coffee…

Do people REALLY sleep like this?

Can people REALLY sleep like this?

Remember the auto detailing shop from a few blogs ago? Well this car was outside it today. It is one of several cars in Jiaxing which like the chrome look. (Ed. note: the chrome, unfortunately, doesn’t photograph well.)

Who knew chrome came in bright blue.

Who knew chrome came in bright blue.

Just like I am not a marketing genius, I am not an engineering genius. However, maybe, once most of the canal had been drained and before the backhoe went in, those guys, sunk up to their hips could have tested the mud.

Who knows how deep this is.

God only knows how deep this is.

Why this one, you ask. Well, this is where the taxis stop just outside the mall. They ALWAYS stop there. So why would the one with the glass in front of it not pay attention and stop before he rear ended the other one and broke his headlight?

And why would the police have to come racing up, sirens and lights going, for just a broken headlight?

j

Do you think the RCMP, Vancouver or West Vancouver would attend this accident)?

So the school administrators wanted to take Terry out tonight for her birthday. It was a great meal with many delicious dishes (Ed. note: delicious is the only adjective the Chinese use to describe food). It is interesting when two people speak, effectively, no Chinese, two people speak no English and two people speak both. Right at the end, Daisy (one of the to bilingual people) translates for Mr. Xu, the Chinese principal, that he wants our students to practice choral speaking every morning from 7 to 7:20. He thinks that if we give them “Beautiful sentences” to speak every morning, not only will they do it without supervision but they will develop deep feelings for it. Apparently, the kids in the Chinese school do this. We will be visiting the other school next week to view the effectiveness of this approach. Not that we are sceptical, but we don’t think Canadian kids would respond particularly positively.

The Shoe Blog

Spotted these beauties on the bus the other day.

Reminded me of a confetti angel food cake

Reminded me of a confetti angel food cake and a sweater I had in the early 80s.

 

 

 

 

Past, Present and Future (?)

On the way to school the other morning, we saw a cement truck parked at the front gate. It reminded me of my father’s car. In 1968 he bought a brown Dodge Coronet 440. It was the last car he ever bought – he had it until I got rid of it for him in 1994. Anyway, by the mid 1980s he was repairing it with brown MacTac (just not an exact match) – both inside and out! Ah well, back to the cement truck – I always thought they had to keep that big drum turning, but apparently not in China as it just sat still waiting for something.

A cardboard carton can serve as a darn good fender.

A cardboard carton can serve as a darn good fender.


I am not saying that Terry had a frustrating day at school today but here are the last two emails I got this afternoon:

1. “I am pissed off and fed up and need some exercise.  Are you up for it?”

Terry

2. “freakin kids and their freakin parents!”

Here’s an example. Some of our Grade 11 students are encountering some difficulty with the curriculum and don’t appear to have the resiliency to suck it up and study. Somehow or other they got the idea that they can get into a North American university with  a Chinese certificate after grade 11 and they have come to the conclusion that they can quit this year.  In reality, if they don’t pass all of our courses, they are screwed. Sadly, they have also convinced their parents of the Chinese certificate thing so they aren’t being pushed from their parents. Monday evening could be interesting – Terry has a meeting with all the parents and they will get the truth. I’m looking forward to Tuesday morning.

(Ed. note: I sent this email to Tim today: [Sorry, no photos]

Good morning. You’re a worldly kind of guy, well travelled, familiar with Chinese culture etc. etc. Thought maybe you could answer this. Yesterday at 3:45 or so, Terry and I  were waiting at the bus stop at the mall to catch the bus to Metro. We noticed a number – 20 or so – young ladies getting out of cabs, all in short dresses and stilettos and going up to the fourth floor of the building on the corner. (We know because they took the glass elevator.) This morning I notice that there is a sign that says KTV 4F on the building. Now I thought KTV was a kind of karaoke family thing, but they didn’t appear to be family type girls. What’s the story?

His response:

They are KTV girls.  KTV can be a casual outing with friends, family or more elaborate entertainment.  Most KTV places employ pretty girls that for a fee will drink, dance, sing with you.  This is often a part of business entertainment.  I refer to these girls as the “drinking wenches” as a large part of their role is to make sure you ganbei frequently and your glass is immediately refilled.  They are predictably flirtatious but the occasions I have observed have been confined to that.  I’m sure that at the right place and for the right fee much more is possible, as is the case in western cities.  Being as we own guns and Sherrie knows how to use them my reputation is sterling.  They parade the girls out as in a beauty contest and you make your selection.  “I’ll take number 23 please.” )

I was in Shanghai yesterday and once again, I had to go around cars that were just parked on the sidewalk. Well, they were just outside the dealership, which is next door to a Starbucks.

How often do you see a new Lamborghini, Maserati,  and Bentley on the sidewalk?

How often do you see a new Lamborghini, Maserati, and Bentley on the sidewalk?

From the sublime to the ridiculous. We went for a walk in our neighbourhood the other day. What do you think this shop sells?

If you said women's clothing, congratulations,  you were right!

You’re right, it is women’s clothing. 

This guy was one of FOUR people his age – middle teens, we think, on a scooter. He had the coolest hair though.

Like the lightning bolts!

Like the lightning bolts!

And the last stuff from Geoff: They may be made in the USA but they are likely only sold in China.

Yum Yum, Chocolate and Strawberry Popcorn!

Yum Yum, Chocolate and Strawberry Popcorn!

Terry:

I read the China Daily every other day or so as I supervise our Reading Room during the lunch period.  It is clearly the government voice to the people.  Sometimes the editorials verge on embarrassing as they gush on about China’s glorious future and happy lives for everyone, but it is really good for keeping up with what the government is doing.  I trust you have seen the stories about Premier Li’s trip to Africa.  He has pledged to contribute to  connecting all of Africa’s capitals by high-speed rails and another 10 billion DOLLAR loan for infrastructure.  Amazing!  Infrastructure is something China does very very well.  They plan for the future in a big way, thus it is possible to be driving down a 4-6 lane road, complete with planted boulevards and sidewalks, with no businesses or residences in sight.  They do not wait for 40 or 50 years after a roadway has become overcrowded and obsolete to improve it (lower mainland freeway, anyone?) but build ahead of where they want the population and work to be in the future.  It is truly astonishing.  It does not surprise me in the least that they will be able to fulfill their promise to Africa, thereby single-handedly lending them a necessary hand-up to build their economy while creating a future export-import market that is potentially vast.   The leaders of this country are brilliant in many ways.

Another of their recent announcements has a similar ring to it.  China is going to build a rail link to Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myranmar, Singapore and Malaysia.  The last I looked, Singapore and Malaysia were islands!  Technically, Singapore is ON an island but same same–a tunnel will be necessary.  Size does not seem to be an issue here.  We know that Laos, Thailand and Myranmar are currently very unstable countries and no doubt will benefit from this enterprise but how much of those very different cultures will be lost?  So glad that we went to Thailand last year!  I don’t think there are any plans for a tunnel to Richmond but I’ll let you know.

On another note, walking home from RT Mart, our Chinese grocery store, we spotted two new shops in the neighbourhood.  It appears that West and East have definitely met:  A doggy day-care and a weight reduction studio.  We stopped in the latter to see if I could get a pedicure but the woman explained to me in Chinese–all of which I understood, by the way–that before, she was an ungainly monster, but NOW, after the “plan,” she was reduced to her current svelte self.  She did look very trim and she showed me her ‘before’ picture.  We think she had maybe 15 lbs to lose.  There aren’t a lot of overweight Chinese around but it doesn’t look like you have to be in order to be worried about it–another example of how the western world has sadly infiltrated here.

I know some of you worry about Geoff’s thing with the shoes.  Don’t.  He usually asks permission to take the picture and mostly people cooperate.  True, he would probably have been arrested back  home but the women here are much more understanding. Flattery will get you shoe pictures.  Truly, though, have you ever seen such a variety of amazing and fascinating shoes?  If only I could wear them!

The Shoe Blog

These were pretty cool. Certainly they were something one would wear to catch a train.

Sparkles, beads and golden heels. Great shoes to party in - but to travel?

Sparkles, beads and golden heels. Great shoes to party in – but to travel?

 

A New Salon – and a little more

 

Women will relate to the potential trauma associated with changing a hair stylist.  I was prepared to try, though, as my man Abo has given me less than satisfactory cuts the last few times I’ve gone to him and our friend Cheryl suggested I try her salon.  Saturday was a particularly windy and rainy day which seemed perfect for this event.  I travelled half an hour by bus, met Cheryl and Andy at the stop, then the three of us went into the shop, Andy for a head and shoulder massage and Cheryl and I for colour and cuts.

This shop is not as big as Arachne and not as busy, which was a blessing really.  They were able to put all 3 of us in chairs right away and the fun began.  First, choosing a colour–I can’t explain what I want and can’t get what I want, which is blonde highlights on a darker base, but I get a book and decide on a straight colour with some red.

I am always impressed with the care that is taken mixing the chemicals in China.  For the first round, I see one fellow upturn a large bottle of solution into a plastic dish without the benefit of measuring.  Next, a good squirt out of the colour tube and stir like crazy.  Although my roots are salt and pepper, he doesn’t start there, just carefully combs in the whole dish-full all over my hair.  After 20 minutes, a small group of hairdressers study my hair. It looks suspiciously light to me.  I ask if it is the same colour I chose out of the book.  Yes, yes.   The colourist then mixes up another batch with a bigger squirt of colour this time and reapplies.  I wait another 20 minutes and have another check.  The colourist gets the tube of colour and applies brush loads directly on the roots.  Never had that happen before!  After a short wait, they check one more time and I am ready for a shampoo.

Back to the chair I go.  It looks fine!  I can’t really see how red it is but so far so good.  Then the stylist gets down to business.  He holds his index finger and thumb a half inch apart. I nod and he starts cutting. It’s obvious that he knows his way around a pair of scissors and I am confident that the cut will be good—and it is. I am very happy with the results.

Cheryl and Andy are treating me for an early birthday present—thanks, guys!—so she offers up her VIP card and is charged Y198, the equivalent of about $36. Normally, I pay Y480, close to $75 so this is such a bargain! Granted, I could have had a VIP card with Abo as well but I rejected it the first time it was offered to me because I couldn’t figure out why another guy (who appeared out of nowhere) took my bill and wrote Y1400 on it. I have obviously been paying too much all this time. Although the bus trip is longer to get to this shop, I will definitely be back. I have had my hair done 4 times in Shanghai with only a 50% success rate. One cut was so bad it didn’t grow out for over 2 months and sadly, it was done in early June so I had no choice but to go home with it last summer. The cost in Shanghai averages $200 plus. With worse odds than Jiaxing, I’ll go with the lower costs. Why should men get all the bargains, after all?

Here’s the finished product:

Not only a great cut but fabulous colour!

Not only a great cut but fabulous colour!

The other day a new restaurant opened up at the mall. Now this is not exactly a rare occurrence, as frequently one establishment is closed for a month, they rip out everything and a new one opens up. The old one was a Korean Restaurant which we never actually got to. This one, The Nanyue, advertises itself as “So Cool, So Fashion” right on the banner with the name. They had this sign out front, which I thought might mean Happy Hour from 4:30 to 5:10 (Hey, you never know) but it actually means a 15% discount on all food from April 30 to May 10.

8.5 actually means 85% or 15% off - follow? (If you know and see Bruce Carabine, ask him about the shirt sale.)

8.5 actually means 85% or 15% off – follow? (If you know and see Bruce Carabine, ask him about the shirt sale.)

After Terry was surprised with her gift of the cut and colour, we decided to celebrate. The meal was okay – even though it was kind of point at the Chinese words only menu and pray and 2 of the 5 dishes we ordered they were out of and the kids at the next table were running around yelling while the parents ignored them and the manager, when I asked him about the discount (which was supposed to end yesterday), said no it was over. Anyway, we won’t be back but how could you not try this place once?

The Nanyue Rustrant, So Cool, So Fashion

The Nanyue Rustrant, So Cool, So Fashion I Love Nanyue Restrant

Today we went for a walk – this is a lovely spot in downtown Jiaxing.

Water so brown, you get a clear reflection

Water so brown, you get a clear reflection

The Shoe Blog

Surprisingly, we have never had a comment or a request for a photo of shoes men wear in China. We are always on the lookout, but until now there hasn’t actually been anything worthy of the Shoe Blog. Today, however, we give you a man’s sandals.

So Cool, So Fashion

So Cool, So Fashion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Mothers’ Day

Happy Mothers’ Day out there to all Mothers – those still with us and those who have left us. We love both of you and we think about you every day.

A selection of photos as I sit here on a miserable Saturday afternoon, waiting for Terry to return from her new hairdresser. The cost of the cut alone – sit down folks – will be about $1.30 Canadian. I can hardly wait.

We were out earlier this morning wandering about in the rain. In Diamond Mall, so named because the Hagen Daz ice cream store in huge diamond shaped building in the courtyard, we came upon this shop. What kind of development  might happen to your “ablities” here? Maybe they could open a Vancouver Branch?

They must mean complete Chinese brain and not English...

They must mean complete Chinese brain and not English…

If one gets to the market before 8, one has one’s pick of the fowl, all just piled up, fresh and waiting for you.

Geese, white chickens, black chickens, game hens are all available.

Geese, white chickens, black chickens, game hens are all available.

I continue to be somewhat shocked and appalled at what goes on in Starbucks. People bring in complete KFC and McDonalds meals and sit and eat. People sit for three or four hours reading without buying anything. People WATCH their kids run around screaming with no effort to contain them. It is far worse on the weekend than it is during the week. This woman comes close to taking the cake however. She came in alone one morning started taking selfies of the back of her head. Over the next half or so three (THREE, 3) of her friends came in and admired the braids in her hair. So – why not – she braided all three of them. Unbelievable, even in China.

Just because people eat food and drink coffee here, doesn't mean I can't do my friends hair.

Just because people eat food and drink coffee here, doesn’t mean I can’t braid my friends’ hair.

This is one of the units in our complex. The other morning a truck showed up with all the pieces for a pergola, all precut and stained. When it was up and finished, this is what he had. First, on the left is the vegetation which was cleared off the patio and into the canal so that it could be erected. As Terry said, it might have been easier to get rid of that before it was in the water. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get rid of it. On the right is the entrance. As you can see, however, they didn’t bother to stain all of it before erecting it. My observations are that frequently the workmanship is not the tidiest, so it will be interesting to see:

  1. Does the rest get stained?
  2. If so, how long does it take to get it stained?
  3. What kind of mess is left?

Having said all that, it is an attractive pergola.

Why wouldn't you have everything stained BEFORE you put it up?

Why wouldn’t you have everything stained BEFORE you put it up? The concrete ramp on the extreme right will be for a scooter.

As opposed to the miserable day we have today, last Friday in Ningbo was very hot. We came across this very creative father at the Ecological Park.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

This is this week – keeping the scooter dry as opposed to keeping the kid in the shade.

A good use for a stripe of thin styrofoam...

A good use for a stripe of thin styrofoam…

A fond memory of Lynne and Martin’s time here…

Sadly, despite the size of the bouquet, there was absolutely no fragrance in these freesias which may be reason for Martin's sad face.

Sadly, despite the size of the bouquet, there was absolutely no fragrance in these freesias which may be reason for Martin’s sad face.

Now we have told you how we have become good friends with Sherrie and Tim who are from Charleston, South Carolina. Tim came to dinner this week and thought he would drop off some reading material for us. Thanks Tim.

Only in The South

Only in The South

The Shoe Blog

Sparkly shoes are BIG in China but, sadly, the sparkles don’t show up well in still photos. Be that as it may, I am thinking that when your foot is that much over the end, they really don’t fit.

"They shorely do sparkle, Missy"

“They shorely do sparkle, Missy”

Our Ningbo Adventures Day 3

(Ed. note: Please note the complete capitulation)

Well, now it is day 3 of our time in Ningbo. Starts out very civilized – as I said, someone in management decide to open the other restaurant in the hotel for breakfast so there was no long line or angry patrons to face.

Over breakfast we discussed this photo from the paper. Notice the ‘stove’ (large white barrel on the right of the photo), preparation area (foreground), sink (back left), lovely decor.  And people complain about the state of housing for the elderly in North America!  This story is part of a  campaign to draw attention to happy elders.  Giving them meaningful work is one answer.

They sure LOOK happy!

They sure LOOK happy!

After breakfast, we decided to wander off to see the oldest mosque in Ningbo – it is more that 300 years old. Before we found it though, we stumbled across the Tianyi Museum – a museum that is the oldest well-preserved private library in China and one of the three largest family libraries existing in the world. Covering an area of more than 26,000 square meters, it keeps a large collection of about 300,000 ancient books, among which 80,000 are rare copies including the woodcut copies and handwritten copies of the Song and Ming Dynasties. It seems to go on forever – you just keep turning corners and going into more rooms.

Mr. Fan Qin, who started it all. He really was a forward thinker in how he made sure the books would survive through time.

Mr. Fan Qin, who started it all. He really was a forward thinker in how he made sure the books would survive through time.

Yes the books are important and all - but look at how the outdoor patio areas are all surfaced. And note the fish lined up for feeding.

Yes the books are important and all – but look at how the outdoor patio areas are all surfaced. And note the fish lining up for feeding.

We came across this father and son admiring the books. Now I know it isn’t a great shot, but check out what the shirts actually say. (Ed. note: See the caption)

"Tuat's the sput" - or, more commonly, "That's the spirit"

“Tuat’s the sput” – or, more commonly, “That’s the spirit”

It is to laugh, as Terry says.

Then it was off to find the mosque. We first saw a building with just the symbol below on it and we (well, Geoff) thought “Aha – that must be the Muslim symbol for mosque.” Once we got to the front however, not so much.

Who knew there could be an entire institute dedicated to termites. We noticed that all the windows in the building were being replaced...

Who knew there could be an entire control institute dedicated to termites. We noticed that all the windows in the building were being replaced…

Sadly, we never found the mosque – maybe we will have to go back some day.

We were wandering down a side street when an old beggar (the gentleman with the cane) thrust his tin cup in my direction and asked for money. I turned my pockets out to show him I had none and then he pointed at my camera bag. Very funny. I opened it, pulled out my wallet and showed him that it too was empty. We had a good laugh, I took his tin cup and thrust it into the face of one of the young guys – who put 5 rmb in to it.

Can you help an old man out here...

Can you help an old man out here…

From there it was off to the old Ningbo – which has been refurbished and has many cool little shops in it. This is just on the side of the street. You insert your library card, punch in the code of the book you want and Voila! Great idea to get books to the people. On the other hand, one might think someone working with the library could get the spelling correct. (Ed. note: Our library day, apparently)

Don't know if this happens in North America yet. Ken?

Don’t know if this happens in North America yet. Ken?

We wandered through the shopping and came upon Zhongshan Park, which was a place for the elderly to gather. There were a couple of hundred of them chatting, playing cards, listening to music or just sitting and watching.

The man on the right was holding court with about 10 men listening to his every word; the lady on the left was delightful - smiling and laughing.

The man on the right was holding court with about 10 men listening to his every word; the lady on the left was delightful – smiling and laughing.

Now, I said listening to music. This short video is of one of the half dozen ensembles we heard performing – really they were the creme de la creme. (Ed. note: Turn the volume on your speakers up)

We still had some time to kill before our train, so we went for a spin on the lake in a “pedal boat”. You don’t realize how out of shape you are until you have to pedal one of these babies around for 30 minutes – and Terry wasn’t about to go in early.

Our duck looked just like Andy and Cheryl's. It took all our concentration to keep the thing going straight.

Our duck looked just like Andy and Cheryl’s. It took all our concentration to keep the thing going straight.

Finally it was back to the hotel. I thought that somehow we had magically been transported to Pitt Meadows for a Saturday afternoon wedding

A typical P. M. bride, complete with phone instead of bouquet; bridesmaids with mismatched nylons and shoes and a guest in jeans and working shoes, but with a bowtie.

A “typical” P. M. bride, complete with phone instead of bouquet; bridesmaids with matching dresses but mismatched nylons and shoes and a guest in jeans and working shoes, but with a bow tie.

As we waited in the lobby to get  taxi to the train station, Cheryl, Andy and Terry got into a conversation with a Chinese fellow who was waiting for a friend or business associate to show up. When he discovered no one was coming, he offered to drive us to the train station. Nice guy. And so our Ningbo Adventures  come to an end.

The Shoe Blog

Remember the surface of the grounds at Tianyi Library Museum? I’m not going to say that this young lady had a great deal of trouble navigating her way around, but it was clear she far preferred the odd smooth patch she came across.

Could her toes look any more uncomfortable?

Could her toes look any more uncomfortable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ningbo Shningbo Day 2 or Our Ningbo Adventures

(Ed. note: Terry thinks Geoff is too hard on Ningbo and that the posts should be called something other than Ningbo Shningbo thus the alternate title)

What a start to the day. The Howard Johnson Hotel Ningbo Plaza has 450 rooms. It is full for the Labour/May Day holiday. Breakfast is included in all rooms. As the elevator nears the first floor I hear lots of noise – great , I think, kids are running amok. Oh no – as the elevator doors open I spy a very long line (let’s say 75 feet) of people trying to get in to the restaurant. Since it is a holiday, they have closed one of the two restaurants for the four days of the holiday. Go figure. Do not, I repeat DO NOT come between the Chinese and their breakfasts. I don’t know how long people had been lining up , but there were many management types around trying to calm them down. Breakfast was served between 6 and 10 and even though there were still people in the line up at 10, the items on the buffet were not being replenished as they disappeared. (Ed. Note: Somehow, someone in management had a brain wave and today the other restaurant was open for breakfast.)

We had thought that we would travel to some small islands off the coast, but that plan was cancelled when we read some negative TripAdvisor reports. Instead, we had the concierge negotiate a taxi ride out to the bridge which crosses Hangzhou Bay. This 36 km long bridge (3rd longest in the world and the longest over water) is quite the piece of engineering. However, before we got there the taxi driver pulls up to a tree at the side of the road. He gets out and suddenly he has an air hose. He tells Terry and Cheryl to get out of the car so that he can pump up the tire on their side of the car. They were not pleased, as the photo shows.

Don't

Don’t let Terry’s “smile” fool you – she was some pissed off!

We got to the bridge and, as I said, it is quite the engineering feat. Halfway across they had built a platform during construction as a place for the workers to live. They have since turned it into a five star hotel (Ed. Note: Why?) and a 125 m. observation tower. Despite what the pictures show, it was difficult to differentiate between the muddy water and the polluted sky.

5 Star Hotel and Tower

5 Star Hotel and Tower

The off and reentry ramps are something else.

The highway goes left to right (or right to left).

The highway goes left to right (or right to left).

The top floor (17) is dedicated to a series of 3D wall paintings which encourage people to participate. Terry was all over it!

Not sure which one of these two are happier...

Not sure which one of these two are happier…

On the next floor down, there were some good views and some really interesting options to purchase.

The half of the bridge going off to the north.

The half of the bridge going off to the north.

This lovely water feature was only $150.00. The plastic horse and dragon are the best!

This lovely water feature was only $150.00. The plastic horse and dragon are the best!

It is difficult to believe that the same people who designed and constructed this bridge could not devise a better way to disburse photos taken there. In a room which is about thirty by thirty you cram four computers and printers on one side and a fake photo of the tower and a TV anchor desk backdrop on the other. Then you cram 40 or more people into a space about 20 by 20, yell at them over a microphone in Chinese to do something, take their photos and then have them crowd (Ed. Note: Line up? What Line up?) around the computers and printers to have one of the workers scroll up and down to find, choose and print their photo. Can you say chaotic, loud, unsettling chaos? Of course you can. I cannot imagine working there all day – or any part of it. We did have our photo taken.

Just another tacky tourist photo.

Just another tacky tourist photo.

We had asked the concierge to tell the taxi driver that after the tower, we wanted to go to a beach so that we could put our feet in the ocean. He said he understood. He didn’t. Instead, we wound up at a salt marsh ecological park, where we took a boat ride (Ed. note: Where we saw a total of about 12 elk and 2 egrets) and walked on a gravel path. I did stick my foot in the marsh water off a little bridge, however!

Ok, so these heels were originally going to make The Shoe Blog as “Why would you wear these to a day at the Ecological Park.” However, when we were wandering around, we spied her trying to keep up to her boyfriend and girlfriend on the pea gravel paths.

Nice Heels...

Nice Heels…

From there it was back to town (Ed. note: in a seven minute span, I counted 51 building cranes as we entered Ningbo) where the taxi driver stopped for two minutes to buy and down 4 hard-boiled eggs, (Ed. note: Guess all that waiting makes you ravenous!)

(Ed. note: Remember Steven and his offer to iron anything for us when we checked in? Well when we had ice delivered today to cool off the wine, I asked if I could get my shirt ironed. Oh yes sir, but there will be a charge. What? Steven asked if I had anything to iron. Oh yes, but that is only when you check in. Note to self: next time just give the butler the entire suitcase upon arrival and have everything ironed, whether it needs it or not!)

After thoroughly enjoying the fabulous COL VETORAZ Prosecco Brut, Rob and Shelley brought us a couple of weeks ago, it was off to Ganesha Indian Restaurant. Now remember how Ningbo is famous for its seafood? Well, the Number One restaurant on TripAdvisor is Ganesha Indian Restaurant and it absolutely is. The food was amazing, the beer cold, the service fantastic. We had half a dozen or so dishes and each was wonderful. However, when we ordered the Lamb Vindaloo, the server said “It is hot” Interesting we thought – he never said that about anything else. “No problem, we like hot”. Ok so how hot was it? Well, when I offered the remaining ½ to two of the waiters (1 from Bangladesh and 1 from Northern India) they both said “I don’t eat that, it is too hot.” The owner came by and asked if they could remake it for us but not so hot. A wonderfully nice gesture, but by then all the taste buds were burned beyond immediate recovery. Nevertheless, it was a wonderfully tasty dish. The Muslim girls at the next table gave us birthday cake, the restaurant brought us sweet tea and ice cream and then we wandered back to the hotel.

The Shoe Blog

I don’t know if these are comfortable (Ed. note: Yeah, right) or not – but they look like they are designed for torture.

Do the pink shoes go with the rust pants?

Do the pink shoes go with the rust pants?