Monthly Archives: June 2014

Taipei

Travel is always glamorous, isn’t it. I remember when I was much younger thinking how cool it would be to have a job where you zipped all over the world. As Colonel Blimp (Ed. note: Also from many years ago) was prone to saying “Harrumph!” We left our apartment yesterday morning at 8:05 and got into our hotel in Taipei 8 hours and 55 minutes later at 5:00 – the flight took 1 hour and 20 minutes.

It is no wonder the Chinese have difficulty lining up. Just where do I stand?

It is no wonder the Chinese have difficulty lining up. Just where do I queue?

How long has it been that you can’t take certain things through security? I understand the bottles of water – but don’t you think the smokers would have got the message that lighters are not allowed long before they got to the scanning area?

I understand the water, but the lighters?

There were at least 15 lighters there…

We were delayed getting on the plane and so  we listened to Delta Airlines announce “Mr. Mike Ross and Mr. Sam Chan please report to Gate 77. This is the last boarding call for Delta flight 211 to Seattle” every 3 minutes or more for at least half an hour and that is absolutely no exaggeration. When we finally got on the plane, they announced that we would be not departing for another 35 minutes. Good news though. When we checked in the woman at the counter looked at us and said “Would you like exit row seats?” Then, EVA Airlines has, without a doubt, the most attractive flight attendants in the airline industry in Southeast Asia. Plus, they enjoy their jobs, are friendly and attentive and smile and laugh! We were on a 747 so there must have been 20 or more of them with a total age of about 1 Air Canada long haul flight attendant.

Friendly, smiling Ava and her equally friendly, smiling, younger  friend Silvia.

Friendly, smiling, beautiful Ava and her equally friendly, smiling, younger, smaller friend Silvia. (Ed. note: That may be the official EVA Airlines sitting position, I’m not sure.)

We are used to getting stares because of Terry’s looks and my white hair, but boy oh boy. While we were in line at customs we managed to get ourselves into the middle of a very large – maybe 100 person, tour which must have come in from western China. I don’t think any of them had ever seen a “foreigner” before and there was nothing subtle about the looking and pointing. Even then, however, they would break into gales of laughter when we said Ni Hao to them.

By the time we got to the hotel and cleaned up, we needed – yes NEEDED a drink. The front desk sent us to a bar/restaurant around the corner. Oh Scott and Karen… Read on and wait until you hear. Our plan was to have a drink and then head to a night market for street food. Only fools make plans. We started with a couple of glasses of wine and they brought us a 7″ cast iron saute pan of mushrooms in a dark thyme sauce as a welcome. They were out of this world. We ordered a couple more glasses of wine and watched the bartender chipping away on a cube/block of ice that was about 4″x4″x4″. They suggested we try their mussels. They were right. The mussels were HUGE and served in a tomato, spanish sausage, basil sauce with, sadly, not enough bread to soak up all the sauce. If the mushrooms were out of this world, the mussels came from another universe. I ordered a glass of Glenfarclas whisky. A very generous pour. We then asked the owner what the blocks of ice, which had been whittled down to tennis ball size, were for. He said that if a customer ordered a good whiskey on the rocks they use a largish glass, and put the ball of ice in. It sits about 1/2″ off the bottom of the glass and then the whisky is poured over it. That way, the ice doesn’t melt as fast and turn the whisky into water. Okay – pour mine over one. It was fantastic. Then we ordered beef and vegetables and were a little disappointed. It was great tasting beef, but served with basil, cheery tomatoes and black olives – very similar to the mussels. By now the ‘farclas was gone so the bartender asked if I would like to try something else. (Ed. note: Scott and Karen this is the part for you) He brought over a bottle of something from a single cask distilling and bottled for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Each cask has only a limited number of bottles – this one was one of 556. I have never tasted anything like it. It was smooth beyond belief, but had a wonderful “afterburn”. I usually prefer a peaty whisky and there was no hint of that but man it was good, especially since it, like the mushrooms, were on the house!

Now it’s Terry’s turn:  We have heard many people say that Taiwan is nothing like mainland China.  Although we have only been here a few days, we certainly have noticed some differences.  First, the citizens appear to follow rules, of the road, for example, and of queuing.  Even on the subway, they stand in line to one side of the door UNTIL ALL the people exit from the other side.  Maybe that’s the problem with the Chinese system–they allow entry from both sides which invariably breaks down to line-breakers pushing through the middle of the exiting passengers.   On the roads, traffic laws are observed with NO honking required.  And get this!  Pedestrians have the right of way!!!!

I'm going to get this printed and plaster them all over Jiaxing!!

I’m going to get this printed and plaster them all over Jiaxing!!

We have been surprised many times when drivers actually stop and wait for us to cross!  Each time, we realize we are in a different place, then smile and wave at the driver because we can hardly believe it and are so pleased.  At every controlled intersection, the crosswalk lights indicate the generous length of  time pedestrians have to cross, and all the drivers wait patiently.  It also appears that traffic rules are enforced.  In front of our hotel, Geoff saw a policeman tell a van driver that he could not stop there to load passengers.  This might have been a bit of overkill since it was a Sunday and traffic was at a minimum, but still.

Another thing that is very different from China–Sunday appears to offer at least a good half day of rest for shop-keepers.  We were up and out around 10:00 but found very few shops in service, with signs indicating an 11:00 or 12:00 opening, perhaps related to the prevalence of western religion here.  In our walk to our first tourist site of the day, we passed numerous small storefronts serving as Sunday morning churches.  We also spotted a handful of  Falun Gong worshippers doing their very public thing on the sidewalk (Do not try this in China).

This city is clean–streets, sidewalks, malls, shops, all clean.  The airport is gleaming, but as Geoff pointed out, Pudong Airport is pretty clean also.  So are the major train stations in China.  But here, we’re talking about everywhere.  Even at a night market where lots of street food is available, the garbage seems to make it into receptacles.  How refreshing! (Ed. note: See next blog for Ed.’s notes)

We walked nearly 10km yesterday and saw only a few of the sites we had planned, partly because we went to the weekend Flower and Jade Market, set up under a freeway ramp!  Again, amazing–the intersections around it are all nicely controlled with long lights so the huge crowd of pedestrians can safely cross when needed (the market spans several blocks and 1 full km long).  We were simply gob-smacked at the quality and quantity of plants, gardening supplies and decor available, and the amazingly low prices.  <$3 would buy mid-size healthy and blooming orchids, cacti, tropical foliage of all kinds.  Orchids common, rare, huge and miniature, in a rainbow of colours.  Bougainvillaea, crotons, any tropical that we can find at plant shops in BC and all spectacularly healthy (imagine–tropical plants doing well in this hot and humid country), and all so so cheap!  It makes me sad for our plants that fail to thrive on our sunny balcony in Jiaxing.  The whole garden area is set up only on weekends, on tables reminiscent of garage sales.  Misters spray frequently so plants thrive and shoppers don’t expire.  Quite a wonderful experience in the heat of the day! (Ed. note: See a wealth of photos below.)

The night market we chose was a bit of a bust for us–mostly food stall set up along narrow streets with shops open.  Geoff tried a few things on the street but wasn’t impressed, so we opted instead for a Thai restaurant with a special on Sangha beer.  VERY very good choice.

The misters keep things - uh - misted.

Misters keep things – uh – misted.

The first surprise was that these orchid roots were sold in bunches of 10 for $100 NT or $3.00 CDN.

The first surprise was that these orchid roots were sold in bunches of 10 for $100 NT or $3.00 CDN.

There were anywhere from 50 to 100 of these stalls selling just orchids.

There were anywhere from 50 to 100 of these stalls selling just orchids. $150NT = $4.50 CDN

More orchids

More orchids

There were mini orchids...

There were mini orchids…

...more mini orchids

…more mini orchids

These

These orchids were so frail and light that the breeze -which wasn’t very much – kept blowing them and making them move when I tried to take the picture.

 

There were bouganvillea plants and

There were bougainvillea plants and

bouganvillea trees

bougainvillea trees

There were ferns being shaped like Bonsai trees...

There were ferns being shaped like Bonsai trees…

and things we had no idea about

and things we had no idea about.

Some, maybe 10%, had signs that said no photographs. I took this before the woman vaulted out of her chair at the back yelling "no photo, no photo!"

Some, maybe 10%, had signs that said no photographs. I took this before the woman vaulted out of her chair at the back yelling “no photo, no photo!” These are HUGE hibiscus.

When we went by Monday morning

Amazing transformation. What a great use of space.

Amazing transformation. What a great use of space.

The Shoe Blog

This photo is the last one I took in Jiaxing before we left for the summer.

shoes

 

 

 

 

Everyone Should Live In China At Least Once

(Ed. note: This post was written by an American woman, Andrea Xu, and posted to her blog*. It was forwarded to us by a friend who was a principal in Shanghai last year. Thanks Lawrence. An original Jiaxing Express posting will follow soon – if Terry gets around to finishing her part of it this morning and stops looking for things for us to do in Tainan City!)
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Preferably, when you’re young and resilient, so you can handle the pollution. Living in the pollution will make you question how so many people can live like this, to have days where you can’t see the sun because of the smog. Living in the pollution will make you have a greater appreciation for the environment, and perhaps, to be more active in conserving it.

Live in China, and be surrounded by the 1.4 billion people that inhabit the country. Surprisingly enough, there will be moments where you feel completely and utterly alone. You will learn the power of human interaction, and you will learn to appreciate your friends and family more. You might become more shameless, and be more prone to striking up conversations with strangers. You’ll build relationships that you never would have had otherwise.

Go and live in China, for the sake of wholly immersing yourself in a culture where the language is completely different, where people are glued to their cellphones and iPads, where most people grew up without a sibling. You will be marveled by how remarkably similar and different we are from one another, but how we are all connected through humanity.

Experience the pushing, the cutting in lines, the yelling, the honking, the gawking, the thumping in your heart as you play Frogger with your life every time you cross the street. You’ll learn patience. If you’re a foreigner who doesn’t look Chinese, experience the fan girl club, of being stopped so often to have a picture taken with you that you might be in the cellphones of hundreds of giddy Chinese girls. If you are a foreigner who does look Chinese (or is Chinese), prepare to be seen as the translator, even if your more foreign-looking counterpart has better Chinese than you. People will be confused about the fact that you are American, but have Chinese origins. You’ll experience identity issues of race and gender you may have never felt otherwise.

If you are a female, go live in China and be subjected to the implicit and explicit sexual discrimination in China. Lift your head up high as you get gawked at by Chinese men, staring at you as if they are trying to peel the clothes off your skin. Exhibit your strength as you fend off men who think they can do or say whatever they want to you; hold your ground when you get passed over for your male counterpart. Use these experiences and channel it into a more steadfast commitment for women’s rights.

Go live in China, and the dormant history nerd in you will emerge. Observe the juxtaposition of towering skyscrapers next to dilapidated apartment complexes, of streets lined with luxury stores such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi when right around the corner are shacks and stands of cheap Chinese goods. Revel in how a country that was turned upside down from the Cultural Revolution only 30-some years ago has transformed itself into a country pushing its way to the forefront. You’ll feel as if you are living through a crucial moment of history, as if something dramatic can happen any moment. Take in the excitement.

Then, leave the big city, and find a rural village. Get transported back into time, and observe a simpler life. Watch the barefoot children play among the fields, farmers planting rice in steeple terraces with oxen, chickens running amok and the elderly with leathery skin and missing teeth. See if anyone comes up to you and asks you to help read to them the writing on the seed packet–I bet you some of them will. Stay in the village for as long or for as short as you want, but just remember this: juxtaposition. How a country can have cities like Shanghai and Beijing, but also villages tucked deep into the mountains you can’t imagine why people would move there in the first place, how basic amenities such as electricity can sometimes be a luxury. Does this qualify China as a developing nation still? Perhaps. So go to a village. You’ll learn to think. Priorities may change. (That, and don’t forget to go to the bathroom there at least once. I guarantee you it’ll just be a hole in the ground).

Go, go live in China and experience the chaos, the people, the culture, the food. Go and meet new people, talk to strangers, learn their history–it’ll be so much more different than what you’re used to. Get pushed and shoved, feel alone, and appreciate humanity all the more when you find that one person who isn’t trying to rip you off or cuts you short when you stumble through your Chinese. Pay it forward. Embrace the nation with two arms, and laugh it off when you get bogged down by so many frustrations that you just want to scream at the nation. Because you will. And when you return to the States, or wherever you are from, you’re going to be a different person. You will have stories. Stories of rickshaw drivers, of baijiu, of tonal mishaps, of being ripped off, of babies defecating on the street, of those euphoric moments where living in China for this brief period was worth it. You won’t regret it.

Everyone should live in China at least once.

*From Andrea Xu’s blog : Thought Catalog (http://thoughtcatalog.com/andrea-xu/2014/06/everyone-should-live-in-china-at-least-once/)

And for more interesting information, this is a piece done on W5 on China’s pollution issues. http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?binId=1.811589

I’m in The Cloud Today

Quite literally, I’m in a cloud. The humidity has been super high since morning and now, approaching 1:30, (Ed.note: Hey, aren’t you supposed to be WORKING?!) we are in to a full-blown monsoon. It’s the rainy season in Jiaxing, an understatement if there ever was one.

It has been a busy yet relaxing week. We’ve finished off our exams and had planned for 2 days of activities and study time for the remaining Chinese tests. Then a few things happened, both highly unusual.

First, Violet, the grade 10 class monitor, a lovely young lady with developing leadership skills, came to ask if it was okay if they invited their Chinese teachers in to give them additional lessons during the two days we had planned for fun and self-study. Hmmm. Let me think—Yes, of course! Go for it!

In one of the periods free, our teachers took the kids to the gym for a game of Dodge Ball. The kids had never played it before, so the rules were explained and the game began. Within minutes, 2 of the girls collided, shoulder to shoulder. One girl was hurt, quite badly, it seemed. Because the Chinese staff were otherwise engaged with meetings, I was enlisted, along with Violet, to accompany the girl to the hospital.

For some reason, the girl’s father, who was in Shanghai visiting his wife in the hospital (!), insisted that we take Shuyang to one particular hospital, located all the way in the south, Nanhu District. In the cab there, we passed some 4 or 5 hospitals but no stopping for us. When we arrived, it was pretty obvious that this was where many workers, hurt in industrial accidents, go. I guess all emergency rooms are the same but I saw way too many bleeding digits, wrapped hands and arms for my liking. The cleanliness factor was low, even by Chinese standards. Open 5-gallon pails, near full of bloody bandages, stood in the reception room. The furniture and equipment was quite grimy, as grimy looks in China—all corners of everything take on a nasty grey tinge.

Privacy was at a premium, meaning there wasn’t any. The reception room (which seemed to have been a regular ward at one point) still had a couple of beds but its purpose was now to have doctors first eye-ball the “condition” then send the patient to a particular station somewhere else in the hospital, then have a look at their X-rays, CT or MRI scans on a yellowing, cracked and dirty back-lit screen, then declare their recommendations. When we returned with the X-ray, there were at least 8 patients and their supporters looking on.

Shuyang’s clavicle was obviously broken, quite badly. (Ed. note: I was disappointed Terry didn’t get a photo of the x-ray – would have been cool to include it! Apparently the break was very distinct.) An operation was declared necessary. Just then—thankfully—her aunt, uncle and possibly their parent, arrived so Violet and I were free to leave. Not before the aunt insisted on giving me Y100, some Y30 more than I had actually paid out for different things. I argued but Violet carefully told me I should take it, then explained outside that this is how it is done in China, although she doesn’t know why. Just accept it.

The second unusual thing happened today, highly unusual that is, in BC but not so much in China: the kids thoroughly cleaned their classrooms. This means that all the desks came out and were emptied and washed inside and out, the floors were swept and mopped, and everything was put back together. This could NEVER happen at home—CUPE would go wild. It was quite a joy to see as the rooms really get into a sad state because the kids are responsible for cleaning them all the time! The caretaker, such as she is, mops the latrines, the foyers and teacher offices (all with the same gray mop). They never cross into the classrooms, all part of social training for the children. It would be a tad better if the school provided some cleaning products, buckets and rags but hey, you can’t have everything. Try this at home?   Life is too short, event though it probably is a great idea.

Couple of driving things the other day.

  1. Saw a public transit bus stopped at a light – with a scooter firmly trapped under its front bumper. Surprisingly, there did not appear to be any injuries although there were about 6 people looking on and about 6 more trying to free the scooter from under the bus. I have no idea how it got there without killing the driver.
  2. Sitting on the bus stopped at a light. The bus driver had left a full car length between the bus and the car in front. When what to my wondering eyes did appear to the left of the bus but a car which then proceeded, as you would (Ed. note: To quote the Irish), to make a right hand turn between the bus and the car in front and trundle off to the north.

We were out with Tim at the local Afghani restaurant. It is usually quite good – tonight it was just mediocre. Here are a few photos of our experience.

You can eat the leg of lamb with one eye open...

You can eat the leg of lamb with one eye open and one eye semi-closed…

 

 

...with both eyes closed...

…with both eyes closed…

...or down to the bone.

…or gnaw it down to the bone.

Despite Tim's assessment, it really tastes quite good.

Despite Tim’s assessment, it really tastes quite good.

You can also have spicy Rice Krispie “squares”, which, according to Tim, isn’t hardtack.

So, one more day to go, then we are off to Taiwan!

The Shoe Blog

This young woman was happy to have “her” photo taken – unfortunately I didn’t have my glasses on so it isn’t as clear as I would have hoped. Still, they are quite the shoes.

I think these might be birds eye maple soles.

I think these might be birdseye maple soles. Those are little “diamonds” on her toenails…

 

System? What System?

Aaaahhhhh the recruiting of students to Chinese schools. We told you in the last blog about the tests they write. Some more information for you.

  1. (Ed. note: Try to follow along!) Earlier this year the government announced that all students who wanted to write an entrance exam to get into an international school would do so on the same day, rather than one day for us, one day for another international, a third day for somewhere else and so on. This would eliminate the “shopping” which often goes on. This happened at the end of April. However, bizarrely, international schools were then able to schedule a 2nd sitting – which we had on Thursday and then a 3rd which occurred today. On Thursday we had 7 write and 4 pass and today 11 write and 7 pass. Two weeks ago we were told 16 kids of the original 60 who wrote had paid their fees and agreed to come. Today we were told that some had changed their minds and it was down to 12. However, the rest had until tomorrow  at 9 am to inform the government of their choice, so it could change. Tonight it is up to 27 – but by tomorrow morning who the hell knows – could be 20 or 40. Stay tuned.
The PLA - People's Liberation Army, aka Chinese Army

The PLA – People’s Liberation Army, aka Chinese Army

This is a scrabbled together set of paragraphs from an article in the China Daily. Three interesting points.

  1. Now, I know eyesight is important in the army and I know that glasses/contacts help people to see better but wouldn’t this cause some concern
  2. Don’t people usually get tattoos after they get in to the army – and what would constitute obscene or violent?
  3. Aren’t these reasons people get OUT of the army?

Yesterday we had rain like no other I have seen for awhile. It was torrential for at least an hour and then just really really heavy for a couple more hours. Terry spent her time marking final exams our students wrote on Friday (Ed. note: The ones which are in dispute and being marked by administrators in BC). I spent my time at the office, listening to the store next door setting off 15 minutes of fireworks in the torrential downpour to celebrate an opening and ward off evil spirits. It was also entertaining to watch the women in mini mini skirts, 6″ heels and under 24″ umbrellas trying not to get wet from the rain coming in at 45 degrees. TIC

And what does one do on a rainy Saturday morning? One goes in to the back of McDonalds and sets up a Rubik’s Cube contest for kids and adults.

Lots of different shapes and puzzles.

1980s anyone? Lots of different shapes and puzzles.

(Ed. note: the following two anecdotes are from a very busy Terry – enjoy.)

I have had a few TIC moments lately, not the least of which occurred on the way home. I was walking into our complex when I happened to look backwards (to check to see if anyone was about to run me over. Imagine) and noticed that the car approaching the curved corner had a left turn signal on and was driving slow enough to make the drivers behind him crazy. “New driver,” I thought, in a very Canadian way. I glanced back again as I was crossing our drive-way and saw that he was slowing down to make a U-turn! This, in rush hour, in the middle of a blind corner for drivers coming the opposite way, with 3 drivers behind him jockeying for position to cut the corner and drive into the on-coming (blind) lane. Good grief! The only thing I do not understand is how I have managed to avoid seeing absolute carnage on the roads on a regular basis—or at all, for that matter. True, we have seen numerous motorcycles on their sides, having lost the battle with speeding cars, but never have we seen people seriously maimed and vehicles destroyed as, trust me, they deserve to be! TIC! Insanity prevails!

Yesterday, another poignant moment as I was leaving the mall. Walmart ( where I went for cleaning supplies and some plonk for Geofffy), is located on the basement floor of the mall and entry entails a walk down about 25 stairs. It was the weekend so one display or another had sound blaring out. As I walking up the stairs, I was sure I heard Burton Cummings singing, “Break it to Them Gently” and I was stricken by a serious bout of nostalgia. Yes, I confess, I am a huge Burton fan—love his tunes! Just as I was about to be reduced to tears, I realized that it was merely a Chinese crooner doing a typical sappy number, not even a cover. My mind was playing tricks on me—home sick, I think. But could it have been Burton Cummings in Jiaxing? Yes! Absolutely! TIC!

The Shoe Blog

Last night we went out to Teppanyaki Francais – our new favourite restaurant. Just as we were leaving I saw a young lady sitting at a table with a group of guys. Terry said that the entire time we had been there – about an hour – the girl had been on her phone, paying no attention whatsoever to her table mates. I spotted these shoes and went over to ask for the photo op. The guys she was with basically said, no problem. Apparently, according to Terry, as I was taking the photos, she was demonstrating a significant lack of happiness at the photography going on. Oh well.

These beauties were a full 6 inch heel. I wonder why she didn't want they on the blog?

These beauties were a full 6 inch heel. I wonder why she didn’t want them on the blog?

 

 

The Next Blog

This is a big week in China. The grade 12s in the Chinese program get their results from the Gao Kao exams which they wrote while we were in Hong Kong. Their ability to get into a university is totally dependent on their marks. The best students get in to the best universities, next best into the next best universities and so on down the line. This happens at high school level as well. At the end of May middle school students wrote a set of Zhong Kao exams which would allow the top 200 to get into the No. 1 High School, the next 400 to get into the No. 2 High school and so on. Now here is the confusing part. In BC there is Winston Churchill High School, Pinetree Secondary School, Burnaby Central High School etc. In Jiaxing there are also a number of high schools. There is  Jiaxing No. 1 High School, Jiaxing No. 2 High School – right through Jiaxing No. 10, there is Nanhu International High School, there is Jiaxing Senior High School (our Chinese school). The schools are also ranked 1 -10. However, the Number 1 high school in ranking is Nanhu International School not Jiaxing No. 1 High School. We, at Jiaxing High School are ranked number 2. Jiaxing No. 1 High School is actually ranked something like 5 – No 4 is ranked number 3. At a farewell dinner last night with the Chinese administrators they were trying to explain all of this, midst much beer. It was clear as mud. When we suggested that we needed to do something to become ranked #1, they didn’t think that could ever happen because Nanhu, ranked No. 1, always gets the best students.

The exam results were released to the kids/parents last night and they immediately started phoning Mr. Xu, our principal, to see if they could get in to his school. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell them anything because the government doesn’t release until this morning what the line is. For example, maybe you need 620 out of 800 on the exams to get in to Nanhu and you need 490 out of 800 to get in here. Doesn’t stop them from phoning though. All through dinner he was getting up to take calls. We suggested he turn it off and “No no – must talk to them to build relationships.” Not only that, they inform us that all teachers and administrators have their school phone and email, their cell phones and their home land lines listed in a phone book which is readily available to the public. Well, they are civil servants I guess. Can you imagine what the public would be doing with that information right now in BC? Whoa!

Went for a walk the other night and watched this fellow taping (yes taping) this sign up between a light standard and a tree. What does is say? I sent the photo out to our grade 10s for interpretation and apparently it is a formal government announcement that the green space just behind him is to be developed into a bus station. I don’t really have a problem with the development, but couldn’t a formal government announcement do better than being taped to a tree? (Ed. note: Irony anyone? Hey – want some more irony? The map the Chinese local government is using here is a Google map – and without VPN [a program to get around the Chinese firewall] you can’t get Google in China – it is a blocked site!)

Coming soon - fewer trees, more buses.

Coming soon – fewer trees, more buses.

 

(Ed. note: Every once in a while I come across things that just beg to be shared. These two would be from the “Did I REALLY just read that?” department)

From TSN Online comes this headline:

F1 GREAT SCHUMACHER LEAVES HOSPITAL; IS NO LONGER IN COMA   – Really….

How many of you have heard of the Darwin Awards? Hopefully, given another chance, this guy could be an award winner.)

From the Vancouver Sun Online Edition

“Authorities have ordered swamp boat tour operators in the South Louisiana community of Jefferson Parish to stop feeding alligators after video of a tour guide doing so went viral, the sheriff’s office said Thursday.

There is no Louisiana law prohibiting luring and feeding of alligators, but it’s against local law in Jefferson Parish, where a tourist captured video of an Airboat Adventures tour guide swimming with and feeding two alligators. At one point the video captures the guide putting a marshmallow in his mouth and letting an alligator snatch it away.

 

The Shoe Blog

“Parenting” in China and Shopping For Apartments

(Ed. note: Thanks to all of you who commented on how fabulous I looked in my new suit. I agree. LOL. On another note, the world is a strange place. As I was writing yesterday’s post I thought, and in fact said to Terry, that maybe it was time to wind down The Jiaxing Express, that it seems to have devolved into just a diary of our daily lives rather than observations of the differences in the cultures. Perhaps it isn’t of much interest anymore. It was quite heartening therefore, to not only get 5 comments but have Bruce and Lois both comment on how much they still enjoy it. Therefore we will persevere – you can always delete the email, I guess.)

Today we are in Starbucks. I observed two of the three parental behaviours which drive me crazy in China.

One: Miserable father. It was about 11:00 Sunday morning and this father is working on something with his daughter. At one point, he literally ripped the paper his daughter was working on from her, threw it at her and then told her to pick it up. At another point he was berating her and she sat with her head down and staring straight down for a good minute. It was all I could do not to go over and say something to him.

What a terrible way to treat a child - anywhere - not just in public.

What a terrible way to treat a child – anywhere – not just in public.

Two The Ignoring Parents These parents sat for at least 40 minutes ignoring their two little girls, ages 6-7, who just ran around and around and around and around…. If the girls went up to their table, they just kept on talking and ignored them. I know it was at least 40 minutes because they were there when we got there and still there when we left. Many times on the weekend Starbucks is the children’s playground.

I deliberately left their faces exposed!

I deliberately left their faces exposed! Notice any drink containers on that table for the girls?

Three You are Never Too Big to Carry  This is one which we saw yesterday. It was stinking hot – 32-34 degrees when we see two kids in the 6-7 year old range demanding to be picked up and carried – and the parents immediately complied. Sadly, I didn’t see it happening today, but rest assured, it was occurring somewhere.

Also yesterday outside Starbucks, an example of the fashionable summer attire – shorts/short skirt with veil.

I particularly liked the blue and green shoes with the pink and black outfit.

I particularly liked the blue and green shoes with the pink and black outfit.  The purse matches her sweater, which must be the reason she is wearing it in 34 degree weather.  Isn’t it wonderful to be perfect?

And on a more pleasant note, here is the canal which runs through our complex.

Canal1

(Ed. note: The next part of this post is an email Terry wrote to two of our incoming staff members. Friday, when it was 34+ degrees, she was out looking at apartments for them. As she looked at the 7 apartments she got hotter and hotter since none of them had air conditioning on. When she finally got home she went straight to the fridge got a beer, poured it into a glass and drank it down.)

First stop, our building, 2nd floor.  I was really optimistic because I knew it was a 2 bedroom, like ours.  Not like ours, as it turned out.  Really hard-worn.  When I opened the handle-less drawer under the bathroom sink, water sloshed around.  No, I said, and we left.

Next, same complex but phase 1.  It’s on Hongbo Lu (same as us) but the next block over. Promising. Huge place, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, fab views of the Jiaxing Greenway across the street but some issues.  One of the bathrooms has one of those corner showers, very small and grotty.  The second one has a “soaker tub” which no one in their right mind would use as a soaker but at least it is a bit roomier for showering.  It has an enclosure so it is meant for shower and bath.  The problem is that all the fixtures are corroding.  The owner will replace them all, plus all the shower bars, etc with new.  He will also replace the fridge which is a must.

Here are the positives:  comfy living room furniture, loads of space, view, decent kitchen but the whole place is 10 years old, which is nothing in Canada, but you know it means well-used in China.  Still it is definitely an option.

We looked at 3 more horror stories in addition to the one in our building—enough said but suffice to say they are walk-ups which, on a day like today, is a killer.  There is one that I think is not bad.  The location is good—right behind Jiang Nan Mall and yes, it is a 4 storey walk-up with the apt on the 4th floor.  However, 2 bed and 1 bath, an additional reading room (which is a bit weird but has a desk so who knows).  Nice stuffed leather couch, good storage. The bathroom sink is outside the bathroom which also has the washer.  There is no storage there but they would install shelves or a cabinet or something on the side wall above the sink.  The bathroom has a corner shower but larger and cleaner than the one in Chun Xiao Yuan (our complex).

Final stop, right across from the school in a brand new building.  This apartment has never been lived in so it is pristine.  I was really excited:  3 bedrooms, large kitchen, and living area. Then I looked at the bathroom, which to me is the deal breaker.   It is somewhat amazing to me that anyone would put in a bathroom this small in a place that’s obviously meant to have at least 3 people living in it.  However, it may be workable so consider everything first. Again, a corner shower stall but not one that is too small.  I actually got right inside to check whether you had room to move in there, and you do.  Open the stall and come out—toilet to your right (right to your right—no extra room), sink one step beyond that on the cross wall. A bit of counter and a small storage component below it. Ridiculous mirror—I would have to hunch to see into it.  Behind the door is the washing machine. You would have to go in and close the door to do laundry.  However, consider this:

Directly across the hall is the third, small bedroom.  I think it would be workable to put in a vanity table there and another mirror (the owner would pay).  Lots of plugs for additional light and hairdryers.  One person would have to shower, then move across to “finish.”

Next problem:  living room furniture is not really living room furniture.  It’s balcony sized patio furniture—2 settees made out of fake rattan about the size of 1.5 North Americans, and a small table.  I told the guy that they were good for drinking cold beer on the deck in the summer but pitiful for relaxing after a hard day of work.  He is going to ask the owner if the will buy a proper couch.

The kitchen, meanwhile is fabulous—roomy and brand new!

Terry and Geoff – Jiaxing’s Top Fashionistas

Today we present Terry in a Roshan of Sam’s original.

 

All set for Fall in the office.

All set for Fall in the office.

No Big Adventures – Just Our Life

Today we give you some final photos of Hong Kong and our evening out this week.

This woman was at the airport waiting for our flight. I don’t know which is worse – the pants or the green vinyl shoes.

What can I say

What can I say

This is a shop at the entrance to a mall. Now there are no doors on the mall, just a short walkway from Nathan Road in to the centre. We took this just after a thunder storm rolled through. These windows are not frosted – that is condensation from the humidity from the outside to the air conditioned inside. There were four stores like this – all high end watch stores. Hope it didn’t affect the watches.

Damn that humidity.

Damn that humidity.

We were walking down Nathan Road in Kowloon and saw this. Does the brand look familiar? It was one of a number of Kirkland brand items in this small shop – the size of small corner store back home. You just never know what you are going to get. Terry bought a 3 lb. bag of Craisins.

Costco comes to Hong Kong

Costco comes to Hong Kong – sort of.

From one of the fish markets, a fine selection of rainbow colours.

Colourful little guys

Colourful little guys

This guy is lucky I didn’t kill him. He is at least my age – I don’t think I could ever get my leg that high without pulling every muscle in my body. I’m more like the guy in the background with just a little tummy roll.

Yeah, yeah, buddy you're great...

Yeah, yeah, buddy you’re great…

And finally from Hong Kong – our tacky tourist photo.

Taken at the tram base of Victoria Peak.

Taken at the tram base of Victoria Peak. (Ed. note: See comment from Omega photo)

Meanwhile, back in Jiaxing…

Our Aussie friends Cheryl and Andy invited us to join them for a barbie. I want to say first of all that the food served was fantastic – squid, oysters, beef, chicken, eggplant, greens, potatoes and beer – lots of beer and we will definitely be going back. The location was a sidewalk cafe.

There were tables and stools for maybe 20 - 25 people and there were three of these restaurants in a row.

There were tables and stools for maybe 20 – 25 people and there were three of these restaurants in a row. Those green barrels are kegs of beer – but warm beer. You had to get bottles to get cold.

The bike shop next door was the view from my stool

The bike shop next door was the view from my stool

The "coals" were some kind of bricks which were heated to red hot on the left and then put in the long, narrow BBQ on the right where the food was cooked. The fan blew the smoke away. Very creative.

The “coals” were some kind of bricks which were heated to red hot on the left and then put in the long, narrow BBQ on the right where the food was cooked. The fan sucked up and blew the smoke away. Very creative.

In the back of the restaurant was the washroom and prep kitchen. On the left is the washroom and if you are standing facing the toilet your back is to the prep kitchen where the vegetables etc. are washed. They are actually not cut up there – that happens just outside the door.

Aaahhh the bathroom/prep kitchen.

Aaahhh the bathroom/prep kitchen. This is all one room – maybe 3 ft. by 8 ft. and despite how it may look, it was actually very clean.

OK Val, you asked for it. In what may become a bit of a long term addition under the title “Terry and Geoff – Jiaxing’s Own Fashionistas” may I present…

Check out that lining, man. It is fabulous! Suit and shirt by Roshan of Sam's

Check out that lining, man. It is fabulous!
Suit and shirt by Roshan of Sam’s

The Shoe Blog

This woman had a lot going on – patterned pants, frilly hem, purple spikes and sparkly butterfly shapes on the shoes.

Shoe

 

Wrapping Up Hong Kong

We wandered back toward the hotel – but detoured through Kowloon Park first. Kowloon is home to a seaside promenade which has a walk of stars. Kowloon Park is home to a walk as well – the walk of Cartoon Stars. We have no idea who these characters are, but clearly they are important in Hong Kong.

Terry1

 

 

Geoff3

 

Is Terry watching a plane - or dreaming of what Geoff looked like in his younger, fitter days?

Is Terry watching a plane – or dreaming of what Geoff looked like in his younger, fitter days?

 

This may not be Miss Piggy but it is a big oink.

This may not be Miss Piggy but it is a big oink.

 

Hey good lookin'...

Hey good lookin’…

 

Aaahhhh Gee, yur so purty....

“Aaahhhh Gee, yur so purty….”

From there it was off to wander around the rest of the park. We read that it is interesting to walk and see all the Malaysian and/or Muslim groups who frequent the park on Sundays with their picnics. We didn’t want to intrude too much, but there were literally hundreds of these types of groups of anywhere from 4 to maybe 12 women who put down blankets, opened up their packages of food and settled in for the afternoon.

Some sat on the grass...

Some sat on the grass…

Some sat on the pavement...

Some sat on the pavement…

Some were in full traditional dress (Ed. note: it was over 32 degrees)...

Some were in full traditional dress (Ed. note: it was over 32 degrees)…

Some in more "Western" clothing...

Some in more “Western” clothing…

But everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

But everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

By the time we got back to the hotel to rest up before going out again, we had been on our feet for 6  ½ hours out of 8. We were pooped.

You have read about our friend Tim, from Charleston who lives in our complex. He gave a list of suggested activities to see while we were in Hong Kong. Now:

  1. He isn’t really as good a friend as we thought or
  2. He was on really really strong drugs (and good ones at that) when he saw this display and when he recommended the Symphony of Lights which is put on every night at 8:00.

It consists of 45 buildings in downtown Hong Kong which have lasers or searchlights (fireworks only on special occasions) going off to music for 12-14 minutes. It is difficult to decide which was lamer the show or the music or the fact that they (Ed. note: Whoever they is) have spent 45 million dollars on this. I hope that is 45 million Hong Kong dollars which would only be $6 000 000. Cdn

 

Buildings with lights

Buildings with pretty lights

Buildings with lasers

Buildings with moving lasers

Perhaps the red sampan and the lights reflecting in the water was the most interesting.

Perhaps the red sampan and the lights reflecting in the water was the most interesting.

The only good thing was that we got out of there about 10 minutes before the skies opened up and I mean opened up. Did anyone see “The River Runs Through It”? Well, the river was the Fraser at Hell’s Canyon and the “It” was Hong Kong last night.

The Shoe Blog

You may notice that the photo isn’t actually just a pair of shoes. I thought this guy had a lot of moxie. He set up next to a shoe store and was selling glue which could repair heels etc. on the shoes. I’m thinking his pitch went something like this:

“When the heel from the cheap shoe you bought from the shop over my left shoulder falls off, use my super glue to glue it back on, better than new! Need to replace that sole that has worn through in a week? Just buy one from me and glue it on.”

j

j

Day 2 Ends and Day 3 Begins

If Day 1 was dedicated to clothing and the Hong Kong Museum of History – all 400 million years of it, and Day 2 was dedicated to clothing, sight seeing and seafood at the street market, then Day 3 was all about WALKING. (Ed. note: It was well over 10k in 32 degree humid heat – I lost 100 pounds – but put 105 back on with the beer consumption.)

However, let us deal with the tail end of Day 2 first. We showed up at Sam’s to pick up our clothing. We have come to realize that Sam’s is a very busy place. Roshan told us to be there at 5 – and we got there about 10 to.

Just another Saturday afternoon at Sam's.

Just another Saturday afternoon at Sam’s.

He was dealing with a young couple, with the fellow clearly having no idea what choices to make regarding style. This was apparent to Roshan as well, as he gave him choices and then guided the kid to the right choice. He spent all the time in the world with them and it was clear he was not going to be hurried by the pushy customer who came in after we did and wanted his attention. At the end of the time, he walked the couple out. He is the consummate professional salesman. Then he started on us.

Geoff: “I think I want a pair of black slacks.”

Roshan: “Let me make you a suit. It will be fabulous!”

Terry: “He doesn’t need a suit – where is he going to wear it?”

Roshan: “Weddings, funerals – it could serve as a tux.”

Terry: “Where is he going to wear a tux?”

Geoff: “I think I want a pair of black slacks”

Roshan: “Let me make you a suit. It will be fabulous!”

I now have a John Ford Super Black suit that is fabulous and boy do I look good!

Terry:  “I think I need a pair of black slacks”

Roshan: “Why black? Let me make you a suit.” He then goes and gets a beautiful dark blue subtle windowpane suit.

Roshan: “This will be fabulous – let me make you a pencil skirt and I’ll throw it in”

Terry: “I need one blouse to go with it”

Roshan: “Let me make you two blouses. They will be fabulous!”

Terry now has a three piece blue suit and two more fabulous blouses – but still no black slacks.

We went back Monday morning to pick all of this up and he really is the king. He knows style, cloth, clientele and how to sell. Terry and I both look fabulous in these clothes. I watched him very quietly coach one of his younger salespeople this morning, giving him credit for something he had done and pointing out something he could have done better. He was very quiet and I could only catch a phrase or two here and there but it was a fine example of mentoring. Now, if we can figure out place to wear all our new clothes…

Seriously, if any of you ever find yourselves in Hong Kong, you must get something made at Sam’s – see Roshan and tell him Geoff and Terry sent you – you’ll get the deal of the day! Before we end with Sam’s, however, let me introduce Ming. He was great, but according to Terry and many others, he bears a strong resemblance to two other well know figures. You decide.

Would the real Ming please stand up.

Would the real Ming please stand up.

Now to Sunday. We decided to visit a couple of markets. Kowloon is full of them. We got to the Ladies Market at about 11:00 – they were still setting up, so we walked on to the Flower Market. This is a section about 4 blocks long and every shop is either a florist shop or a shop just selling bunches of fabulous flowers. It was a real treat to walk along  with all the different fragrances and colors assailing the sense. They had tons of orchids – I wish I could grow them this well!

Terry and the Flowers

 

Orchids, orchids and more orchids. Look carefully, each photo has 3 panels.

Orchid 4

Orchid 3

Orchid 2

Orchid 1

The following section is dedicated to Jan Therrien and her memories…

Then it was in to Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. As much as it was a place to buy birds and all the necessary supplies – cages, live insects, toys, watering bowls etc., it was a place for, let us say, somewhat eccentric bird owners to bring their birds to show them off, to chat with other bird owners and allow the birds (Ed. note: I can’t believe I am going to say this in any degree of seriousness and in public) to socialize. I guess it is much like taking small kids to kids parks, dogs to a dog park, cats to a – where do people take cats to socialize them?  Anyway it was amusing to see these grown men (and they were all men) clucking, stroking and even kissing their pet bird.

The Bird Garden

The Bird Garden

This guy was for sale

These guys were for sale

As were these guys

As were these guys

We now move on to the pet birds – again three photos panes each

j

Colors were just as amazing as the flowers

k

Terry really liked the guy in the middle – his head was too big, proportionately, for his body.

Kissy Kissy....

Kissy Kissy…. (Ed. note: Hey, is that Al Dever in the background?)

Despite Terry’s futile attempt a few years ago to get me into “Birding” as a hobby, I have picked up a few things. For example, I would say the guy in the background is plenty pissed.

"WTF - It is MY turn for the top perch this week!"

“WTF – It is MY turn for the top perch this week!”

And finally

Okay, maybe his name isn't really Big Red, but it seems fitting.

Okay, maybe his name isn’t really Big Red, but it seems fitting.

Back to  the Ladies Market to find a suitcase for all the new clothes. Short story – after much searching, discussion, haggling and fighting with one particular merchant, we got one and it is not a carry on. (Ed. note: We will definitely be taking in whenever we travel with you, Ken. LOL). 

I wan’t sure for a long time why it was called the Ladies Market – but this may provide a clue.

j

Who wants to be an elephant – and does that mean if you pay, you can take a photo?

Much more on our Sunday in Hong Kong coming in the next post. (Ed. note: I may even let Terry offer some stories, but, alas, she is back to work in the morning…sigh…)

The Shoe Blog

I am not saying this woman’s heels were bothering her or that they were an interesting choice for a walk to the park to watch your daughter perform Kung Fu, but hey wait – I am saying this woman’s heels were bothering her and that they were an interesting choice for a walk to the park to watch your daughter perform Kung Fu.

"I am going to wear these damn things, no matter what!"

“I am going to wear these damn things, no matter what!”

The Sights of Hong Kong

(Ed. note: First, an apology. Roshan, from Sam’s Tailor, is 37 not 36. Next, I neglected to mention that yesterday, we went in at 9:30 am. and within five minutes Roshan had said to me: “Chill man, what are you on this morning?”  My ever supportive wife cracked up and maintained that that was the best line she had heard since we came to China. Why do people feel the need to abuse a guy who is just trying to get by? In the next five minutes we were both enjoying cold beer – 2 each before we left.)

Today we had a different breakfast from the barley sandwiches we had yesterday. Terry had noodles and eggs in soup broth. I had scrambled eggs, baked beans, fish sticks and a bun. Personally, I think the barley sandwich was better.

From there it was off to the Star Ferry to cross over to Hong Kong. From the ferry we took the public bus to the tram up to Victoria Peak. Hong Kong is a city of many fascinating buildings, architecturally speaking. 3 Examples:

Example 1. A very streamlined apartment building in the middle of the two lanes of freeway.

Example 1. A very streamlined apartment building in the middle of the two lanes of freeway.

Terry’s favourite:

Koala Tree - so nicknamed because it appears to be a Koala bear clutching a tree.

Example 2. Koala Tree – so nicknamed because it appears to be a Koala bear clutching a tree.

My favourite:

Example 3. Although this building APPEARS to be attached to the dark towers on the left, it is not. The "horizontal floors" are cantilevered out from the tower.

Example 3. Although the building on the left, just down from ‘Conrad’ APPEARS to be attached to the dark towers below, it is not. The “horizontal floors” are cantilevered out from the tower.

It was fabulous. The tram up was fun – although most of it is in trees, with only a couple of spots where you can see. Once you get off the tram, you take 6 or 7 escalators to get to where you can see the view, and wow, what a view. It is kind of like going up Grouse but the city is much closer. Going down is interesting – there is only one track, the seats look forward so you go roaring down, backwards.

Look down, look waaayyy down

Look down, look waaayyy down

While we were at the top, there we had the opportunity to meet one of China’s finest actors and ambassadors.  He really was a nice guy and let Terry take our photo.

I am going to take up martial arts, I think.

I am going to take up martial arts, I think. Ignore the fake backdrop behind us. That was for photo purposes only.

After we got down, we wandered a bit and then took a taxi to Repulse Bay. If there is a dictionary which defines “There is nothing here” or “place to avoid”, you will get a photo of Repulse Bay. We asked a jogger “Is there anywhere here to get something to eat?” His answer “Well, Pizza Hut is down the road”. This is, supposedly a high end residential enclave – but with no restaurants or cafes.

Nevertheless, I am holding a mini contest. Where in Repulse Bay do you think this sign was posted? (Ed. note: We were at or near a BEACH?)

Where was this sign?

Where was this sign?

We then took a looooong walk along a very nice promenade to Deep Water Bay where we:

  1. Drank 2 Corona each – complete with lime
  2. Ate deep fried spring rolls and chicken satay – excellent
  3. Dipped our feet in Deep Water Bay, a part of the Pacific Ocean (Ed. note: I am confident the Chinese government will soon claim rights to the entire Pacific Ocean)
Terry and her favourite drink in Hong Kong

Terry and her favourite drink in Hong Kong

We made sure we waited thirty minutes after eating and drinking before we took to the water.

Even still, Terry managed to get her capris wet.

Even still, Terry managed to get her capris wet.

If you were to look closely to the top of the ridge on the right hand side of the last two photos, you will see what drove Terry nuts for a good hour and a half – as we walked the promenade and then sat having our afternoon refreshments.

"How could they put that monstrosity there?" Terry complained. I pointed out that there is a fricking windmill at the top of Grouse, which i find most offensive, but to no avail. "How could they put that monstrosity there?"

“How could they put that monstrosity there?” Terry complained. I pointed out that there is a fricking windmill at the top of Grouse, which I find most offensive, but to no avail. “How could they put that monstrosity there?” Terry repeats….

From there it was back to Hong Kong, then Kowloon and more time with Roshan. More later folks.

The Shoe Blog

Okay so the story behind these two. I am waiting for Terry to return from wherever women go off to. These two literally run up to where I am standing, come to a complete halt, screech “Oooohhhh”, look around for 2-3 more seconds (Ed. note: The reason it is a little blurry), turn and run back the way they came. So yes, it is about the shoes – pink/black and red Doc Martens, but the outfits are something else too, don’t you think?

Double Trouble

Don’t these girls know orange and pink are not good together?